Monday, April 2, 2018

A is for Arroyo: Zelazny A to Z

noun: arroyo; plural noun: arroyos

A steep-sided gully cut by running water in an arid or semiarid region

Ha! You thought this was going to be Amber, didn’t you?

Every writer has concepts or phrases to which they regularly return.  I make a few light-hearted observations about Zelazny’s signature style in the drinking game and his penchant for using “arroyo” is one of the items on my list.

Now, on the face of it, this is not unreasonable. He lived in Santa Fe and wrote about the American Southwest or otherworldly regions analogous to it. Consequently, he uses a word that describes a feature of the landscape that would reasonably be found in such a setting.  It’s not like he has to engage in excessive perturbations of the narrative to get there.

That said, it shows up an awful lot.

A partial list:

Last of the Wild Ones
Unicorn Variation
Eye of Cat
A Dark Travelling
Bridge of Ashes

I’d like to see the Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve type analysis to see if it's statistically significant.


  1. Arroyo also appears in:


    Trumps of Doom

    So will "G" be for "green eyes"?

  2. I just stumbled across a more common motif in Zelazny's works than "green eyes." It's none other than "three days." This occurs within short stories or poems 20 times in volume 1, 8 times in volume 2, 8 times in volume 3, 3 times in volume 4, 8 times in volume 5, and 3 times in volume 6. That's 50 times without even looking at the novels. I don't know what this means...

    Lest you think I painstakingly read through all volumes to find these, no. As an editor I have pdfs of each volume, so it took only a few seconds to search each.

    On balance, I count about 32 instances of green (or variations thereof) eyes among the short stories, poems, and novels. But I haven't been able to search all novels.

    The "three days" of course brings up Chris DeVito's earlier mention of how it connects Damnation Alley to precede the events of This Immortal. But what it means among all the other works, I do not know.

    1. That's a very interesting catch. Thanks for sharing it.

      I wonder if it was just his arbitrary mental shorthand to denote a short period of time or if it had some deeper meaning to him.