By John Hertz: Cat Eldridge and I are just getting used to doing these birthday notices together. So far we seem to be coöperating well. Hope you like the results.
In case your equipment doesn’t show it, there should be two side-by-side dots over the second “o” in “coöperating” just above: a dieresis mark. “Dieresis” rhymes, more or less, with “Why, there is Sis.” Shows there are two separate sounds, i.e. not coop-er-ate. Punctuation is your friend, it’s here to help you.
Anyway, Cat told me he wanted to do the birthday notice about Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) for the 13 May 20 Pixel Scroll, so I didn’t do one. I did say I had an anecdote. He seems to think I should tell you.
I can’t avoid mentioning “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” (Nebula for Best Novelette), This Immortal (Hugo winner), and Lord of Light (Hugo winner). Zelazny won four more Hugos, two more Nebulas – all before Nine Princes in Amber. Gosh.
Anyway – or as Pul the grik-dog might have said (The Witches of Karres, ch. 11; grik-dogs can talk as good as anybody), double anyway –
Some years ago I was working at an in-store delicatessen of a supermarket chain in Hollywood. Various people shopped and worked there.
One fellow-worker said he owned the rights to film Lord of Light. He hadn’t yet made the film, he said, because the special-effects technology he could get at couldn’t do what he wanted.
Lots of folks there said lots of things. Some might be true and some not. Or both. What did I know?
A woman who worked with us – can a woman be a fellow? – had striking conventional beauty. That and other things, her conversation, her manner, left me thinking “This woman could be a Playboy Playmate.” In fact she was a Playboy Playmate. And, though I hadn’t heard at the time, one of her two Great Reads was Lord of Light.
So I just said “Sure, B– ” (I’m leaving his name out) and went on brewing coffee. I couldn’t do anything about it anyway. That’s triple anyway.
Some while later, but more or less around then, I ran into Zelazny at a party. I didn’t know him, but I knew who he was. We fell into conversation, as happens in the science fiction community. I told him how much in particular I liked Lord of Light. Few had tried what it did. Few had succeeded.
Ambiguity is difficult because you have to keep the reader engaged. So is mystery. Next door in detective fiction some character is trying to resolve the mystery. In SF there are often one or two characters trying to find their way. It’s no accident that many an SF story is a Bildungsroman, an adventure of maturation and thus learning.
Also difficult is a story where at the beginning the reader doesn’t know although the characters do.
Lord of Light manages all that. Also jokes. There’s one about an epileptic shan, another about soulless followers.
Incidentally, I said, I’ve met a man who said he had the rights to film Lord of Light.
Without missing a beat Zelazny said “Well, if his name was B– it’s perfectly true.”
Zelazny was as accessible, and had as good a memory, as his reputation held.
That was the end of the anecdote for me. There was more, much more, about Lord of Light, and filming it, and Jack Kirby, and indeed as Burl Ives sang, things too fierce to mention. But they never had anything to do with me. What, never? No, never. Anyway – quadruple anyway – that’s the end.