Roger Zelazny discussion

The Dead Man's Brother (Hard Case Crime #52)
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message 1: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 971 comments The Dead Man's Brother by Roger Zelazny was published posthumously by Hard Case Crime books. It's a straight, pulp fiction, crime novel. I was thrilled to see a 'new' book by Zelazny, especially one in a genre like this. Have you read it? What did you think?


message 2: by Dan, Jack of Shadows (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent (akagunslinger) | 55 comments I haven't read it yet but I'm not surprised Zelazny wrote a crime novel. You can see his love of crime novels in a lot of his work.


message 3: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 971 comments I really liked it, although it was weird to have his writing stick to the mundane. Not only our 'real' world, but a typical style. I'm sure I rated it higher than it deserved just because I was so tickled by its existence.

One of my favorites by him is Doorways in the Sand, a SF-Mystery novel. The story line is pretty good, but what really makes the book for me is the odd way it's written. Every chapter begins in the middle of the action, works back to the start of it & then ends on a cliff hanger. It takes an OK story & turns it into a real treat.


message 4: by Dan, Jack of Shadows (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent (akagunslinger) | 55 comments We are in agreement. The structure of Doorways in the Sand is what makes it worth checking out. I like how Zelazny wasn't afraid to experiment with different techinques, like in Roadmarks as well as Doorways.


brian dean (surprisesaplenty) | 2 comments After the first twenty pages:
I've been a Zelazny fan since I started to buy my own books. I don't think he is as famous as Tolkien but he has had a similar number of books published after his death.

I think Dead Man's Brother was written early in Zelazny's career -I've just started it so I am not describing the writing style, but what I have heard- and it sat in his files until after his death.

Zelazny was one of the Science Fiction and Fantasy greats and this 'hard case crime' novel with the scantily clad, well-defined young woman on the cover sure feels like an experiment or a dare.

Finished:
The story was good; well-plotted and with the twists necessary for this kind of book. The problem I had going into it was my enjoyment of his many science fiction and fantasy books. The subject matter was just a little too mundane.

Still, there were science-fictiony/ Fantasy-ish elements. The lead character had been observed for several years by a research group. It seems he was the opposite of accident-prone. Well, he had been in many accidents but escaped them all with hardly a scratch. This point, among others, made him attractive to the CIA who needed someone for ... something.

The story was good, but not unique. Zelazny's Lord of Light, for which he won many awards, was able to mix very creative, imaginative elements with a rewriting of Hindu myths and act as a metaphor for the British Raj period of India. This story used the proper cliches for the genre - Vatican gold and mercenaries in the jungle, but didn't really do anything new with them.

I wasn't thrilled with it but i may reread it again someday to see if I hadn't missed something. i expected more from a favorite author.

Oh, the editing was spotty, too. There were at least two spelling errors that jumped out at me as I read.


message 6: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 971 comments Zelazny certainly isn't as famous as Tolkien, more's the pity. He deserves as much recognition, IMO. It seems as if we agreed on the book. Well worth reading, but it will never be my favorite by him.


message 7: by ckovacs (last edited Dec 20, 2009 07:33AM) (new)

ckovacs | 141 comments The urban myths that have sprung up around this novel seem to be a) that it was written early in his career, b) that it was a rough draft and not intended for publication, and c) that he would have revised it if he'd planned to send it out to a publisher.

All of this is wrong, and the facts (recovered from correspondence between Zelazny and his editor) are these:

1) He started writing it in 1970, after completing This Immortal, Lord of Light, Nine Princes in Amber, Creatures of Light and Darkness, Jack of Shadows, The Dream Master, and Damnation Alley. That's hardly early in his career when what many consider his best novels had already been published.

2) He wrote it under contract, the first of three mystery/thriller novels for the publisher Berkley. He was deliberately branching into this closer-to-mainstream genre because he thought that his sf writing wouldn't sustain him financially. (This was before Amber became very popular and lucrative.) Also, he liked this genre and had already experimented with it in writing the first two of the triplet of novellas later published as My Name Is Legion.

