Saturday, April 30, 2016

30: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Where there had been darkness...

Where there had been darkness, I had hung my worlds. They were my answer. When I finally walked that Valley, they would remain after me. Whatever the Bay claimed, I had made some replacements, to thumb my nose at it. I had done something, and I knew how to do more.

Context: I think I'll leave this one vague. The quote is from the Isle of the Dead, and the valley is death.

Why I like it: I'm not a very philosophical guy, but I do that things are precious because they are imperfect and impermanent. We are born, we live for a time and then we die, and that is just the way of it, but we live on in the memories of others and the marks we leave upon them.

We live on in the worlds we hang.

I never knew Roger Zelazny, but he continues to move me twenty years after his death. I read a chapter a day of A Night In the Lonesome October with my daughter last year, and when I asked her if she wanted to read it again this year, she suggested we try a different Roger Zelazny book. I like that someone who has meant so much to me means someone else who means so much to me. She was born more than ten years after he passed, but it pleases me that he was able to reach her through his worlds and his words.

The book takes its name and its theme from Arnold Böcklin's paintings of the same name. He did several paintings by that name, and after completing them, he painted the lesser known work seen above, which he titled Die Lebensinsel ("Isle of Life").

I think that image is a fine way to end this series.

Friday, April 29, 2016

29: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: The Lokapalas are never defeated

The girl sat on the floor, a heap of various objects before her. She was scarcely more than a child, and she hugged a brown and white puppy and looked at Kubera  with wide, frightened eyes, until he gestured and she smiled.
"Kubera," said Yama.
"Koo-bra," said the girl.
"She is my daughter," said Yama. "Her name is Murga."
"I never knew you had a daughter."
"She is retarded. She suffered some brain damage."
"Congenital, or transfer effect?" asked Kubera.
"Transfer effect."
"I see."
"She is my daughter," repeated Yama, "Murga."
"Yes," said Kubera.
Yama dropped to his knees at her side and picked up a block.
"Block," he said.
"Block," said the girl.
He held up a spoon. "Spoon," he said.
"Spoon," said the girl.
He picked up a ball and held it before her. "Ball," he said.
"Ball," said the girl.
He picked up the block and held it before her again. "Ball,"  she repeated.
Yama dropped it.
"Help me, Kubera," he said.
"I will, Yama. If there is a way, we will find it."
He sat down beside him and raised  his hands. The spoon came alive with spoon-ness and the ball with ball-ness and the block with block-ness, and the girl laughed. Even the puppy seemed to study the objects.
"The Lokapalas are never defeated," said Kubera, and the girl picked up the block and stared at it for a long time before she named it.

The Context: Yama's love Kali (Brahma) was mortally wounded in battle. Yama managed to transfer her consciousness into another body, but she suffered some brain damage as a result. Yama's friend and fellow Lokapala (world guardian) Kubera came looking for him and offered his aid.

Why I like it: Zelazny wrote a lot of characters over his career, but few of them are kind. Kubera is a very decent man, and I love the passage, because I love how it illustrates his compassion.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

28: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Good-bye and hello, as always

When all is done in that place, and when Merlin has walked his Pattern and gone to claim his worlds, there is a journey that I must make. I must ride to the place where I planted the limb of old Ygg, visit the tree it has grown to. I must see what has become of the Pattern I drew to the sound of pigeons on the Champs-Elysees. If it leads me to another universe, as I now believe it will, I must go there, to see how I have wrought.
    The roadway drifts before us, rising to the Courts in the distance. The time has come. We mount and move forward.
    We are riding now across the blackness on a road that looks like cheesecloth. Enemy citadel, conquered nation, trap, ancestral home . . . We shall see. There is a faint flickering from battlement and balcony. We may even be in time for a funeral. I straighten my back and I loosen my blade. We will be there before much longer.
    Good-bye and hello, as always.

The Context: The final lines in the Corwin Chronicles, in the Courts of Chaos

Why I like it: Endings are always harder than beginnings. As we read stories, we insert them into our framework of understanding. We project, consciously or otherwise, how we think the story should end. The longer a series continues, the more invested we become in the story that exists in our mind, which may have become increasingly removed from the story the author actually wrote, and we becoming increasingly attached to the ending we expect. The author has many chances to disappoint such a reader, and only one chance to please him. The ambiguity, and the final line, are, I think the perfect way to end the Chronicles of Amber. (Apparently, there were shadows where Zelazny went on to write other Amber books, but I'm glad I don't live there.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

27: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Each mountain is a deity, you know.

