Fritz Leiber centenary
December 24, 2010 4:36 AM   Subscribe

Fritz Leiber Jr. was born 100 years ago today. An actor (and son of an actor) and writer, he is best known for his characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (old school website). Project Gutenberg has some stories. Previously on Metafilter.

Appearing in the film Camille.

New York Times obituary from September 1992.
posted by maurice (19 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Man did I ever love me some Fafhrd and Gray Mouser as a teen. Happy birthday Fritz!
posted by Scoo at 5:36 AM on December 24, 2010

He also wrote some very good science fiction, such as the novel The Wanderer, and the short story A Pail of Air.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:05 AM on December 24, 2010

I was a big fan of his works. The Lankhmar books, Big Time, You're All Alone, Conjure Wife, Gonna Roll the Bones are all great. Or at least were when I was 17, haven't read them in the thirty years since.

Anyone read the final book, Farewell to Lankhmar?
posted by octothorpe at 6:22 AM on December 24, 2010

Gather, Darkness is my personal favorite Leiber book.
posted by sciurus at 6:31 AM on December 24, 2010

I picked up two compilations of these stories at a used book sale for buck a piece. They're extremely uneven, some pretty bad, some really good. Plowed through them all really quickly and enjoyed them overall. Definitely a huge influence on older D&D.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:37 AM on December 24, 2010

Definitely a huge influence on older D&D.

Indeed: if the most direct parents of what came to be the generic D&D genre are Tolkien and Vance, Leiber is at least a godfather. In fact, Leiber wrote a few articles for Dragon magazine back in the old days, and TSR published a Lankhmar game that he and the co-creator of Lankhmar, Harry Fischer, had designed.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:50 AM on December 24, 2010

Happy birthday, you elegant old rogue.

I want to say this again: rereading the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books and stories as an adult is a revelatory experience. Leiber's prose is unbelievably excellent, the stories themselves are layered with meaning, most of which was not accessible to us at thirteen.
posted by mwhybark at 8:18 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

octothorpe: "Anyone read the final book, Farewell to Lankhmar?

Yes. The last time I read through all the material I did it serially and without interruption. The stories can be read as a cracked autobiography, and the last book is clearly a mediation on death.
posted by mwhybark at 8:20 AM on December 24, 2010

Also: Space-Time for Springers.
Gummitch was a superkitten, as he knew very well, with an I.Q. of about 160. Of course, he didn't talk. But everybody knows that I.Q. tests based on language ability are very one-sided. Besides, he would talk as soon as they started setting a place for him at table and pouring him coffee. Ashurbanipal and Cleopatra ate horsemeat from pans on the floor, and they didn't talk. Baby dined in his crib on milk from a bottle, and he didn't talk. Sissy sat at table but they didn't pour her coffee and she didn't talk—not one word. Father and Mother (whom Gummitch had nicknamed Old Horsemeat and Kitty-Come-Here) sat at table and poured each other coffee and they did talk. Q.E.D.
posted by maudlin at 8:21 AM on December 24, 2010

Champion fencer as well. That is something he had in common with Neil Diamond.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:53 AM on December 24, 2010

Greatest SF prose stylist of his generation. Reading him was a waking fever dream complete with chills, but with euphoria replacing malaise.

I believe his novel The Green Millenium will be looked back upon as the most truly prophetic work of science fiction to this point in history at least for its incredible, unconscious, and deeply mystifying anticipation of the whole cats, toxoplasmosis thing, and for the inevitable future realizations about and developments of cat's truly uncanny ability to manipulate the mentation of other species, most especially ours.
posted by jamjam at 9:29 AM on December 24, 2010

A Bad Day for Sales and X Marks the Pedwalk both appeared in the first anthology of SF that I ever owned, and the day I got my driver's license (in my late 20s), I thought, now I'm no longer one of the Feet...

I honestly have never gotten around to his other work, and now I'm thinking I should.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:31 AM on December 24, 2010

I've been meaning to pick up some of his stuff. Thanks for reminding me, and happy 100th, Fritz.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:11 AM on December 24, 2010

One of the great ones. I knew and loved his work mainly as a short story author, since he was one of those authors that popped up frequently in anthologies. Didn't Leiber write nonfiction as well? I remember reading something by him about the technology of ancient civilizations...
posted by Kevin Street at 11:59 AM on December 24, 2010

Kevin Street: " Didn't Leiber write nonfiction as well? I remember reading something by him about the technology of ancient civilizations."

I wonder if you're thinking of L. Sprague de Camp who wrote The Ancient Engineers.
posted by maurice at 1:50 PM on December 24, 2010

Oh, no, The Wanderer's terrible. One of the running themes of the Fafhrd and Mouser stories is a super-eclectic attitude towards sexual compatibility as a stand-in for racial tolerance, that is, Fafhrd likes 'em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican, invisible, invisible-except-for-the-skeleton, underwater, or were-rat. It works ok in those stories. Well, The Wanderer starts out as well-done apocalyptic sci-fi, with the giant alien planet screwing up the Earth real good, etc.

Then the hero gets it on with the sexy kitty alien.

Also, Leiber claimed The Worm Ouroboros as inspiration for the Fafhrd stories. Never read that book. It is written in some of the worst faux-Shakespeare I have ever seen.
posted by furiousthought at 3:05 PM on December 24, 2010

Lieber's one of my favorites, although I think that Lieber's fantasy prose is what the Eye of Argon guy was aiming for. And so the cycle of appalling psuedo-Shakespeare is complete.

I remember reading an article he wrote for Dragon Magazine where he talked about the Lankhmar board game he and Harry Fisher came up with in the Thirties. I figure he was this close to inventing the role playing game thirty years early. Which would be a fun alternate world story, for SF/gamer geeks like me at least.
posted by gamera at 3:57 PM on December 24, 2010

Thanks, maurice. That was the book. Different author entirely.

I tried reading Swords And Deviltry a long time ago, but could never get into it. Imo, the short stories are Leiber's best work.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:12 PM on December 24, 2010

There was a recent Best of Fritz Leiber. Besides the well-known Leiber, I'm greatly fond of "Our Saucer Vacation", which simultaneously parodies Heinlein juveniles and UFOlogists.

Alternate Skiffy includes a story in which Leiber continued his acting career and became the Captain on Star Trek.
posted by Zed at 8:32 AM on December 25, 2010

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