Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Necromancy in Damnation Alley

Thread necromancy, that is!

Promoted from the comments.

Q: Sorry about this necromancy of reviving the old comment thread after so many years, but, re-reading Damnation Alley, I have an idea I can't get rid of, and perhaps someone could share their view on it, too…

So, can't that pre-final scene, where Hell sees a pilgrim priest in his delirium dream, besides being a reference to the Japanese Noh theater (as Carl Yoke suggests here https://bit.ly/35Kcked), be also an allusion to A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr., a famous post-apocalyptic science fiction novel dedicated mostly to the Catholic church in the post-nuclear world (that is, having a lot of monks, priests and pilgrimage in it)? That came to my mind after I had read the both books within a year.

A: My first instinct would be to say no, as Zelazny rarely referenced other fictional work in that fashion. However, it's certainly not impossible, as the Grimjack cameo in the Merlin series shows. That said, I don't know Leibowitz nearly as well as I know Zelazny's works, so I'll have to qualify my opinion as uninformed. 

Chris I? Chris II? Any insight that you would care to share?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Meanwhile, at the Bear Owl Sanctuary

We started what may become a new D&D campaign. It quickly went off the rails (as all the best campaigns do) with our unintentionally racist cleric and our mercenary paladin. Things reached their peak when our characters killed a sleeping owlbear. Our daughter commemorated the moment with this picture.

And now for some sadder news.

Mungo the porgbear was loved by all the children at St Brutus's Hospital, where he wandered the children's wing as a therapy bear. He could often be found rocking them to sleep, snuggling up with them or turning his head around to amuse the children who had been dealt a losing hand in life.

That is until this weekend, when he was brutally murdered in his sleep by a party of "heroes" employed by King Tristan. When asked for comment, the party's paladin Orion demanded payment up front before speaking, Raveena  tugged on her beard, Vidalia ate her namesake onions and Moser shouted racial slurs.

In lieu of flowers, the family of 400 surviving baby porgbears is requesting donations to St Brutus's. Services will be held at the chapel in the Starcourt Mall. It will be closed casket due to the condition of the deceased.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Storms of Venus

I won't reprint the letter here, but a Zelazny fan whose first language is not English asked for some clarification regarding this exchange from "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth"

"You're from the Midwest, aren't you?"
"Get bad storms out there?"
"Try to think of the worst one you were ever in. Got a slide rule handy?"
"Right here."
"Then put a one under it, imagine a zero or two following after, and multiply the thing out."
"I can't imagine the zeros."
"Then retain the multiplicand—that's all you can do."

It's a bit tricky to decipher because it involves both the archaic instrument of a slide rule and the word "multiplicand", which itself is hardly in common use.

I think the slide rule is something of a distraction. Davits is basically saying that you want to imagine a large Midwestern storm (which would be the multiplicand, the item which is multiplied) and the one followed by a one or two zeroes in the multiplier.

A one followed by one zero would be ten and a one followed by two zeroes is one hundred. Davits is telling Mike that the tropical storms on Venus are ten to one hundred times more powerful in the American Midwest.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The invasion of robot bugs!

I saw this piece about a robot bug and couldn't help but think of Yama's own version in the monastery.


"Yet," said Aram, "Patanjali does state that it is the intention rather than the act which governs. Therefore, if I killed with love rather than malice, it would be as if I had not killed. I confess that this was not the case and that malice was present, therefore, even if I did not kill I do bear the burden of the guilt because of the presence of that intention. So I could step upon it now and be none the worse for it, according to the principle of ahimsa. Since I am a guest, however, I of course respect the practice and do not do this thing." With this, he moved his sandal away from the insect, which stood immobile, reddish antennae pricked upward."Indeed, he is a scholar," said one of the Order of Ratri.Aram smiled. "Thank you, but it is not so," he stated. "I am only a humble seeker of truth, and on occasion in the past have I been privileged to overhear the discourses of the learned. Would that I might be so privileged again! If there were some great teacher or scholar in the vicinity, then I would most surely walk across a bed of hot coals to sit at his feet and to hear his words or observe his example. If...”He stopped then, for all eyes had suddenly turned upon the doorway at his back. He did not move his head, but reached out to crush a beetle that stood near his hand. The tip of a small crystal and two tiny wires protruded through the broken chitin of its back.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Zelazny Clerihew

I am informed that today is National Clerihew Day.

I knew of such things but didn't know they had a name. It's a short, biographical poem, AABB.

An example

Did Descartes
With the thought
"Therefore I'm not"?

I wish I had known about this during Zelazny poetry month.

Zelazny wrote many a modern myth
in thirty years as a wordsmith.
Tales of gods in disguise
and of princes with green eyes.

