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During one of the discussions of the Chronicles of Amber, the question arose whether Zelazny thought about creating an analogue of The Lord of the Rings, and how much did Tolkien influence him? Did Roger Zelazny know about The Lord of the Rings at all? Perhaps in the '60s it was not as widely known as it is now. Is there any evidence of his acquaintance with The Lord of the Rings, any commentaries on this?

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    I don’t have any evidence, but it seems unlikely that an American fantasy author in the 1960s would be unaware of a major work of fantasy that Wikipedia describes as “hugely popular in America in the 1960s” and received some very laudatory reviews (in addition to some critical ones). Also The Hobbit could have been known to Zelazny and might have influenced him to read LoTR as soon as they came out. Finally, he was a member of SAGA which later went on to create the Gandalf Awards. Had he read LoTR before writing Amber? Probably. Had he read them in his lifetime? Almost certainly. Jun 26, 2023 at 12:14
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    I am confident that Zelazny was aware of Tolkien's work; the '60s was when The Lord of the Rings exploded in popularity.
    – user888379
    Jun 26, 2023 at 12:15
  • People were tagging 'Frodo Lives' on NYC subway stations in the 1960s.
    – dmedine
    Jun 28, 2023 at 4:22
  • "Had a fantasy author who wrote fantasy books at the start of the genre read the book that had just invented the entire fantasy genre as a going concern?" - I mean, is this skeptics?
    – Yakk
    Jun 28, 2023 at 5:01

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In a 1973 interview with Zelazny reprinted in the Roger Zelazny book from the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series, and partly available on google books here, he is asked to name masters of SF/Fantasy on this page and he includes Tolkien, so it's safe to say he read him:

GEIS: Who do you consider the finest sf and/or fantasy writers alive and working today? Why?

ZELAZNY: Hard to say. My tastes vary and so does any writer's output. This in mind, the best? In no particular order, then: Clarke, Le Guin, Dick, Tolkien, Heinlein, Niven, to name the first half-dozen fine ones who come to mind.

Why? De gustibus, is all.

On the other hand, in the interview here published in the January 1969 issue of Worlds of If, he talks about a bunch of authors that influenced him and doesn't mention Tolkien, so either he hadn't read him yet or perhaps didn't consider him a major influence on his own writing.

@KlausÆ.Mogensen also points to this Zelazny interview where he cited various non-Tolkien influences on the Amber books specifically:

I have been asked on numerous occasions whether the Amber books were influenced by Jessie L. Weston's 'From Ritual to Romance', by Philip Jose Farmer's 'World of Tiers' novels, by Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend. The answer to all of these, in varying degrees, is yes.

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    I can see Zelazny, quite reasonably, not regarding Tolkien as a major influence. Now Raymond Chandler, on the other hand...
    – user888379
    Jun 26, 2023 at 15:57
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    Zelazny has stated that a major influence on his Amber books was Philip José Farmer's World of Ters series: zelazny-ru.livejournal.com/71876.html Jun 26, 2023 at 17:57
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    The way he answered the 73 question suggests that there are many authors he considered great, and he was just listing a handful. So he might have just chosen a different handful in the 69 interview.
    – Barmar
    Jun 27, 2023 at 14:27
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    I wouldn't consider that latter quote to be any kind of evidence that he didn't consider Tolkien an influence. What he's saying there is that he specifically gets asked about Weston and Farmer a lot. Exclusion from that list only implies that he didn't get asked about that work a lot, not that he didn't take anything from it.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 27, 2023 at 17:41
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    As an entertaining aside, I recently procured a book of interviews with PKD, which contained a foreword from Zelazny. He recounts an entertaining anecdote about the infamous Metz SF Con, where a pair of confused Frenchmen approach him, asking if "Monsieur Dick really wants to start his own religion with himself as the Pope?" Jun 28, 2023 at 9:38

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