Creatures of Light and Darkness

Creatures of Light and Darkness is a 1969 science fiction novel by Roger Zelazny. Long out of print, it was reissued in April 2010.

Creatures of Light and Darkness
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
AuthorRoger Zelazny
Cover artistJames Starrett
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction novel
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages187 pp

Plot introduction

The novel is set in the far future, with humans on many worlds. Some have god-like powers, or perhaps are gods—the names and aspects of various Egyptian Gods are used. Elements of horror and technology are mixed, and it has points in common with cyberpunk.

Creatures of Light and Darkness was originally conceived and written as nothing more than a writing exercise in perspective by Roger Zelazny.[1] He wrote it in present tense, constructed an entire chapter in poetry, and made the concluding chapter into the script of a play. He never intended it to be published, but when Samuel R. Delany heard about it from Zelazny, Delany convinced a Doubleday editor to demand that Zelazny give him the manuscript.[2] Consequently, Zelazny dedicated the novel to Delany.

Unlike other books by Zelazny, such as Lord of Light or the series The Chronicles of Amber, this novel is more poetic in style, and contains less straightforward action. However, like other novels, Zelazny incorporates ancient myth, in this case from Egyptian and some Greek myth, and weaves ultra-futuristic technology with fantasy elements.

Plot summary


The Universe was once ruled by the god Thoth, who administered the different forces in the Universe to keep things in balance. In time, he delegated this administration to his "Angels" (other god-like beings), who were each in charge of different "stations", or forces in the Universe. Such stations included the House of the Dead, the House of Life, the House of Fire, and so on.

At some point, Thoth had awakened a dormant, malevolent force on a distant planet. This dark force, called the Thing That Cries In The Night, is so powerful and malevolent that it nearly obliterated Thoth's wife and threatens to consume the galaxy. Thoth works to contain and destroy the creature, and in so doing, neglects his duties in maintaining the Universe. The Angels become rebellious and use the power vacuum to fight amongst themselves for dominance

Thoth's son Set, who through an anomaly in Time is also his father, fights the creature across a devastated planet. Just as Set is about to destroy the creature, he is attacked by the Angel Osiris, who unleashes the Hammer That Smashes Suns, a powerful weapon that nearly kills Set and the creature. Thoth's brother, Typhon, who was helping Set in the battle, vanishes without a trace and is presumed dead. (Typhon appears as a black horse-shadow, without a horse to cast it. He contains within himself something called Skagganauk Abyss, which resembles a black hole, not a term in common use at the time.)

The Thing That Cries In The Night survived the blast, and so Thoth, who has meanwhile been utterly overthrown by his Angels, has no choice but to contain the dark force until he can find a way to destroy it. He also revives the personality of his wife and keeps her safe on a special world known only to him, where the seas are above the atmosphere, not below them. He also scatters Set's weapons and armor across the Universe for safe-keeping in the event that Set can ever be found. Having been overthrown, he is now dubbed The Prince Who Was A Thousand by all in the Universe.

Some of the surviving Angels either hide among the peoples of the Universe as mysterious "immortals", but others—Osiris and Anubis—take over the House of Life and the House of Death, respectively. Other stations are abandoned, and Osiris and Anubis are the only two powers in the Universe now. Osiris cultivates life where he can, while Anubis works to destroy it. Plenty and famine, proliferation and plague, overpopulation and annihilation, alternate in the Worlds of Life between the two Stations, much to the detriment of those who inhabit them.


The geography of this universe contains several curious places:

  • The House of Life, ruled by Osiris, contains a room in which Osiris has reduced various people in his past into furnishings. These furnishings can speak (or scream) via wall-mounted speakers.
    • A skull (with brain) for a paperweight.
    • An enemy whose nervous system is woven into a rug. Osiris enjoys jumping on the rug.
  • In the House of the Dead, numerous dead people of the Six Intelligent Races lie on invisible catafalques until Anubis requires them to go through the motions of pleasure—eating, drinking, dancing, making love—without any real enjoyment. Anubis likes to watch. He also stages fights between champions from the Six Races: sometimes the victor gets a job—and a name.
  • The planet Blis is filled to bursting with people who are inexhaustibly fertile and do not know death: the whole planet is covered with 14 interlocking cities. Indeed, one man agrees to commit suicide in front of an audience, for money to be given to his family, because most people on Blis have never seen a death. He does so by self-immolation, after receiving the Possibly Proper Death Litany (also called the Agnostic's Prayer).
  • On fog-shrouded D'donori, warlords raid each other solely to capture prisoners, who will be vivisected by the town scrier, or augur. By examining their entrails, he predicts the future and answers questions.
  • On an unnamed planet, the sea is above the atmosphere. Here, the Prince Who Was a Thousand keeps Nephytha, his wife, who was disembodied and cannot survive on a normal planet.
  • In a cave, a dog worries a glove that has seen better centuries. The three-headed canine is apparently Cerberus.
  • On another planet, drug-maddened spearmen protect and castrated priests worship a pair of old shoes.

The Agnostic's Prayer

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

This prayer, also called the Possibly Proper Death Litany, is uttered by one of the main characters, Madrak, to shrive a man about to commit suicide for money (given to his family).