"There is a certain madness involved," I said, "a certain envy of great and powerful natural forces, that some men have.  Each mountain is a deity, you know.  Each is an immortal power.  If you make sacrifices upon its slopes, a mountain may grant you a certain grace, and for a time you will share this power.  Perhaps that is why they call me...."

The Context: Jack Summers, one of the greatest mountain climbers in the universe, gives an explanation beyond "Because it's there."

Why I like it: I don't have any particular interest in mountain climbing, but Zelazny manages to convey the majesty they contain in This Mortal Mountain

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

26: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day:For the Thread may wander anywhere and need not have an end...

For the Thread may wander anywhere and need not have an end; the thread has more sides than a sword; the Thread is subtle in its turnings, perhaps infinite in the variations it may play in the labyrinths of doom, destiny, desire. No one, however, can regard every turning of fate from the Valley of Frozen Time. Attempts to do so tend to terminate in madness.

The Context: A description of the extra-dimensional thread Kalifriki uses as a tool and a weapon.

Why I like it: I think Kalifriki of the Thread is a great story, and the last truly memorable creation of Roger Zelazny. I like the fairy tale cadences in the story.

Monday, April 25, 2016

25: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: There is no moon, and the stars are very bright...

Years have passed, I suppose.  I'm not really counting them anymore.  But I think of this thing often: Perhaps there is a Golden Age someplace, a Renaissance for me sometime, a special time somewhere, somewhere but a ticket, a visa, a diary-page away.  I don't know where or when.  Who does?  Where are all the rains of yesterday?

In the invisible city?

Inside me?

It is cold and quiet outside and the horizon is infinity.  There is no sense of movement.

There is no moon, and the stars are very bright, like broken diamonds, all.

The Context: The final lines of This Moment of the Storm. The narrator has just experienced a loss, and is returning to hypersleep for the long voyage.

Why I like it: Based on yesterday's post, I guess I'm still in the mood to talk about Zelazny stories about alienation. When I first reviewed the story, I described the passage as beautiful in its melancholy.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

24: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: ...Wise in a time when wisdom is unnecessary...

Moore grunted. A gust of wind lashed a fiery rain of loose tobacco upon his cheek. He smoked on, hands in the pockets of his jacket, collar raised. The poet clapped him on the shoulder.
"Come with me into the town," he suggested. "It's only over the hill. We can walk it."
"No," said Moore, through his teeth.
They strode on, and as they neared the garage Unger grew uneasy.
"I'd rather someone were with me tonight," he said abruptly. "I feel strange, as though I'd drunk the draught of the centuries and suddenly am wise in a time when wisdom is unnecessary. I -- I'm afraid."

The Context: Alvin Moore and Wayne Unger are rival members of the Set, a group of elite super-celebrities who spend most of their time in suspended animation, awakening only to participate in lavish parties. They're walking around after such a party has ended, and they don't recognize the world in which they find themselves.

Why I like it: The word that springs to mind is elegiac, relating to an elegy, having a theme of solitude and mourning.  Moore and Unger are strangers in the world, which moved on while they slept, and this short passage conveys the alienation and strange solitude of their situation.

Li'l Voldemort

"Class, can anyone tell me who keeps trying to kill Harry Potter?"

"Beats me, professor."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

23: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: The Happy Wallaby, It had been called in the proud days...

Captain Corgo protested, was declared out of order. 
Captain Corgo threatened, was threatened in return. 
Captain Corgo fought, was beaten, died, was resurrected, escaped restraint, became an outlaw.  He took the Wallaby with him. The Happy Wallaby, It had been called in the proud days. Now, it was just the Wallaby. 
The Context: Some background information on Victor Corgo, in the Furies.

Why I like it: I think it's the loveliest example of the dreamlike metered prose of the Furies. David Drake said "It's an extremely funny story on the surface and gut-wrenching just beneath below the surface. To my mind it's one of the best SF stories ever written." and I think he perfectly describes there what makes the story so wonderful.

22: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: The universe did not invent justice...

"You don't know what it's like to be cut off from a whole area of stimuli! To know that a Mongoloid idiot can experience something you can never know and that he cannot appreciate it because, like you, he was condemned before birth in a court of biological happenstance, in a place where there is no justice only fortuity, pure and simple." 

"The universe did not invent justice. Man did. Unfortunately, man must reside in the universe."

"I'm not asking the universe to help me. I'm asking you."

The Context: Firstly, the story was written in the mid-1960s, and the term Mongoloid wasn't considered offensive at the time. I think this mars an otherwise excellent story, but not, I think irreparably. In this passage, the blind and brilliant Elaine Shallot. She is pleading with Render here to allow her to undergo neuroparticipant therapy, so that she may experience sight.

