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A reader’s journey.

Lost_worlds_Panther


Two weeks of relaxing on holiday in the south west of France, with my wife and children, gave me more time that usual for reading and, of course, some Fritz was part of the feast, I have written this blog entry over the last couple of weeks, and found myself trying to remember how and when I discovered various authors.

The first book I revisited was Lost Worlds vol. 2 by Clark Ashton Smith, and I have to thank it indirectly for my discovery of Fritz Leiber.  I guess I would have been around 15  and was reading typical eighties horror / fantasy and SF.   Stephen King, James Herbert, Harry Harrison and Larry Niven.  Basically what was available at my local bookshop in Peterborough, which in all honesty wasn’t very much; had I lived in Cambridge, I may have had a better range. I was reading through David Edding’s Belgariad series without any huge enthusiasm, so I had a rummage on the bookshelf in our living room.

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The Silver Eel

First published in 1978 by Robert P Barger as a Paperback

A really superb fanzine by Bob Barger, with excellent artwork by Gene Day, Jim Pitts, Liz Danforth, Herb Arnold, Martha Fischer and Tim Kirk.

  • Address to the Lankhmar Literary Guild • essay by Karl Edward Wagner
  • The Grey Mouser and the Game • essay by Harry Otto Fischer
  • Fritz Lieber: A Few Words • interview of Fritz Leiber • interview by uncredited
  • The Two Greatest Heroes in Lankhmar • essay by Mike Barrett
  • The World of Nehwon: Heroic Anarchy • essay by Thomas M. Egan
  • A Look at Science Fiction and Fantasy Wargaming • essay by Ken St. Andre

Art & Mini Review: Midnight by The Morphy Watch

Midnight by The Morphy Watch

I can only admit to being an occasional chess player, at school around 12 or 13 I was in the school team, that was the height of my achievements, Fritz on the other hand was rated expert and chess pops up in many of the stories, indeed a knight can be seen on the cover of his first collection, Adepts Gambit.

Perhaps his most famous, certainly the most collected chess story is ‘Midnight by The Morphy Watch’, written in 1974 and first published in Worlds of If.

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Review: Adept’s Gambit – Miskatonic Books

ADEPT'S GAMBIT: The Original Version

A book containing anything new by Fritz is always welcome. After the wealth of material in the Midnight House collections and Strange Wonders, it had all gone a little quiet, til Miskatonic Books announced their release of Fritz’s original (circa ’36) version of Adept’s Gambit, complete with HP Lovecraft’s thoughts and annotations.

Adept’s Gambit always seemed an untypical Fafhrd & Mouser story.  The tone seemed akin to The Bleak Shore and The Howlng Tower, yet it was full of commentary and farce the we would see again in Lean Times in Lankhmar or Swords of Lankhmar.  There is also the strange sexuality running through the book (which Leiber himself had noted and is referenced in this new book)which gave it a more spicy feeling than many of the other stories.

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The art of Our Lady of Darkness

A cover ideally has to do two things for a book.  Draw in the potential buyer by tantalising them, exciting them,  ideally having sympathy with the content, augmenting the story(s) and adding to the gravitas of the volume.

So how do our covers stack up?

Upon it’s first appearance (as the slightly different ‘Pale Brown Thing’) in F&SF, it was given a mighty fine cover by Ron Walotsky   . Whilst the building is merely a two story, the ambiance of the cover is great, it is daylight, and Corona heights and the TV tower are featured as reflections (with the metropolitan skyline behind).  Paramentals dash and lurk around the composition, with a strong figure leaning out of the window.  I like the realism of the piece, which mirror Franz’s hyper aware state of his environment, the clarity that lets him become aware of the paramental entities.  F&SF did well by Fritz Leiber, and he had a number of fine covers, special mention should be given to the cover of ‘A Deskfull of Girls’ by  Kelly Freas, a fine, fine cover indeed.

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Locus Magazine “Fritz Leiber – In Memoriam”

I have scanned in and converted the very interesting November 1992 issue of Locus magazine, that contained tributes from Justin Leiber, Marion Zimmer Bradley and L Sprague De Camp, plus numerous photos.  Well worth a read.

Fritz Leiber – In Memoriam

In defence of Fritz and the Hugo

In the process of getting this site up and running again I spent a good bit of time trawling the internet for some interesting Fritz Leiber related views and comment, and there was a fair bit to find. I have added these to the links page of the site, or where more sensible onto the actual page relating to the book.

Sadly some of the highest ranking links on Google point at The Guardian website, and Sam Jordison’s reviews of The Wanderer and The Big Time as part of his journey through the Hugo’s.

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Minireview: The Snow Women

Fantastic, April 1970

When Ace released the swords series in it’s own internal chronology, Fritz ended up writing many link pieces to fit the stories. He also had to formally set in place the backgrounds Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser as well as their meeting.

He had already visited the antecedents of the Gray Mouser in 1962’s  ‘The Unholy Grail’, in ‘The Snow Women’ we follow Fafhrd’s earliest adventure. There was a feeling of gothic in the Unholy Grail, with it’s mad lord, dungeons and waif like heroine, but the  Snow Women, written in 1970, is much more typical of Leiber’s later work.

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Neil Gaiman talks about The Big Time

The always interesting Mr. Gaiman talks about the Big Time over at The Library of America, and fascination it is too…

The Big Time is a remarkably sophisticated story, unusual for science fiction of its time period. It is Leiber’s most successful science fiction novel: it contains many of Leiber’s pet themes—Shakespeare and the theater, alternate identities, alcoholism and sadomasochism, Germany and Time. It’s funny, smart, and resonant, playing out huge themes on a tiny stage, and it demands a great deal of its readers, so it’s no surprise that it was rewarded with the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1958, nor that, over fifty years later, it remains relatively unknown.”

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Fritz Leiber at 100 article…

A very very good article on “Fritz Leiber at 100” over at conceptual fiction.  It gives a very very clear view of why Fritz is still such an important writer…

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