The ED SF Project

The Ellen Datlow/SCI FICTION Project, that is. We're showing the love for five and a half years of great short fiction, and we need your help! We've got over 300 stories to cover, so if you're a person who loves short speculative fiction, we want you. Go here to read the list and add your voice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"Auto-da-Fe" by Roger Zelazny: An Appreciation by Jason Stoddard

Bullfights with intelligent cars? Coolness!

Or at least that's what I thought the first time I read "Auto-da-Fe" in a plastic-embalmed library copy of Dangerous Visions. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time. Many of the stories in the book I had a hard time with. But Zelazny's tale—no problem! I got it.

Or at least I thought I did.

In the years following, I've come back to "Auto-de-Fe," first for the story itself, then for other things. Things like the unique, lyrical voice that carries you through the tale. The choreography between Dos Muertos and the automobiles. The hints of the world outside the Plaza de Autos—a world embalmed in steel plates, where cars have existed 10 centuries, and where mechadors have three lives.

And, finally, to come back to the words of our unseen narrator:

Once I saw a blade of grass growing up between the metal sheets of the world in a place where they had become loose, and I destroyed it because I felt it must be lonesome. Often have I regretted doing this, for I took away the glory of its aloneness.

Alone like Dos Muertos, who the narrator tells us is above any machine. And then he is dead, for the third and final time. After all, this is the Auto-da-Fe, the "act of faith," the place where heretics are burned.

Zelazny accomplished incredible things in "Auto-de-Fe": a world real in texture and detail, an epic struggle, and insight into the human condition. He's delivered it in a way that's accessible to almost any reader, at virtually any level. And it's only about 2000 words long.

Thank you, Mr. Zelazny, for this story. And thank you, Ellen, for bringing it back.

Link to story.


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