3) He finished it on May 28, 1971.

4) The editor for Berkley rejected the novel and changed the contract to be three sf books (and later rejected the next submission, Doorways in the Sand, causing Zelazny to quit Berkley altogether).

5) Zelazny's agent sent the manuscript to a dozen major publishers over the succeeding two years before giving up because no one wanted it. Each editor/publisher had similar comments: they wanted sf not mystery/thriller from Zelazny, and they thought the novel dragged in the middle.

6) Zelazny's agent wanted him to revise it before sending it anywhere again, thinking that "something must be drastically wrong" with the book or its plot for everyone to have rejected it. Zelazny said he knew what was wrong with it and could tighten it up in the middle, but he declined to do so and shelved the manuscript permanently.

7) Zelazny later changed agents and this is how the forgotten manuscript ended up being rediscovered years after his death when the agent went through old papers and wondered why he had an apparently unknown novel stashed away. None of Zelazny's family knew about it either. But Zelazny had mentioned it in several interviews in the 1970s and 80s, and there is his detailed correspondence that I went through to piece together the history of this novel.

The details of this are described in This Mortal Mountain: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 3, and specifically within the literary biography that I wrote, "...And Call Me Roger": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny, Part 3. The parts pertaining to The Dead Man's Brother were also excerpted for an essay titled "On the Origins of Zelazny's The Dead Man's Brother," published in The New York Review of Science Fiction, issue #253, September 2009.

The other thing is that I wrote the sections pertaining to The Dead Man's Brother before the agent discovered the manuscript in storage. Trent Zelazny later contacted me to ask if I knew anything about it because he and the agent knew nothing about it, and I gave him an early draft of my essay. But in the afterword that Trent later wrote for the book, he chose to leave it vague as to when The Dead Man's Brother was written or whether it had ever been submitted anywhere. I can see that as a marketing decision, perhaps by the publisher: you don't want to advertise a newly unearthed novel as something that had been rejected a dozen times thirty years ago and never revised. But that's the reality of the situation: the manuscript was unpublished because no one wanted it thirty years ago, whereas Zelazny had wanted it published then, as is. That's why the original agent did his best for two years but failed.

And so those are the facts. And yet I think the urban myths about the book will probably prevail.

Having said all that, I enjoyed the book. Not his best work by any means, but a good read for someone who really enjoys Zelazny's voice and style of writing. I really liked the character and stories of My Name Is Legion and I think Zelazny would have done well in that genre if he'd been given the chance.

Chris


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Kwandongbrian wrote: "After the first twenty pages:
I've been a Zelazny fan since I started to buy my own books. I don't think he is as famous as Tolkien but he has had a similar number of books published after his dea..."


Sort of sounds like "Unbreakable" w/Bruce Willis & Samuel L. Jackson... Some movie from the early 21st century I believe but I could be wrong


message 9: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 971 comments No, nothing like "Unbreakable". No super powers & our hero was definitely vulnerable. I really need to re-read it one of these days.


message 10: by Jesse (new)

Jesse | 8 comments Chris Kovacs wrote: But in the afterword that Trent later wrote for the book, he chose to leave it vague as to when The Dead Man's Brother was written or whether it had ever been submitted anywhere. I can see that as a marketing decision, perhaps by the publisher: you don't want to advertise a newly unearthed novel as something that had been rejected a dozen times thirty years ago and never revised.


Maybe his son was looking to be more human and less academic. Academia isn't all life's about. To me, it sounded natural and I found it touching. Whatever was found written doesn't necessarily change feelings and emotions.

TZ wrote in the afterword: "Some think it was his attempt to break into the mainstream. Maybe partially true, but I don’t believe this was his priority."

I appreciate what was written in that post and am glad for the information, but saying it was a marketing decision, perhaps by the publisher, doesn't seem fair at all.

Jess


message 11: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 141 comments Jesse wrote: I appreciate what was written in that post and am glad for the information, but saying it was a marketing decision, perhaps by the publisher, doesn't seem fair at all.