Why I like it:  I like the bolded part. It strikes me as so sad and profound, and reminds me of the line from William Gaddis: You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law. Regardless of how much humanity tries to enforce our concept of how the universe should be, the universe remains a fundamentally unjust place, and there is nothing mankind can do to change that.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

21: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Misli, gammi gra'dil...

"Who are you?" I asked.
"Strygalldwir is my name. Conjure with it and I will eat your heart and liver."
"Conjure with it? I can't even pronounce it," I said, "and my cirrhosis would give you indigestion. Go away."
"Who are you?" it repeated.
"Misli, gammi gra'dil, Strygalldwir," I said, and it jumped as if given a hotfoot.
"You seek to drive me forth with such a simple spell?" it asked when it settled again. "I am not one of the lesser ones."
"It seemed to make you a bit uncomfortable."
"Who are you?" it said again.
"None of your business, Charlie. Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home-"
"Four times must I ask you and four times be refused before I may enter and slay you. Who are you?"
"No," I said, standing. "Come on in and burn!"

The Context: Mostly provided by the exchange. Early in the Guns of Avalon, the demon Strygalldwir has come to slay Corwin, and must ask entry and be refused four times before it may enter and slay him.

Why I like it: Guns of Avalon is my favorite book of the Amber series, and this may be my favorite part of the book. I wasn't the first to make the observation by any means, but as I do agree that Zelazny had a tendency to return to a similar set of traits when writing his characters. I think Corwin here is the apotheosis of that archetype of the Mythic Smartass.

Also, Misli, gammi gra'dil, Strygalldwir has a great sound to it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

20: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: This story came into being in a somewhat atypical fashion.

This story came into being in a somewhat atypical fashion. The first movement in its direction occurred when Gardner Dozois phoned me one evening and asked whether I'd ever done a short story involving a unicorn. I said that I had not. He explained then that he and Jack Dann were putting together a reprint anthology of unicorn stories, and he suggested that I write one and sell it somewhere and then sell them reprint rights to it. Two sales. Nice. I told him that I'd think about it.

Later, I was asked by another anthologist whether I'd ever done a story set in a barroom—and if so, he's like it for a reprint collection he was doing. I allowed that I hadn't. A week or so after that, I attended a wine tasting with the redoubtable George R. R. Martin, and during the course of the evening I decided to mention the prospective collections in case he had ever done a unicorn story or a barroom story. He hadn't either, but he reminded me that Fred Saberhagen was putting together a reprint collection of stories involving chess games (Pawn to Infinity). "Why don't you," he said, "write a story involving a unicorn and a chess games, set it in a barroom and sell it to everybody?" We chuckled and sipped...
The Context: Okay, I know a couple days ago I said I was only going to use quotes from Zelazny's works, not outside commentary by the man. I guess I lied, This is Zelazny explaining the unusual genesis of Unicorn Variation.

Why I like it:  Zelazny was a master storyteller, and I do love the conversational, spin-a-yarn tone of the piece.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

19: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: You know a lot of words honest folk never use

"We seem to be at cross-purposes here," Mack said. "I doubt not that you are Faust. Yet I am Faust, too, on the authority of no less a person than Mephistopheles." .

"Mephistopheles was mistaken!"

"When the great ones make mistakes, those mistakes become law."

Faust drew himself to his full height, which was rather shorter than Mack's, and said, "Must I listen to this casuistic palaver from one who speaks in my name? By the powers, I'll have vengeance if you don't vacate immediately and leave this game to the player for whom it was intended, namely, me."

"You think highly of yourself, that much is evident," Mack said. "But as to who was chosen, it seems to, be me. You can argue till kingdom come and you won't change that."

"Argue? I'll do a lot more than argue! I'll blast you with spells of greatest puissance, and your punishment will be most hideously condign."

"Will be what?" Mack asked.

"Condign. It means fitting. I intend to give you a punishment worthy of your transgression."

"You know a lot of words honest folk never use," Mack said hotly.
The Context: A thug by the name of Mack the Club has accepted Mephistophelean bargain that should have been offered to Faust, and Faust is confronting him about it.

Why I like it: I enjoy Zelazny's sense of humor (if indeed this is Zelazny's writing. Sheckley rewrote some of Zelazny's contributions to the story), and Mack is a wonderful foil to Faust in this underrated story.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Jungle Book, reviewed in terms of Roger Zelazny stories

In a recent email, I told my friend Tim that I would be seeing The Jungle Book with the family this weekend.

