DOWNTOWN WITH THE ZELAZNYS
by Michael O'Brien
Knowing that Roger Zelazny and his family were due in town sometime Wednesday afternoon and knowing which hotel they were staying at (I'd recommended it to them) I thought I stood a fair chance of locating them. Hoping they'd be in the Tourist Bureau next to the hotel, I made that my first port of call.
No sign of them. Then I turned and Bingo! There was the familiar Hugo-winning face of Zelazny peering at a rack of postcards in the shop across the arcade. I walked over and slapped him on the back lightly and said "Hello Roger". (Undue familiarity perhaps, but I had spent a bit of time with him and his wife Judy at Unicon IV a week before).
He turned and goggled at me. "Hello" he answered, "What are you doing here?" "I knew you were in town so I thought I'd just drop up and see if there was anything I could do to help you find your way around," I said. "Are you headed anywhere in particular?"
Judy Zelazny said that they'd been told they just HAD to take the kids to see Cat & Fiddle Arcade. I worked out we had fifteen minutes to get there and we set off down Elizabeth Street with Roger, his son Devin, and Judy pushing little Trent in his stroller. After a pause to buy some apple juice for the two children, we took our places with the crowd waiting for the 4 p.m. chimes to strike.
The kids were duly entranced by the audio-visual clockwork illustrating the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle. Little Trent's eyes bulged and he flung out his arm with an exclamation, pointing at the musical puppets. "No dear, he won't do it again for another hour," explained his mother. "The cat's got to have his rest," explained Roger gently, "he has a very strong union."
We walked on into Murray Street to a bank where Roger could cash some travellers cheques. The children started on a tin of apple juice while I talked to Judy, whose maiden name turns out to be Callahan - "I'm all in favour of the Irish therefore," she quipped.
Out of the bank, we crossed over to a bookstore. Discomforted only slightly by being warmly greeted by a passing wino. Took the Zelaznys in to the OBM Book Arcade so Roger could check for a book he was after, Brody's biography of Sir Richard Burton. Couldn't find a copy of that, but Devin was very pleased at finding an enormous stack of HOW & WHY books for 79c each. His father flipped through them to check they weren't duplicating any of the dozens they already owned and bought about fourteen of them. Judy contented herself with a copy of THE IRISHMAN and I picked up a second-hand copy of an Edgar Pangborn novel I didn't have.
Faced with a stack of children's books to lug home with them, the Zelaznys opted to mail them back to New Mexico and we crossed the street to the marvellous piece of colonial grandeur the Hobart GPO. The HOW & WHY books were dispatched and we walked off down towards the wharf.
Devin had seemed rather indifferent to me, but as soon as he learned I was a fellow Doc Savage fan he immediately warmed to me. "What's the most recent one you've got?" he asked and after a moment's thought I answered THE FLYING GOBLIN. "Ah, that's number ninety on the series," he nodded. I shot a startled glance at Roger: "Your son remembers all the Doc Savage books down to their numbers!" "I know," said Roger, "I can't think why but he does."
We walked on, discussing Doc Savage. "Devin's got all the books and I've got the comics," grinned Roger. "I'm halfway through reading FANTASTIC ISLAND to him." I nodded and said "Yes, that's a real good one." "One thing about those old Doc Savage novels," he mused, they've got great narrative hooks....." His writer's brained turned over a little; do you suppose I might be responsible if the next Zelazny novel starts off with a slam-bang violent opening?
When we reached the docks, the wind was becoming a little gusty. Trent was standing up in his stroller letting his hair stream straight back. "Trent loves wind," said Judy "but Devin doesn't like it at all." (Devin was putting on his waterproof jacket at the time.)
I pointed out the docks where the QE2 had berthed and showed them the ferries that had been essential during the three years the Tasman Bridge had been knocked down. "Oh yes, we heard about that on the news," laughed Judy "and I thought WHERE'S THAT? at the time!" We walked on to Constitution Dock where the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race boats tie up and Judy photographed us all standing by the water's edge. (Devin was a difficulty; he tends to play to the camera and strike poses at the photographer. "Do what your mother says," urged Roger, "just this once".)
The sky had clouded over and I suggested walking back towards the hotel before the rain started. We set off after some difficulty in tearing Devin away from the docks.
"You'll get wet," warned Roger.
"Don't care! I'm waterproof!" he answered, slapping his jacket proudly.
We walked up Elizabeth Street as we discussed the trip the Zelaznys were taking tomorrow to Port Arthur. "I feel I've really GOT to visit the Isle of the Dead," smiled Roger. I took a second to catch the reference and then burst out laughing. "I never thought of that! You should try and get a photo of yourself taken there..."
We stopped at a take-away food shop ("We called them Carry-Outs before we came to Australia" said Judy) and got some sandwiches for the kids and the inevitable tins of Coke and fruit juice. Walking towards the hotel, they looked up at Mount Wellington and said it reminded them of their home in Santa Fe amidst similar peaks.
"Some places you just feel as though you want to stop and live there forever," said Judy. "we felt it when we first went to Santa Fe and I feel it about Hobart." She smiled. "I have a theory that happiness improves the further you get from New York City."
"We got the globe out once," explained Roger "and worked out the furthermost place on Earth from New York. I think it was Perth in Western Australia. But this would do equally as well, I'd think!"
We speeded up a bit, both because it was raining and because Devin was complaining that he needed to go to the bathroom. "You went before we left," his father reminded him sternly. We finally arrived in the hotel lobby and buzzed for the lift while Devin crossed his legs melodramatically and looked at us in mock-anguish.
All too soon we had to part. "Perhaps we'll see you in the Sates one day if you're not at SEACON," said Roger. "Anyway, we'll probably see you in '83 at the Worldcon!" I didn't say goodbye to them. I shook hands and said "Au Revoir." And I sincerely meant it.
Two nicer people than the Zelaznys I have yet to meet. If I could be assured that all my neighbours would be like them, I'd move to America tomorrow. They were fine human beings. I hoped they liked me; I like them a lot.
- from ANZAPA 61
This page is copyright (c) 1978 by Michael O'Brien and is reprinted with permission.