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As she explained in the foreword to the first volumeshe created the anthology to redress the lack of strong female protagonists in the subgenre of sword and sorcery. At the time, most female characters in sword and sorcery were little more than stock damsels in distress, or pawns who were distributed at the conclusion of the story as "bad-conduct prizes" Bradley's term for the male protagonists.

Many of the early sword-and-sorcery works featured attitudes toward women that Bradley considered appalling. As the Sword and Sorceress series grew in popularity with readers, she began to receive increasing s of excellent submissions.

As a result, she had to become more selective, and to shorten her reading periods accordingly. For the eighteenth volumewhich she was editing at the time of her death, she had enough material for three volumes.

After her death, it was decided to take as many as possible of the stories she had tentatively chosen and publish them in three annual volumes, thus extending the series. After volume twenty was published, the publisher decided to extend an invitation for an additional volume under Diana L. Paxsonan editor who had worked with Bradley, with the possibility of additional volumes being published if it became a success.

The Sword and Sorceress series is noteworthy not only for its introduction of strong female protagonists into a subgenre ly dominated by male characters, but for its financial success. Unlike most anthologies of original fantasy short fiction, they routinely earned out their advances and continued to pay their authors royalties for years afterward, often on foreign sales.

In addition, many authors who made their first professional sales in the Sword and Sorceress anthologies subsequently enjoyed successful careers as novelists. In Februarythe Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trustwhich holds her copyrights, negotiated a contract with Norilana Books to publish a new volume and proceed to elicit submissions. Norilana Books has published four more books of the series, also edited by Elisabeth Waters.

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