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 in Paris, 1988
|Born||Roger Joseph Zelazny|
May 13, 1937
Euclid, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||June 14, 1995 (aged 58)|
Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.
|Pen name||Harrison Denmark|
|Alma mater||Western Reserve University (B.A.)|
Columbia University (M.A.)
|Literary movement||New Wave (although he denounced the term himself)|
|Notable works||Lord of Light, The Chronicles of Amber, Isle of the Dead, The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth, and Other Stories, Doorways in the Sand, Eye of Cat, Unicorn Variations, A Night in the Lonesome October|
Roger Joseph Zelazny was born in Euclid, Ohio, the only child of Polish immigrant Joseph Frank Żelazny and Irish-American Josephine Flora Sweet. In high school, he became the editor of the school newspaper and joined the Creative Writing Club. In the fall of 1955, he began attending Western Reserve University and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1959. He was accepted to Columbia University in New York and specialized in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, graduating with an M.A. in 1962. His M.A. thesis was entitled Two traditions and Cyril Tourneur: an examination of morality and humor comedy conventions in The Revenger's Tragedy. Between 1962 and 1969 he worked for the U.S. Social Security Administration in Cleveland, Ohio and then in Baltimore, Maryland spending his evenings writing science fiction. He deliberately progressed from short-shorts to novelettes to novellas and finally to novel-length works by 1965. On May 1, 1969, he quit to become a full-time writer, and thereafter concentrated on writing novels in order to maintain his income. During this period, he was an active and vocal member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, whose members included writers Jack Chalker and Joe and Jack Haldeman among others.
His first fanzine appearance was part one of the story "Conditional Benefit" (Thurban 1 #3, 1953) and his first professional publication and sale was the fantasy short story "Mr. Fuller's Revolt" (Literary Calvalcade, 1954). As a professional writer, his debut works were the simultaneous publication of "Passion Play" (Amazing, August 1962) and "Horseman!" (Fantastic, August 1962). "Passion Play" was written and sold first. His first story to attract major attention was "A Rose for Ecclesiastes", published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, with cover art by Hannes Bok.
Roger Zelazny was also a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), a loose-knit group of heroic fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, some of whose works were anthologized in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies.
Zelazny died in 1995, aged 58, of kidney failure secondary to colorectal cancer.
Zelazny was married twice, first to Sharon Steberl in 1964 (divorced, no children), and then to Judith Alene Callahan in 1966. He was also engaged to folk singer Hedy West for six months in 1961/62. Roger and Judy had two sons, Devin and Trent (an author of crime fiction) and a daughter, Shannon. At the time of his death, Roger and Judy were separated and he was living with author Jane Lindskold.
Raised as a Catholic by his parents, Zelazny later declared himself a lapsed Catholic and remained that way for the rest of his life. "I did have a strong Catholic background, but I am not a Catholic. Somewhere in the past, I believe I answered in the affirmative once for strange and complicated reasons. But I am not a member of any organized religion."
In his stories, Roger Zelazny frequently portrayed characters from myth, depicted in the modern world. Zelazny included many anachronisms, such as cigarette-smoking (see below) and references to modern drama, in his work. His crisp, minimalistic dialogue also seems to be somewhat influenced by the style of wisecracking hardboiled crime authors, such as Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. The tension between the ancient and the modern, surreal and familiar was what drove most of his work.
Aside from working with mythological themes, the most common recurring motif of Zelazny's is the "absent father" (or father-figure). Again, this occurs most notably in the Amber novels: in the first Amber series, the protagonist Corwin searches for his lost, god-like father Oberon; while in the second series, which focuses on Corwin's son Merlin (not to be confused with the Arthurian Merlin), it is Corwin himself who is strangely missing. This somewhat Freudian theme runs through almost every Zelazny novel to a smaller or larger degree. Roadmarks, Doorways in the Sand, Changeling, Madwand, A Dark Traveling; the short stories "Dismal Light", "Godson", "The Keys to December"; and the Alien Speedway series all feature main characters who are either searching for or have lost their fathers. Zelazny's father, Joseph, died unexpectedly in 1962 and never knew his son's successes as a writer; this event may have triggered Zelazny's unconscious and frequent use of the absent father motif.
