This week I finished the six volume set of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. It is a massive collection as it includes every single short story he wrote as ell as every bit of poetry and quite a few novellas. It took me over three years of off and on reading to finish the set because I knew that once I was done, I would have no more new-to-me Zelazny to read. Now that I have finished it, I just want to express the debt I owe to him as a writer.
I have always been a storyteller but I never had the patience to write. Most of it came from reading too much Tolkien and Tolkien knockoffs that overwhelm the reader with details, facts and trivia. Every time I sat don to write something, I felt this tremendous pressure to first explain the world, the characters and each and every oddity before I took one step with the plot.
That is madness of course but as a teenager I just felt that was the way it had to be.
Then I came across Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber. I was enchanted with the story because it is simply quite awesome. Magic, parallel worlds, romance, courtly intrigue, war, family problems and swashbuckling humor just enthralled me as a teen. It was the perfect book for a time in my life when I felt so terribly alone and close to despair. It gave me hope as only wonderful meaningful entertainment can.
I read other Zelazny books and went to college, dropped out of college, got married and settled into a depressing factory worker life. The internet came along and I read tons of erotica before the itch to write my own came. I found myself aching to write but all the teenage hesitations came back. I wanted to explain the characters, explain the setting and explain the relationships all at once. Quite frankly I couldn’t even imagine what the first sentence would look like.
So I cracked open a Zelazny book. I don’t remember which one. I just opened it and read the first page. Knowing Zelazny, the story simply started.
So I simply started writing as well. When I had questions, I looked to see what Zelazny did.
This would have worked with almost any writer but for luckily I was a huge fan of a master story teller. Reading the collection these past few years just reinforce that notion. Zelazny weaved magic, science and character so tightly into a world of wonder. Some of his stories have so much emotion that they leave you grieving yet almost every story has a touch of whimsy and humor. The average Zelazny story has more ideas than most novels.
I also saw the progenitors of a lot of my own characters. There would be no Vaquel without Dilvish. There would be no Blastpants without Merlin. There would be no Erishella without Kali. There would be no Samuel without Corwin.
There would not be a Shon Richards without Roger Zelazny.
The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny are highly recommend for any fan of fantastic writing. The collection also has many essays by Roger’s friends as well as a lot of behind the scenes writing from Roger himself. I can’t imagine a more important set in my library.