Roger Zelazny

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Roger Joseph Zelazny (May 13, 1937 - June 14, 1995) was a Polish-American writer of fantasy and science fiction short stories and novels. He won the Nebula award three times and the Hugo award six times, including twice for novels: Lord of Light (1968) and ...And Call Me Conrad (1966) (which was later published as This Immortal).

Zelazny was born in Euclid, Ohio, an only child of Josephine Sweet and Joseph Frank Zelazny (Żelazny). His father had emigrated from Poland when he was a young man and met Irish-American Josephine Sweet in Chicago, Illinois. In high school, Roger Zelazny was the editor of the school newspaper and joined the Creative Writing Club. In the fall of 1955, he began attending Western Reserve University and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1959. He was accepted to Columbia University in New York and specialized in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, graduating with a M.A. in 1962.

Zelazny had a rare gift for conceiving and portraying worlds with plausible magic systems, powers, and supernatural beings. His captivating descriptions of the nuts and bolts of magical workings in his imagined worlds set his fantasy writing apart from otherwise similar authors. His science fiction was highly influenced by mythology, poetry, including the French, British, and American classics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and by wisecracking detective fiction. His novels and short stories often involved characters from myth, depicted in the modern world.

Zelazny was considered one of the leading lights of the "New Wave" movement in science fiction, which changed the face of the genre in the 1960s. He incorporated elements from "literary" novels of the mainstream into his fiction, and experimented with allusiveness, lyricism, and mythic imagery. The mythological traditions his fiction borrowed from include:

Addtionally, elements from Norse mythology, Japanese mythology and history, and numerous other traditions appear in works such as The Chronicles of Amber and "24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai".

A frequent theme is gods or people who become gods. Another recurrent theme is the "absent father" (or father-figure). This occurs most notably in the Amber novels, in the first series of which Corwin searches for his absent father Oberon, while in the second series it is Corwin himself who is the absent father. However, the theme also recurs in Roadmarks and Doorways in the Sand (in the latter, the main character's parents are dead but his uncle fills the role of the "absent father").

He was a prolific writer and, with the exception of the Amber novels (and the related pairs Changeling/Madwand, Isle of the Dead/To Die in Italbar, and Dilvish the Damned/The Changing Land), created a completely new setting for each book.


Amber novels

Nine Princes in Amber
Nine Princes in Amber

While his earlier works won greater critical acclaim, Zelazny is probably best known for the Amber novels. These fall into two distinct series; the second series is widely perceived as being of markedly lesser quality than the first.

The first five books describe the adventures of Prince Corwin of Amber and comprise:

The second series tells the story of Corwin's son Merlin (Merle) - a wizard and a computer expert. These volumes are:

An interactive fiction computer game based on Nine Princes in Amber was released by Telarium in 1987. The Amber novels also inspired a role-playing game, Amber Diceless Roleplaying, published by Phage Press. The game is distinctive in that it suggests that storytellers ignore or alter any rule as they see fit.

Other significant books

Two books were published as collaborations with his companion, novelist Jane Lindskold, after Zelazny's death:

Also, the adventure game Chronomaster (developed by DreamForge Intertainment, published by IntraCorp in 1996) was designed by Zelazny and Jane Lindskold (who also finished it after his death).


Zelazny was also a contributor to the Wild Cards shared world anthology series, following the exploits of his character Croyd Crenson, the Sleeper.

  • Following Zelazny's death, a tribute anthology entitled Lord of the Fantastic was released, which featured stories inspired by Zelazny, many of them sequels to his works.

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