Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Roger Zelazny and Amber - a Primer

To my knowledge, there are two gamebooks which take place in Roger Zelazny's Amber universe - 'Seven No-Trump', and 'The Black Road War,' both by Neil Randall, and both out of print for a couple of decades now.

Roger Zelazny is really one of the finest science fiction authors that the human race has managed to produce. True, his ten-book Amber series is more fantasy than sci-fi; it is, nonetheless, an utter masterpiece. If you haven't read it yet... I mean, seriously, go and find it now, and do so. Back in the pre-Amazon days I laboriously tracked down all ten volumes in bookshops on two continents. Rather irritatingly, all ten books were republished soon afterwards in one mighty 1000-page volume. Gah. So I bought that too. If I were for some reason condemned to read just one book for the rest of my life, it'd likely be that one. I'm not joking.

The setting is fairly mind-bending: every imaginable universe exists. Our Earth exists, and crops up fairly frequently. But so do all the universes that are wholly different to our own. Imagine a universe where Lewis Carroll's characters from Alice in Wonderland are real. That's an actual place, in these books. Or a world that worships a god that is identical to you, where you can inspire a legion of followers to live and die at your command. That's a real place too.

Well, these universes are real, but not really real. The only truly real, truly solid place in all of creation is the realm of Amber, of which all other universes are Shadows - pale, imperfect reflections. The royal family of Amber have the unique ability to traverse these Shadows. And, as luck would have it, they're a jealous, power-hungry lot.

As I say, it's all quite mind-bleepery - made even more so that when you consider that Roger Zelazny was pantsing (that's literary shorthand for 'not planning') as he set out on the saga. The books inspired an RPG, Amber Diceless Role-Playing, as well as a fanzine, comic books, and a prequel quadrilogy by John Gregory Betancourt. And, as I mentioned, a couple of gamebooks.

So, gamebook writeups to come, in the near(ish) future. As a longtime fan of Roger Zelazny, and Amber, I'm really excited about getting to do this.

Also, while we're talking about sci-fi - which I sort of did, a few paragraphs back - the raison d'ĂȘtre of science fiction is the subject of discussion right now over on Roz Morris's Nail Your Novel blog. Some good points here.

That said, keep in mind that Roz isn't a big fan of Doctor Who. And in my book, that's tantamount to heresy.

(Post by Paul Gresty)


  1. She's a big fan of real Dr Who ;-)

    1. Yeah, I know - the Who-related post is quite positive, a couple of criticisms aside. Still, the Doctor has been saving the universe for 50+ years now. That gives him licence to break the odd storytelling convention, just now and then.

    2. Fifty years! Why, that Shoreditch junkyard seems like only yesterday to me. But I know better than to argue with a hardcore nuWhovian; the emperor is 50 years old, let's give him a break on his sartorial choices, hmm?

  2. Did you know that Roger Zelazny wrote a screenplay for Doctor Who in the Tom Baker days?
    Can remember the name, but it began with a Captain of a ship sitting on his bridge.
    The Ship was full of people in cryogenic stasis.
    They were being converted into some alien if I remember right.
    It may have been the Doctor and Romana time if I remember right.
    I am not sure if Zelazny did any other screenplays for the series but that is one I remember seeing his name on.
    Best of luck finding it.

  3. I think maybe it could have been Douglas Adams, and I am wrong.
    There was parrot that sat on Captain of the ship's shoulder at the beginning.
    Anyways, was Roger Zelazny involved at all with Doctor Who's screenplays?
    I do remember, I think, his name in credits, but I can't locate anything on the web or in my collections of DW to confirm it.