Zelazny, Roger 1937–1995
Zelazny, Roger 1937–1995
(Harrison Denmark, Roger Joseph Zelazny)
PERSONAL: Born May 13, 1937, in Cleveland, OH; died June 14, 1995; son of Joseph Frank and Josephine (Sweet) Zelazny; married Sharon Steberl, December 5, 1964 (divorced, June 27, 1966); married Judith Alene Callahan, August 20, 1966; children: (second marriage) Devin, Trent (sons), Shannon (daughter). Education: Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University), B.A., 1959; Columbia University, M.A., 1962.
CAREER: Writer, 1969–95. U.S. Social Security Administration, claims representative in Cleveland, OH, 1962–65, claims policy specialist in Baltimore, MD, 1965–69. Lecturer at colleges, universities, and at writing workshops and conferences. Military service: U.S. Army Reserve, 1960–66.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, School of American Research, Science Fiction Oral History Association, Science Fiction Research Association, Science Fiction Writers of America (secretary-treasurer, 1967–68), Ohioana Library Association, Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce.
AWARDS, HONORS: Nebula Award, Science Fiction Writers of America, 1965, for best novella, "He Who Shapes," 1965, for best novelette, "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth," and 1975, for best novella, "Home Is the Hangman"; Hugo Award, World Science Fiction Convention, 1966, for best novel, This Immortal, 1968, for best novel, Lord of Light, 1975, for best novella, "Home Is the Hangman," 1983, for best novelette, "Unicorn Variations," 1986, for best novella, "Twenty-Four Views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai," and 1987, for best novelette, "Permafrost"; Prix Apollo, 1972, for French edition of Isle of the Dead; Guest of Honor, World Science Fiction Convention, 1974, Australian National Science Fiction Convention, 1978, and at numerous regional and local science fiction conventions; Doorways in the Sand named one of the best young adult books of the year, 1976, American Library Association; Balrog Award, 1980, for best story, "The Last Defender of Camelot," and 1984, for best collection, Unicorn Variations; Locus Award, 1984, for collection Unicorn Variations, and 1986, for novel Trumps of Doom; nominated for Nebula Award, 1994, for A Night in the Lonesome October.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS
This Immortal, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1966.
The Dream Master, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1966, reprinted, 1982.
Lord of Light, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1967.
Isle of the Dead, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1969, reprinted, 1985.
Creatures of Light and Darkness, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1969.
Damnation Alley, Putnam (New York, NY), 1969, reprinted, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Jack of Shadows, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 1971.
Today We Choose Faces, Signet (New York, NY), 1973.
To Die in Italbar, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1973.
Doorways in the Sand, Harper (New York, NY), 1976.
Bridge of Ashes, New American Library (New York, NY), 1976.
(With Philip K. Dick) Deus Irae, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1976, reprinted, Collier (New York, NY), 1993.
Roadmarks, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1979.
Changeling, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1980.
The Changing Land, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1981.
Madwand, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Fred Saberhagen) Coils, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982.
Eye of Cat, Underwood-Miller (San Francisco, CA), 1982.
Dilvish, the Damned, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1983.
(With others) Berserker Base, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.
A Dark Traveling, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 1987.
(With Robert Sheckley) Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Robert Sheckley) If at Faust You Don't Succeed, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Robert Sheckley) A Farce to Be Reckoned With, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Card Sharks, edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda M. Snograss, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 1996.
(With Jane Lindskold) Donnerjack, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Alfred Bester) Psycho Shop, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Lindskold) Lord Demon, Avon Eos (New York, NY), 1999.
Nine Princes in Amber (also see below), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1970.
The Guns of Avalon (also see below), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1972.
Sign of the Unicorn (also see below), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1975.
The Hand of Oberon (also see below), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1976.
The Courts of Chaos (also see below), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1978.
The Chronicles of Amber (contains Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, and The Courts of Chaos), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1979.
A Rhapsody in Amber (chapbook), Cheap Street, 1981.
Trumps of Doom, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1985.
Blood of Amber, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1986.
Sign of Chaos, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1987.
(With Neil Randell) Roger Zelazny's Visual Guide to Castle Amber, Avon (New York, NY), 1988.
Knight of Shadows, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
Prince of Chaos, Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.
The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Four for Tomorrow, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1967, published as A Rose for Ecclesiastes, Hart Davis (London, England), 1969.
The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth, and Other Stories, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1971.
