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The Fritz Leiber Home Page

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Our Lady of Darkness

First published as Pale Brown Thing a 2 part serial in Fantasy & Science Fiction (issues 1,2/77). His last novel, and undoubtedly one of his very best ...

You’re All Alone

First published in 1972 by Ace as a Paperback

Leiber began writing this, (what would have been his his third) novel in January 1943. He expected that it would be about 40,000 word long and that it would be sold for publication in “Unknown”. However, “Unknown” was to be discontinued shortly. With no other outlets, Leiber stopped working on the novel.

After the second World War, Leiber resumed work on the novel, hoping to sell it to William Sloan Associates. Frits expanded it to 75,000 words but William Sloan Associates had discontinued publishing fantasy due to poor sales. Leiber sent the (longer) novel to the editors of “Fantastic Adventures”, who agreed to buy it only if Leiber could cut it to 40,000 words. Leiber set the 75,000 word manuscript aside, went back to his original 1943 versionfor a 40,000 word short novel and recreated it as a parallel text. It was published by “Fantastic Adventures” in July 1950 as “You’re All Alone”.

The 75,000 word version was eventually published by Universal Publishers and Distributors in 1953 for publication as one half of a paperback double (with Bulls, Blood and Passion). Due to the contract, the publisher could make any changes it wanted. The result was the “The Sinful Ones”. In addition, the publisher added “sexed up” chapter titles like “The Strip Tease” and “Bleached Prostitute” and “sexed up” a few love scenes in the book.

In 1972, Ace reprinted the 40,000 word (Fantastic) version slong with other stories (Four Ghosts in Hamlet and The Creature from Cleveland Depths) in a collection also titled “You’re All Alone”. In the late 1970s, Leiber repurchased the rights to the his longer version and it was reprinted by Pocket in October 1980. Fritz left in the 1953 titles, but restored the mangled text from memory since the original manuscript had been lost. He also rewrote the sex scenes to bring the language up to date.

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Tarzan and the Valley of Gold

First published in 1966 by Ballantine as a Paperback

“Adapted by Fritz Leiber from the motion picture produced by Banner Productions, Inc., here is a Tarzan with the values of courage, loyalty and honour learned from the beloved of his wild African childhood, brought to full power by the education, intelligence and strength of his ancient Greystoke lineage.”

A nice review by Randy Johnson

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The Wanderer

First published in 1964 by Ballantine as a Paperback

Perhaps more of an SF novel that Fritz normally wrote, and also his longest as it spreads across the globe covering the disaster.. It contains two notable cats; Tigerishka (see Gummitch Stories) and Miaow the more ‘normal’ cat.

Review at Conceptional Fiction

Review at SF Site

Review by Sean Synthetic

Review by David Pringle

If I were writing a volume about the The Hundred Best Fantasy Novels Fritz Leiber (born 1910) would deserve at least three entries. He has produced fewer notable works of sicence fiction than he has of supernatural horror and sword-and-sorcery, and of the few his short novel The Big Time (1961) is often cited as the best. I prefer The Wanderer, which is a long novel, an ambitious one, and eminently readable.

It begins with an eclipse of the Moon. All over the world people are looking at the sky and, in rapid succession, we are introduced to dozens of them: amateur astronomers, science fiction fans, flying saucer enthusiasts, others – all sharply drawn, quirkily individualised. It is a narrative of many strands. The main one concerns Paul Hagbolt and Margo Gelhorn, and their cat Miaow, who are out for an evening drive in Southern California. They fall in with an open-air gathering of UFO-spotters. Suddenly the stars flicker to one side of the darkened Moon, and a new planet swims into view. It is the Wanderer, four times the size of the moon, its visible face patterned like a Yin-Yang symbol, half gold, half purple: a vast unidentified object beyond the wildest dreams of the flying saucer nuts – an artificial world which has travelled through hyperspace and stopped off in our solar system to refuel itself from the Moon.

The Wanderer’s abrupt arrival causes catastrophic gravitational effects. Don Merriam, an American astronaut on the lunar surface, manages to escape in a small spacecraft just as the Moon begins to crack down the middle and split in two. He is drawn to the Wanderer’s surface and discovers that it is a hollow planet inhabited by all manner of intelligent beings. Meanwhile, California is riven by earthquakes, and oceans the world over begin to swell with tidal waves. Many people die. Paul and Margo and their pet cat are about to be engulfed by a tsunami when a “flying saucer” – a miniature version of the Wanderer itself – descends and saves them. Paul and the cat are whisked away. The flower-filled, mirror-lined vessel is piloted by a beautiful feline creater (Paul comes to call her Tigerishka) who has mistaken Maiow for an intelligent being. Realising her mistake, and learning English by telepathic means, she refers to Paul contemptuously as a “monkey”. Nevertheless a kind of friendship grows between the man and the cat-woman, which culminates in an act of physical love. Tigerishka explains where the Wanderer has come from and why: it is a rogue planet on the run from an intergalactic civilisation which has become overcrowded and decadent. She provides a disturbing vision of the cosmos:

“A pond can fill with infusoria almost as quickly as a ditchwater puddle. A continent can fill with rabbits almost as swiftly as a single field. And intelligent life can spread to the ends of the universe – those ends which are everywhere – as swiftly as it grows to maturity on a single planet.