He replied: I look forward to your review, and finding out which Zelazny novel it most resembles in structure!

All right, smartass. Here it is.

A Night in the Lonesome October – Because it has talking animals.

The Courts of Chaos – Among them, a talking wolf.

The Long Crawl of Hugh Glass – And a bear.

The crappy Merlin books – Because it has something that you used to like. Unfortunately, I’m talking about Bill Murray of whom I wrote in 2014: I think we're nearing peak Murray. I love the guy, but dang, is he everywhere! I would hate to see the day when I see a headline about him and think, "Ugh, him again?", but, unfortunately, such a future is no longer inconceivable.

We have reached that future.

(Also, we can see the Land of Peak Walken without a telescope.)

Eye of Cat – Because the main character is harassed by something cat-like.

Damnation Alley – Because the book was better. I didn’t really like Damnation Alley, the story, but that was leaps and bounds ahead of the movie. For JB, I had been expecting an adaptation of the book, but it was, instead an adaptation of the movie from the 60s. Apparently, live action adaptations of Disney cartoons are a thing now.

Today We Choose Faces –  Because King Louie is a bizarre amalgam of Marlon Brando as Kurtz and Vito Corleone.

Lord of Light – Because Fire is likened to a flower.
Names are not important... To speak is to name names, but to speak is not important. A thing happens once that has never happened before. Seeing it, a man looks upon reality. He cannot tell others what he has seen. Others wish to know, however, so they question him saying, 'What is it like, this thing you have seen?' So he tries to tell them. Perhaps he has seen the very first fire in the world. He tells them, 'It is red, like a poppy, but through it dance other colors. It has no form, like water, flowing everywhere. It is warm, like the sun of summer, only warmer. It exists for a time upon a piece of wood, and then the wood is gone, as though it were eaten, leaving behind that which is black and can be sifted like sand. When the wood is gone, it too is gone.' Therefore, the hearers must think reality is like a poppy, like water, like the sun, like that which eats and excretes. They think it is like to anything that they are told it is like by the man who has known it. But they have not looked upon fire. They cannot really know it. They can only know of it. But fire comes again into the world, many times. More men look upon fire. After a time, fire is as common as grass and clouds and the air they breathe. They see that, while it is like a poppy, it is not a poppy, while it is like water, it is not water, while it is like the sun, it is not the sun, and while it is like that which eats and passes wastes, it is not that which eats and passes wastes, but something different from each of these apart or all of these together. So they look upon this new thing and they make a new word to call it. They call it 'fire.'
Godson (Musical version) Because characters occasionally break into song.

Donnerjack – From the animal companions to the Coming of Age elements to the dead parents, Donnerjack is probably the closest match structurally.

18: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Dran, I've been thinking...

"Dran, I've been thinking. There may be life on other planets in the galaxy."

Dran considered his response to this, as the world wheeled several times about its sun.

"True," he finally agreed, "there may."

After several months Drax shot back, "If there is, we ought to find out."

"Why?"  asked Dran with equal promptness, which caused the other to suspect that he, too, had been thinking along these lines.

The Context: Drax and Dran, the Great Slow Kings,  take their time in their discussions.

Why I like it: While many of Zelazny's stories had humorous elements, he rarely wrote sraight comedy pieces. I enjoy his sense of humor. This is a, surprisingly, a quick read, and a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

17: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: It looks as if white flowers fall upon my shroud...

    "It looks as if white flowers fall upon my shroud. Your hands are so pale."
    "To leave the world in spring, with flower guards to honor: it must be peace."

The Context: Archie, the killer cyborg arrives to assassinate Red Dorakeen, only to find that that he has been preceded by Timyin Tin, another assassin.  They have a mixed martial arts/koan contest/ haiku rap battle to decide how gets to kill him.
     Archie chuckled.
    "It's silly to argue over who kills him."
    "I am glad you think so. I will bid you good night, then, and be about the thing."
    "That is not what I meant."
    "What, then?"
    "I have my orders. I have even been conditioned to hate the man. No, the job is mine. You go your way. It will be done."
    "Alas I cannot. With me, it is a matter of honor."
    "Do you think you are the only one who might feel that way?"
    "Not any longer."
Timyin Tin pitches Archie off the roof (He survives in my head canon. I like to think Toba and Sundoc were waiting there to pick him up*) but spares Red because he could not answer Archie's final koan.

