Friday, May 18, 2018

Z is for Zahn: Zelazny A to Z

Roger Zelazny isn’t the only author I read, but he’s certainly my favorite and he’s the first I seek out when I enter a bookstore. This task is made easier by virtue of his name. I go to the end of the bookshelf and tilt my head sideways and read the names on the spines. Most chain bookstores organize the sci-fi/fantasy section alphabetically by author, but then they include series that have many different authors after those.

So I would see Tad Williams and Timothy Zahn and I knew that if I saw those guys and got to the Star Wars books that this particular bookstore wouldn’t have anything by Zelazny. I like Zahn’s work quite a bit, but I still bear him a tiny bit of resentment for the crime of not being Roger Zelazny.

Thus concludes my Zelazny A to Z. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Y is for Yok: Zelazny A to Z

The "...And Call Me Roger" biography segment of NEFSA's Collected Stories has to be my favorite part of a very strong collection.

The monster monarchs from the Great Slow Kings are no doubt similar to ones Zelazny had written as a kid with lifelong friend Carl Yoke about their namesake monsters Yok and Zlaz.

Friday, May 11, 2018

X is for X-Division, Xenagogue, Xenium, Xenization, Xenodochium and Xyresic: Zelazny A to Z

I wanted to do something different with this post, seeing as most A to Z lists fall back on X-ray or xylophone. I consulted this handy list of 40 words that begin with X and came up with a few contenders.

 X-DIVISION: Victorian slang for criminals or pickpockets, or people who make a living by some underhand means: This could work, seeing as many of Zelazny’s characters operate within the underworld.

XENAGOGUE: Derived from the same root as xenophobia, a xenagogue is someone whose job it is to conduct strangers or to act as a guide: Roger Zelazny is our xenagogue to his fantastic worlds.

XENIUM:  A xenium is a gift or offering given to a stranger, which in its native Ancient Greece would once have been a lavish feast or a refreshing spread of food and fruit. In the 19th century art world, however, xenium came to refer to a still-life painting depicting something like a extravagant display of food or a bowl of fruit: It doesn’t map exactly, but I could imagine the word evolving to apply to the Star-Stone in Doorways in the Sand.

XENIZATION: A 19th-century word meaning “the act of traveling as a stranger.”: Yeah, this list is kind of a cheat because they all have the same root word, but this is another theme common to Zelazny’s work.

XENODOCHIUM: A guesthouse or hostel, or any similar stopping place for travelers or pilgrims. Such as The Sign of the Burning Pestle, which lay upon a coach road near the ocean.
"My name is Jack, and I've traveled far to reach this place, Haric," he replied. "I seek an old woman who was coming here to spend her final days. Her name is Rosalie. Tell me what you know of her."
Haric creased his brow, lowered his head and squinted.
"Bide a moment," he said. "There was an old hag . . . Yes. She died some time ago."
"Oh," said Jack. "Tell me then where she is buried, that I might visit her grave."
Haric snorted and quaffed his wine. He then he began to laugh. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, then raised it to wipe his eyes with his sleeve.
"Buried?" he said. "She was worthless. We only kept her here for charity's sake, and because she knew somewhat of healing."
Tiny bulges of muscle appeared at the hinges of Jack's jaws.
"Then what did you do with her?" he inquired.
"Why we threw her carcass into the ocean.- Small pickings there for fishes, though."
Jack left the Sign of the Burning Pestle burning at his back, there on the coach road by the ocean.

XYRESIC: Means “razor-sharp.” That is a pretty great word. Zelazny’s writing is always pretty xyresic.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

W is for Walpurgisnacht: Zelazny A to Z

Walpurgis Night, an abbreviation of Saint Walpurgis Night (from the German Sankt Walpurgisnacht [saŋkt valˈpʊʁɡɪsˌnaχt]), also known as Saint Walpurga's Eve (alternatively spelled Saint Walburga's Eve), is the eve of Christian feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia, and is celebrated on night of 30 April and the day of 1 May. This feast commemorates the canonization of Saint Walpurga and the movement of her relics to Eichstätt, both of which occurred on 1 May in the year 870.

You'd think Walpurgisnacht would be an Amber story, as it's an unusual word that Merlin employs several times in Trumps of Doom, but it's a story about a computerized tombstone and a curmudgeonly uncle.

From the same article:

30 April is pálení čarodějnic ("burning of the witches") or čarodějnice ("the witches") in the Czech Republic. Huge bonfires—up to 8 metres (26 ft) tall—are built and burnt in the evening, preferably on top of hills. Young people gather around. Sudden black and dense smoke formations are cheered as "a witch flying away". An effigy of a witch is held up and thrown into a bonfire to burn.As evening advances to midnight and fire is on the wane, it is time to go search for a cherry tree in blossom. Young women should be kissed past midnight (and during the following day) under a cherry tree. They "will not dry up" for an entire year. The First of May is celebrated then as "the day of those in love".