The Agnostic's Prayer is cited by Larry Niven in his short story "What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers", where it is used as the sacrament in a formal divorce ceremony.


Algis Budrys gave Creatures an uneasily positive review, praising its "rich, satisfactory detail and really moving human interplay," but warning that its unusual narrative technique "will probably baffle and infuriate" many readers.[3] James Blish, however, found the novel "a flat failure," even though "Some parts are evocative in the authentic and unique Zelazny manner." He particularly faulted Zelazny's decision to end Creatures as a scene from a play, but "a scene which absolutely demands straightforward, standard narrative and for which the playscript is the worst possible choice."[4]

Publisher's error

At the time the novel was published, Doubleday did not remainder its unsold science fiction when its sales cycle was complete; instead, it simply destroyed the unsold copies. After Creatures was issued in paperback, Doubleday mishandled its inventory, causing most of the print run of Zelazny's next novel, the just-published Nine Princes in Amber, to be destroyed in error.[5]


  1. ^ "...And Call Me Roger"": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny, Part 2, by Christopher S. Kovacs. In: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 2: Power & Light, NESFA Press, 2009.
  2. ^ "...And Call Me Roger"": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny, Part 2, by Christopher S. Kovacs. In: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 2: Power & Light, NESFA Press, 2009.
  3. ^ "Galaxy Bookshelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1969, pp.141-42
  4. ^ "Books," F&SF, April 1970, p. 49-51
  5. ^ "...And Call Me Roger": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny, Part 3, by Christopher S. Kovacs. In: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 3: This Mortal Mountain, NESFA Press, 2009.
  • Levack, Daniel J. H. (1983). Amber Dreams: A Roger Zelazny Bibliography. San Francisco: Underwood/Miller. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-934438-39-0.

External links

1969 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1969.

Ancient Egyptian deities in popular culture

Ancient Egyptian deities that have appeared in popular culture include Set, Thoth, Khonsu, Ra and Horus.

Black-and-white dualism

The contrast of white and black (light and darkness, day and night) has a long tradition of metaphorical usage, traceable to the Ancient Near East, and explicitly in the Pythagorean Table of Opposites.

In Western culture as well as in Confucianism, the contrast symbolizes the moral dichotomy of good and evil.

Black holes in fiction

The study of black holes, gravitational sources so massive that even light cannot escape from them, goes back to the late 18th century. Major advances in understanding were made throughout the first half of the 20th century, with contributions from many prominent mathematical physicists, though the term black hole was only coined in 1967. With the development of general relativity other properties related to these entities came to be understood, and their features have been included in many notable works of fiction.


Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a futuristic setting that tends to focus on a "combination of lowlife and high tech" featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.Much of cyberpunk is rooted in the New Wave science fiction movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when writers like Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, J. G. Ballard, Philip José Farmer and Harlan Ellison examined the impact of drug culture, technology and the sexual revolution while avoiding the utopian tendencies of earlier science fiction. Released in 1984, William Gibson's influential debut novel Neuromancer would help solidify cyberpunk as a genre, drawing influence from punk subculture and early hacker culture. Other influential cyberpunk writers included Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. The Japanese cyberpunk subgenre began in 1982 with the debut of Katsuhiro Otomo's manga series Akira, with its 1988 anime film adaptation later popularizing the subgenre.

Early films in the genre include Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner, one of several of Philip K. Dick's works that have been adapted into films. The films Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel, both based upon short stories by William Gibson, flopped commercially and critically. More recent additions to this genre of filmmaking include the 2017 release of Blade Runner 2049, sequel to the original 1982 film, the 2018 body horror film Upgrade, and the 2018 Netflix TV series Altered Carbon.

Encode! Classic Remixes, Vol. 3

Encode! Classic Remixes, Vol. 3 is a remix compilation album by the synthpop band Information Society.


Fablehaven is The New York Times best-selling children's literature fantasy series written by Brandon Mull. The book series, which includes Fablehaven, Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star, Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague, Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, and Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison, is published by Shadow Mountain in hardcover and Simon & Schuster in paperback.

Jackie Leven

Jackie Leven (18 June 1950 – 14 November 2011) was a Scottish songwriter and folk musician. After starting his career as a folk musician in the late 1960s, he first found success with new wave band Doll by Doll. He later recorded as a solo artist, releasing more than twenty albums under his own name or under the pseudonym Sir Vincent Lone.

Kate Breakey

Kate Breakey is a visual artist known for her large-scale, hand-colored photographs. Since 1981 her work has appeared in more than 75 solo exhibitions and more than 50 group exhibitions in the United States, France, Japan, Australia, China, and New Zealand. Her work is in the permanent collection of many public institutions including the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Wittliff collections at Texas State University, the Austin Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and the Osaka Museum in Japan. In 2004, she received the Photographer of the Year Award from the Houston Center for Photography.


