- LEIBER, Fritz (Reuter Jr)
- (1910-1992)US writer, father of Justin LEIBER. FL majored in psychology and physiology at the University of Chicago, then spent a year at a theological seminary. His subsequent career included periods as an editor (chiefly with Science Digest) and as a drama teacher. He became interestedin writing through voluminous correspondence with a college friend, Harry Fischer; it was Fischer who in 1934 suggested the characters of Fafhrd andthe Gray Mouser, whose HEROIC-FANTASY adventures were central to FL's career. Both men worked intermittently on embellishments to the saga, as described in detail by FL in his essay "Fafhrd and Me" (included in The Second Book of Fritz Leiber coll 1975) and further discussed in Fafhrd \&Me (coll 1991 chap); Fischer was important to FL as both a friend and an inspiration, and was the model for the Gray Mouser, FL viewing himself as Fafhrd. In 1939 "Two Sought Adventure", the first published story of thesequence and FL's first story, appeared in Unknown; he was still adding to the series half a century later. It comprises Swords and Deviltry (coll 1970), Two Sought Adventure (coll 1957; exp and rev vt Swords AgainstDeath 1970) and Swords in the Mist (coll 1968) - all assembled as The Three Swords (omni 1989) - plus Swords Against Wizardry (coll 1968), The Swords of Lankhmar (1961 Fantastic as "Scylla's Daughter"; exp 1968) and Swords and Ice Magic (coll 1977; with 6 of the 8 stories cut vt Rime Isle 1977) - all assembled as Swords' Masters (omni 1990) - plus The Knight and Knave of Swords (coll 1988). From fairly prosaic beginnings the series developed into a complex and enjoyable cycle owing little to the standard cliches of its subgenre (for which FL is credited with coining the widely used description SWORD AND SORCERY). The mood varies from sombre introspection to broad comedy, and there is a very wide range of invention. On its original publication, the long story Ill Met in Lankhmar (1970 in Swords and Deviltry; 1990 dos) won both HUGO and NEBULA awards.The Swords of Lankhmar, which adds a strong element of sophisticated fetishistic sex to its other virtues - as does the book-length title story in The Knight and Knave of Swords-has strong claims to be considered the best modern HEROIC-FANTASY novel, as well as FL's own best novel.FL was noted also for his fantasies in modern settings, and was almost certainly the most influential model for the sudden creation in the 1980s of the subgenre of Contemporary (or Urban) Fantasy. FL's examples include: "Smoke Ghost" (1941); Conjure Wife (1943 Unknown; assembled in Witches Three,omni 1952, ed Fletcher PRATT; as a solo book 1953), a novel of 20th-century witchcraft which has twice been filmed - as Weird Woman(1944) and Burn, Witch, Burn (1961; vt Night of the Eagle) - as well as being adapted for tv; "The Man who Made Friends with Electricity" (1962); and Our Lady of Darkness (1977), a subtle and touching Gothic with strong autobiographical elements. Other fantasy tales include "Gonna Roll the Bones" (1967), published in DANGEROUS VISIONS, which won a Hugo and aNebula and later appeared, with other tales of interest, in The Ghost Light (coll 1984); in it a compulsive gambler finds himself playing dice with the Devil, the stake being his soul. "Belsen Express" (1975) won both the Lovecraft Award and the August Derleth Award. FL's further awards for fantasy included the 1975 Grand Master of Fantasy (Gandalf) Award and the 1976 Life Achievement Lovecraft Award; the 1981 Grand Master Nebula Awardwas presented for his work as a whole. He won altogether 6 Hugos (2 for novels), 4 Nebulas and about 20 other awards.FL's first important work of sf was GATHER, DARKNESS! (1943 ASF; 1950), in which a religious dictatorship (RELIGION) is overthrown by rebels who disguise their superscience (colourfully, if by far-fetched logic) as witchcraft. Destiny Times Three (1945 ASF; 1957) is a neglected ALTERNATE-WORLDS variant. Inthe early 1950s he became a regular contributor to GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION, for which he wrote a number of notable stories, chiefly social SATIRE. Paramount among these is "Coming Attraction" (1950), depicting anunpleasantly decadent future USA. The Green Millennium (1953) shows some similar thematic concerns, particularly regarding sexual mores. He then fell silent for four years, through alcoholism (about which he was candid).His return to sf in 1958 was vigorous, his first stories introducing the Change War series, built around a TIME-PARADOX war being fought through time and space and ALTERNATE WORLDS by two factions, the "Spiders" and the "Snakes". The sequence comprises THE BIG TIME (1958 Gal;1961 dos) along with most of The Mind Spider and Other Stories (coll 1961 dos; rev 1976), this material being variously reassembled as The Change War (coll of linked stories 1978; cut vt Changewar 1983). THE BIG TIME,which takes place entirely in one room (an R \& R location called the Place, sited beyond normal realities) is suggestive of a