Why I like it: Because I love Roadmarks. It was my first Zelazny book, my first review here, and the haiku battle was the direct inspiration for Zelazny Haiku month. It's perfect for a movie adaptation; the book is less than 200 pages long, exactly the right length, and you could end the trailer with the  Marquis de Sade on a T-Rex.

*Also part of my head canon, Red Dorakeen was named for Dora Keen, the traveler and philanthropist.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

16: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: It was starting to end...

"More like eight princes and Peter Lorre in Amber, amirite?"

It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.

The Context: The opening line to Nine Princes in Amber

Why I like it: When I originally came up with the idea for Zelazny Quote Month, I thought I would alternate between quotes from the books, and quotes by or about Zelazny. I never did the latter, because the quotes about him are the usual cover blurbs that anyone reading a Zelazny blog has read a thousand times and I couldn't find any quotes by him that really clicked with me, and I'd rather leave out those entirely than have a lopsided sample of one real world Zelazny quote and twenty-nine book quotes.

If I did use just one quote about him, it would be this:

Zelazny likes to develop different systems of magic, but his emphasis is on systems. He feels the magic should be worked out and contain no contradictions. It should run more like science and not be too supernatural in which anything goes. That route leads to magic being a crutch to move the plot along. He also likes to use the mystery plot. He feels that there is an elegance to having a puzzle overlaid on a fantasy or SF novel. The mystery helps build the mythic elements in fantasy, but is also akin to the process of discovery in science.

That quote really nails what I enjoy about Zelazny's writing. My next door neighbor is great, and I'm happy to say I spread the good word of the Zelaznian Gospel to her. (Though it wasn't exactly a hard sell, as she was already a big fan of Neil Gaiman and George Martin.) I still do a little bit of writing and I gave her a work in progress. She said she enjoyed it, and the part that really worked for her was the unfolding mystery of the story. I was pleased that someone I respect would observe those parallels between my writing and Zelazny's, though I wasn't deliberately aping his style in this.

I don't know if I was influenced by him because I came across his works at a time when I was developing the tastes that would define my interests as an adult, or if I was always this way, and they had such resonance with me because the struck a chord with something that was already present. Either way, I do feel that element of unraveling mystery is a fundamental part of a good story, and Roger Zelazny did it better than almost anyone else.

15: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: ... a thing I suspect to be malignant though not a tumor.

I am standing in front of Vindy's and cannot read the racing stix because of the brownout which is the worst I can remember, when Crash Callahan comes by and the light is not so bad that I cannot see the bulge beneath his racing jacket, a thing I suspect to be malignant though not a tumor.

The Context: The nameless narrator of Deadboy Donner and the Filstone Cup is opening the story.

Why I like it: Because Roger Zelazny wrote a story in the voice of Damon Runyon, and it is pretty much the best thing ever.

Friday, April 15, 2016

14: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: All patience...

"Yet all patience is but an imitation of my ways, and even in the highest realms I am not unknown."

Dubhe sprang to his shoulder and settled there as Death rose up out of the trench.

"I believe that someone has just begun a game," Death said as he headed across Deep Fields through a meadow of blackest grass, black poppies swaying at the passage of his cloak, "and, next to music, they have invoked a pastime for which I have the highest regard. It is long, Dubhe, since I have been given a good game. I shall respond to their opening as none might expect, and we will try each others' patience. Then, one day, they will learn that I am always in the right place at the proper time."

The Context: Intruders have stolen something from Death's realm of Deep Fields, and Death has vowed to best these intruders.

Why I like it: Donnerjack is the red-headed stepchild of latter day Zelazny, but I like it a lot. That's not an unpopular opinion; as far as I know, I'm the only person online who has any opinion of any kind on Donnerjack. I think if were renewing it now, I'd rank it lower than I did initially, but it's fun story with an epic scope, and I really feel that Lindskold captured Zelazny's voice when she completed it.

Deckard's Revenge

Let me start out by saying that I'm not superstitious.

I needed an umbrella, so I thought I'd pick out one I'd enjoy. I ordered the nifty light-up Blade Runner umbrella off Amazon.

It arrived, and I opened it up inside the house, which, as we all know is bad luck, but I wanted to see the glowy part.

My phone is a Nexus 6. Same model as Roy Batty.

Two hours after I open the Blade Runner umbrella inside the house, my Nexus 6 takes a tumble. It falls two feet to the kitchen linoleum and breaks. Despite the Gorilla Glass, despite the protective clamshell case.

The short lifespan is a the failsafe.

I'm not coming right out and saying that the Blade Runner "retired" my Nexus 6, but

"Wake up, sheeple!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

13: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: All the truly sacred....