Katiyabaaz (English : Electricity thief however this fails to capture the pun in the Hindi word Katiyabaaz), released under the alternate title Powerless for English-speaking audiences, is a 2014 Indian Hindi documentary film directed by Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa about the problem of power theft in Kanpur. Released in India on 22 August 2014, the film is shot in Kanpur city, which faces long power cuts, giving rise to the profession of Loha Singh, a local electricity thief or katiyabaaz in localities like Chaman Ganj. He provides illegal electricity connections to people, while Ritu Maheshwari, MD of KESCo, Kanpur Electricity Supply Company, tries to tackle the issue of rampant electricity theft.The film was premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013 and later won the Best Film in the India Gold Section at the 15th Mumbai Film Festival. At the 61st National Film Awards the film won the ward for Best Investigative Film. Katiyabaaz premiered on American television on Independent Lens - PBS on 3 November 2014.

List of fictional horses

This is a list of horses and ponies in fictional subjects, excluding hybrid fantasy creatures such as centaurs and unicorns; their cousins, donkeys and zebras; and cross-breed mules and zebroids.

List of science fiction novels

This is a list of science fiction novels, novel series, and collections of linked short stories. It includes modern novels, as well as novels written before the term "science fiction" was in common use. This list includes novels not marketed as SF but still considered to be substantially science fiction in content by some critics, such as Nineteen Eighty Four. As such, it is an inclusive list, not an exclusive list based on other factors such as level of notability or literary quality. Books are listed in alphabetical order by title, ignoring the leading articles "A", "An", and "The". Novel series are alphabetical by author-designated name or, if there is none, the title of the first novel in the series or some other reasonable designation.

Mythology of Carnivàle

Carnivàle is an American television series set in the United States during the Great Depression. The series traces the disparate storylines of a young carnival worker named Ben Hawkins and Brother Justin Crowe, a preacher in California. The overarching story is built around a good and evil theme, which serves as a human-scaled metaphor within a complex structure of myth and allegory. Samson, the carnival's dwarf manager, sets up the show's mythology with a prologue in the pilot episode, talking of "a creature of light and a creature of darkness" being born "to each generation" preparing for a final battle.Most mythological elements in Carnivàle relate to so-called Avatars (or Creatures of Light and Darkness), fictional human-like beings with supernatural powers who embody good and evil. In its first season Carnivàle does not reveal its characters as Avatars beyond insinuation, and makes the nature of suggested Avatars a central question. By the second season it is established that Ben is a Creature of Light and Brother Justin a Creature of Darkness. Other than through the characters, the show's good-and-evil theme manifests in the series' contemporary religion, the Christian military order Knights Templar, tarot divination, and in historical events like the Dustbowl and humankind's first nuclear test. Show creator Daniel Knauf did not respond to questions about the mythology but did provide hints about the mythological structure to online fandom both during and after the two-season run of Carnivàle. Nevertheless, many of the intended clues remained unnoticed by viewers. Knauf left fans a production summary of Carnivàle's first season two years after cancellation. This so-called Pitch Document, originally written to give HBO and Knauf's co-writers an overview of the intended storyline, backed up and expanded upon the assumed mythological rules.

Nine Princes in Amber

Nine Princes in Amber is a fantasy novel by American writer Roger Zelazny, the first in the Chronicles of Amber series. It was first published in 1970, and later spawned a computer game of the same name. The first (Doubleday hardcover) edition of the novel is unusually rare; the publisher pulped a significant part of the original print run in error when the order went out to destroy remaining copies of Zelazny's older book Creatures of Light and Darkness.In the story, Carl Corey wakes up in a secluded New York hospital with amnesia. He escapes and investigates, discovering the truth, piece by piece: he is really Prince Corwin, of Amber, the one true world of which our Earth is just a shadow. He is one of nine men who might rule Amber, if he can fight his way past the armies of his older brother Eric.

Reign Forever World

Reign Forever World is an EP by the Polish death metal band Vader. It was released on 16 December 2000 in Japan by Avalon Marquee, in Europe, and Poland the EP was released via Metal Mind, and Metal Blade on 22 January 2001.

Reign Forever World was recorded, and mixed in August 2000 at Red Studio in Gdynia, Poland with Piotr Łukaszewski as audio engineer. The album was mastered in September 2000 by Bartłomiej Kuźniak at Studio 333 in Częstochowa,Poland. Live tracks were recorded in August 2000 at Thrash'em All Festival in Olsztyn, Poland.

Roger Zelazny

Roger Joseph Zelazny (May 13, 1937 – June 14, 1995) was an American poet and writer of fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels, best known for The Chronicles of Amber. He won the Nebula award three times (out of 14 nominations) and the Hugo award six times (also out of 14 nominations), including two Hugos for novels: the serialized novel ...And Call Me Conrad (1965), subsequently published under the title This Immortal (1966) and then the novel Lord of Light (1967).

Roger Zelazny bibliography

This is a partial bibliography of American science fiction and fantasy author Roger Zelazny (missing several individual short stories published in collections).

Wolfbane (novel)

Wolfbane is a science fiction novel by American writer Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, published in 1959. It was serialized in Galaxy in 1957, with illustrations by Wally Wood.

In his review column for F&SF, Damon Knight selected the novel as one of the 10 best genre books of 1959.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.