Monday, July 1, 2019


It's a bit unusual to stumble upon anything Zelazny-related by accident, and yet I found this post about Chronomaster while looking for something else.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Zelazny by the Numbers:1937

Roger Zelazny was born in 1937. Despite that, his stories never seemed in any way dated. Sure, Legion deals with punchcard computers, but the societal issues of an information culture were remarkably prescient.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Zelazny by the Numbers: About 2,960,000

About three million hits on Google for Zelazny.

Roger Zelazny  returns 1,830,000 and "Roger Zelazny"  gives about 1,100,000.

Not too shabby.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Zelazny by the Numbers: Seven

For the seven linked novellas composing Lord of Light. I tend to like novellas. You don’t see them as much anymore. Stephen King called them "an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic."

My interest in the novella as the ideal length for a story has always been something of a chicken or egg situation. Do I prefer it because Roger Zelazny wrote stories of this length and I tend to look favorably on everything he did, or do I like the length and format novellas themselves and I became such an enthusiast of Zelazny because of this preference? I suspect it’s a bit of each, but mostly the former. To put it another way, and at the risk of being reductionist, the stories are the length Zelazny needed them to be.  It’s not important that they were of the particular length they were; that’s just how things worked out. After all, his stories were hardly exclusively of this length, and on several occasions, he expanded shorter works into full-length novels. (Though it’s worth noting that I generally do prefer the shorter versions more, with the notable exception of Wilderness.)

I do think Lord of Light is the exception to this general rule, and the format is crucial to its appeal. The novel would not have worked as well as it did if it had been written in another way. It’s interesting to note that this was born of practicality. Zelazny wrote it in that fashion in order to be able to sell the story piecemeal if he couldn’t sell the entire book.  They stand on their own, but the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Zelazny by the Numbers: Three

Piggybacking off of yesterday's post, Zelazny had three Nebula wins out of his fourteen nominations. 

  • The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
  • He Who Shapes
  • Home is the Hangman

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Zelazny by the Numbers: Fourteen

Fourteen Nebula Nominations!

The Nebula awards recognize the best science fiction or fantasy works of the previous calendar year. Roger Zelazny's works were nominated for the Nebula award fourteen times in total.

  • 24 Views of Mt. Fuji  by Hokusai
  • A Night in the Lonesome October
  • Devil Car
  • Doorways in the Sand
  • He Who Shapes
  • Home is the Hangman
  • Isle of the Dead
  • Lord of Light
  • Permafrost
  • The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
  • The Engine at Heartspring’s Center
  • The Keys to December
  • This Moment of the Storm
  • This Mortal Mountain

Orders close tonight for Defending Earth: The Adventure of Sarah Jane Smith

Orders close tonight. Get your copy at this link before they're gone forever.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Zelazny By The Numbers: Nine

Nine Princes in Amber

 Amber! There was something there, something electrical and potent!

I was a prince of Amber. It was true. There had been fifteen brothers and six were dead. There had been eight Sisters, and two were dead, possibly four. We had spent much of our time in wandering in Shadow, or in our own universes. It is an academic, though valid philosophical question, as to whether one with power over Shadow could create his own universe. Whatever the ultimate answer, from a practical point we could.

There is something talismanic about the title. Would it have become the genre-defining series it is without that title, with its fairy tale overtones and hints of something grand and majestic just out of reach? I don’t think so. At the very least, I picked up the book in my high school library based on the power of the title. The prose kept me reading, but it was those words that drew me close initially.

Introducing Zelazny By The Numbers!

April, the month when this blog comes briefly back to life. Since last year’s Zelazny A to Z feature worked out so well, I will be doing Zelazny By the Numbers, where each post ties a number to a fact about Roger Zelazny’s career.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Time Lord Archives reviews Sarah Jane, Superstar!

Extremely nice review from The Time Lord Archives!

Time Lord Archives reviews Sarah Jane, Superstar!

Every anthology needs at least one good meta-story! Preferably full of inside jokes and puns—the sillier, the better. Here, halfway through, Defending Earth delivers!

"I was familiar—as many Big Finish fans will be—with co-author Joshua Wanisko for his audio Short Trip, Forever Fallen, the winner of Big Finish’s inaugural Paul Spragg Memorial Opportunity in 2016. That story is an earnest, serious, thoughtful Seventh Doctor adventure, one that will stay with its listeners for some time. This story—co-written by Joshua’s daughter Lillian Wanisko, for whom this is a first writing credit—is none of that; and that is exactly as it should be! Where that story is full of emotion, this one is full of humor, and utterly lighthearted. How could it not be? It’s Sarah Jane Smith: The Musical!"

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Panel at ReGeneration Who

Yikes! I haven't posted in forever! I'm here. Still kicking.

I'll be running a panel at ReGenWho 5:

A History of Violence: A journey from Pacifism to Genocide and all points in between

Terrance Dicks said that 'The Doctor always looks for a peaceful solution - but he never finds one!'