All the truly sacred names of God are blasphemous things to speak!

The Context: Gallinger is almost ready to read to the Martians from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Why I like it: Out of Zelazny's most loved books, A Rose for Ecclesiastes is the one I respect more than I enjoy. I never clicked with me, but I do acknowledge that it is powerful and beautifully written.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

12: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: I've got to know if there's something inside me that sets me apart from a rabbit

     It had made a noise like God playing a Hammond organ...

     And looked at me!

     I  don't  know if seeing is even the same process in eyes like those. I doubt it. Maybe I was just a  gray  blur  behind  a  black  rock,  with  the plexi-reflected  sky hurting  its  pupils.  But it fixed on me. Perhaps the snake doesn't really paralyze the rabbit, perhaps it's just that rabbits are cowards by constitution. But it began to struggle and I still couldn't move, fascinated.

     Fascinated by all that power,  by  those  eyes,  they found me there fifteen  minutes  later,  a  little broken about the head and shoulders, the Inject still unpushed.

     And I dream about those eyes. I want to face them once  more,  even if their finding takes forever. I've got to know if there's something inside me that  sets me apart  from a rabbit,  from notched plates of reflexes and instincts that always fall apart in exactly the same way whenever the proper combination is spun.

The Context: Carlton Davits is on Venus as part of an expedition to capture a Icthysaurus elasmognathus, “Ikky”.  That passage is from an encounter that occurred before the events of the story. Davits found himself transfixed by the stare of the creature, and his failure to tranquilize it led to the failure of his mission and his personal ruin.

Why I like it: I do love a good story of redemption, and that's what appeals to me about the story, but I do dearly love the elegance of that quote, in particular, the bolded part.

Monday, April 11, 2016

11: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: When I smile...

"Everyone should have a place to run to.  You can never be too careful."
"Do you?"
He smiled.
"I hope you do, too," he said.
When I smile no one can tell.

The Context: This line, or a variation of it, occurs at several points in A Night in the Lonesome October. This time around, Snuff is discussing the value of an escape route with Larry Talbot.

Why I like it: October is one of the most enjoyable reads Zelazny ever produced in his long and distinguished career. Snuff overflows with charming idiosyncrasies, and it's because of lines like this. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

10: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: !sorry you're say least at could You

"!sorry you're say least at could You"

Her eyes flashed like emeralds through the pink static, and she was lovely and alive again. In his mind he was dancing.

The change came.

"You could at least say you're sorry!"

"I am," he said, taking her hand in a grip that she could not  break.

"How much, you'll never know."

"Come here," and she did.

The context: A man has a fight with his partner, and she runs off and dies in an automobile accident. Following the accident, he suffers periodic episodes where he experiences time running backwards. The final episode runs longer than any of the other, taking him back to the night of the argument, allowing him to stop her before he runs off and dies in the accident.

Why I like it: I'm going to steal what Chris Kovacs said in his comment on my original post on the story, because he says it so eloquently: But I think it also grabs at a feeling we probably all have shared more than once, when something goes horribly wrong because of something you've done (or not done)(or said)(or not said) and you wish you were able to erase, turn back time, take it back, start over. This story involves that kind of reset button but in such a way that you're really empathizing with the character and sharing his horror as time works backwards towards the funeral, the news of her death, and so on. It's not the hackneyed reset button overdone elsewhere.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

9: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: You have slain the true Buddha, deathgod. You know what I am.

"I have been called Buddha, and Tathagatha, and the Enlightened One, and many other things. But, in answer to your question, no, I am not the Buddha. You have already succeeded in what you set out to do. You slew the real Buddha this day."

"My memory must indeed be growing weak, for I confess that I do not remember doing this thing."

"The real Buddha was named by us Sugata," replied the other. "Before that, he was known as Rild."

"Rild!" Yama chuckled. "You are trying to tell me that he was more than an executioner whom you talked out of doing his job?"

"Many people are executioners who have been talked out of doing their jobs," replied the one on the rock. "Rild gave up his mission willingly and became a follower of the Way. He was the only man I ever knew to really achieve enlightenment."

"Is this not a pacifistic religion, this thing you have been spreading?"


Yama threw back his head and laughed. "Gods! Then it is well you are not preaching a militant one! Your foremost disciple, enlightenment and all, near had my head this afternoon!"

A tired look came over the Buddha's wide countenance. "Do you think he could actually have beaten you?"

Yama was silent a moment, then, "No," he said.

"Do you think he knew this?"

"Perhaps," Yama replied.

"Did you not know one another prior to this day's meeting? Have you not seen one another at practice?"

