Roger Zelazny's Obituary


Published: 06-15-95
Byline: Steve Terrell

Roger Zelazny, one of the world's most respected contemporary science fiction authors and a 20-year Santa Fe resident, died Wednesday.

Zelazny, who had been suffering from cancer for several months, died at St. Vincent Hospital of kidney failure associated with the cancer, said a friend, Susan Parris. Zelazny was 58.

``He was the finest writer of his generation in science fiction. He changed the whole field,'' said George R.R. Martin, another science fiction writer who lives in Santa Fe. ``And he was one of the nicest guys I've ever known.''

Friends knew Zelazny as a humble, soft-spoken man who enjoyed a good joke. He kept a low profile in Santa Fe, giving talks and readings locally every few years. He never sought publicity, though always obliging local reporters for interviews.

Born in Ohio, Zelazny's first published story was in 1962.

The beginning of his career coincided with the rise of science fiction's ``New Wave'' movement.

Along with writers like Samuel R. Delaney and Thomas Disch, Zelazny was considered a leader of that school.

In a 1981 interview Zelazny spoke about the ``New Wave'':
``Science fiction up to the '60s had been pretty much cast in the form of traditional story-telling techniques. The writing was pretty mundane. There was mostly nuts-and-bolts prose.''

Zelazny and his contemporaries used new ways to tell stories, sometimes using stream-of-consciousness styles. The emphasis was more on the psychology of the characters in often nightmarish futuristic settings.

Zelazny was known for novels based on ancient mythologies. Lord of Light -- which in 1981 Zelazny said was his favorite novel-- was a 1967 work based on the Hindu pantheon. Egyptian gods and goddesses populated Creatures of Light and Darkness (1969). Eye of Cat (1982) featured elements of Navajo religion and folklore.

Some readers might remember Zelazny best for his two five-book series of Amber books, fantasies influenced by the King Arthur saga, Irish folklore, tarot cards and sword-and-sorcery pulp novels.

Although he became a leading figure in the genre in the 1960s, Zelazny didn't become a full-time writer until 1969.

After graduating from Columbia University, where he earned an master's degree in English, he worked for several years in Baltimore in the Social Security Administration.

In 1975 he decided to move his family to a smaller town. Initially he considered Florida, where he had visited several times on trips to watch manned space launchings.

But on a recommendation of a friend, he instead chose Santa Fe. ``It turns out that he had never been to Santa Fe. He'd just heard it was a nice place.'' But it was a good hunch. Three days after he arrived he purchased a home on Stagecoach Drive off Bishop's Lodge Road, in which he wrote most of his subsequent work.

Through the years he published more than 150 short stories and more than 50 books. Zelazny won many awards for his work including Hugos (which are awarded by fans), Nebulas (awarded by Science Fiction Writers of America), and honors from France and Japan.

One of his novels, Damnation Alley, was made into a movie.

In addition to his writing career, Zelazny was a student and teacher in the martial art of Aikido.

Zelazny told few about his cancer, Parris said. ``He just didn't want people to know,'' she said.

Zelazny is survived by his sons Trent and Devin, a daughter, Shannon, and his estranged wife, Judy, all of Santa Fe, as well as Jane Lindskold, with whom he was living at the time of his death.