April 26, 2016

Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny died about 20 years ago, and has frustrated me before and ever since, because he left so many things unfinished. Zelazny was the Writer's Block poster child.

This afternoon I purchased "Madwand" for my Kindle. It's the second volume of a trilogy, the first of which was called "Changeling". We'll never know what the third volume was going to be named, because he never wrote it.

And he never finished the second Amber series. It just kind of ends, not quite with a cliff-hanger but nearly so.

Zelazny was 58 when he died in 1995, and I'm sure he would rather have stayed alive and kept writing, but that's not how it worked out.

Jack Chalker is another of my favorite authors, who wrote a lot of multi-volume stories. He's dead now, too (he was morbidly obese) but when he began work on a multi-volume story, he had all the volumes planned out before he began writing the first one, and he cranked straight through until he had finished the last one -- and didn't work on anything else in the mean time. Sometimes he would come back and visit a canon later (like the fourth and fifth books of the Dancing Gods series) but you can easily ignore those and not miss anything.

But Zelazny danced around and worked on all sorts of things. He was badly afflicted by squirrel-brain.

And in the first Amber series, it's obvious he didn't really have the whole thing worked out in detail before he began. (In particular, he changed his mind about the source of the Black Road. There are two mutually exclusive explanations for it.)

One reason he didn't finish the second Amber series was that he got distracted by working on a computer game, during development of which he died.

One of the worst things an author can do to his audience is to not finish a story, leaving it hanging. And though Madwand is a reasonably self-contained story that hangs together pretty well, it's obvious the story is not over and I want to know what comes next. I've wanted to know for 35 years.

He wrote Changeling in 1980 and Madwand in 1981 and never came back to it in the remaining 14 years of his life. Grumble.

UPDATE: Two rants in a week. I must really be a cranky old man now.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Rants at 08:42 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
Post contains 399 words, total size 2 kb.

1 The lack of a followup to Madwand always annoyed me, but frankly, I thought the second Amber series got a mercy killing. When book 3 not only didn't finish it, but generated new plot points at an alarming rate, I lowered my expectations.

There's apparently a brief hint about the book that would have completed Pol's story, Deathmask, in volume 5 of the short story collection.


Posted by: J Greely at April 26, 2016 09:50 PM (ZlYZd)

2 So what did it say?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 26, 2016 10:43 PM (+rSRq)

3 No kidding. I've got a policy now that I don't start multi-book series unless they're already finished.
And I was so pissed off that the description of "The Golden Compass" didn't even bother mentioning that it was part 1 of the never completed story. Didn't even end in a cliff hanger, it just... stopped.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at April 27, 2016 01:33 AM (l55xw)

4 I never bought the 6-volume short-story collection (I leave it on my Christmas list at Amazon, just in case...), so I don't know, and no one seems to have said anything online. Just the title and the fact that it's mentioned in there somewhere.

Still, if a complete Zelazny novel can turn up decades later (The Dead Man's Brother, which his agent had just forgotten about), maybe someday someone will go through his papers and find some story notes.


Posted by: J Greely at April 27, 2016 06:54 AM (ZlYZd)

5 Louis L'Amour never wrote a follow up to The Walking Drum, which follows an adventurer in the 12th century Europe and Middle East.  It's supposed to be a trilogy with our hero going all the way from Brittany all the way to China.  He passed away before the second book (supposed to take place going to India, and third book, China).

Posted by: BigFire at April 28, 2016 12:04 PM (O7l6D)

6 Everyone dies eventually and if it's an author who writes multi-volume series, it's not surprising if he leaves one storyline dangling. My issue with Zelazny is that he left several unfinished.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 28, 2016 12:54 PM (+rSRq)

7 A late contribution, but I wonder if John Ringo and David Weber are setting us up for similar falls.  (Not on purpose, of course.)

Weber:  Safehold, two Honor Harrington universe series. Empire of Man (with Ringo)

Ringo: Troy, Empire of Man (with Weber), Posleen, Looking Glass, Council War.  Black Tide is at a relatively complete point; arguably so is Paladin of Shadows.  Not sure about Queen of Swords. 

So what's he doing?  Working with Larry Correria(sp?) on a new Monster Hunter series....

Posted by: ubu at April 29, 2016 12:36 PM (SlLGE)

8 At least WoT got an ending, albeit he left so many notes on plot points that it took an additional 3 books instead of 1 (not terribly surprising, given how the whole thing went from 7 (planned) to 13).

It  also introduced me to Sanderson, so there's that, too.

I read Changeling when I was younger; it was decent, if a bit short.  I'm not sure if I want to read the sequel or not, knowing that it will never be followed up on.

The only two L'Amour books I ever read (and loved both) were his non-westerns.  After his death, there were rumors of material left behind for sequels to both of them, but those rumors faded over the years as nothing ever happened.  Quite a pity, both depicted Odyssey-esque journeys that left me starving for more.

Posted by: BigD at April 29, 2016 06:33 PM (VKO9N)

Hide Comments | Add Comment

Enclose all spoilers in spoiler tags:
      [spoiler]your spoiler here[/spoiler]
Spoilers which are not properly tagged will be ruthlessly deleted on sight.
Also, I hate unsolicited suggestions and advice. (Even when you think you're being funny.)

At Chizumatic, we take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately.

How to put links in your comment

Comments are disabled.
11kb generated in CPU 0.0054, elapsed 0.0138 seconds.
20 queries taking 0.0096 seconds, 25 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.