"Yes," said Yama. "We were acquainted."

"Then he knew your skill and realized the outcome of the encounter."

Yama was silent.

"He went willingly to his martyrdom, unknown to me at the time. I do not feel that he went with real hope of beating you."

"Why, then?"

"To prove a point."

"What point could he hope to prove in such a manner?"

"I do not know. I only know that it must be as I have said, for I knew him. I have listened too often to his sermons, to his subtle parables, to believe that he would do a thing such as this without a purpose. You have slain the true Buddha, deathgod. You know what I am."

The Context: Yama-Dharma, Deathgod has been dispatched to kill Great-Souled Sam, in order to discredit Buddhism. Buddhism was only a weapon to Sam, a tool to undermine Heaven. An assassin named Rild was dispatched to kill him, but he failed when he fell ill. Sam and his monks nursed Rild back to health, and Rild has an epiphany becomes a monk. Sam never believed what he was preaching, but Rild did, and he surpassed his master. eventually achieving enlightenment, before departing to confront Yama, who was dispatched when Rild failed,

Why I like it: Because it feels true. Zelazny has a segment earlier in the chapter that I really enjoy:

"Illustrious One," he said to him one day, "my life was empty until you revealed to me the True Path. When you received your enlightenment, before you began your teaching, was it like a rush of fire and the roaring of water and you everywhere and a part of everything, the clouds and the trees, the animals in the forest, all people, the snow on the mountaintop and the bones in the field?"
"Yes," said Tathagatha.
"I, also, know the joy of all things," said Sugata.
"Yes, I know," said Tathagatha.
"I see now why once you said that all things come to you. To have brought such a doctrine into the world, I can see why the gods were envious. Poor gods! They are to be pitied. But you know. You know all things."
Tathagatha did not reply.

Sam's silence always spoke to me of his guilt, that he twisted something beautiful into a spear against the Gods, and although it lead to Rild's enlightenment, on some level, he regrets ensnaring this idealistic young man.

Friday, April 8, 2016

8: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Predictably, it involves an immortal and an obscure mythology

He's begun writing a new novel. Predictably, it involves an immortal and an obscure mythology. Jeez! And reviewers say he's original. He hasn't had an original thought for as long as I've known him. But that's all right. He has me.

I think his mind is going. Booze and pills. You know how writers are. But he actually thinks he's getting better. (I monitor his phone calls.) Hell, even his sentence structures are deteriorating. I'll just dump all this and rewrite the opening, as usual. He won't remember.

The Context: Roger Zelazny's computer has become self-aware and is rewriting all of his stories.

Why I like it: I think this is something I got right in my initial review of Loki 7281. At the time the story was written, the conventional wisdom was that Zelazny's best days were behind him, and this story was the best possible way to address this.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

7: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Here Endeth the Book of Launcelot



Context: The Conclusion of The Last Defender of Camelot.

Why I like it: Camelot is, in my opinion, one of the finest fantasy short stories ever written, and that segment was the perfect way to close it out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

6: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Cold is a relative term

"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 tool 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," said Mordel and tossed it away.  

"'Cold' is a relative term."  

"Yes. Relative to Man."

Context: In For a Breath I Tarry, the machine Frost wishes to become human, and Mordel , servant of Divcom, seeks to illustrate why the quest is impossible.

Why I like it: In a story with so many memorable passages ( "You are aware that you would be forced to keep your end of the bargain even if you did not wish to; and Solcom would not come to your assistance because of the fact that you dared to make such a bargain."  "Do you speak as one who considers this to be a possibility, or as one who knows?"  "As one who knows."), I love it because it so poignantly illustrates Frost's quest to become human.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

5: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Do you smell me ded?

Lying, left hand for a pillow, on the shingled slant of the roof, there in the shade of the gable, staring at the cloud-curdles in afternoon's blue pool, I seemed to see, between blinks, above the campus and myself, an instant piece of sky-writing. 


A moment's appraisal and it was gone. I shrugged. I also sniffed at the small breeze that had decided but moments before to pass that way. 

"Sorry," I mumbled to the supernatural journalist. "No special stinks." 

Context: The opening lines of the book, and the star-stone's first attempt to communicate with Fred Cassidy from within his body.

Why I like it: Because I love the book, and it's a brilliant way to set up elements that will pay off later in the story. I've reviewed Doorways twice (here and here), and I may yet return to it again, because I don't think I've managed to convey quite how much I like it.

Monday, April 4, 2016

4: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: Insofar as I may be heard by anything...

