In another life, I am very good friends with a retired Marine Corps Colonel who served as a co-van (advisor) in Vietnam; one of my great privileges has been to help him tell his story. He is an advocate for the cause of POWs and veterans with traumatic injuries including PTSD. In the course of helping him, I became enamored with the heroism of a select group of POWs: James Stockdale, Jeremiah Denton, Sam Johnson, George Coker, Harry Jenkins, George McKnight, James Mulligan, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, Ronald Storz, and Nels Tanner.
These POWs resisted the threats, beatings, and other tortures of their captors, and–in some cases–even turned the tables on their captors. (Denton’s and Stockdale’s exploits are the stuff of legend.) They strengthened the morale of other POWs and, as such, represented a special threat to their captors. For this reason, they were isolated from everyone else.
They were the Alcatraz Gang.
They didn’t take their abuses lying down; they fought back to the extent that they were able. They would become the standard-bearers for POW conduct: Stockdale would receive the Medal of Honor; Denton and Coker would receive the Navy Cross. Denton and Johnson would even go on to political careers. Denton’s book–When Hell Was In Session–is a classic.
But what does this have to do with Moira Greyland, who–a year older than myself–never saw action in Vietnam?
Moira was every bit the badass as every member of that Alcatraz Gang.
For most of her life, Hell was in session. Her story–The Last Closet–is now in print.
Fair warning: if you have endured and form of ongoing abuse–particularly physical and/or sexual–this book can be triggering, although Moira does a splendid job of providing warnings about very difficult paragraphs.
The daughter of science fiction legend Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) and famed numismatic expert Walter Breen (WB), Moira–on the very top of the surface–had a good life. Like her parents, she is very intelligent: a member of Mensa. She has many talents from sewing to singing to fencing and especially the harp.
OTOH, to call her home life horrific would be charitable.
While MZB and WB were very intelligent and accomplished, they were incredibly perverted: WB and MZB were extremely libertine about sex. To them, inhibitions were the result of religious persecution. MZB called marriage “an outdated screwing license.” To WB, homosexuality was the natural state, and heterosexuality was a product of religion. To them, “anything goes” meant “have sex with whomever and however”, including with children.
In WB’s case, especially with young boys.
MZB was abusive both sexually and physically, in many cases using the physical abuse to force her children to provide her with sexual gratification.
To Moira’s credit, she provides about as charitable a presentation of her parents as anyone could. They each were themselves abused sexually and physically; WB was raised by a very abusive Catholic mother, and was bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic; MZB was herself raped by her father; WB was molested by a Catholic priest. They each had horrid upbringings that undoubtedly put them behind the 8-ball.
At the same time, Moira, also to her credit, does not excuse their abuses, and in fact lets their record speak for itself: when they were victimized by their parents, that was their parents’ sins. But when WB and MZB chose to abuse their own children–and, sadly, other children–they exceeded even the depravity of their parents.
They did this in no small part because each, after enduring their abuses, rejected God. In effect, they said, “God didn’t save us from our parents, so we want no part of that deal.”
Their resultant lives–aside from their professional successes–were a complete descent into the worst of sexual depravity, leaving a trail of damaged lives. Some of their victims, broken from the abuses, would die young from suicide or other forms of self-abuse. Others would fight off various addictions and hangups for years.
Moira struggles with complex PTSD to this day, and probably will for decades to come.
(I am aware of complex PTSD because a family member on MrsLarijani’s side, also a sexual abuse survivor at the hands of her father, described that form of PTSD to me recently, as she has undergone much therapy and has even started her own initiatives to educate people in her profession about PTSD issues. And some of her reactions to certain things are similar to what I know from a friend of mine from my SBTS days who–also abused in such a fashion–experiences the same reactions.)
Here are my takes:
(1) Moira is brutally honest, even about herself. I’ve always contended that, if you’re going to recover from abuses–no matter how terrible they are–you must be willing to face the truth. She shows a lot more courage in her honesty than she credits herself. That also is probably why, in spite of suffering more than even her parents did, she is a Christian today whereas her parents rejected God altogether.
She was not perfect in her life; the abuses she endured left her with thin, marginally-existent boundaries. That led her to a level of experimentation in her teen and adult life that could have led to disaster. It also weakened her ability to see which men had her best interests in mind when they pursued her.
Thankfully, she escaped from that with a comparatively moderate level of self-inflicted baggage. I’ve seen people suffer far less than she did and make far worse decisions, and never learn from them.
(2) Moira shows, in stark, stomach-turning detail, the telos of the Sexual Revolution.
