Roger Zelazny discussion

Roger Zelazny
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NESFA Collection > Collected Stories #1 - Threshold

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message 1: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments This is the first of 6 books that have collected Roger Zelazny's short stories, poems & on up to novellettes (novelas?). The cover art is by Michael Whelan & is very well done.

Here are the contents:

* 11 Out of Nowhere (by Robert Silverberg)
* 17 Before Amber (by Carl B. Yoke)


* 29 A Rose for Ecclesiastes
* 71 And the Darkness Is Harsh
* 73 Mr. Fuller's Revolt
* 77 Youth Eternal
* 81 The Outward Sign
* 85 Passion Play
* 93 The Graveyard Heart
* 153 Horseman!
* 157 The Teachers Rode a Wheel of Fire
* 163 Moonless in Byzantium
* 169 On the Road to Splenoba
* 179 Final Dining
* 189 The Borgia Hand
* 193 Nine Starships Waiting
* 231 Circe Has Her Problems
* 239 The Malatesta Collection
* 249 The Stainless Steel Leech as by Harrison Denmark
* 255 The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
* 289 A Thing of Terrible Beauty as by Harrison Denmark
* 297 Monologue for Two as by Harrison Denmark
* 303 Threshold of the Prophet
* 313 A Museum Piece
* 325 Mine Is the Kingdom as by Harrison Denmark
* 345 King Solomon's Ring
* 367 The Misfit
* 373 The Great Slow Kings
* 381 Collector's Fever
* 385 The Night Has 999 Eyes
* 391 He Who Shapes


* 489 Sundry Notes on Dybology and Suchlike
* 495 "...And Call Me Roger": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny, Part 1


* 527 Conditional Benefit
* 533 Hand of the Master
* 537 The Great Selchie of San Francisco Bay
* 541 Studies in Saviory


* 68 Braxa
* 69 Ecclesiastes' Epilogue
* 70 Bok
* 76 Diet
* 80 Slush, Slush, Slush
* 84 TheAgnostic's Prayer
* 90 On May 13, 1937
* 92 The Cactus King
* 152 Our Wintered Way Through Evening, and Burning Bushes Along It
* 152 In the Dogged House
* 152 Future, Be Not Impatient
* 152 Flight
* 162 Sense and Sensibility
* 196 The World of Stat's a Drunken Bat
* 238 The Cat Licks Her Coat
* 246 From a Seat in the Chill Park
* 247 Rodin's "The Kiss"
* 248 To His Morbid Mistress
* 254 Old Ohio Folkrag
* 296 How a Poem Means
* 300 Concert
* 302 Iceage
* 308 Hart Crane...
* 309 Southern Cross
* 311 I Used to Think in Lines That Were Irregular to the Right
* 324 Hybris, or The Danger of Hilltops
* 342 St. Secaire's
* 344 In Pheleney's Garage
* 366 The Black Boy's Reply to William Butler Yeats
* 372 Rite of Spring
* 388 Decade Plus One of Roses
* 486 See You Later, Maybe...

message 2: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I'm currently reading this & am up to "Nine Starships Waiting". It's really an excellent collection. I have collected every book by Zelazny that I could, but some just aren't available & a lot of these stories weren't generally published. Some date back to his high school days.

After each piece, there is an explanation of terms, allusions, metaphors & sources he used. I wish I'd had them when I first started reading his work as a teenager. It would have made so much clearer & helped me to pick other reads.

Is anyone else reading or do you own this collection? Grimward was nice enough to tell me that books 3 & 4 are now out, so they're in my shopping cart. I'll probably buy them today.

message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) | 84 comments Here's the official site of the book series. Looks like two more books before 2009 is over....

message 4: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I bought the next two books but waited too long! Apparently they were $20 when I first put them in my cart, but they must have been on special. I got them today & they were $30 each. They're worth it, though.

message 5: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments I wonder if there are great Zelazny stories in this collection. Name wise i knew more interesting titles in the other volumes. Divlish stories,Last Camelot,Dream Master etc in vol 2,vol 4.

message 6: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book & the stories have been great. I can see why some weren't republished, but they're interesting to read & see how he developed as a writer. You can see pieces of later works in some of his earlier ones. Some were from his high school days, like "Mr. Fuller's Revolt". Not great, but pretty good & very interesting when seen in the context of his work.

His poetry leaves me cold, but most poetry does. I've never developed a taste for anything but the most basic. I'm glad he decided he couldn't make a living at it & went on to write what he did.

As for great stories, the following are well known to be among his best & I think all but one got awards:
A Rose for Ecclesiastes
The Graveyard Heart
The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth
He Who Shapes (republished as a novel, "The Dream Master")

Others that are fun, have excellent twists or something are:
Nine Starships Waiting
Circe Has Her Problems
The Stainless Steel Leech as by Harrison Denmark (this one caused some comment - think Harry Harrison & his books about the Stainless Steel Rat)
A Museum Piece

I'm really glad I'm collecting the whole set & working through it in order. It's fascinating.

message 7: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I think I'm on the last story in the book now, "He Who Shapes", a novella that became the novel, The Dream Master. Last night, I read several short stories & poems.