My last name is Czech. Now I finally understand why I feel the urge to set Merlin on fire every April 30th.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Convention Report: East Coast Comic Con

I’ve attended so many good conventions lately that I tend to forget how lousy the bad ones are.

Con was a bit of a bust. Here's the thing. I reviewed the weapon policy before I set out and the umbrella seemed to be in compliance. It didn't look like a weapon, it was light-weight and had a plastic tip. They confiscated it anyway. Which is shitty, but their con, their rules.

But then I didn't have a satisfactory explanation when Lily asked why other people had knives, crowbars and yes, umbrellas as part of their costumes. That set the tone for the early part of the trip, but she eventually got over it.

The con itself wasn't so great, but there were some very nice moments surrounding it. It was nice working on a costume together with Lily and there were some nice quiet moments when we sat outside the convention center just talking.

V is for Vending Machine: Zelazny A to Z

When he reached the Circle of the Fountain, the prince halted. Several dozen people stood in a shifting line before the Temple of Varuna, most stern and august of all the deities. These people were not preparing to enter the Temple, but rather were engaged in some occupation that required waiting and taking turns. He heard the rattling of coins and he wandered nearer.

It was a machine, gleaming and metallic, before which they moved.

A man inserted a coin into the mouth of a steel tiger. The machine began to purr. He pressed buttons cast in the likenesses of animals and demons. There came then a flashing of lights along the lengths of the Nagas, the two holy serpents who twisted about the transparent face of the machine.

He edged closer.

The man drew down upon the lever that grew from the side of the machine cast in the likeness of the tail of a fish.

A holy blue light filled the interior of the machine; the serpents pulsed redly; and there, in the midst of the light and a soft music that had begun to play, a prayer wheel swung into view and began spinning at a furious pace.

The man wore a beatific expression. After several minutes, the machine shut itself off. He inserted another coin and pulled the lever once more, causing several of those nearer to the end of the line to grumble audibly, remarking to the effect that that was his seventh coin, it was a warm day, there were other people waiting to get some praying done and why did he not go inside and render such a large donation directly to the priests? Someone replied that the little man obviously had much atoning to do. There then began some speculation as to the possible nature of his sins. This was accompanied by considerable laughter.

I learned about Hero of Alexandria early last month. He was a scientist in the first century AD.  From Wikipedia: The first vending machine was also one of his constructions; when a coin was introduced via a slot on the top of the machine, a set amount of holy water was dispensed. This was included in his list of inventions in his book Mechanics and Optics. When the coin was deposited, it fell upon a pan attached to a lever. The lever opened up a valve which let some water flow out. The pan continued to tilt with the weight of the coin until it fell off, at which point a counter-weight would snap the lever back up and turn off the valve

Also, I never realized until reading the story for this post, but Sam seems to have coined the phrase “pray-o-mat”.

“Tell me, I saw a machine this morning which I think may best be described as a pray-o-mat, are they very common?"

It’s unlikely the gods would employ such a blasphemous name for the device. (At least, not to outsiders. I could absolutely believe they would call it a pray-o-mat internally.)

It would seem he used in conversation and it caught on after his departure. Of course, it’s possible that the phrase could have arisen independently from several sources, but since it seems to be derived from automat and only Sam or another of the First would have that knowledge, I’m leaning towards it being a phrase of Sam’s invention.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

U is for Unicorn: Zelazny A to Z



 A mythical animal typically represented as a horse with a single straight horn projecting from its forehead.

Unicorns aren’t overrepresented in Zelazny’s work (I’d suspect a rigorous analysis would show more dragons than unicorns, for instance), but they do feature prominently in two of his best-known works, so I’d go so far as to say that they are the mythical creatures most associated with his writing.
And the packet bore a device which caused me to stiffen where I knelt, perspiration suddenly wetting my brow and my breath coming rapidly.
    It bore a white unicorn on a grass field, rampant, facing to the dexter.
    And I knew that device and it hurt me that I could not name it.

I love the meter of that passage. It seems so dreamlike.

A bizarrerie of fires, cunabulum of light, it moved with a deft, almost dainty deliberation, phasing into and out of existence like a storm-shot piece of evening; or perhaps the darkness between the flares was more akin to its truest nature—swirl of black ashes assembled in prancing cadence to the lowing note of desert wind down the arroyo behind buildings as empty yet filled as the pages of unread books or stillnesses between the notes of a song.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

T is for Tyrannosaurus: Zelazny A to Z

Tyrannosaurus is a genus of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur. The species Tyrannosaurus rex (rex meaning "king" in Latin) is one of the most well-represented of the large theropods. Tyrannosaurus lived throughout what is now western North America, on what was then an island continent known as Laramidia. Tyrannosaurus had a much wider range than other tyrannosaurids. Fossils are found in a variety of rock formations dating to the Maastrichtian age of the upper Cretaceous Period, 68 to 66 million years ago.It was the last known member of the tyrannosaurids, and among the last non-avian dinosaurs to exist before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction.

- "The death of Chadwick! By Tyrannosaurus rex! Under the direction of the Marquis de Sade!"