play in proseform, and thus reflects FL's background in theatre; both his parents were Shakespearean actors and his father appeared in many films, and FL himselfacted on both stage and screen, including a small part in the Greta Garbo film Camille (1936). THE BIG TIME won a Hugo as Best Novel, as did his most ambitious sf work, THE WANDERER (1964), a long DISASTER novel telling of the havoc caused by the arrival of a strange planet in the Solar System. Its mosaic narrative technique, through which events are observedthrough a multiplicity of viewpoints, foreshadowed the profusion of such novels and films in the 1970s. FL won a further Hugo for "Ship of Shadows" (1969), a novella first published in a special FL issue of FSF, andcompleted the double of Hugo and Nebula awards for the third time with "Catch that Zeppelin!" (1975), a vivid if inconclusive PARALLEL-WORLDSstory. Selections of his best short fiction include THE BEST OF FRITZ LEIBER (coll 1974 UK), The Worlds of Fritz Leiber (coll 1976), The GhostLight (noted above) and The Leiber Chronicles: Fifty Years of Fritz Leiber (coll 1990) ed Martin H. GREENBERG.Despite his many awards FL never quite established an identity as an sf writer in the way he had for his fantasy; for this reason his work has sometimes been undervalued. His work reflected his various enthusiasms - cats, chess and the theatre are all recurrent motifs - and beliefs, notably a distaste for sexual repression and hypocrisy; but the variety of his approaches was considerable. His prose is ebullient; its idiosyncrasies occasionally appear mannered, but its baroque and colourful qualities are usually prevented from becoming slapdash by the precision with which he used words, and by the appositeness of his imagery, at least in his fantasies. FL was never quite as comfortable in sf, where a straining for effect is more often noticeable. Many of his sf works, he revealed, were fantasies rewritten when the fantasy market began to contract. By refusing to create an easily recognizable template for his sf and then adhering to it, he may have sacrificed some popularity; in compensation, he was the only sf and fantasy writer of his generation to be still developing and producing his best work in the late 1970s.MJE/JCOther works: Night's Black Agents (coll 1947; cut vt Tales from Night's Black Agents 1961; original text with 2 stories added, exp 1978); The Sinful Ones (1950 Fantastic Adventures as "You're All Alone"; exp by other hands as title story of theUniversal Giant Edition \#5 anth 1953; cut vt as title story of You're All Alone coll 1972; text restored 1980); The Silver Eggheads (1958 FSF; exp 1962), an example of RECURSIVE SF; Shadows with Eyes (coll 1962); Ships to the Stars (coll 1964 dos); A Pail of Air (coll 1964); Tarzan and the Valley of Gold * (1966), one of only 2 Tarzan spin-offs ever authorized bythe Edgar Rice BURROUGHS estate (the other being by Joan D. VINGE); The Night of the Wolf (coll 1966); The Secret Songs (coll 1968 UK); NightMonsters (coll 1969 chap dos; exp 1974 UK); A Specter is Haunting Texas (1969), discussed more fully under SPACE HABITATS; The Demons of the Upper Air (coll 1969 chap), poetry; The Book of Fritz Leiber (coll 1974); Heroes and Horrors (coll 1978); Sonnets to Jonquil and All (coll 1978 chap), poetry; Bazaar of the Bizarre (coll 1978); Ship of Shadows (coll 1979 UK), not to be confused with Ship of Shadows (1969 FSF; 1989 chap dos), which reprints only the title story; Ervool (1980 chap); The World Fantasy Awards 2 (anth 1980) with Stuart David Schiff; Riches \& Power (1982 chap);The Mystery of the Japanese Clock (1982 chap), nonfiction; In the Beginning (1983 chap); Quicks around the Zodiac: A Farce (1983 chap); Conjure Wife/Our Lady of Darkness (omni 1991); 2 Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser GRAPHIC-NOVEL versions by Howard V. CHAYKIN, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Book 1 (graph 1991) and Book 2 (graph coll 1991); Kreativity for Kats and Other Feline Fantasies (coll 1992).About the author: The special FL edition of FSF, July 1969; "The Profession of Science Fiction: XII: Mysterious Islands" by FL in FOUNDATION 11/12 (1977); Fritz Leiber (1980 chap) by Jeff Frane; Fritz Leiber (1983) by Tom Staicar; Fritz Leiber, Sardonic Swordsman: A Working Bibliography (last rev 1990) by GordonBENSON Jr and Phil STEPHENSEN-PAYNE; Witches of the Mind: A Critical Study of Fritz Leiber (1991) by Bruce Byfield.See also: ANTHOLOGIES; ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN SF; ARKHAM HOUSE; ARTS; ASTOUNDING SCIENCE-FICTION; CITIES; CRIME AND PUNISHMENT; DYSTOPIAS; END OF THE WORLD; FANTASY; FAR FUTURE; GAMES AND SPORTS; GENERATION STARSHIPS; GENETIC ENGINEERING; GRAVITY; HITLER WINS; HOLOCAUST AND AFTER; INVISIBILITY; LONGEVITY (INWRITERS AND PUBLICATIONS); H.P. LOVECRAF T; The MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION ; MAGIC; MEDIA LANDSCAPE; MUTANTS; ROBOTS; SUPERNATURAL CREATURES; TRANSPORTATION; UFOS; WAR.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.