My Name Is Legion, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1976.
The Last Defender of Camelot, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1980.
Unicorn Variations, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1983.
Frost and Fire: Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
Gone to Earth, Pulphouse (Eugene, OR), 1992.
(Author of introduction) Harlan Ellison, From the Land of Fear, Belmont/Tower, 1967.
(Author of introduction) Philip Jose Farmer, A Private Cosmos, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1968.
(Editor) Nebula Award Stories 3, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1968.
Poems, Discon, 1974.
(Author of introduction) Bruce Gillespie, editor, Philip K. Dick: Electric Shepherd, Norstrilia Press (Carl-ton, Australia), 1975.
(With Gray Morrow) The Illustrated Roger Zelazny, Baronet (New York, NY), 1978.
The Bells of Shoredan (booklet), Underwood-Miller (San Francisco, CA), 1979.
When Pussywillows Last in the Catyard Bloomed (poems), Norstrilia Press (Carlton, Australia), 1980.
For a Breath I Tarry, Underwood-Miller (San Francisco, CA), 1980.
To Spin Is Miracle Cat (poems), Underwood-Miller (San Francisco, CA), 1982.
He Who Shapes: The Infinity Box (novella), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Wizard World, Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1989.
A Night in the Lonesome October (novel), illustrated by Gahan Wilson, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
(Author of introduction) Gaiman, Neil, The Books of Magic, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Gerald Hausman) Wilderness, Forge (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor) The Williamson Effect, Tor (New York, NY), 1996.
Avram Davidson, editor, The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1965.
Harlan Ellison, editor, Dangerous Visions: 33 Original Stories, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1967.
Terry Carr, editor, New Worlds of Fantasy #2, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1970.
Robert Silverberg, editor, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1970.
Robert Silverberg, editor, Great Short Novels of SF, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1970.
Ted White, editor, The Best from Amazing, Manor Books, 1973.
Ted White, editor, The Best from Fantastic, Manor Books, 1973.
Isaac Asimov, Martin Henry Greenberg, and Joseph T. Olander, editors, 100 Great Science Fiction Short Stories, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1978.
Ben Bova, editor, The Best of Analog, Baronet (New York, NY), 1978.
Also contributor to other books. Contributor of more than one hundred stories, sometimes under pseudonym Harrison Denmark, to New Worlds, Omni, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories, Amazing Stories, and Galaxy.
SIDELIGHTS: Known for his colorful prose style and innovative adaptations of ancient myth, Roger Zelazny was a popular science fiction writer. As a contributor for St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers noted, Zelazny was a writer "who constantly challenged himself and who is "difficult to categorize." The critic felt Zelazny "successfully wrote both fantasy and 'hardcore' science fiction; he created works of both light and serious tone; he was adept at all lengths; and he tackled most of the standard science fiction themes." Zelazny's early works, first published in the 1960s, feature characters derived from Egyptian and Hindu mythology, while his later "Amber" series concerns a world existing in all times and places at once, and of which the Earth and other worlds are mere reflections. Speaking of the wide range of interests and approaches found in his work, Michael Vance of Fantasy Newsletter also noted that Zelazny is "not easily categorized. He seems at home swimming with or against the main currents of science fiction…. [But] Zelazny wins awards and sells books because he weaves wordspells that transport readers into the farthest reaches of space or the darkest mysteries of magic with equal ease." The reviewer for St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers further explained that "Zelazny's ability to create believable characters is probably the single most important contribution to science fiction."
Zelazny burst on the science fiction scene in the early 1960s. At that time working for the Social Security Administration, a position he was to hold until 1969, Zelazny began to write short stories during his spare time in the evenings and on weekends. "Zelazny's procedure," Joseph L. Sanders explained in his Roger Zelazny: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, "was to write one story an evening and to polish it the following night." He submitted these stories to the major science fiction magazines, working his way down an alphabetical list he compiled. After a short time the editor of Amazing Stories began to show an interest in his work, jotting down encouraging comments on Zelazny's manuscripts. "Slightly more than a month after Zelazny began sending stories around," Sanders noted, his first story was accepted for publication in Amazing. He published another seventeen stories in his first year as a science fiction writer. And between 1962 and 1969, Zelazny "was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards sixteen times," Carl B. Yoke reported in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.
