Nine Black Doves – Volume 5: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny

Second paragraph of third story (“Mana from Heaven”):

There was a wide window at the rear of my office, affording an oblique view of the ocean. The usual clutter lay about—opened cartons oozing packing material, a variety of tools, heaps of rags, bottles of cleaning compounds and restoratives for various surfaces. And of course the acquisitions: Some of them still stood in crates and cartons; others held ragged rank upon my workbench, which ran the length of an entire wall—a row of ungainly chessmen awaiting my hand. The window was open and the fan purring so that the fumes from my chemicals could escape rapidly. Bird songs entered, and a sound of distant traffic, sometimes the wind.

The penultimate in the complete collection of Zelazny’s short fiction, bringing together stories published between 1979 and 1990. Huge Zelazny fan that I am, I must record that I had read all of the stories before – more than half of them are in the 1989 collection Frost and Fire, though I have mislaid my copy of Author’s Choice #27 which had two of the more obscure ones. The books also includes Zelazny’s poetry, which to be honest is not all that special, and several treatments and sketches for unmade films and unwritten books.

But there are a couple of points that made me glad to have bought this. The first is that the text of the Hugo-winning “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” is in fact illustrated by the relevant 24 woodcuts from Hokusai’s famous series. It’s only monochrome but it makes a big difference to your appreciation of the story. Also, Christopher Kovacs’ detailed chronology of what was going on in Zelazny’s life in the years from 1982 to 1990 is illuminating. Amusingly, Michael Whelan agreed to do the stunning cover art for the collection after discovering that one of his other pieces had been ripped off without credit or payment for an earlier Zelazny book.

I am also really glad to have found this video of Zelazny reading his own work in 1986 – the short story “LOKI-7281” and an extract from “Blood of Amber”. The image and sound quality are not great, but it’s great to see him dominating the room while leaning nonchalantly on his elbow; he was having fun, and so were his audience. He was 49, and had less than a decade left to live.

This was the sf book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next up is the sixth and last in this series, The Road to Amber. But you can get Nine Black Doves here.