Monday, January 13, 2020

Zelazny What If: Random as the villain in the Corwin Chronicles

We’ll open with Who and Why and then drill down into details.

Who: Random

I began spreading them on the blotter before me. The one bore a wily-looking little man, with a sharp nose and a laughing mouth and a shock of straw-colored hair. He was dressed in something like a Renaissance costume of orange, red and brown. He wore long hose and a tight-fitting embroidered doublet. And I knew him. His name was Random.
Why: Resentment.

"Younger, smaller . . . he might have had it a bit rougher than the rest of us,"

"Nothing quite as useless as another prince when there is already a crowd of them about. I was as guilty as the rest. Bleys and I once stranded him for two days on an islet to the south of here..."

How: I think there are two distinct ways to use Random as a villain. The first is that he cultivated his image as the slacker younger brother. Don’t mind me. I’m off here slumming in shadows, drumming and hang gliding and playing cards.

“But Josh,” you say. “You handsome devil, isn’t Random already the king?” The argument could be made that this has already happened.  We’ll posit that Random manipulated everyone so cunningly that no one even suspects they were duped even years after kingship was reluctantly thrust upon him.

I guess it’s worth noting that I don’t give much weight to this theory. Random doesn’t seem to like being king very much. Sure, it’s nice bossing around your siblings, but as Corwin noted earlier on, the position entails a lot of dreary administration down through the centuries.  (Though, counterpoint, he could have desired it at the time, only to discover that it wasn’t what he expected at all.)

But still, deceiving your siblings, even the smart ones like Benedict, Brand and Fiona is different from pulling one over on the unicorn. Grammy Unicorn made the choice, and she saw deeper than anyone.  I don’t think Random could fool her.

The other possibility for Random as a baddie is that he’s not the brains at all. Vialle, as a kind of Lady Macbeth is the villain of the piece.  Moire is ambitious. We’re told that she attempted to have a number of her subjects walk the Rebman Pattern, and her encounter with Corwin had to be part of some breeding program. She’s the one who arranged the marriage and why would such a ruthless monarch care what happens to one blind girl with whom she has no obvious connection?

Vialle is rather unusual anyway. She doesn’t look like anyone else in Rebma, and that’s before we even get into the matter of her magical sculptures in the post-Merlin stories.  Who is she? She was cordial the few times we saw her, but we have no idea what lies beneath that. It could be anything.


  1. "her encounter with Corwin had to be part of some BREEDING PROGRAM"
    Oh, wait, WHAT IF she was a Bene Gesserit, too?

  2. "The other possibility for Random as a baddie is that he’s not the brains at all."

    Parallels with real-life Trump who ended up "king," too…with such an eerily appropriate name that evokes the Amber chronicles.