Two other personal characteristics that influenced his fiction were his expertise in martial arts and his addiction to tobacco. Zelazny became expert with the épée in college, and thus began a lifelong study of several different martial arts, including judo, aikido (which he later taught as well, having gained a black belt), t'ai chi, and pa kua. In turn, many of his characters ably and knowledgeably use similar skills whilst dispatching their opponents. Zelazny was also a passionate cigarette and pipe smoker (until he quit in the early '80s), so much so, that he made many of his protagonists heavy smokers as well. However, he quit in order to improve his cardiovascular fitness for the martial arts; once he had quit, characters in his later novels and short stories stopped smoking too.
Another characteristic of Zelazny's writing is that many of his protagonists had sufficient familiarity with other languages to be able to quote French, German, Italian or Latin aphorisms when the occasion seemed appropriate (or even inappropriate), although Zelazny himself did not speak any of those languages.
He also often experimented with form in his stories. The novel Doorways in the Sand practices a flashback technique in which most chapters open with a scene, typically involving peril, not implied by the end of the previous chapter. Once the scene is established, the narrator backtracks to the events leading up to it, then follows through to the end of the chapter, whereupon the next chapter jumps ahead to another dramatic non-sequitur.
In Roadmarks, a novel about a road system that links all possible times, places and histories, the chapters that feature the protagonist are all titled "One". Other chapters, titled "Two", feature secondary characters, including original characters, pulp heroes, and real historical characters. The "One" storyline is fairly linear, whereas the "Two" storyline jumps around in time and sequence. After finishing the manuscript, Zelazny shuffled the "Two" chapters randomly among the "One" chapters in order to emphasize their non-linear nature relative to the storyline.
Creatures of Light and Darkness, featuring characters in the personae of Egyptian gods, uses a narrative voice entirely in the present tense; the final chapter is structured as a play, and several chapters take the form of long poems.
Zelazny also tended to write a short fragment, not intended for publication, as a kind of backstory for a major character, as a way of giving that character a life independent of the particular novel being worked on. At least one "fragment" was published, the short story Dismal Light, originally a backstory for Isle of the Dead's Francis Sandow. Sandow himself figures little in Dismal Light, the main character being his son, who is delaying his escape from an unstable star system in order to force his distant father to come in and ask him personally. While Isle of the Dead has Sandow living a life of irresponsible luxury as an escape from his personal demons, "Dismal Light" anchors his character as one who will face up to his responsibilities, however reluctantly.
Another common stylistic approach in his novels is the use of mixed genres, whereby elements of each are combined freely and interchangeably. Jack of Shadows and Changeling, for example, revolve around the tensions between the two worlds of magic and technology. Lord of Light, perhaps one of his most famous works, is written in the classic style of a mythic fantasy, while it is established early in the book that the story itself takes place on a colonized planet.
Many of Zelazny's works explore variations upon the idea that if there exists an infinite number of worlds, then every world that can be imagined must exist, somewhere. Powerful beings in many of his stories have the ability to travel to worlds that possess precisely the characteristics which that being wishes to experience. (Zelazny characters with this ability include Thoth in Creatures of Light and Darkness, who teleports to these worlds; those with the royal blood of either Amber or Chaos in The Chronicles of Amber, who "move through shadows" to reach these worlds; the guardian families of A Dark Traveling, who move between realities using high-tech devices; and Red Dorakeen in Roadmarks, who reaches these worlds by driving along a magical highway.) Many of these same characters wonder whether they are creating these special places anew, or are merely finding places which already exist (very much like "the problem of universals" in classical metaphysics). Usually each character who ponders this ultimately decides that the question is purely academic and therefore unanswerable.
Zelazny's stories inspired other authors in his generation including Samuel R. Delany, whose novel Nova and many of his short stories were written "partly in response to Zelazny’s eruption into the field." In 1967 Algis Budrys listed Zelazny, Delany, J. G. Ballard, and Brian W. Aldiss as "an earthshaking new kind of" writers, and leaders of the New Wave. Neil Gaiman said Zelazny was the author who influenced him the most, with this influence particularly seen in Gaiman's literary style and the topics he writes about.
The anthology Lord of the Fantastic: Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, was released in 1998 and featured essays and stories in honor of Zelazny by Walter Jon Williams, Jack Williamson, John Varley, Gaiman, Gregory Benford and many other authors.
