Roger Zelazny discussion

Lord of Light
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message 1: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments Lord of Light is another one of my all time favorite books. One of the most notable points of the book is that it is told through a lot of flashbacks, something I normally hate, but worked really well here. It should be straight SF, but reads more like fantasy; a mythic, epic battle between the crew - I mean gods. Really an awesome, original idea.

message 2: by Dan, Jack of Shadows (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan (akagunslinger) | 55 comments Lord of Light is really something. The flashback technique was a little offputting at first but fit with the story. It reminded me of Jack Kirby's New Gods series from the 70's at times.

message 3: by Becky (new) - added it

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) This is another that I really want to read. I love the concept of gods as actual beings who do interesting -even if it is terrible- stuff rather than just sit around being judgmental and having their existence questioned... ;)

Hien This book was my introduction to Zelazny way back when. It totally blew me away. The opening paragraph has to be one of the more memorable openings. It really pulls you in. Every now and then I'll reread it. My copy is well worn.

message 5: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I've heard people put this book down because they say his version of Hinduism isn't correct - it's a western corruption of the religion. Why would they expect it to be correct? The setting is in our far future on a planet far away. The religion was used as a vehicle to power. I would expect it to be corrupted.

message 6: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (last edited Aug 09, 2009 09:57AM) (new)

Mohammed  Burhan Abdi Osman (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments This book is my next Zelazny. It does sound very interesting. Hopefully it will impress me as much or even more.

I liked the word mythic in connection to Zelazny book. His themes in his famous sf books are so interesting. Thats why you read sf to me.

Greyweather | 63 comments Jim wrote: "I've heard people put this book down because they say his version of Hinduism isn't correct - it's a western corruption of the religion. Why would they expect it to be correct? The setting is in ..."

I can only shake my head at this and wonder at how they managed to miss the point so completely.

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 22 comments This is in my top 3 all-time favourite books! I need to write a review of it and post it, but I found after reading a book this good, it is very difficult to write a review because no matter what I write, I simply cannot express the brilliance of the story all because of my lack of writing skills. So, Hopefully soon I will be brave enough to write a review of one of the most amazing books! :)

message 9: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments Go ahead & write a review, Erich. You can always change it later, if you want.

I found the notes about this in Power & Light were really interesting. I hadn't realized that Zelazny wrote it to be published as a serial novel & that contributed a lot to the form & the flashbacks. Each section was supposed to stand on its own pretty well & they do.

I read "Death & the Executioner", one section. It was wonderful, even without the rest of the book to support it.

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 22 comments Yeah, I noticed that Jim. Each section was its own story. That was something that I really enjoyed about this book! There are some great books out there that started out okay and the first few hundred pages were okay but when you got to the end it was amazing or it would be just the other way around. Each section of this book however was amazing, so no matter what part of the book you were at it was intense and exciting! I would actually go back all the time and re-read a section.

Something else that was interesting about Lord of Light is that it was going to be made into a movie and the CIA got a hold of certain parts of the script and pretended to be location scouts in Tehran. They ended up rescuing six Americans that escaped the Iranian hostage crisis. Here is a link to a YouTube video I found with Antonio Mendez an ex-CIA agent telling the story about using the Lord of Light script... too bad he didn’t have time to read the book though; pity, ha.

message 11: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments That's awesome, Erich. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I see there are other YouTube videos about Amber & other Zelazny works, including a trailer for 'Lord of Light. Will watch now!

message 12: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments I noticed a discussion about LORD OF LIGHT on the Asimov's board and joined in; at the moment there's about four pages of it starting here:


message 13: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments That's a great thread, Chris.

Note that there are spoilers in the first message & many others.

message 14: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I just reread Lord of Light for a common read in the Beyond Reality group. Fantastic - again. I have no idea how many times I've read this, but I have to say my enjoyment was added to by knowing a bit more about it. I believe the 2d of his collected works, Power & Light, has "Death & the Executioner" a chapter, in it. The note from Zelazny about the book on why & how he wrote it was very interesting.

Jackie (thelastwolf) I'm enjoying it so far, maybe a third of the way in. I like the flashback technique, it gives important backstory.

message 16: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I've been reading your comments with Colleen closely, Sherri. Very good. I just haven't had anything to add.

message 17: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I understand, Sherri. Zelazny wanted a strong female character according to a note of his I read after the "Death & the Executioner" segment in one of the "Collected Works" (Power & Light, the 2d?).