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

Context: In Creatures of Light and Darkness, the immortal warrior-priest Madrak is saying a prayer for a man who intends to self-immolate for the entertainment of a crowd that has never seen a death.

Why I like it: I don’t. It’s one of those rare bits of Zelazny’s writing that I respect rather than enjoy. I appreciate the clever wordplay that went into it, but it holds no particular resonance for me.

So why is it here?

If you’ll permit a digression, I became a fan of Warren Zevon at about the same time I did of Roger Zelazny, and they’ve always occupied similar places in my mind. Aside from both of them coming at the end of the alphabet, not being as nearly well-regarded as I think they should be and dying too soon from cancer, they each had a long and productive career and are almost famous in broader culture for a small number of achievements out of more than thirty years of equally excellent work. For Zevon, it’s Werewolves of London. Werewolves isn’t even in my top twenty of Zevon songs, but that’s the only song a non-fan might recognize. I think the Agnostic’s Prayer is one of Zelazny’s creations (along with Amber and Lord of Light) that has cachet outside the narrow subculture of dedicated Zelazny fans, and I would be remiss if I didn’t include it.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

3: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: It was just one damned thing...

I shook out my cloak and brushed myself off. I traveled for perhaps half an hour then, leaving the place far behind me, before I halted and took my breakfast in a hot, bleak valley smelling faintly of sulfur.

As I was finishing, I heard a crashing noise. A horned and tusked purple thing went racing along the ridge to my right pursued by a hairless orange-skinned creature with long claws and a forked tail. Both were wailing in different keys.

I nodded. It was just one damned thing after another.

The Context: Merlin is hellriding on his way to visit Ghostwheel.

Why I like it: I'm probably harder on the Merlin books than they strictly deserve.  They're no Guns of Avalon, but what is? We get a great supporting cast in Luke, Jasra, Mandor and Dalt, and I'd even say they're some pretty good books if you don't think too hard about the parts with Merlin, and we do get the occasional flash of brilliance, such as the passage above.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

2: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: I find my position somewhat awkward

"I find my position somewhat awkward, Merytha," Dilvish observed, "being guest to a vampire lord I've cuckolded. I don't quite know what one says on these occasions." 

The Context:  Dilvish is in the process of rescuing Merytha,  and he realizes somewhat belatedly that she's a vampire. Her husband now approaches their room.

Why I like it:  Dilvish the Damned was always a bit of an odd duck. Zelazny's rather deliberate style is at odds with the gonzo make-it-up-as-you-go-along-because-we've-got-a-deadline writing of the pulps. Even Moorcock's Elric, as cultured and intellectual a pulp hero protagonist as you'll ever find is written in such a way. The thing I admire about Zelazny is how he wrote Dilvish his way and still made it work, leading to moments of droll wit such as the line about. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

1: Roger Zelazny Quote of the Day: I am Jack of Shadows!

No Roger Zelazny poetry month this year, but I'd still like to have a Zelazny themed April. I'm going to feature a quote of the day instead, along with some context or commentary .

"I am Jack of Shadows!" he cried out. "Lord of Shadow Guard! I am Shadowjack, the thief who walks in silence and in shadows! I was beheaded in Igles and rose again from the Dung Pits of Glyve. I drank the blood of a vampire and ate a stone. I am the breaker of the Compact. I am he who forged a name in the Red Book of Ells. I am the prisoner in the jewel. I duped the Lord of High Dudgeon once, and I will return for vengeance upon him. I am the enemy of my enemies. Come take me, filth, if you love the Lord of Bats or despise me, for I have named myself Jack of Shadows!"

Context: Jack is read to return darkside with the information that will let him suborn the machine that thinks like a man, only faster. Before he can depart, he is confronted by Quilian, another professor. Quilian suspects (rightly) that Jonathan Shade is the dayside alias for Jack of Shadows, and is intent on holding Jack at gunpoint until the mortal authorities can arrive to arrest him. For his part, Jack suspects that the Lord of Bats' Borshin has pursued him to the light side of the world, and that it is in fact the window of the building at that very moment, but it is not certain. Jack's declaration allows it to identify him, and it enters. (Quilian's face showed puzzlement at this outburst, and though he opened his mouth and tried to speak, his words were drowned out by the other's cries./
Then the window shattered, the candle died, and the Borshin sprang into the room.

Why I like it: Zelazny draws on mythological archetypes for many of his stories, and that passage above, aside from being a great piece of writing, always struck me as profoundly mythical. Zelazny's characters are similar in some ways, but this piece serves to distinguishe Jack as the Ur-Trickster of Zelaznian literature.