"The Great Slow Kings" is funny & sad. I've read it several times before. It puts a different perspective on our fleeting lives. It all takes place in one of their days, but that is thousands of our years.

"Collector's Fever" is really interesting. The remarks after by Zelazny say that he was trying for a story that was 100% dialog. He settled for 95%, an amazing amount considering that the pace was quick & the world he painted full. It's also a lot of fun.

"The Night Has 999 Eyes" is a weird one. Done in 3 sections, the first & last are only a paragraph. The middle section, 1.5 pages of the 2 page story, is one LONG sentence. There is punctuation & capitalization throughout, but no period or paragraph break. A bit too much like poetry for me, but it did paint a neat picture. Still, not one of my favorites.

If you're into poetry, there was an amusing poem about a rose that is apparently goofed up in "Spin the Miracle Cat", but has been corrected here. He does a parody of 10(?) other famous poets & 1 verse of his own on a rose. EE Cummings, TS Elliot & more are featured. I got some of it, but not most.

message 8: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments Are there a fantasy stories in this volume ? Maybe something Sword and Sorcery like Dilvish ?

I will get this volume soon enough specially for He Who Shapes,A Rose for Ecclesiastes.

I have no trouble with poetry when it sings powerfully or ironicly. When it says something interesting.

message 9: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Nothing like Dilvish is in there. No sword & sorcery. A lot of it could be called fantasy, but trying to pin a label on Zelazny's work is like trying to catch an eel: if you manage it, you'll likely get bit.

If you're interested in just his main stories, it's cheaper to get some of his short story books, but this one has a whole lot more.

message 10: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (last edited Aug 22, 2009 05:06AM) (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments Im not interested in main stories, i want more complete reading of his short. I dont do that for many SFF authors. Recently paid for $40 for a Jack Vance collection. It was totally worth it.

I like reading different sides of short stories of authors like Zelazny.

I hope he does those creative fantasy stories that are hard to put a label on. I like those type of stories alot. Bradbury,Ellison type. I read a great Jack Vance story like that recently called Green Magic a very different urbane fantasy story.

message 11: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments This won't disappoint then. My copies of the 3d & 4th books in this collection arrived today. Now I just have to find the time to read them all.

message 12: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (new)

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments Thats a problem i wish i had :)

I recently saw i have not many SFF books by my favs left to read in my possession.

message 13: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I am lucky that way. I've joined 2 book swapping sites & now have a To-read pile that I measure in linear feet.

message 14: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I just finished "He Who Shapes". This rendition of it, the original, with the explanatory notes, is by far the best way I've ever read it. It's still not my favorite story of his & never will be, but I understood it a lot better.

I found Zelazny's remarks on it enlightening. He liked this version of the story the best. He did expand it to a novel, but that didn't help it - harmed it, IMO. I too found Jill too flat as a character - there were flashes where he tried to flesh her out, but she just never made it for me. Apparently not for him, either. I did think Rendor, the main character, was fine, but apparently Zelazny wasn't happy with that character, either.

I especially liked Sturgeon's comment on the story because it really echoes my own. Zelazny was so wrapped up in allusion & turning a phrase that it continually checked the story. Sturgeon put it very well with something about putting furniture in the traffic pattern of a room & how it didn't matter if it was exquisite furniture or not, barking your shin on it ruined it for you.

message 15: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I finished up the book. The bio at the end was more complete, but had a lot of duplication from other places in the book. Still interesting, though.

On to book 2, Power & Light!

message 16: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 23 comments Thanks for listing the stories in this collection. I recently started into the 2005 collectionThe Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth but was disappointed in that it wasn't quite as thorough as I wanted in terms of his earlier work. Still, it was overwhelming to be back into the world of '60's sci-fi again. If I can ever find a copy of "Power and Light" I shall enjoy filling out the holes I've missed. In the meantime I've put it on my To-Read list, and am looking forward to the day....

message 17: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I just finished "Power & Light". Wow! It was a fantastic read, too. Since I'm also reading the Amber series again, I'm putting off starting the third book. I really believe these books are worth the $30 each that they cost.

message 18: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 23 comments Jim wrote: "I just finished "Power & Light". Wow! It was a fantastic read, too. Since I'm also reading the Amber series again, I'm putting off starting the third book. I really believe these books are wort..."

Okay, it was "Threshold" I was speaking of, and not "Power and Light" as I was trying to look into Zelazny's early work and his then contemporaries. I finally found an afffordable copy of Threshold 1 The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny so I shall be reading it soon.