Zelazny's most important writings from this period are novellas between 20,000 and 40,000 words in length. "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" and "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" have been cited by critics as among the best of his early work. Zelazny's novellas, George Warren wrote in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, are "full of fantastic imagery and soaring, even overblown, poetry." Writing in Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writers, Thomas D. Clareson claimed that "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" "revitalized science fiction…. Zelazny introduced color, poetry, metaphor, and a deeper psychological dimension into science fiction." The story concerns an Earth man, Gallinger, who works on Mars as a translator of ancient religious texts. The Martian race is sterile and dying out. When Gallinger impregnates Braxa, a Martian woman with whom he has fallen in love, it promises a continuance of the Martian race. But Gallinger soon realizes that Braxa has never loved him, has only had his child to fulfill an old religious prophesy, and his ego is shattered. Gallinger attempts suicide. This painful episode leads him to undergo a dramatic personality change. Yoke remarked that "in 'A Rose for Ecclesi-astes' Zelazny brilliantly explores man's capability to grow from his experience."
Zelazny again borrowed from biblical precedents for the title of "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth," which is taken from the Book of Job. The protagonist of this story, Carlton Davits, is similar to the biblical Job as well. Both are wealthy, self-centered men. Davits is undone when he travels to Venus in quest of a giant sea creature never before caught by Earthlings. The creature wrecks his ship and kills six of his crew, and Davits is reduced to bankruptcy and alcoholism. But during a later trip in search of the creature, this time with his ex-wife, Davits succeeds in capturing and killing the monster. This triumph brings him to a new maturity. Like Gallinger in "A Rose for Ecclesi-astes," Davits undergoes a personality change. In an article for Extrapolation, Yoke noted that "in the pattern of his development, Davits mirrors the psychological evolution of many Zelazny protagonists." Acknowledging the story's popularity among science fiction readers, Douglas Barbour of Riverside Quarterly referred to "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" as "the now famous" story. Zelazny won a Nebula Award for the work.
Zelazny's early stories, with their dazzling prose style and audacious mix of myth, allusions, and high technology, quickly made him a major figure in the science fiction field. Speaking of these early writings, Sidney Cole-man of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction stated: "In an important sense Zelazny really was without fear and without blame; he would try the most daring tricks, and bring them off. Zelazny's famous skill as a culture-magpie is an outstanding instance: He would cast a computer as both Faust and Adam, mix grail legend with electric psychotherapy, work a line from the Cantos into a story whose basic plot was the old pulp chestnut about the white hunter and Miss Richbitch … [and] he made it work." Algis Budrys of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, writing of Zelazny's early career, claimed that those were "the days when each new Zelazny story was like nothing that had been done before."
By 1969, having established himself in the science fiction field, Zelazny left his job with the Social Security Administration to become a full-time writer. The career move entailed one major change in his writing. While employed with the government, Zelazny had been obliged to write relatively short works, stories he could finish in his spare time. But once he relied on science fiction for his livelihood, he relegated the shorter, less profitable works to secondary status and focused his attention on the writing of novels. As George R.R. Martin explained in the Washington Post Book World, "it was in the shorter forms that he first made a name for himself. Like many other writers, however, Zelazny was soon seduced away from his first love by the greater glory and riches of the novel."
Zelazny's first novel, This Immortal, was inspired in part by the author's experiences while serving in the Army's Arts, Monuments, and Archives unit, a department which preserves important historical and cultural landmarks in occupied foreign countries. In the novel, the alien Myshtigo is on a tour of Earth's cultural monuments, guided by the immortal Earthling Conrad. Myshtigo has bought the planet, long before devastated by nuclear war and conquered by the Vegans, and is now interested in learning something about his property. His unspoken desire is to determine whether Conrad is fit to lead the massive restoration effort Myshtigo plans for the ruined Earth.
The novel's focus is on Conrad's ability to overcome his long-standing antagonism to the aliens and see where both he and Myshtigo share common goals and concerns. His immortality has enabled Conrad to experience widely divergent aspects of life. Through this process he has learned that "things, places, people are real; judgments that might have applied to reality in the past, though, cannot be trusted," as Sanders remarked in Death and the Serpent: Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy. By suppressing his strong aversion to the aliens and allowing himself to learn about Myshtigo, Conrad is eventually given leadership of the effort to restore the Earth, an effort that even the most persistent opponents of the Vegans support. "Conrad," Joseph V. Francavilla wrote in Extrapolation, "passes from being a destroyer, disrupter, and fighter to being a creator, restorer, and peacemaker." "The main thing Zelazny shows about immortality in This Immortal," Sanders further noted, "is that the successful immortal, such as Conrad, who not only stays alive but does something satisfying with his life, does so by avoiding confinement within a set of rules or preconceptions." Writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Yoke maintained that "the striking originality of the story and its characterization make [This Immortal] well worth reading." This Immortal won a Hugo Award in 1966.
