Radio Wolinsky

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995), 1979

From the Probabilities Archive: Roger Zelazny (1937-1995), in conversation with Richard Wolinsky, Richard A. Lupoff and Lawrence Davidson, recorded December 7, 1979. Digitized, remastered and edited in August 2020 by Richard Wolinsky.

Today, a quarter century after his death from cancer at the age of 58, Roger Zelazny’s star has dimmed but from the early 1960s into the 1980s, Roger Zelazny, was one of the giants in the world of fantasy and science fiction. Often expropriating characters from myths and legends from around the world, his stories and books delve into the nature of time, and into fragmented multiverses. A poet as well as a fiction writer, his prose demonstrated that science fiction at the time was not merely a genre of ideas and characters, but of literary merit as well, though he never escaped into the world of mainstream literature. Zelazny first burst like a comet onto the science fiction scene in the early 1960s, and with the award winning novels This Immortal and Lord of Light, as well as his short stories and novelettes, established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

In 1970, the first of his ten-volume Chronicles of Amber series was published as Nine Princes in Amber. This series of five books, focusing on a character named Corwin, was completed at the time of the interview. He would a few years later write another five books focusing on Corwin’s son, Merlin.

One reason Zelazny’s reputation faded is because so little of his work was adapted. In 1977, an dreadful film adaptation of his novel Damnation Alley came and went in a flash. And outside of a short story adapted for The Twilight Zone, none of Zelazny’s work has appeared on screen, though Lord of Light has been in development for decades. It’s odd that the Amber books have never been adapted for television.

This interview with the late Roger Zelazny was part of the Probabilities series of programs that aired on KPFA in Berkeley, beginning in 1977. The show was started by Lawrence Davidson, who was the science fiction book buyer at the legendary Cody’s Books in Berkeley, and myself, at the time working as a behind the scenes volunteer at KPFA. Joining us intermittently, and then as a full time co-host was science fiction writer Richard A. Lupoff. With no guidance and no training, though Richard Lupoff had done some radio in Miami a few years earlier, we were all still finding our footing on December 7, 1979, when this interview was recorded, in Zelazny’s hotel room during a Bay Area science fiction conference.

In this fragmented interview, recorded while people were coming and going, and going and coming, Richard A. Lupoff focuses on Zelazny’s publishing history, I focus on the Amber books, and Lawrence Davidson asks questions about Roadmarks, Zelazny’s most recent novel. None of us paid much attention to the location of the microphone. The interview was digitized, remastered and re-edited into some kind of hopefully coherent form in August, 2020. The interview aired once in early 1980, and has not been heard in forty years.

Zelazny would return to Amber in 1985 with Trumps of Doom. Roadmarks seemed to be the first volume of a new series, but Zelazny never followed up with a sequel. During the 1990’s, he would complete five short stories set in the world of Amber, which took place after the last novel, Prince of Chaos, in 1991, which would also turn out to be Zelazny’s final solo published science fiction fantasy novel. However, during the 1990s, he did collaborate on works with several other writers. His most famous collaboration, though, was Deus Irae, with Philip K. Dick, which came out in 1976.