Then you don't understand publishers or marketing. The publisher tries to design and market a product in the best way to maximize sales. It would hurt sales to market this book as a novel that was rejected by a dozen major publishers circa 1972 and then ordered buried by Zelazny with the intent that it never be published, whereas it's attractive to market it as a lost treasure recently unearthed. That's not a criticism of the publisher, that's simply an observation of the reality of the situation and I doubt any publisher would disagree. There are many examples of this from the book and music publishing industries. The same thing applies to the books from NESFA that I helped put together: all six volumes contain previously unpublished as well as previously uncollected material. Those books aren't going to be marketed as containing stuff that Zelazny may never have wanted to see the light of day, though some reviewers readily recognize that! But they are marketed as a complete collection of everything available that Zelazny ever wrote, with the added attraction of containing previously unpublished and uncollected material.


message 12: by Jesse (new)

Jesse | 8 comments Maybe you are right. I'm in no way saying you're wrong. I'm just speaking as a fan.

OF COURSE it wasn't the best Zelazny novel I ever read. Very low on the list, actually. But I still don't think it's fair to come down on his son. I also happen to be a fan of his, by the way (very different, but if you haven't, check out his collection). Maybe it was intentional and maybe it wasn't, but I found the afterword moving, like a son talking about his father with love and admiration, rather than looking to be so technical. In my opinion he was speaking from the heart, rather than worrying too much about the actual history of the book. That, apparently--and I have the first few, which I very much enjoy--is what you were doing with the NESFA collections. I don't know what TZ knew or didn't know when he wrote it, but it felt genuine. Is there something wrong with looking up to one's father?

TZ also did write: "If the aforementioned date is correct, it speaks to the fact that my father was indeed interested in crime and mystery fiction at the time. Also around the time he penned Today We Choose Faces, a story about a mobster who wakes up from a cryogenic sleep for one last job, and the three novelettes that constitute My Name is Legion, about a nameless man who destroys his personal data before it’s entered into a global computer network and becomes a multiple-identity private investigator, it’s clear that mysteries and crime were running through his head. Whether it troubled him that The Dead Man’s Brother was leaving out the science fiction aspect or not, I don’t know."

I'm not saying you're wrong. Hell, how would I know? I'm just saying, to me, you seem to be more of a scholar, where Trent Zelazny appears to have a different approach. Lastly, they were/are blood. Trent grew up with Roger and, fact, fiction, whatever, likely has a very different view, right-brained or left.


message 13: by Jesse (new)

Jesse | 8 comments Oh, TZ did also say that he tends to shy away from academic approaches.


message 14: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 141 comments Jesse wrote: But I still don't think it's fair to come down on his son.

Hello? Where did I do that, exactly? I stated some facts about the origins of the novel and my opinion about why the publisher marketed it a certain way, and you say I'm criticizing the son??? You're confusing the publisher and the son (they are different people) and you're also twisting statements of facts into criticisms, which they are not.

The facts were gleaned by me from reading Zelazny's own archived correspondence and interviews from 1970-75 concerning why he wrote the novel, what happened to the manuscript (the multiple rejections), and why he chose to stop resubmitting it. In other words, straight from the author's written and spoken words at the time that these events were taking place. You can't get any more accurate information than that under these circumstances.

The novel was finished in May 1971. The manuscript was shelved permanently in the Spring of 1973. Trent was born in December 1976, well after these events had taken place and been forgotten. He had no knowledge of the novel (why/when it was written, whether it had ever been submitted anywhere, etc.) which is why he asked me if I knew anything about it.

Those are statements of facts. Those are not criticisms. I hope you can see the difference.

And my opinion that the publisher chose to do something is not a criticism either, as I explained in my post prior to this one. The publisher did the correct thing under the circumstances: it would NOT be wise to market the book as something rejected a dozen or more times thirty years ago. It's more sensible to market it as an unearthed treasure that had possibly never been finished or submitted anywhere. Is that understood?


message 15: by Jesse (new)

Jesse | 8 comments TZ was born in November, not December. Really not trying to start a fight or anything, and I was not slamming you. Just trying to speak out as some who was touched as a fan.


message 16: by Jesse (new)

Jesse | 8 comments But again, you're going back to papers, not to heart.


message 17: by Jesse (new)

Jesse | 8 comments >But in the afterword that Trent later wrote for the book, he chose to leave it vague as to when The Dead Man's Brother was written or whether it had ever been submitted anywhere.

