LORD OF THE FANTASTIC: STORIES IN HONOR OF ROGER ZELAZNY
Edited by Martin H. Greenberg
Harper Voyager / 373 pages / 1st edition (September 1, 1998)
The subtitle gives you an instant connection — Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny — and offers a suggestion of the quality of the stories inside. Only if you are familiar with Zelazny’s work and the enormous impact of the man on science fiction, fantasy, and literature in general, however, will it prepare you for the breadth of the twenty-three tales paying homage to the author and the man. That’s not a problem, though: try to find a person who has turned a page of the genre without ever encountering his stunning body of work.
The names of the authors invited to contribute to this anthology range from the legendary; Andre Norton and Robert Silverberg; to the new wave. like Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Walter Jon Williams. The material runs the gamut from comical to touching, high-tech to primitive mystery. Very much a mirror of Zelazny’s own stories, but with a slight distortion; no one will ever be Roger. Just as he would be the first to tell you no one will ever be John J. Miller or Fred Saberhagen. Or you.
No discussion of Zelazny fails to include his dry, dead-pan sense of humour. Jack Haldeman’s “Souther Discomfort,” with its eternally malevolent main character and middle-of-nowhere swamp setting would no doubt have amused him greatly. Zelazny’s ghoulishly charming A Night in the Lonesome October inspires two tributes: “Movers And Shakers,” by Paul Dellinger, and Neil Gaiman’s dark and witty “Only The End Of The World Again.” All reassure us that the tradition of waggery in speculative fiction has not died.
The love of legends and folk tales appears again and again. “Ki’rin And The Blue And White Tiger,””If I Take The Wings Of Morning,” “Arroyo De Oro,” and others draw upon the ancient stories of many cultures. In some cases, the myths are brought up to the present for a thoroughly modern treatment that highlights the timelessness of the tales. Lindskold’s “Ki’rin” is as traditional as silk paintings and as much a part of the field of fantasy as anything produced since the first tellings of gods and demons.
It is one allegory, “Mad Jack,” that is perhaps the most intimate of the honours and the closest to the man most readers will remember. Gentle and sad and hopeful, it reflects the feelings that linger in the aftermath of loss, the impossible desire to resist change. Jennifer Roberson’s eulogy is more a poem, a verse set to lullaby music, than a mere story. Past and present, childhood and its loss, stand as painful hurdles to be overcome before any future can be contemplated, but time will not stop to allow leisurely examination.
But, for anyone who never had the good fortune and the honour to meet the man, the closest you will ever come to knowing Roger Zelazny is in the commentary following each story. The anecdotes and memories paint a portrait of an unforgettable man and his unquestionable influence on his chosen genre. His deep voice, his unfailing kindness, and his quiet good humour will not brighten another panel or reduce more fans to awed mumbles. Aren’t we lucky he left so much of himself behind to keep us company and remind us what is possible?