And I am anxious to make a comparison of Zelazny's early stuff with some Aldiss. But finding an affordable copy of The Saliva Tree and Other Strange Growths is posing more of a problem. I shall be interlibrary loaning, I guess, if I keep on this course of action.

message 19: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments That should be an interesting comparison, Nick. I'll be curious to know what you decide. As I recall, I had a couple of Aldiss' books back when I was a teen & couldn't get into them. Maybe I was too young.

message 20: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 23 comments Zelazny's comments on these stories are just fantastic. I've re-read "Rose for Ecclesiastes" and "Doors of his face...." Zelazny comments that he wrote these early in his career in a hurry, trying to write a story about Mars (Rose) and one about Venus (Doors) before science overtook sci-fi and stories postulating life on either would become passe. He didn't quite make it, but they are wonderful stories nonetheless, as the notations on their accolades show. I've always been more partial to "Doors" with its Hemingway-esque style and humor; but I can see how poets and other writers would like "Rose" because of the illusive muse motif.

I agree with you, Jim, about his poetry. Even the early poem from the story "Rose for Ecclesiastes" doesn't really grab you. --or that could be because, like you, it's difficult for me to be grabbed by poetry in the first place.

I also reread "The Saliva Tree" by Brian Aldiss. I'm surprised something like this would not appeal to you in your teens. It seems like a cheesy British sci-fi story from the '50's to me. I think that, like Zelazny, Aldiss was trying to write a certain type of "period" sci-fi piece before it went out of date. Here it's the "Monsters from Outer Space have landed on the farm and are eating livestock and people one by one" theme. (Aldiss admits to a certain H.P. Lovecraft influence -- even though the most direct influence is H.G.Wells, and who knows -- he might have seen Hollywood's "The Blob.")

message 21: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I'll definitely try to get some Aldiss on my list, Nick. Thanks.

I'm more & more blown away by Zelazny as I read through the collected works. I'm on the 3d one now.

message 22: by Nick (last edited Jan 23, 2011 06:22PM) (new)

Nick (doily) | 23 comments Jim wrote: "I think I'm on the last story in the book now, "He Who Shapes", a novella that became the novel, The Dream Master.

Jim, I just read "He Who Shapes." It is one great story. I am intrigued with why it tied the first Nebula Award with Brian Aldiss's "The Saliva Tree," but I'll write about that later.

The ending blew me away -- in a "Turn of the Screw" like fashion. So much was left for the reader to fill in. (I wonder, is a lot of this "filler" accomplished in

The Dream Master? -- because I almost feel like that would be a shame.) In the "Notes" it is explained that Dr. B_____ has come into the dream sequence in which Render is caught in order to help him out. (I didn't pick that up at all on first reading, but it makes sense now that someone points it out.) This would mean that Eileen Shallot has departed the dream and left Render on his own (much like the refernece to "The Cask of Amontillado" where Montressor leaves Fortunato trapped). I had wondered if his state was permanent or would last just as long as she was there "shaping" it. With her gone and Dr. B_____ there to help, there is a hope that Render will come out of it -- a hope I didn't really have upon first reading. His obsession with suicides foreshadowed a hopeless end to the story, and maybe that was too much on my mind. Still, if Render doesn't keep making the sails of the ship white (signalling Isolde/Eileen's return), instead of black (signalling her absence), he will never get out from under the influence of Eileen Shallot. Really terrifying stuff -- because his own desires are keeping him imprisoned.

message 23: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I'm glad you liked it so well, Nick. I've found that I liked both "Damnation Alley" & "He Who Shapes" better as novellas than I did as novels. "And Call Me Conrad" was the only one that I liked the novel form better. Zelazny is at his best when his prose is very lean.

message 24: by Alazzar (new)

Alazzar | 59 comments I just finished reading Threshold last night, and it was every bit as good as I expected!

I'd read The Dream Master a few months ago, and I'm not gonna lie--I was left confused, finding myself lost in a lot of allusion and whatnot. But this time around, I read the notes at the end of "He Who Shapes" before reading the story (this proved to be very important!) and found everything WAY easier to understand. Totally loved it.

As far as the shorter things go, I could comment on what everyone already has and always does (A Rose for Ecclesiastes, The Doors of His Face, etc.), but instead I'll stick to the lesser-discussed stories and see if anyone's interested in talking about those. =P

I really enjoyed Final Dining, The Borgia Hand, The Teachers Rode a Wheel of Fire, The Stainless Steel Leech, The Misfit, The Great Slow Kings and Collector's Fever. Mind you, that's not a comprehensive list of what I liked--pretty much everything in the book was good--but looking at the contents, those are some of the titles that jump out at me as being memorable.