This panel seeks to evaluate the limits of both violence and pacifism and the Doctor’s willingness to employ each in the pursuit of peace. Presentation and discussion will cover all eras of the classic and modern series, as well as the Big Finish audios, with particular emphasis on the Fourth and Tenth Doctors.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Defending Earth Pre-Orders now open

I posted about this collection several weeks ago, but it is now available for pre-order.  Lily and I wrote a story together for it and we’re both extraordinarily proud of it. Proceeds go towards the Cancer Research Institute. Please consider buying a copy if you hate cancer or like Sarah Jane Smith, Doctor Who, Lily or me.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

This Day in Astronomy

Are we certain about that, astronomy calendar?

I mean, I was pretty young back then, but this seems like the kind of thing I would have remembered.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Remembering Lois Wanisko

My Grandmother passed away on Monday night, just a few minutes before the new year. This is the eulogy I delivered on Friday morning.

Whenever I would talk about my grandparents, I would always refer to them as “Grammy and Papa”, in that particular order. I loved my Papa as much I've ever loved anyone, but nobody who knew them would dispute the fact that Grammy was in charge of the family, so Grammy came first.

And, for the record, it's spelled G-R-A-M-M-Y. Not -I-E. Sometimes even Grammy misspelled her own name with an -IE.

Grammy loved snowmen. I think. She had a lot of them anyway. I used to wonder if she has received an unwanted gift of a snowman in her youth, which would have led other people to believe that she liked snowmen when in fact she didn’t, which would in turn lead to more snowmen and perpetuate the cycle, but then I thought about that and realized that this didn’t make sense. If Grammy didn’t like something, she was never afraid to let you know.

In addition to snowmen, Grammy liked the disgusting parts of the animal. I always figured that this came from the fact that she was one of the younger siblings in a Depression era family. But Grammy loved her turkey necks and pig’s stomachs and pig’s knuckles. I happened to be up at the Allentown Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago and I called her to see if she wanted me to pick up anything from the Amish butchers up there.  She didn’t; she said she could no longer eat that kind of food. I didn’t really think much of that, but now it makes me almost indescribably sad, that she was denied something so central to her identity before she passed.

My father once said that he could imagine his mom without his dad, but not his dad with without his mom. And that's the way it was. Papa passed away almost twenty years ago, and Grammy went on. She talked about how she missed him, how she would be watching TV and she'd turn to talk to him and his chair would be empty. I think we're all going to have those moments relating to Grammy in the coming weeks.

I've thought a lot about my Grammy's family since then. She outlived a lot of people. It seemed like she would live forever. She had so many siblings and she watched her family dwindle over the years.

Except the family didn't dwindle. Life is made up of meetings and partings. The children and grandchildren and yes, great grandchildren she had raised over the years spread into the world to start their own branches of the family.

She loved us, but she wasn’t possessive of us. As my brothers and I settled into steady relationships, she didn't want to compete with the other side of the family, so the boys would always go to our partners’ families on Christmas Day and the family would hold Wanisko Christmas later on. Usually after New Years, but circumstances conspired to make us hold it early. I thought it was something of inconvenience at the time, no raiding the after Christmas sales for bargains, but it gave us one last Christmas together and I'll always be thankful for that.

Grammy and Pop owned a family business for a long time.  We called it The Shop and spent many summers there. They serviced video games and sold candy, which is pretty much the best childhood imaginable.

Later on, the town bought the building through eminent domain and made it into a firehouse. When I was little, I was so angry about this that I wanted to burn it down, but even then, I realized that this was a plan that would have little chance of success.

We used to have family picnics at her house back when she still owned the shop. On Easter, the kids would go across the street to play baseball with the adult men of the family in the parking lot of the shop, and when we got back the Bunny would have hidden the eggs. You can imagine how frustrating that was. I would just miss seeing him every single year.

Speaking of holidays, my most enduring childhood memory of Grammy and Papa was on Christmas Eve. We would usually go down to visit them at their house in Phillipsburg, but they would always come up on Christmas Eve to give us one present. If I ever need to provide evidence that I had a happy childhood and grandparents who loved me, it's this memory, right there.

I was watching television with Jen and Lily, and someone on the program was asked how she deals with the pain of departed loved ones. She replied, “I carry them with me. What they would have thought, and said, and done. Make them a part of who I am. So even though they’re gone from the world, they’re never gone from me.”

And now Grammy is gone. She had ninety years, and I was lucky enough to share more than forty of them with her but still I wanted more time. She got what everyone gets. She got a lifetime, and she made the most of it. I’ll love you and I’ll miss you and I’ll never ever forget you. You’re at peace now.

And I hope pig stomach is on the menu up in heaven tonight.