Lord of Light is concerned with many of the same themes introduced in This Immortal, including personality growth, immortality, and the renewal of a planet. It is set on a far future world where technologically advanced human beings have set themselves up as gods over the less advanced populace. Taking the Hindu deities as their models, they have enhanced their mental powers through neurosurgery, hypnosis, and drugs to achieve a semblance of actual godlike ability. One of their number has succeeded in reaching inner perfection. When it becomes clear to him that his companions have become tyrants, he overthrows their system and frees the native population. Lord of Light, Yoke explained in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "was hailed as a science-fiction classic" when it first appeared, and won Zelazny another Hugo Award.
Later Zelazny novels are also fashioned from a blend of ancient myths and futuristic science. Creatures of Light and Darkness features the gods of Egyptian mythology, while the plot borrows elements from several different mythologies. As Pauline F. Micciche of Library Journal noted, it is "a warp of Christian, Greek, Egyptian and Norse myths spun into one thread." Isle of the Dead concerns a battle between a wealthy, sardonic immortal and his enemy, who is a personification of a god. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Gerald Jonas noted that "Zelazny is a playful writer, but there is nothing lighthearted about his play. He plays with myths—archetypes and themes borrowed from the ancestral storehouses of different cultures."
A continuing theme in these novels is the nature of divinity. Often Zelazny wrote of immortal characters with enormous technological powers who must grow to godlike stature to deal with overwhelming situations. "To live forever," Francavilla explained, "means simply to have time enough to experience, learn, develop, and to increase one's self-awareness—to define oneself. In his quest for self-definition …, the immortal hero in Zelazny's works defines what it means to be human by expanding man's potential and by boldly extending the boundaries of the human into the region of the divine."
Perhaps Zelazny's most ambitious project is the series of books set in the imaginary world of Amber; the series consists of a five-novel sequence, additional novels in a new, ongoing sequence, and a chapbook. The world of Amber transcends normal time and space limitations. It exists in all times at once, and its inhabitants are immortals who can time travel as they please between an endless multitude of alternate worlds. These alternate worlds, one of which is the Earth, are mere reflections of the one true world of Amber. As Edwin Morgan of the Times Literary Supplement maintained, "Amber is a place, a city, a state, a 'world'…. Amber is the perfect place, the Substance to which everything else is Shadow. It is not in our space and time, and its inhabitants, although they talk and act for the most part in human ways, are not human. Since they have enormous powers, they appear at times like gods."
The series follows the machinations among Amber's ruling family as they vie for power over multiple worlds. The first five novels form one complete story in which Corwin seeks the throne during a demonic invasion that threatens to reduce Amber and her shadow worlds to chaos. He begins the first novel with amnesia, his memory wiped clean by his rivals, and ends the fifth book as the ruler of Amber. "In the Amber series, as Corwin finally comes to understand," Sanders wrote in his Zelazny bibliography, "life exists between two poles, Pattern and Chaos. Neither 'wins.' The difficult, creative tension between them continues, just as life continues." Lester Del Rey, writing in Analog: Science Fiction/Science Fact, warned that the Amber "books have to be read from first to last. They form a single novel, not a series of novels." He concluded with the comment that the five novels would have been a better story if written as a single book. "Had that been done," Del Rey wrote, "this could well have been a genuinely superb piece of fantasy. As it is, it's a good story—no more." But Marshall B. Tymm, Kenneth J. Zoharski, and Robert H. Boyer had a more positive reaction to the five-novel Amber sequence in their Fantasy Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide. These books are, they claimed, "on the whole excellent, both for their unusually original fantasy elements and for their literary qualities," and they judged Amber to be "one of the more ingeniously conceived secondary worlds in fantasy literature."
