I recently finished reading Roger Zelazny’s The Dream Master, a 1965 Nebula award winner that I found tucked into a corner of Robert’s Bookstore in Lincoln City, Oregon. I haven’t read a ton of Zelazny in my life as a SF-follower, but I’ve been thinking a lot about him after a panel that I attended at World Con last year—a panel that asked if writers like Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Samuel Delany were still relevant (let’s forget that this seems to be an unfair question since LeGuin and Delany are still living and still publishing, whereas Zelzany slipped this coil nearly 20 years ago).
Zelazny is perhaps best known for his Amber series, but since The Dream Master was eventually turned into the movie Dreamscape, perhaps he’s made of more relevance by this work. Who am I to say? All I can really say right now is that The Dream Master is interesting, and that it stands up to the test of time (for the most part), and that it’s bold and audacious at times. There are reasons it won it’s Nebula, I suppose.
One of the cool things about being a guy who has been around the field for 25+ years is that I’ve been able to meet and interact with many of the greats of the field. Jack Williamson. Fred Pohl. Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison. Blah, blah, blah. I have to admit, though, that Roger Zelazny is a bit of unobtainium to me. He passed just as I was beginning to publish, and just as I was beginning to go to conventions, so I never met him, and never even set eyes on him. This leaves him as having this ethereal quality. His writing, of course, can be jaw-dropping at times. But his style is so interesting–sparse and surgical when he needs a story to run, and deep and vivid when he turns to his inner poet. I’m not sure there’s another writer like him.
So, is he “relevant?” I don’t know. One of the best ways to judge is to see if people still read him, and, yeah, it seems that way.
You can help, of course. If you’ve never read Roger Zelazny, you can start now. And you could do worse than to start with The Dream Master.
I was a huge fan of Zelazny once upon a time, and I have dozens of his books. My first born, Corwin, was named after a character in the Amber series.
Is he still relevant today? Is Heinlein still relevant today? What about Wells and Verne? I think the answer is yes. Dreamers and visionaries will always be relevant, even when technology has moved onward.
So many of the greatest authors in science fiction are gone now, but I think they have left an enduring legacy that will forever make them relevant – but only to those who listen. Everybody else is listening to Katy Perry and watching to see what foolish thing Miley Cyrus will do next.
I thought the question of relevance was an interesting one. Is it based on the actual content of the author’s work, or is it based on whether an author continues to be read? All I can say for sure is that when you pick up Zelazny’s work today, it still sings despite some 50 years of baggage.
In answer to your question, I suppose it could be either, that the author is still read or the content, but most ideally, it is both. I have been re-reading Heinlein from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s recently, and I am almost surprised at how much of what he said then remains true today. In some cases, it would have been easy to believe that his prescience was in error, but in many cases the evolution of our society is falling into line with some of his predictions. I need to start re-reading my Zelazny books. I remember many of them fondly.