Marion Zimmer was born in the Great Depression on a farm in New York, and started selling her fiction in the 1950’s. She married twice, the second ending in some scandal; she got her first college degree when was in her mid-thirties, down in Texas; in addition to science fiction she wrote gay and lesbion novels, and published under at least 4 pseudonyms. She encouraged fanfiction, wrote fanfiction herself (Lord of the Rings) and then later banned it after a lawsuit from a fan writer. (See Jim Hines for a writeup on that.) She started and edited Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, which is one of the few magazines ever to bear a woman’s name, nevermind in our genre. It died soon after she did, in 2000.
Of writing, she said:
The secret of life is to do what you enjoy doing most, and to get someone to pay you enough so that you don’t actually have to starve while you’re doing it. People who want other things, money and status, baffle me. I write professionally because it’s the only thing I can do well, and every other job I have had has either bored or frustrated me past tolerance; and since I write compulsively and would no matter what else I was doing, it’s wonderful that I can get paid for it. – from Twentieth-Century Science Fiction Writers, ed. by C. Smith
CC license Aske Holst
In May of 1966, Bradley, her brother and their friends founded the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Bradley (then known as Marion Breen) took on the name Mistress Elfrida of Greenwalls. You can read about that day here.
(Note: many writers still use the Bradley case as a reason to ban fanfic. I’ve never read Zimmer fanfic, but last month I read Anne McCaffrey/Supernatural RPS fanfic. I’m so ashamed.)