Later Amber novels concern the adventures of Corwin's son, Merlin, who is stalked through alternate worlds by an unknown group of assassins. Speaking of Blood of Amber, H.J. Kirchhoff of the Toronto Globe and Mail stated: "As usual in the Amber books, Zelazny parlays hip dialogue, quirky characters and an anything-is-possible multiple universe into a winning swords-and-sorcery adventure." Trumps of Doom, the first in the new Amber series won a Locus Award in 1986. In the installments that followed, Knight of Shadows and Prince of Chaos, Merlin remains at the center of political intrigue involving the courts of Amber and Chaos against the descriptive background of cyberspace and computers. Critics generally regard these later volumes as an overextension of the series with diminishing results, described by Kirkus Reviews as "increasingly detached and irrelevant." A Publishers Weekly review of Prince of Chaos noted that the novel "fails to capture the spirit that rendered the five original Amber novels so enjoyable."
Zelazny also won mixed reviews for his several collaborations with veteran science fiction writer Robert Sheckley. In Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming Zelazny and Sheckley place the forces of Good and Evil against each other in a cosmic fairy-tale involving a prince who attempts to rescue a princess despite the intervention of the demon Azzie. Though noting "moments of good fun and gags," Kirkus Reviews concluded, "most often it is merely amusing, and many of the jokes have been done better elsewhere." Good and Evil again vie for control of human destiny in If at Faust You Don't Succeed, this time involving Mephistopheles, Archangel Michael, and a dim-witted thief named Mack the Club who poses as Dr. Faust. Cecila Swanson described the novel in Voice of Youth Advocates as "an amusing romp" and "a delightful fantasy that will bring smiles to readers." Offering praise for If at Faust You Don't Succeed, an Analog Science Fiction and Fact reviewer agreed, "The froth is there, of course, but now it really does make you smile." A third collaboration, A Farce to Be Reckoned With, followed, featuring the evil Azzie as a dramatist who produces a Renaissance immortality play in Venice, setting the stage for another struggle with the good Archangel Michael. Booklist contributor Carl Hays commended the story's humor, though he noted that the "fantasy degenerates somewhat into unstructured silliness." A Kirkus Reviews contributor similarly praised the authors' wit but concluded that the novel "gives the impression of muddled and rather desperate improvisation."
Zelazny received better reviews with his solo novel A Night in the Lonesome October. The work consists of thirty-one chapters, one for each day of October, and involves a large cast of literary and film legends, including Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, and Count Dracula. Narrated by Snuff, Jack the Ripper's dog, the macabre story records the alignment of various personages for and against the Earth-bound malevolent Elder Gods. Wilson Library Bulletin contributor Gene LaFaille praised the endearing Snuff character and Zelazny's fusion of "classical horror references" and "very offbeat fantasy that rambles tongue-in-cheek through our subconscious." Carolyn Cushman concluded in Locus, "All in all, this look at the lighter side of the dark is definitely amusing." According to a Publishers Weekly review, "its deft, understated good humor and spare, poetic prose reaffirm Zelazny as one of fantasy's most skilled practitioners."
Speaking to Michael Vance about his conception of science fiction, Zelazny explained: "It is, for me, a special way of looking at anything, really—by pulling it out of context and into a different situation…. Sometimes you just ask yourself, 'What If?' And you make up something that's considered unlikely to happen, just to take a look at it." When writing science fiction, Zelazny preferred a spontaneous technique. In an article for Science Fiction Chronicle about how he writes, Zelazny claimed: "Generally, I do not like knowing beforehand how I will end a novel. My ideal method of composition is to begin writing once I know my major character and a few of the situations in which he or she will be functioning—i.e., about thirty percent of the story…. I enjoy relying upon a subconscious plotting mechanism and discovering its operation as I work."
Zelazny's work explored a range of genre types during his career, moving from strict science fiction based on mythological models to an alternate world fantasy of castles, kings, and sword-wielding heroes. Charles Platt of the Washington Post Book World noted that "in his early work,… closely observed characters interacted with advanced technology; today, Zelazny deals more with sorcery than science, in fanciful mythic landscapes, laconically described. He still writes more fluently and with more authority than ninetenths of his contemporaries." Lew Wolkoff of Best Sellers believed that Zelazny could handle both types of fiction well. "He can take a reader," Wolkoff wrote, "on tour across a radiation-scarred America in one story and show him/her a wizards' duel in the next, swinging easily from hard science to dark fantasy."