It's also important to remember that Zelazny is a guy. My wife & I have often found authors fail when writing about the opposite sex. I consider it an honest mistake, although it can put me off sometimes. Women often don't seem to understand a man's motivations & vice versa, as comparisons of books between my wife & I have shown over the years.

The sexes may be equal, but they sure are different & so is our perception of them. We've often found it is safest to stick to main characters of the same sex as the authors & not to expect much out of secondary characters of a different sex. It's one of the things that can make collaborations so good.

I liked the character of Kali. I see her as a strong, loveable bitch. She reminds me of a girl friend I had once & while I really liked her, I'm glad I didn't marry her. She was too exciting for a prolonged relationship. If nothing exciting was going on, she'd create it.

message 18: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I agree on Kali.

I won't guess what Zelazny knew or didn't, but he was writing for profit. There is none in writing too far outside your readers' mindset.

message 19: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments Tobacco, as a crop, is very labor intensive, too. A lot of people around here still plant it because it's a real money maker.

Zelazny's tobacco use in the civilization wasn't particularly realistic. Actually, most of its use throughout history was chewing it, I believe. Smoking it in a pipe ritually was another & a lot depended on how well it grew in the area. Where it did grow, it was a common vice to use it.

Zelazny smoked back when he wrote LoL. When he quit, so did his characters. As I recall, the level of smoking in LoL was pipes & roll your own, neither of which requires much tech, although the thinner papers can be expensive. He doesn't mention much about paper use that I recall. The level of technology was definitely uneven & the gods could always sell certain things through the temples - something else he didn't get into.

Alazzar | 59 comments I only had time to skim some of these latest comments (sorry!), but I gather we're talking about Zelazny's lack of strong female characters, so I'll chime in.

There's something in the Collected Stories of RZ where he states that he just tends to think "male" first when he needs a new character, because that's what he is and those are the eyes through which he sees the world. And honestly, I can kinda relate.

When I'm writing something and I introduce a new character, unless it has a specific reason for being female (like someone's wife or daughter or something), it generally doesn't occur to me that the character could be female. It's not because I have anything against women, it's just that I'm NOT one.

And there is also the fear that I'll screw up a female character if I write one, which I know you guys already touched on. And really, I think it's an issue of overcompensation. I sometimes fear that I'm going to try too hard to make the character seem female, and in doing so I'll fall into some stereotypes that I'd be better off without.

That being said, ever since reading in the Collected Stories about the criticism Zelazny received for his lack of female characters, I've started thinking about it more in my own writing. Sometimes when I conceive a supporting character in my mind and am about to write him in, I stop myself and think, "Wait a minute . . . could this guy be a gal?" Often times, he can.

I don't think I'm necessarily good at writing a female character, but as Zelazny often said, you should take your weakness and attack it, rather than trying to avoid it. That's how writers get better.

Alazzar | 59 comments Oh, sorry, Sherri--I didn't mean that YOU said Zelazny's females weren't strong. And maybe "strong" wasn't even the word I was looking for. I was talking more about the general criticism that he often didn't have female characters that were . . . I don't know, as "developed" as his males? Basically, what you said: his females all tended to fit into a sort of mold.

Of course, the same could be said about his male protagonists, I suppose. I think it was Gardner Dozois who pointed this out in the introduction to one of the Collected Stories (volume 6, maybe?). He said something like, "The Zelazny protagonist (whether his name is Corwin, Sam or Conrad) . . ."

If you think about it, those characters all share so many of the same qualities that they're essentially the same person (the "Zelazny protagonist"). But you know what? I'm okay with that, because I like that character. I like the smart, wise-cracking guy who takes on the world all by himself.

It's been a while since I've read Lord of Light (and I've only read it once--shame on me!), so I don't actually recall the character on which Tak put the moves.

message 22: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I'll quibble a little about Heinlein's protagonist. He basically had 1 in 3 stages of development; young, middle aged or old. That character was essentially the same no matter which gender he picked. I loved Heinlein's works pre-1970 & still do. I read The Star Beast last year, I think, & still got more than a few chuckles out of it. Characterization just wasn't his strong suit.

I can really see Hamilton's avatar being Anita Blake. It's a shame. Her glands went to her writing.

I love Zelazny's characters. They're flawed in unique ways, although they usually seem to have fairly large egos, too. They're all driven in different ways.