That is where I feel like it was, not necessarily an attack, but a judgment.

Maybe, and like I said, I'm not trying to argue, he didn't care. Maybe, regardless, it was still new and exciting to him.


message 18: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 971 comments Trent Zelazny has written a book? I hadn't known that. Looks like you're the only person to review The Day the Leash Gave Way and Other Stories by Trent Zelazny, Jesse. Thanks for the heads up. I put it on my wish lists.

I'm going to start a topic for it. Maybe you could drop by & let us know a bit about it - no spoilers, but it would be interesting to know what genre the stories fall into & anything else you might care to share.


message 19: by ckovacs (last edited Jan 08, 2010 05:40AM) (new)

ckovacs | 141 comments Jesse wrote: ">That is where I feel like it was, not necessarily an attack, but a judgment"

There you go again making accusations that I said something that I did not, and making assumptions that I meant or intended to say something which I clearly did not.

I'll lay it out as simply as I can for you:

1) In December 2007 Trent writes to me to ask if I know anything about this novel because he's supposed to write an intro or afterword to it and he has no information about it at all. The agent had made similar comments to my co-editor about a year earlier, ie., that the agent had discovered this manuscript and was now shopping it around to publishers but didn't know anything about the history of the manuscript or why it had been buried in his warehouse of files.

2) I reply in December 2007 with a near-final draft of the section of the biography I wrote which deals with The Dead Man's Brother. This draft includes quotes from RZ himself in which he says (in 1970 and 1971) why he was writing it and that he finished it in May 1971, quotes from the editors who rejected the manuscript, quotes from Zelazny's former agent in 1973 that he thinks they should stop submitting it to publishers because it has been rejected for two years, quotes from RZ about what was wrong with the manuscript, etc., etc.

3) Trent replies, thanking me for the information and saying that he really appreciated me providing it to him.

4) His afterword appears in Jan 2009 in which, as I described, he left it vague as to when the novel was written and whether it had been submitted anywhere. I don't have his afterword in front of me at the moment so I can't quote from it, but I recall that he described the "best estimates" as to when it might have been written, etc.

5) Reviewers pick up on Trent's comments in the afterword and talk about the novel "purportedly being written entirely by" RZ and wondering if he had ever submitted it anywhere or if this was a rough draft, an experiment, something never intended to see the light of day.

When I wrote above in this thread that "Trent...chose to leave it vague as to when The Dead Man's Brother was written or whether it had ever been submitted anywhere" that was a reasonable conclusion or inference based on the evidence.

Why did I conclude that Trent "chose to leave it vague"? Because he had his father's own words in front of him, written before Trent was born, describing why he wrote the novel and when he'd finished the manuscript, etc. And what Trent chose to write left it open or vague as to when it was actually written, etc.

I did not, as you suggest, make an attack or judgment on Trent. I have made no inference or conclusion as to why Trent chose to write what he did, in fact I do not know why Trent chose to write what he did. I simply said that this is what he wrote. And I also explained twice in the above thread why this was probably the right thing to do from the publishing/marketing perspective. I did *not* say that Trent should have done something else, I did *not* invent any motivations for why Trent chose to write what he did, etc. I simply said that this is what he wrote.

I suggest that you stick to reading the words that are written and not insert your own imaginings about why you think I wrote something and then blame me for your own imaginings. You're wrong, and I think you should apologize. I've explained to you at least twice now why I did not do what you're accusing me of doing; the fact that you persist in accusing me of the same anyway suggests troll-like behavior. I'm respectfully giving you the benefit of the doubt by explaining it to you a third time.


message 20: by Jesse (new)

Jesse | 8 comments Fair enough. I'm done. Like I said, not looking for a fight.


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