That said, he does have elements that tend to recur in his work with certain regularity, and as I've been reading a great deal of his fiction very closely and in rapid succession, I'm more aware of these elements than I otherwise would be. And once you see the old woman hidden in the curves of the young girl's necklace, you never unsee her.
So here is an affectionate look as what I perceive to be the recurring themes in Zelazny's work. Since this is the Internet, I'll present the list as a drinking game.
Every time you encounter an item on the following list, take a drink (or eat some m&ms or do whatever you do to play your particular version of the game)
- The Zelazny archetype - Take a drink for each of the traits the protagonist has:
- Long lived/immortal (includes the serial immortality of Lord of Light)
- super strong
- If the story involves cars or car accidents - (Hat tip to Chris Kovas of NESFA's Roger Zelazny project for this recommendation.)
- If the story is written in an unusual format - Doorways in the Sand's cliffhanger-to-flashback format at the beginning of each chapter, the play/free verse/present tense narration of Creatures of Light and Darkness, Roadmarks' chapter structure, that kind of thing.
- For every dig at government inefficiency/bureaucracy
- Prose as poetry - Whenever you read a passage so lyrical that you feel compelled to put down the book for a moment to reflect on it.
- Free verse poetry - Like Corwin's hellrides or Thoth's account of The Thing that Cried in the night in Creatures of Light and Darkness.
- Use of Real-World Mythology - If you're reading about a drinking game on a blog dedicated to the works of Roger Zelazny, I trust that this needs no explanation.
- Use of First person narrative - Ditto
- If the protagonist is out for revenge of some kind
- Two drinks if the intended revenge is greater than the original offense.
- Any time you discover a pun
- Two drinks if it's terrible
- Finish off the bottle if it's "Then the fit hit the Shan", just because.
- Each time you encounter a character with green eyes - see below
- If the plot involves a missing father figure
- If our protagonist has female robot sidekick - (Maxine, Flowers or Jenny)
- Any time a character smokes or talks about smoking
- Any time our character consumes unusual quantities of food ("There was a half-loaf of bread in the breadbox and he tore it apart, stuffing great chunks into his mouth, barely chewing before he swallowed. He bit his finger at one point, which slowed him only slightly. He found a piece of meat and a wedge of cheese in the refrigerator and he ate them. He also drank a quart of milk. There were two apples on the countertop and he ate them as he searched the cupboards. A box of crackers. He munched them as he continued his search. Six cookies. He gulped them. A half-jar of peanut butter. He ate it with a spoon.")
- Description of techniques or use of specialized terms from martial arts or fencing ("I parried in quarte and riposted.) ("I studied judo. There are three schools of it, you know: there is the Kodokon, or the pure Japanese style, and there are the Budo Kwai and the French Federation systems...")
- "Hey, I can see Roger's house from here!" - Take a drink every time the story moves to or takes place in New Mexico
- Use of the word "arroyo"
- For use of phrases in foreign languages
- Two drinks if it's in French
- Three drinks if you feel compelled to stop reading in order to look up the reference
- Finish the bottle and toast the author if the reference leads you to discover something incredibly cool which was previously unknown to you
Green Eyes: Green eyes are pretty rare, but you'd never know that from reading Roger Zelazny.
Just off the top of my head, we have:
Corwin, his siblings Fiona, Llewella, Gérard and Brand, his father Oberon, his "grandmother" (depending on how literal Dworkin was being with that claim) the unicorn in the Amber books, Carol Deith and Don Walsh from the Legion collection, Heidel von Hymack, ("the green-eyed saint from the stars") from To Die in Italbar, Evene from Jack of Shadows, Dennis and Lydia Guise from Bridge of Ashes, Sanza from The Keys to December, Arlata from The Changing Land, Eleanor in This Moment of the Storm, both Red Dorakeen and Leila from Roadmarks, Mara and Maia (and probably more I'm forgetting) from Lord of Light, and Morgana from The Last Defender of Camelot.
Things I left out of this list. Suicide is the biggy. Sure, it shows up in He Who Shapes and a A Rose for Eccelsiates, but it's not as pervasive as the other elements.
Some quick googling seems to suggest that I'm the first person to put together a Roger Zelazny drinking game. That can't be right, can it? If it is, then I feel kind of happy to have contributed in this way.