I really need to get around to reading the 6th of the Collected Works. I've had it for a while now. Too much to read.

message 23: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I was lucky & read Heinlein's juvenile books first. I was 11 when he published "I Will Fear No Evil", the beginning of the end. I had read most of his juvenile books by then. I was a teenager when I read "Friday" & in my early 20's when he came out with "Number of the Beast". That was the final straw as far as I was concerned. Because of my love for his previous works, I read all of the rest except that last one that Spider Robinson & Ginny Heinlein got published - actually his first novel. I couldn't stomach it, though.

A book about strippers versus an Amber book? That's a tough one!

My other favorite book by Zelazny is This Immortal. It's a lot shorter than Lol, but really excellent.

Alazzar | 59 comments This isn't at all what I pictured the characters looking like, but I love the interpretations here. These pictures make me want to read Lord of Light again!

message 25: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments That is a neat set of pictures. Thanks, Alazzar.

message 26: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I'm glad Zelazny got a mention, but - if I'm understanding her point correctly - I'd put it a bit earlier with Stranger in a Strange Land in the early 60's. Dune, This Immortal & The Einstein Intersection were all mid-60's & number among my favorites of all time.

Most put the birth of 'new wave' in 1964 when Michael Moorcock took over editing a magazine in England, though. I think Judith Merrill was credited for first using 'New Wave' in that magazine a year or so later. I guess it depends on the definition of 'New Wave' & what you're looking for.

As I understand it, one of the big breakthroughs was throwing off the Campbellian view of SF. John W. Campbell was super influential & tyrannical from the little I've read. Kind of a Joseph McCarthy of the SF writing community. Campbell demanded bad aliens (who wanted to rape our women & always lost) fighting smart, WASP heroes who rescued WASP damsels in distress. People of color need not apply save as side kicks to be awed by the hero's brilliance, courage & fortitude along with the rest of us.

Harry Harrison (who did a great spoof of Campbell's "Arcot, Wade and Morey" books in Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers) put this breakthrough a decade earlier with folks like Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, & Frederick Pohl. Personally, I think that's early, but he knows the genre better than I do. He was certainly part of the movement with Make Room! Make Room! (1965), the book that the movie, "Soylent Green", was based on.

The above writers were all straight, white guys with the exception of Samuel R. Delany & Merrill, FWIW.

Part of the Campbellian rule was super straight sex, too. "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" by Theodore Sturgeon pretty much blew everyone out of the water in 1967 when it was published & for decades afterward. Harlan Ellison included it in Dangerous Visions in 1967 - the same year Lord of Light was first published.

I'd say the 70's saw writers building on the 'New Wave' but I think it took off at least a decade earlier.

message 27: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments That's when it affected me, Sherri, so I guess she's got a point. It does take a while to trickle through the rank & file.

message 28: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments It's a pretty big & moving target to pin down simply. I'm sure she's making a good case. Certainly the genre has evolved a lot & had many influences. I think it was fairly static for several decades; 30's through 50's. In the 60's, a huge number of things shook the entire world & I think SF in particular.

The death of the pulps in the 60's threw a big wrench into the works. Suddenly, the biggest part of the market for short stories dried up. I wonder how many new & old voices were lost due to that? Did it cause or help some kind of evolution in the genre?

The social upheaval of the 60's took a while to make itself felt in the mainstream, but was perfect grist for speculative fiction both socially & scientifically. Equal rights went hand & hand with our science changing more rapidly. We made it to the moon. Our population became more mobile & conspicuous consumption was changing both our life style & our economics. What was SF a few years before was suddenly mundane.

message 29: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments There's a topic to be on? Moderators!

I don't know anything about SF fandom. I've never been a joiner or a fan. I generally don't like to know too much about authors & actors in real life. Their art speaks to me & often their actual behavior can ruin that for me. Movie stars provide plenty of examples.

I don't really agree with her idea of what SF in pulps was. There were a lot of genres of pulps &, IMO, it was about money & entertainment; like Dickens' & Doyle's (to name two) serialized novels in newspapers & magazines, but they were as American as apple pie due to the way they were set up. One of my favorite pulp authors was Robert E. Howard who never wrote SF, but made a living at it during the Depression. To give a pulp a 'higher purpose' is just kidding ourselves, IMO. I have no doubt that some felt that way, especially the fans.

As for the rest, it certainly sounds plausible & echoes some of what I've read in other places. After reading authors' remarks, introductions, forewords & afterwords for over 4 decades, I've picked up on some of that, no matter how hard I tried to keep my head in the sand.

