A Thread Containing An Entirely Unsourced Anecdote Concerning The Much Renowned American SFF Author Roger Zelazny

Or: I wonder how long the title field is?

Roger Zelazny, for those of you who aren’t aware, was an American science fiction and fantasy author, widely considered to be good at writing (this assertion is unsourced). He won a bunch of Nebula and Hugo awards, and his most famous book is probably Lord of Light, which, I guess if you haven’t heard of him you probably haven’t heard of Lord of Light, but he was kind of a big deal.

Aside from being known for having the gift of good words, he had a reputation for being mercenary. “What does Roger write?” went the joke. “Whatever gets him fifteen cents a word!”

That joke’s unsourced too, by the way. I am far too young and probably of the wrong social group to have heard it in active circulation.

Anyways, one day Zelazny was approached by an editor, who was putting together a collection of short stories about unicorns. Soon after he was approached by a different editor, looking to put together a collection of stories set in bars. When he mentioned this to his friend, George R. R. Martin, Martin told him he’d been approached about contributing to a collection of stories about chess, and, presumably as a joke, told Zelazny that he should write a story about a unicorn playing chess in a bar and sell it three times, which Zelazny did.

Later, it won a Hugo. This one’s sourced. Unicorn Variation, 1982: https://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-history/1982-hugo-awards/

I guess the lesson here is that sometimes, you can sell a story three times.


I think my favorite is Doorways in the Sand, with Creatures of Light and Darkness as runner-up. I also love A Night in the Lonesome October.


I loved the (Corwin) Amber books and ran an Amber diceless game in college.

And played the Telarium IF game, of course.


Would it ruin the fun to source the anecdote? Zelazny himself wrote it up as the introduction to the story in a collection. Of his own stories, but I guess that counts as selling the story a fourth time.

You’ll note that the Zelazny story beat a George R. R. Martin story in its category, which might surprise people who thought Martin hatched fully-formed with the first Game of Thrones novel. Martin’s story was one of the Haviland Tuf ones, if I recall.


No I literally didn’t have a source for the anecdote, I knew it at the “I dunno I heard it somewhere, I probably didn’t make it up” level and remembered it because I was hilarious. But given that I saw the Hugo page I figured, hey, it must’ve been true!