Her father, WB, was one of the early movers and shakers in NAMBLA, which promotes “man-boy love”; i.e. pederasty. They were the ones who coined the slogan “sex before eight or it’s too late”. Their view: pederasty is the purest form of love, and will prepare boys for adulthood.
Her mother was herself very “uninhibited”: she was a lesbian, but had many liaisons with men, multiple partners, etc. MZB and WB were polyamorous.
There were no sexual boundaries in her home. Nudity was expected; any expression of affinity for heterosexuality was met with hard criticism and derision; orgies were common; and MZB molested both Moira and Patrick frequently.
Every time Moira brought a boyfriend home, her father would pursue him for sex.
Her parents, obsessed with sex, dehumanized their children. Emotional support was all but nonexistent, with MZB always living on the edge of rage and WB lacking the stones to stand up to her. MZB, rather than being supportive of her daughter and complimenting her on her singing skills, was always hitting her with hard criticism. Moira could never be right about anything. WB, in contrast, was passive and often distant, chiding Moira for being a prude.
Early on, when Moira tried to report WB to police, her complaints fell on deaf ears. It was not until the late 1980s when, with the help of a counselor, she was able to successfully intervene on behalf of a child that WB was molesting.
Moira does a wonderful job articulating the whole problem with the paradigm of “consent”, even among adults, and why, even in libertine arrangements, it isn’t as cut-and-dried as the word connotes.
(3) Moira does a great job articulating the problem with gay “marriage”, and masterfully destroys the notion that sexual orientation is unchangeable. While Moira does not condemn gay people, she does confront the profound level of toxicity and dysfunction that is inherent in that lifestyle. That has rankled many in the sci-fi community who otherwise supported her, but that is her strength: Moira is, if nothing else, a truth teller.
My only criticism of her book: I wish she had shared more detail with respect to the spiritual side of her journey. She does point out that she became a Christian in her teen years, and she does a good job quoting Scripture in context in describing various situations. But other than that, not a whole lot about that side of her life.
In fairness to her, though, it could be that it’s still too early in her recovery–and the wounds are still raw–for her to do an adequate assessment of that.
In this review, I do not refer to Moira by initials or even by last name; I call her by her first name. There is a purpose for that.
One of the things Moira struggles with is the depersonalization that she suffered at the hands of her abusers. She was effectively a nobody. She wasn’t allowed to have a personality; she wasn’t even allowed to have a sexual identity: her father wanted her to look neither masculine nor feminine; her mother eschewed all semblance of femininity.
I will end this with a note to Moira:
Moira, you have a name. And, given that you are in Christ, you have a gift that no one can take from you.
That is important, as your parents failed you on just about every relevant front, not just sexually. While, through their successes, they were material providers, they failed to provide a stable, loving home life that even mediocre parents provide their children. Even worse, they subjected you to the most dehumanizing of abuses, stealing from you what was never theirs to receive let alone take.
Thankfully, in Christ, you have a reward that will never perish, nor shall any man (or woman) take it from you.
Some may ask why God didn’t stop the abuses. Almost every survivor of profound hardship will wrestle with that question. There are various theological answers based on particular schools of thought, most of which don’t rise to the level of useless.
My take: your experiences, Mark’s experiences, and every experience of every one of their victims, will be a witness against them on the day of judgment. There will be a day when they will receive the payback for their atrocities. And as the saying goes about payback, it is, in fact, a Biblical truth.
On the upside: your perseverance will also be a witness on the day of judgment. Jesus Himself said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give to them eternal life. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Your parents, having suffered a great deal in their childhoods, rejected God on account of what was taken from them. Their thinking was, in spite of their God-given intelligence, short-sighted and temporal. The results were tragic.
Your parents took a lot of things from you, including most of what was your earthly identity. You are recovering that, even if–at times–the progress comes in inches rather than miles, and takes years where you are used to accomplishing things in hours and minutes.
Having said that, the identity that matters most–the fact that Jesus has your name written on his hands–no one can take that away.
You were raised by two of Satan’s most devoted worker bees. Their abuses went far beyond sexual, although those alone were worse than horrid enough in their own right. They did everything they could to indoctrinate you in a secular paradigm that would gross out most hedonists. They tortured you like the Communists tortured American POWs in Vietnam.
But, by the grace of God, you fought back against your captors in a way that would have made James Bond Stockdale and Jeremiah Denton proud.
I know you don’t always feel like you acted with courage. But you did. In spades.
Hell was in session, and the gates of Hell lost.
You have fought valiantly, and have prevailed. There are still battles to fight, and there will always be times when those demons rear their ugly heads. But you will prevail, not because of great works you have done, but because you received Him who does great works.
Keep fighting the good fight!