I'll have to agree with your friend the sexist in that I've often known what an author's gender was by the way they wrote, when I cared. Andre Norton was an example, but knew about Tiptree before I read her, so she doesn't count. My wife & I have often read the same books, but have disliked some because the author didn't portray the opposite sex very well while the other liked it. I don't catch a poorly drawn or motivated woman, but do catch the men while my wife does the opposite.

I can't speak to how well Zelazny handled Kali, Ratri, or Madeline. I liked it, but I'm a guy, too.

message 30: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments Sherri, OK with the no accusations thing. I'd like to think I'm not touchy about this & hope you're not either. It's good to exchange thoughts.

I feel the same way about the author's gender as you do. I don't usually care unless they throw it in my face. Unfortunately, some do; barbarians with a fashion sense or regular, pretty women who can wear armor & trade sword blows with Conan... The Gor books were as bad (worse?) in the other direction.

Some authors really don't mean to do it. While I like Norton's stories, I thought they lacked an edge to the male characters that a guy would have written in, so always figured she was a girl. It may have shown a bit more back in the 60's & 70's than it does now. Society has changed a lot since then.

I've never liked a shrinking violet for a heroine because they're not like any of the real women I know. After seeing Marg (my super-easy going wife) discipline a 1/2 ton horse because it tried to misbehaved or Mom butcher a lamb, the idea of a more primitive woman who is a victim is just ridiculous.

I have very limited interest in anything gay or lesbian. It's private business between consenting adults that I don't understand. I find male homo sex repugnant, so don't read anything where that plays a major part. (I read for pleasure, that's not for me, so I don't. I do have one friend here on GR who seems to read mostly M-M romance books. Judging by her reading, the genre must be doing well.)

I think 1974 was the last year the Shrink Association voted that homosexuality was a disease. I don't know if they ever voted that it wasn't in 1975 or whenever they met next, but that timing seems to work out with what Bacon-Smith is saying.

As for Gernsback... He was selling his magazine. A bit of elitism might have been the way to sell well. I don't know. I just can't take the idea too seriously. On the other hand, I must admit that Heinlein, Clark, & Asimov all influenced my love for the math & science. All of them had stories in Amazing, I believe, so maybe it isn't so far fetched an idea.

I'll never forget Heinlein's calculation in Farmer in the Sky where Bill figures out what it would cost to give one colonist the soil he thought he deserved for his farm. I guess I was about 10 when I first read it & it affected my thinking profoundly through several ideas; ignorant greed, the way the problem was broken down & the time it took to build a future. I still think about it today as I work on my own farm.

message 31: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I like the way Zelazny handles sex in the story. He doesn't go into a lot of detail. Detailed sex very rarely adds anything to a book for me. The emotions & motivations leading up to it & afterward can & do, but I don't need graphic descriptions of the actual act.

Descriptions are where Zelazny really shines. He can describe so much in so few words & really has the knack of describing just enough while keeping the story moving. He knows what to describe & what not to. I find the latter very important. Some authors go into detailed descriptions of the most mundane items & it bores me.

The Tak scene... Besides the obvious - it was an info dump & not a particularly strong way to do it - I think it was meant to illustrate the seamier side of Heaven. It does that very well.

Tak is a relatively weak denizen of Heaven, who has a place simply due to who his parents were, yet we're told often that parentage matters very little to them. He's not in his first body, so he's grown old milking the system. Then a young lady comes along who has no more reason to be in Heaven than she caught the eye (& penis) of some deity who raised her up to Heaven. The novelty wore off, so she was forgotten, leaving her as prey to others, such as Tak, to become like them.

The scene dripped a black humor, but wasn't really funny. It was sad. It reminded me of actresses & casting couches, a mundane corruption - so very human - that pervades Hollywood & so many other human institutions. It pointed out, in a much more subtle way, just how far from the divine this heaven was.

message 32: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments I have a new essay in the May 2013 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction. It's titled "The reality and mythology enveloping Zelazny’s Lord of Light, the FBI, the CIA, and Ben Affleck’s Argo." In that essay I discuss and debunk a number of myths about Zelazny, the novel, the movie, the theme park, the FBI raid, the CIA's use of the script, and the recent movie Argo which altered facts and ignored others.

The pdf of the issue can be purchased for $2.99 at this link:

I wouldn't be surprised if the website releases it as a free, featured article. But in the meantime the pdf is the only way to get it.


message 33: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 976 comments I'm reading this with a group now.

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