A Rose for Ecclesiastes • (1963) • novelette by Roger Zelazny


Meta: ISFDB. This novelette appeared first in Magazine of SF&F, November 1963. It was nominated for the Hugo in 1964. I’ve read it in The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth and Other Stories, my review here.

German translation’s title is “Locar’s 2224 Dances”: if you combine the keywords of both variants, you’ll get the essence of the story. Which is: nihilistic philosophy from the book Kohelet, poetry and finer arts making up a perfect sample for the topic about Mars dying.
I always think that Zelazny is at his best when he pairs cynicism with tragedy: Arrogant poet Gallagher from Earth falls in love with a dancer from the fading Martians. He fulfills their direst prophecies without knowing about them.

No wonder this story leveraged his success as an author back in 1963. Nominated for the Hugo in 1964, SFWA voted for place 6 on the eternal best-of-list.
Zelazny worked together with authors like Delany, Disch or Ellison as the U.S. extension of British New Wave (Ballard, Aldiss, Moorcock). They set aside the science aspects (smoking and roses on Mars considering the atmosphere, temperature, and water ressources!), experimenting more and brought a literary version of science fiction.
The novelette stays with me with its philosophical aspects, exceptional language and amazing storytelling.

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