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