Fritz Leiber Jr, who was born just before Christmas in the winter of 1910 and died nearly 82 years later in the fall of 1992, was simply one of the finest science fiction and fantasy writers to ever have lived. His body of work is vast and impressive. He effectively birthed the urban fantasy with his story “Smoke Ghost” and wrote one of its enduring works in Our Lady of Darkness. He created major works of science fiction like his Change War sequence of stories and novella “The Big Time”. However his greatest creation – the one that will most likely never go out of print – was the sequence of stories set in Lankhmar and featuring that unlikely pair of heroes, the giant Fafhrd and his diminutive friend the Grey Mouser. The seven volumes of their adventures are one of the towering achievements of fantasy, and one of the touchstone works of swords and sorcery (a term Leiber coined).
While Leiber is widely acknowledged within the science fiction and fantasy field, a large amount of his work is out of print or difficult to find, despite the best efforts of a number of publishers. This came up over drinks one afternoon in the late summer of 2008, when Locus publisher Charles Brown, Night Shade Press proprietor Jeremy Lassen and I were partaking of drinks and enjoying the sunshine on the Locus Back Deck. We shared our enthusiasms for Leiber’s great works, Charles reminisced about Leiber and his visits to Locus HQ, and we hatched between us the notion that Night Shade should publish a short-ish collection of Mr Leiber’s best stories.
There was much enthusiasm for the idea, which carried through that summery weekend into dinner with Leiber’s agent, Richard Curtis. Before we knew it – almost literally before we realised it – it was agreed. Charles and I would select 125,000 words of Leiber’s best stories. We’d find a suitable introducer for the volume and it would be published by Night Shade in 2010, with the intention that making those stories available in a classy, stylish, but affordable volume might increase the profile of his work and hopefully introduce it to a wider audience.
And, over the past few months Charles and I have worked to make that a reality. An introducer has been arranged and the writer of a posssible afterword discussed. We’ve also carefully been working up a shortlist of stories that could go into our volume (tentatively titled ‘The Best of Fritz Leiber‘). As you can imagine we’re eager to make sure the book is the best possible introduction to Leiber, containing his best and his most famous stories, the kind of book you could hand to someone who had no exposure to his work that would explain to them exactly what he was on about, that would be the best possible chance of hooking them so they might go looking for more.
As we discussed our list the idea arose that we might open a discussion here on the Locus blog with interested readers, giving the broader Locus community a chance to suggest stories, to argue recommendations, and to generally voice an opinion on what might or might not work. Charles and I are both extremely opinionated, and are more than capable of making such decisions, but it seemed to us both that the discussion was one that was worth having.
So, we’re posting the longer version of our short list for the book here. This comprises more than the number of stories we can include in the book, so is not the official table of contents. It’s merely the list from which we’ll most likely compile the ToC (unless we’re persuaded otherwise). We invite you to look the list over, give it some thought, and then jump onto the comments and let us know what you think. Is the core of a great book here? Have we missed an obvious selection? Have we got it horribly wrong, or just exactly right? Let us know what you think.
- A Deskful of Girls (1958)
- A Pail of Air (1951)
- Adept’s Gambit (1947)
- America the Beautiful (1970)
- Bazaar of the Bizarre (1963)
- Belsen Express (1975)
- Catch That Zeppelin! (1975)
- Coming Attraction (1950)
- Four Ghosts in Hamlet (1965)
- Gonna Roll the Bones (1967)
- Ill Met in Lankhmar (1970)
- Midnight by the Morphy Watch (1974)
- Poor Superman (1951)
- Rump-Titty-Titty-Tum-Tah-Tee (1958)
- Sea Magic (1977)
- Smoke Ghost (1941)
- Space Time for Springers (1958)
- The Button Molder (1979)
- The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars (1983)
- The Girl with the Hungry Eyes (1949)
- The Man Who Made Friends With Electricity (1962)
- The Man Who Never Grew Young (1949)
- The Night he Cried (1953)
- The Winter Flies (1967)
- Two Sought Adventure (1939)
Note: These stories are listed in alphabetical order by title, and not in proposed running order.