Zelazny won at least 16 awards for particular works of fiction: six Hugo Awards, three Nebula Awards, two Locus Awards, one Prix Tour-Apollo Award, two Seiun Awards, and two Balrog Awards – very often Zelazny's works competed with each other for the same award.
In addition, Zelazny was the Worldcon Guest of Honor at Discon II in Washington, D.C. in 1974, and won the Inkpot Award for Best Prose Author at Comic-Con International in 1993. "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" was included in Visions of Mars: First Library on Mars, a DVD taken on board the Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008.
A Night in the Lonesome October is a novel by American writer Roger Zelazny published in 1993, near the end of his life. It was his last book, and one of his five personal favorites.The book is divided in 32 chapters, each representing one "night" in the month of October (plus one "introductory" chapter). The story is told in the first-person, akin to journal entries. Throughout, 33 full-page illustrations by Gahan Wilson (one per chapter, plus one on the inside back cover) punctuate a tale heavily influenced by H. P. Lovecraft. The title is a line from Edgar Allan Poe's "Ulalume" and Zelazny thanks him as well as others – Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Bloch and Albert Payson Terhune – whose most famous characters appear in the book.
A Night in the Lonesome October was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1994.
A similar theme of conflict surrounding the opening of a gate to another world exists in Zelazny's novel Madwand.A Rose for Ecclesiastes
"A Rose for Ecclesiastes" is a science fiction short story by American author Roger Zelazny, first published in the November 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with a special wraparound cover painting by Hannes Bok. It was nominated for the 1964 Hugo Award for Short Fiction.Changeling (novel)
Changeling is a 1980 fantasy novel by American writer Roger Zelazny. It was nominated for a Locus Award in 1981, and was followed by a sequel, Madwand.Damnation Alley
Damnation Alley is a 1969 science fiction novel by American writer Roger Zelazny, based on a novella published in 1967. A film adaptation of the novel was released in 1977.Deus Irae
Deus Irae is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American authors Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny. It was published in 1976. Deus irae, meaning God of Wrath in Latin, is a play on Dies Irae, meaning Day of Wrath or Judgment Day. This novel is based on Dick's short story "The Great C."
Dick began the book but realized he did not know enough about Christianity to finish it. He asked Ted White to collaborate on it with him, but after reviewing the manuscript White never got started. Zelazny discovered the manuscript in White's home in early 1968, read it, then contacted Dick and agreed to work on it with him. Work proceeded sporadically over several years as each author forgot about it in turn (and Zelazny's cat took the opportunity to urinate on the original manuscript). But they finished it quickly in the spring of 1975 when the publisher demanded the manuscript or repayment of the advance paid to Dick. The editor discovered Zelazny had sent photocopies of some pages and demanded the originals as per Doubleday's policy; much to Zelazny's chagrin, he had to send in the urine-stained pages and he always wondered what the editor made of them.Dilvish, the Damned
Dilvish, the Damned is a collection of fantasy stories by American writer Roger Zelazny, first published in 1982. Its contents were originally published as a series of separate short stories in various fantasy magazines. Prior to publication, Zelazny's working title for the book was Nine Black Doves. The working title was later re-used for the fifth volume of The Collected Short Stories of Roger Zelazny collection, as a tribute to Dilvish. The storyline begun in this collection was resolved in the novel The Changing Land, which was published before the other Dilvish stories appeared in book form.For a Breath I Tarry
"For a Breath I Tarry" is a highly regarded 1966 post-apocalyptic novelette by Roger Zelazny. Taking place long after the self-extinction of Man, it recounts the tale of Frost, a sentient machine ("...a silver-blue box, 40x40x40 feet,... featured in whatever manner he chose.") Though Man has disappeared, his robotic creations (and their creations in turn) continue to function.
For ten thousand years Frost sat at the North Pole of the Earth, aware of every snowflake that fell. He monitored and directed the activities of thousands of reconstruction and maintenance machines. He knew half the Earth, as gear knows gear, as electricity knows its conductor, as a vacuum knows its limits. At the South Pole, the Beta-Machine did the same for the southern hemisphere.
Along the way, the story explores the differences between Man and Machine, the former experiencing the world qualitatively, while the latter do so quantitatively. "A machine is a Man turned inside-out, because it can describe all the details of a process, which a Man cannot, but it cannot experience that process itself as a Man can." This is illustrated by a conversation Frost has with another machine named Mordel.
