The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth

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"The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth"
Doors of His Face FSF 0166.jpg
AuthorRoger Zelazny
Country USA
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Publication typePeriodical
PublisherMercury Publications
Media typeMagazine
Publication dateMarch 1965

"The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" is a science fiction novelette by Roger Zelazny. Originally published in the March 1965 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, it won the 1966 Nebula Award for Best Novelette,[1] and was nominated for the 1966 Hugo Award for Best Short Fiction.[2]

Writing in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, John Clute found that Zelazny's story "intoxicatingly dashes together myth and literary assonances—in this case Herman Melville's Moby-Dick—and sex".[3] Gardner Dozois opined that "Doors of His Face" was inspired by "a loving nostalgia for the era of the pulp adventure story that was then widely supposed to be ending".[4]

In the introduction to the novelette in Nebula Award Stories 1965, editor Damon Knight noted that not only did the story receive more votes than the other nominees in its category, but that it received more votes than all of the others combined.[5]

Plot summary[edit]

The story is set on Venus at a time when mankind has achieved routine travel to the various planets of the solar system. Unlike the actual planet, Zelazny's Venus is Earth-like, offering breathable air, water-filled oceans and native fauna, one of which is the fictional Ichthyform Leviosaurus Levianthus, a 300-foot-long denizen of the Venusian oceans commonly called "Ikky". It has never been caught, despite numerous attempts to do so.

The story's two main protagonists are Jean Luharich and Carlton Davits. Luharich is a successful businesswoman and media celebrity who is financing, and commanding, an expedition to capture an Ikky. Davits is a work-for-hire seaman who has been on the crew of several earlier attempts, and in fact had once been in Luharich's position: a playboy sportsman who commissioned the ship Luharich now owns, until he was injured in a disastrous try whose failure he blames himself for. Davits and Luharich were previously involved in a brief romantic relationship which ended years before the story begins.

Davits has been hired on as a "baitman"—the crewmember who is tasked with diving to the end of a submerged cable so as to attach and activate an electronic lure. Because the lure is deployed only when an Ikky has been detected in close proximity to the ship, the baitman can find himself dangerously close to the Ikky. This happens to Davits. He manages to safely return to the ship, where he assists Luharich in a successful capture.

Zelazny's conception of Venus[edit]

John Clute described Zelazny's Venus as "fantastical, densely described" and "almost entirely 'unscientific'".[3] Gardner Dozois believed that Zelazny certainly knew that the Venus of "Doors of His Face" was not the actual Venus. Instead, Dozois saw Zelazny's Venus as "an homage, a deliberate act of retro nostalgia" for the "lushly romantic pulp version ... that had been popularized in tales from Planet Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories decades before".[4]

Publication history[edit]

In addition to its original appearance in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, "The Doors of His Face ..." appeared in two best-of-the-year anthologiesThe Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (15th Series, 1966) and Nebula Award Stories 1965 (1966).

Since then, it has been anthologized at least twelve times, including translations into French, German and Italian. The story also appears in eight collections devoted to Zelazny's work, including translations into Dutch and Lithuanian. In 1991, it was published as a chapbook by Pulphouse Publishing.

The foregoing was taken from the story's listing in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (for which see the External Links section below). More detail on its publication history can be found at that listing.

The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth and Other Stories[edit]

"The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" was the lead story in a fifteen-story collection published in the United States by Doubleday in 1971. The collection was published in Britain by Faber and Faber in 1973. The first Canadian publication was by Avon Books in 1974.

A German-language collection was published as Die Türen seines Gesichts ("The Doors of His Face") by Pabel-Moewig in 1980. An earlier (1973) German-language collection from a different publisher was an abridged version, including only five stories.

The fifteen stories in the collection are:

  • "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth"
  • "The Keys to December"
  • "Devil Car"
  • "A Rose for Ecclesiastes"
  • "The Monster and the Maiden"
  • "Collector's Fever"
  • "This Mortal Mountain"
  • "This Moment of the Storm"
  • "The Great Slow Kings"
  • "A Museum Piece"
  • "Divine Madness"
  • "Corrida"
  • "Love Is an Imaginary Number"
  • "The Man Who Loved the Faioli"
  • "Lucifer"

Starting in 2001, the versions published by ibooks, Inc. included two additional stories—"The Furies" and "The Graveyard Heart".

More detail on the collection's publication history can be found at its listing in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (for which see the External Links section below).


  1. ^ "1966 Nebula Awards". Locus. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
  2. ^ "1966 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Archived from the original on 2011-05-07. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
  3. ^ a b Clute, John (May 14, 2015). "Roger Zelazny". Retrieved 2015-10-08.
  4. ^ a b Gardner Dozois, ed. (1998). The Good Old Stuff: Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 376. ISBN 0-312-19275-4.
  5. ^ Damon Knight, ed. (1966). Nebula Award Stories 1965. Garden City (New York): Doubleday. p. 1.

External links[edit]