Not all critics were satisfied with the changes in Zelazny's writing. Some preferred his earlier, more flamboyantly poetic work. Coleman, for example, complained that Zelazny "put away his magician's tricks and turned his gold into lead…. We once had something unique and wonderful, and it is gone, and what we have in its place is only a superior writer of preposterous adventures." Although Nick Totton of the Observer called Zelazny "a skilled and fluent writer with both powerful ideas and a grasp of their broader reference," he also found that Zelazny "generally prefers playing cozily within a familiar convention to exploring fresh territory." Sanders noted in his Zelazny bibliography that some critics of the author "have voiced irritation when Zelazny has not done exactly what they expected."
Despite such criticism, Zelazny has maintained—even posthumously—a prominent position in contemporary science fiction. Martin placed the book The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, and Other Stories"among the three best story collections of the last decade," and called Zelazny "one of the most important contemporary science-fiction writers." "There is no question of his stature," Yoke wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. "He has contributed major works to the field, and perhaps more than any other writer has brought the techniques, style, and language of serious literature to science fiction. His greatest contribution, however, may be that he has brought to a literature famous for its cardboard figures, characters who are psychologically credible, who are sympathetic, who have scope and dimension." Clareson concluded that "Zelazny dealt intelligently, lightly, and good-humoredly with a number of serious questions about the ways in which our fantasies mesh with our realities." Although holding some reservations about Zelazny's work, Clare-son nevertheless believed he was "a story teller, an entertainer in the best sense," and praised his "exemplary craftsmanship, which … continued with few hiatuses throughout his career."
At the time of his death in 1995, Zelazny was at work on numerous projects, several of which have been published posthumously. Zelazny acted as editor in The Williamson Effect, a tribute to Jack Williamson, the legendary science fiction author. The volume collects short stories in honor of Williamson from such other science fiction luminaries as Frederick Pohl and Ben Bova. Booklist's Carl Hays found the collection a "feast of entertainment, even for those who aren't Williamson fans." Also at the time of his death, Zelazny was putting the finishing touches to a novel begun by Alfred Bester. The resulting collaborative effort, Psycho Shop, appeared in 1998. A noirish detective and science fiction tale, the book has a plot "full of bizarre twists and turns," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The same contributor felt that "Bester's style in the first part of the novel seems dated, and things don't gel until Zelazny takes over halfway through the book."
Zelazny also left behind two novel-length projects, Donnerjack, a collaboration with Jane Lindskold, and Lord Demon, also completed by Lindskold. In the former novel, the son of the man who created a virtual reality world, Virtu, must stop it from conquering our own world. Jay Donnerjack "becomes a classic champion figure" in this novel of virtual reality vs. reality, according to Booklist's Roland Green. The novel also won praise from Library Journal's Susan Hamburger, who felt that Zelazny and Lindskold developed "believable, densely populated worlds with a richness of characterization and subplots that will leave readers believing in Virtu." And a critic for Publishers Weekly commended the book's "complex and ambitious plot, beautiful language and Zelazny's trademark gonzo fusion of science fiction and fantasy elements." The same contributor concluded that it was "good to see a master of the form going out on a high note."
Similar praise welcomed the 1999 Lord Demon, "another of Zelazny's brilliant takes on mythic material," according to Booklist's Green. A tale of vengeance wrought by a demon banished to Earth five millennia ago, Lord Demon was a "thoroughly absorbing tale, full of delicately nuanced language," Green concluded. Library Journal's Jackie Cassada praised the "offbeat humor and sparkling images in this final novel," calling Zelazny "one of sf's most memorable writers." And a contributor for Publishers Weekly commented that "though the novel is slow to get moving, once the fight is on, it doesn't let up." For this same reviewer, the "narrative weaves a fine line between tragedy and humor" in this "fine tribute" to Zelazny.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Beetz, Kirk H., editor, Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction, Beacham Publishing (Osprey, FL), 1996.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 21, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI, 1982.
Contemporary Novelists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 8: Twentieth-Century American Science Fiction Writers, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.
Greenberg, Martin H., editor, Lord of the Fantastic: Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Krulik, Theodore, Roger Zelazny, Ungar (New York, NY), 1986.
Krulik, Theodore, The Complete Amber Sourcebook, Avonva, 1996.
Levack, Daniel J. H., Amber Dreams: A Roger Zelazny Bibliography, Underwood-Miller (San Francisco, CA), 1983.
Lindskold, Jane M., Roger Zelazny, Twayne (New York, NY), 1993.
St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Sanders, Joseph L., Roger Zelazny: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1980.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of First Printings of Their Science Fiction and Selected Nonfiction, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1979.