"Regard this piece of ice, mighty Frost. You can tell me its composition, dimensions, weight, temperature. A Man could not look at it and do that. A Man could make tools which would tell Him these things, but He still would not know measurement as you know it. What He would know of it, though, is a thing that you cannot know." "What is that?" "That it is cold."
Driving the plot and setting its tone are allusions to other literature, most specifically the first chapter of the Book of Job, both in situation and language, as verses are both quoted directly and paraphrased. Additionally, echoes of the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis appear. Finally, Frost and Mordel enter into a Faustian bargain, with, however, better results than in the original.
The novelette has appeared in collections of Zelazny's works and in anthologies.The title is from a phrase in A. E. Housman's collection A Shropshire Lad.Jack of Shadows
Jack of Shadows is a science fantasy novel by American author Roger Zelazny. According to him, the name of the book (but not the titular character) was an homage to Jack Vance. In his introduction to the novel he mentioned that he tried to capture some of the exotic landscapes that are frequent in Vance's work. Zelazny wrote it in first draft, with no rewrites. The novel was serialized in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1971 and published in book form that same year. It was nominated for a 1972 Hugo Award and finished #4 in the 1972 Locus Poll for Best Novel.The text of the serialization and the published book are slightly different. A copy-editing error garbled a conversation between Jack and Morningstar in chapter 6; the correct version appeared in the original magazine appearance and has been reprinted on pages 511–512 of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 3: This Mortal Mountain, NESFA Press, 2009.Lord of Light
Lord of Light (1967) is a science fantasy novel by American author Roger Zelazny. It was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and nominated for a Nebula Award in the same category. Two chapters from the novel were published as novelettes in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - "Dawn" in April 1967, and "Death and the Executioner" in June 1967.
The context of the novel – modern western characters in a Hindu-Buddhist-infused world – is reflected in the book's opening lines:
His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.My Name Is Legion (short story collection)
My Name Is Legion (ISBN 0345248678) is an anthology of three stories by American writer Roger Zelazny, compiled in 1976. The stories feature a common protagonist who is never named.NESFA Press
NESFA Press is the publishing arm of the New England Science Fiction Association, Inc. The NESFA Press primarily produces three types of books:
Books honoring the guest(s) of honor at their annual convention, Boskone, and at some Worldcons and other conventions.
Books in the NESFA's Choice series, which bring back into print the works of deserving classic SF writers such as James Schmitz, Cordwainer Smith, C. M. Kornbluth, and Zenna Henderson.
Reference books on science fiction and science fiction fandom.Neil Gaiman's Only the End of the World Again
Neil Gaiman's Only The End of the World Again is a 2000 compilation of a serialized fantasy story published by Oni Press and originally appearing in Oni Double Feature #6–8 during 1998. The story was created and written by Neil Gaiman, adapted to comic by P. Craig Russell, illustrated by Troy Nixey and was colored for the collection by Matthew Hollingsworth.The story concerns the character of Lawrence Talbot, a claims adjustor and werewolf who finds himself in Innsmouth on a cold winter's night with the townspeople trying to bring about the return of the Elder Gods. It was written as a tribute to Roger Zelazny, and inspired by his novel A Night in the Lonesome October.Permafrost (story)
"Permafrost" is a science fiction novelette by American writer Roger Zelazny, published in 1986.Psychoshop
Psychoshop is a science fiction novel begun by Alfred Bester, who died in 1987, and finished by Roger Zelazny. It was published posthumously in 1998 by Random House under their Vintage imprint, following Zelazny's death in 1995.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).The Dream Master
The Dream Master (1966), originally published as a novella titled He Who Shapes, is a science fiction novel by American writer Roger Zelazny. Zelazny's originally intended title for it was The Ides of Octember. The novella won a Nebula Award in 1966.The Last Defender of Camelot
The Last Defender of Camelot is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy short stories a by American writer Roger Zelazny.This Immortal
This Immortal, serialized as ...And Call Me Conrad, is a science fiction novel by American author Roger Zelazny. In its original publication, it was abridged by the editor and published in two parts in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in October and November 1965. It tied with Frank Herbert's Dune for the 1966 Hugo Award for Best Novel.Unicorn Variations
Unicorn Variations is a collection of stories and essays by American author Roger Zelazny, published in 1983.