Monday, December 26, 2011

Remember, Remember the Ides of Octember

My old Linguistics professor was one of those ridiculously accomplished polyglots who spoke dozens of different languages. He did have a weakness however. Somehow, even though he taught a class in the United States, he had utterly failed to assimilate any kind of idiom, and whenever anyone used one, crash class would come to a screaming halt as we tried to explain what the phrase meant.

I think the title I used for this post would have given him a stroke.

My lovely wife bought me, among other things, a copy of the Ides of Octember, the Pictorial Bibliography of Roger Zelazny. It's been available for almost a year, but I always put off getting a copy, probably for the same reason I still haven't written a commentary post for Wilderness. I like writing these posts, and I really enjoyed reading the Collected Stories and I was increasingly aware that there would be nothing new to read or to review after I completed each of them.

As the title suggests, it's an absolutely exhaustive bibliography of everything Roger Zelazny published in the English language, not just novels and stories, but also poetry and essays, including a secondary bibliography covering works about him.

I love it. I can't say how much appeal it has for the casual fan, but it is a treasure trove of the hundreds of vivid images associated with the stories and trivia about their formation. Wondering what the winner of the 1986 Yugoslavian Lazar Komarčić award for best science fiction novel translated into Serbo-Croatian was? Wonder no more!

The first thing I looked up was the cover images for Jack of Shadows. I could never find the art for the first copy that I had owned and I was beginning to think that I had imagined it, but there it was right there in front of me. (It was the Richard Hescox painting for the 10th printing of the paperback, if you're following along at home, and I'm still tremendously fond of the piece.)

The Phantom Titles section is another treat for those familiar enough with Zelazny's work to appreciate them, and I often liked the phantom versions more than the actual published titles. I think The Kneeling Legless Man is much more gripping than Deus Irae, though I have to admit that Zelazny's puns always make me smile. Also, it looks the authors had so much trouble with naming the books in the Millennial Contest series that they didn't have any energy for anything else, which would explain a lot about Farce. And Darkband/Dark is the Color are both better titles than A Dark Traveling.

It's a great book and a great resource. For me, it's already given me a couple more ideas for things I haven't covered, like the old computer game, and it promises to give me much more enjoyment in the weeks to come.

"Have you an ill omen for me this day?"
"Beware!" jeered Render.
"Yes! Yes!" cried Caesar. " 'Beware!' That is good! Beware what?"
"The ides-"
"Yes? The ides"
"-of Octember."


  1. Instead of "crash would come to a screaming halt," I think you meant "class," no? Sounds like a cool book!

  2. Heh. Thanks. Fixed.

    It is a pretty great book. I get a mention in the secondary bibliography section for the piece I contributed to Geek Speak's Zelazny Zealotry article last year, and when I showed that to my daughter and asked her to read the name, she was just so excited.

  3. Glad to see you got a copy, and thanks for the review!

    It is missing one paperback edition and associated cover for COILS, and there are a number of new items that have appeared in the past year. There may well be a second edition sometime which adds the new data.

    I quite like that cover of JACK too. Pity that the publisher screwed up, listing the cover as by Segrelles instead of Richard Hescox. Segrelles had done an earlier cover. I only realized it was an error when I noticed that Hescox's biography indicated that he'd done a cover painting for Zelazny, and I had to search to discover that it was the one incorrectly attributed to Segrelles.

    You mentioned WILDERNESS. There's a new paperback edition available, and an audiobook read by Trent Zelazny and Gerald Hausman will be released early in the New Year, according to Hausman.

  4. And here's that painting without the text:

  5. Hey, I didn't know Wilderness had been reissued -- thanks for the heads-up! Very glad to see it back in print.

    --Chris DeVito

  6. Do you have anymore of the phantom titles? They sounded interesting, but I don't have a copy of Ides just yet.

  7. There are 60 phantom titles listed in the book.

  8. I was reading a bit more and the commentary on the unused Oberon picture for the Dawn of Amber books gave me a laugh. And I certainly agree with the assessment.

  9. A belated announcement: The second, revised edition of IDES OF OCTEMBER came out in February at Boskone. It has numerous additions (both old and new publications) and a few minor corrections.

  10. Glad to hear that, Chris K! Looking forward to it. How is NESFA Press doing? They seem to have quieted down lately, newest release currently listed on their website is from July 2014.

    1. They do have a couple of books in the pipeline, and they're embarking on ebook releases. I think the first of the Poul Anderson volumes will be re-released as an ebook. The Zelazny volumes potentially could follow if the Estate agrees. The IDES bibliography could easily become an ebook and be updated more regularly.

    2. That's pretty exciting news. Would it be okay if I quoted you in a new new post so as to get this news out there?

    3. That's OK with me, Josh.