The planets of a trillion suns can fill with spaceship-builders as quickly as those of one. Ten million trillion galaxies can become infected with the itch of thought – that great pandemic! – as readily as one.

Intelligent life spreads faster than the plague. And science grows more uncontrollably than cancer”.

Eventually Paul is united with Don Merriam from the Wanderer, and the two are returned safely to Earth, before the artificial planet flees back into hyperspace just three days after its arrival.

The Wanderer is part disaster novel, part space opera. Leiber enriches the book by cramming in countless references to mythology, religion, the arts – and sf. The characters talk incessantly. Despite its grab-bag plot, this is no slickly-written piece of best-seller fiction, but a richly eccentric, almost encyclopaedic work, a summation of its author’s wide-ranging interests and obsessions. Although it was popular with sf readers at the time of its first publication, The Wanderer has become a neglected novel, hardly ever mentioned in critical studies of science fiction. I believe it is Leibers chef-d’oeuvre, and overdue for revaluation.

Contains the following short stories (listed in alphabetical order)


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A Spectre is Haunting Texas

A Spectre is Haunting Texas was first published in 1969 by Gollancz as a Hardback

“Texas has absorbed the rest of the United States, it’s citizens using hormone treatments to turn themselves into giants. The hero, an actor, who has been reared in space, becomes the unlikely leader of a revolution among the Mexican underclass. Perhaps the best of Fritz Leiber’s SF comedies, a satire which fires exuberantly in all directions.”
The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction – David Pringle read more

The Sinful Ones

First published in 1953 by Universal as a Hardback

First published as You’re All Alone (in Fantastic Adventures Magazine) in 1950. It was released as a longer novel three years later and it included some ‘sex scenes’, suggestive chapter titles and was twinned with Blood, Bulls and Passion (know what I mean nudge,nudge), presumably to promote better sales. All this was inserted by the publishing company (without Leibers knowledge). The magazine version was released in as You’re All Alone in 1972. The longer novel length version (The Sinful Ones) was later re-released with the ‘sex scenes’ completely rewritten by Leiber (after he bought the copyright back from Universal.)

Review at Ligotti

Review at Net Massimo

Review at Silver Links

Review – David Pringle

Like Leiber’s Conjure Wife, The Sinful Ones first appeared in shorter magazine form. In this case, it may be that some readers are more familiar with the story under its original (and much more appropriate) title of “You’re All Alone” (Fantastic Adventures magazine, 1950). After Leiber expanded the novella for its 1953 paperback appearance, his publishers changed the title to The Sinful Ones and inserted a number of “soft-porn” sex scenes – however, in a more recent edition (1980) those scenes have been rewritten to Leiber’s latter-day taste. All this is unfortunate, but does not detract from the fact that The Sinful Ones (or “You’re All Alone”) is one of the most original of modern horror fantasies.

The hero, Carr Mackay, has an unrewarding job in a Chicago employment agency. He also has a go-getting ladyfriend who continually exhorts him to better himself. Despite her blandishments, Carr is reluctant to join what seems to him to be a meaningless rat-race. One day, when he is feeling oddly alienated from his surroundings, a very frightened girl enters his office. She seems to be in flight from a large, menacing blonde woman whom Carr notices in the background. The girl fails to explain her own behaviour, but looks at Carr in fear and puzzlement, saying: “Don’t you really know what you are? Haven’t you found out yet?… Maybe my bursting in here was what did it. Maybe I was the one who awakened you?” After she has scribbled him a note and left, Carr begins to learn what it means to be “awake”. Still beweldered by the girl’s sudden intrusion, he neglects his next client until he hears the man say, “Thanks, I guess I will” and watches him pluck a non-existent cigarette out of the air and go through the motions of apparently lighting and smoking it. The client proceeds to hold a one-sided conversation, answering questions Carr has not uttered. It is as though the man is part of a huge clockwork mechanism, driven to do and say certain predictable things.