Staicar, Tom, editor, Critical Encounters II, Ungar (New York, NY), 1982.
Tymm, Marshall B., Kenneth J. Zoharski, and Robert H. Boyer, Fantasy Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide, Bowker (New York, NY), 1979.
Walker, Paul, Speaking of Science Fiction, Luna Publications, 1978.
Yoke, Carl B., A Reader's Guide to Roger Zelazny, Starmont (West Linn, OR), 1979.
Yoke, Carl B., Roger Zelazny and Andre Norton: Proponents of Individualism, State Library of Ohio (Columbus, OH), 1979.
Algol, summer, 1976.
Amazing Stories, July, 1984.
Analog: Science Fiction & Fact, February, 1979; March 2, 1981; March, 1983; April, 1992, p. 166; August, 1993, p. 166.
Baltimore Sun, January 29, 1967.
Best Sellers, September, 1976; June, 1978.
Booklist, November 1, 1991, p. 501; February 1, 1993, p. 972; July, 1993, p. 1946; February 15, 1994, p. 1062; July, 1994, p. 1965; March 15, 1995, Carl Hays, review of A Farce to Be Reckoned With, pp. 1314, 1317; May 1, 1996, Carl Hays, review of The Williamson Effect, p. 1492; August, 1997, Roland Green, review of Donnerjack, p. 1887; August, 1999, Roland Green, review of Lord Demon, p. 2038.
Extrapolation, December, 1973; summer, 1980; spring, 1984; spring, 2002, Theodore Krulik, "Roger Zelazny's Road to Amber," p. 80.
Fantasy Newsletter, October 1980; January 1983; September, 1983.
Foundation, March, 1977.
Future Life, March, 1981.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 14, 1987; November 14, 1987.
Journal of American Culture, summer, 1979.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1989, p. 1438; September 15, 1991, p. 1190; October 1, 1991, p. 1250; Febru ary 1, 1995, p. 114.
Library Journal, September 15, 1969; June 15, 1989, p. 84; October 15, 1989, p. 105; October 15, 1991, p. 127; November 15, 1991, p. 111; November 15, 1992, p. 122; July, 1993, p. 146; August, 1993, p. 160; ebruary 1, 1994, p. 114; April 15, 1995, p. 119; April 15, 1996, pp. 72, 125; October 15, 1997, Susan mburger, review of Donnerjack, p. 97; July, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of Lord Demon, p. 142; February 15, 2000, Michael Rogers, review of The Great Book of Amber, p. 203; February 15, 2002, Michael Rogers, review of Isle of the Dead/Eye of the Cat, p. 184; April 1, 2003, Michael Rogers, review of Changeling, p. 136.
Locus, October, 1983; July, 1993, p. 32.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 11, 1981.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May, 1971; August, 1974; February, 1982.
Media Sight, summer, 1984.
Mosaic, winter, 1981.
New Scientist, February 23, 1978.
New York Review of Books, October 2, 1975.
New York Times Book Review, May 23, 1976; December 19, 1982; August 20, 1989, p. 24.
Observer, June 24, 1979.
People, September 4, 1989, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, June 16, 1989, p. 60; October 6, 1989, p. 84; October 11, 1991, p. 52; July 26, 1993, p. 61; January 3, 1994, p. 71; April 22, 1996, review of The Williamson Effect, p. 64; June 30, 1997, review of Donnerjack, p. 70; June 22, 1998, review of Psycho Shop, p. 89; July 5, 1999, review of Lord Demon, p. 63; June 8, 2001, review of The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, p. 65; December 3, 2001, review of Isle of he Dead/Eye of the Cat p. 46.
Riverside Quarterly, June, 1970; August, 1973.
School Library Journal, July, 1994, p. 129.
Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, June, 1978; December, 1979.
Science Fiction Chronicle, January, 1985.
Science Fiction Review, May, 1980; August, 1980.
SF Commentary, November, 1978.
Times Literary Supplement, February 29, 1968; March 28, 1968; February 13, 1981.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1990, p. 377; August, 1993, p. 172.
Washington Post Book World, December 23, 1979; January 25, 1981; December 25, 1983.
Wilson Library Bulletin, April, 1993, p. 107; September, 1993, p. 102.
Roger Zelazny Page Web site, http://zelazny.corrupt.net/ (August 23, 2004).
Zelazny and Amber Web site, http://www.roger-zelazny.com/ (August 23, 2004).