Anyone else particularly like (or dislike) those stories?

message 25: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I've never cared much for "The Dream Master" or his poetry, but otherwise loved the book. I especially like his short stories like "Collector's Fever". He manages to paint such a complete picture very quickly, then wrap it up in a way that delights.

message 26: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments My own favorites among the shorter, less commonly discussed stories are "A Thing of Terrible Beauty," "Circe Has Her Problems," "The Stainless Steel Leech," and "A Museum Piece."

"He Who Shapes" is one of my overall favorites of Zelazny's short works, but it's his most dense for the layering of allusions. It runs the risk of annoying the reader by putting too many incomprehensibles in the way, or by causing the reader to conclude that Zelazny was showing off by putting in every allusion he could think of. Still, for me it works and I've enjoyed that story a half-dozen times or more. Probably more. I still wonder if we're in Render's tortured mind from the beginning of the story, and not just at the very end.

I'm glad that the notes on "He Who Shapes" were useful. There've been a couple of isolated complaints from readers who claimed to have been thoroughly offended by any and all of the annotations. But the majority of feedback has been that the annotations are very much appreciated and useful. As noted in the beginning of the books -- and should be self-evident -- the notes aren't required reading but are there as a resource for the reader who may choose to use them or ignore them.

Some readers have responded by pointing out some allusions that we overlooked, correcting a few, and noting how other poems had titles that echoed works by some of Zelazny's favorite poets, and all of these are being included in the revised editions of the books.

message 27: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Well, you're always going to have a few prima donnas who think they're being talked down to with annotations. Personally, I liked them, although I found I didn't really need most, so I'd skim through them. There were times when I really appreciated them & referred to them a lot. Some of his allusions are tough to catch & there were a few times I had questions that weren't answered, but not many. All in all, I thought it was a good balance.

I did like the help for "He Who Shapes". It's one of my least liked stories of his & part of it is that he heavily describes everything. I don't care for that & tend to get bored, so I skim. Of course, then I missed important clues. Even so, it still isn't a favorite nor are his poems where I also really needed the help as well. You can't please everyone completely all the time. I like more of his writing than any other writer I've read.

message 28: by Alazzar (new)

Alazzar | 59 comments As far as annotations go, here's my stance: if you don't want them, but they're included anyway, that doesn't mean you have to read them--just pretend they weren't there and move on.

However, if you DO want them (as I know I do) and they're NOT there, you're out of luck. Including the annotations seems like the obvious choice, because it gives readers options--and who doesn't like options?

Now, talking down to the reader *inside a story* -- that's something different entirely, because that's the part that *everyone* reads. "Talking down" in annotations is fine, 'cause if you don't like it, you can still enjoy the story without it. =P

As far as your list of favorites goes, ckovacs, I think I like "The Stainless Steel Leech" the most. That was one of those stories that just impressed me because of the sheer creativity involved. I mean, a vampire and a robot being best-buddies in a post-human world? Who comes up with that stuff?

message 29: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I thought "Museum Piece" & "Collector's Fever" were right up there with "The Stainless Steel Leech" & loved them all. Just like "The Monster & the Maiden". All took something prosaic & twisted it into something new & unexpected.

He was a true master of the short story. "And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee" was another perfect one. In Unicorn Variations he said,
"Here is another of those short shorts I dearly enjoy doing when the opportunity and the idea come together. I tend to see things like this as single-panel, briefly captioned cartoons--and I work backward a little from there."


message 30: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments "The Stainless Steel Leech" has one of my favorite twist endings. It starts with (as Alazzar indicated) the bizarre concept of a vampire and a robot being best buddies, and ends with the vampire sacrificing himself, pretending to be human to protect the robot. It starts out being light and silly and ends up being unexpectedly melancholy and profound.

message 31: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments I meant to add that concerning annotations, I've always enjoyed an annotated collection of Sherlock Holmes and also Asimov's Annotated Guide to Shakespeare. Those were in my mind when I decided to annotate Zelazny's work.

message 32: by Alazzar (new)

Alazzar | 59 comments Oh, Ckovacs, were you involved in putting this collection together? If so, that's AWESOME!

(If not, you're still okay, I suppose. =P)

message 33: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments Yes, I'm the one who assembled the stories and poems (including previously unpublished ones), compiled the "A Word from Zelazny" sections, wrote the annotations ("Notes"), and wrote the biography ("...And Call Me Roger": The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny).

message 34: by Alazzar (new)

Alazzar | 59 comments Whoa.


You're my hero!

(Well, my #2 hero . . . sorry, the Z-man will forever hold the #1 spot. =P)

Anyway, that's awesome--thanks for all the work you put into it!

message 35: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments Thanks, your comments are appreciated!

message 36: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments The September 2014 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction contains an essay I wrote about the aspects of Zelazny's personal life that inspired and were reflected/refracted in "A Rose for Ecclesiastes."

The entire issue is available at this link for $2.99; that seems to be the only way to read it at present:

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