Carr soon discovers that almost everyone around him is behaving in this mechanical fashion. They are seemingly oblivious to him, ignoring his remarks, stepping around him, carrying on in a normal routine of existence which now seems risible in its predictability and lifelessness. It is as though Carr has sudenly fallen out of the clockwork machinery of urban life and gained a whole new existential freedom. He can move around the bustling city completely unseen, to all intents and purposes an invisible man. He can go anywhere at will and help himself to anything that he wants. But he will also suffer a terrible loneliness, unless he can make contact with other free spirits who are similarly “awake”. The frightened girl, Jane, is one such, and luckily she has scribbled details of a rendezvous point on the piece of paper which she hurriedly passed to him. But why was she so terrified? And who was the menacing blonde lady? Are there hoodlums among Chicago’s tiny population of “invisible” persons – criminals who will make Carr’s new life (and Jane’s) a misery?

The Sinful Ones is an enjoyable thriller built on a simple but ingenious premise. Written at much the same time as David Riesman’s best-selling sociological book The Lonely Crowd, but many years before the coinage of the phrases “dropping out” and “the counter-culture”, it dramatises a modern sense of urban alienation very effectively. It’s a pity about those unnecessary sex scenes, though.

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The Silver Eggheads

First published in 1962 by Ballantine as a Paperback

A fun book, set in a similar world to stories such as Bread Overhead and most specifically ‘The Last Letter’.  Lots of in jokes for writers and followers of fiction as our hapless hero tries to save the day.  Not a biting satire like A Spectre is Haunting Texas, but enjoyable none the less.

“Automated ‘wordmills’ produce the popular fiction (or ‘wordwooze’) of the future, in this satire on the writing, publishing and consumption of hack literature. The plot is silly, but the humour is good and there are some memorable details.”
The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction – David Pringle

Review at Net Massimo

Contains the following short stories (listed in alphabetical order)


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The Green Millenium

First published in 1953 by Abelard Press as a Hardback

Set in the same, or maybe similar world to Coming Attraction. Began life as Casper Scatterdays Quest.

“It does not break new ground – by Leiber’s standards – however inventive and often astoundingly witty it is. All the rest of us, from Heinlein on down, would rank it among our best, had we written it.”
Poul Anderson in ‘The Wizard of Nehwon’

“Here’s a classy reprint of Fritz Leiber’s madcap 1953 farce about a most unusual sort of alien invasion. Phil Gish is the archetypal nebbish until the day Lucky the green cat wanders into his life. To get him back, he tangles with an assortment of thugs, religious fanatics, scientists, mobsters, mysterious satyr-people, and the Federal Bureau of Loyalty. Many details of the 2003 Leiber projected in 1953 ring eerily true in 1992. Recommended”.
Raymonds Reviews #183 Date: 27 Mar 92 02:14:22 GMT

“An over populated near-future earth is quietly invaded by benign aliens who resemble green pussycats. A complex and amusing tale with deft touches of satire.”
The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction – David Pringle

Notable Editions: Gregg Press HB with introduction by Deborah L. Notkin. Severn House HB. Ultramarine HB.

Contains the following short stories (listed in alphabetical order)

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Gather Darkness

First published in 1950 by Pelligrini & Cudahy as a Hardback

Gather Darkness recounts of the fall of a theocracy and is an excellent read and it still has a ‘Weird Tales’ feel to it. Originally serialised in Astounding, it has undergone numerous reprints, including the attractive Easton Press edition.  An audio book is now available.

Gather Darkness reviews & articles

Gather Darkness reviewed at Realm of Ryan Review

SF Pot Pourri review of Gather Darkness

Review from SF Site
Science fiction has frequently made use of the idea of religion as a form of crowd and societal control. Asimov used it, to the benefit of civilization, in the early sections of the “Foundation” series. In Gather, Darkness!, Fritz Leiber examines the other side of the coin. Megatheopolis forms the arena for Leiber’s tale as well as serving as the center of the world-wide religion worshipping the “Great God.” Created after a civilization-destroying war which is described by the renegade-priest Jarles in the early chapters of the novel, this religion is used by scientists in an attempt to help civilization rise from the ashes. Unlike Asimov’s Foundation, the priests of Megatheopolis (who all know the background of their religion) have become corrupt and tyrannical. read more

Destiny Times Three

First published in 1957 by Galaxy as a Paperback Destiny Times Three reviews & articles

Destiny Times Three is a short novel, originally serialized in 1945. The same people lead different lives in three branching timelines, brought into existence by a ‘Probability Engine’. One world, which has a dictatorial regime attempts to invade another. An enjoyable yarn with overtones of supernatural fantasy and a whiff of allegory; but it’s a pity Leiber didn’t choose to extend it and polish it for the 1957 book publication.
The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction – David Pringle read more

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