Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Fritz Leiber – “The Moon is Green,” “A Bad Day for Sales,” “The Inner Circles” (aka “The Winter Flies”), “The Death of Princes,” “A Rite of Spring,” “The Button Molder,” Gummitch & Friends, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser (graphic)

Posted by Mike on November 26, 2007

I rediscovered my library system about a month ago or so. When I used to use the system they had a link to three other library systems, now they seem to cover almost the entire range of California and Nevada libraries meaning, there’s very little I can’t find anymore. My greatest joy is getting access to the set of Jack Vance Integral Edition books, which was a subscription series I couldn’t afford when it was available.

So I’m well behind on writing about what I’ve read lately, considering I’ve read more in the last month than I had in the previous six months. Much of my reading has concentrated on eking out rarer material by a few favorites and in particular the work of Fritz Leiber, whose bibliography is fairly complicated, especially when it comes to short work, with stories spread far and wide. When I made up my mind to track down everything I could find by Leiber (on the heels of reading “Ship of Shadows”), I came across the Darkside Press/Midnight House limited editions. I managed to get the third and fourth and a reprint of the first, but the second (Smoke Ghost & Other Apparitions) is still very rare and am hoping it also gets a reprint (despite how amateurish the POD Black Gondolier reprint is). Other DP/MH lim eds seem to be stuck in limbo at the moment, but I hope One Station on the Way and others are to follow. Needless to say, none of these volumes show up at any of the library systems, which is a shame, even if most of what wasn’t originally reprinted is fairly minor.

Quite a few of the stories listed are from an out of print collection called “The Leiber Chronicles” out of which I read everything I didn’t already own, most of which were minor stories. “The Moon is Green” is set on a future, post apocalyptic Earth where everyone lives in hermetically sealed buildings. The wife of a couple is considered a dreamer, wanting badly to see and set foot outside, but the husband, the pragmatist, tries to hold her back. All it takes is a moment when he’s not looking and she comes face to face with the humanity who was exposed to catastrophe. “A Bad Day for Sales,” also continuing the post-WWII look at nuclear war, features a programmed sales robot trying to cope with a new future. A few of the others I didn’t make notes on (at least not here) and are generally minor Leiber, although I found myself a little disappointed with “The Button Molder” which is considered one of his classics. The same thing happened with “Smoke Ghost” which may just mean they didn’t freak me out.

Gummitch & Friends is Leiber’s collection of cat stories and poems, the first five stories in the book are about his cat Gummitch and others. The first two, earliest stories (“Space-Time for Springers” and “Kreativity for Kats”) seem to be fictional renditions of stories of Gummitch, where the latter three (“Cat’s Cradle,” “The Cat Hotel” and “Thrice the Brinded Cat”) move the stories well into fictional realms. For instance, Cat’s Cradle gives one an interesting, science fictional idea as to what might happens when cats congregate, while the latter two speak of Gummitch and his owner’s encounter and aftermath with witches who run a cat hotel. None of the five are anything more than amusing stories by someone fond of his felines, but with Leiber’s talent they can be quite amusing, especially when the younger cat, Psycho, is involved.

The rest of the book has other cat stories by Leiber, including a trio from the early 70s (“The Bump,” “The Lotus Eaters” and “Cat Three”) that are very minor. The best story reprinted here, unsurprisingly, is “Ship of Shadows,” which finishes off the stories and leads one to a few poems, mostly written by Leiber’s wife and friends (including one by Poul Anderson).

The last title is a comic rendition of Leiber’s most famous duo and the stories that made me a fan, Fafhrd & Gray Mouser. I thought they (Howard Chaykin and Mike Mignola) did a great job picking out the stories to make graphic, including favorites “Bazaar of the Bizarre” and “Lean Times in Lankhmar.” While the duo look in my mind’s eye more like they did in that old Deities & Demigods manual (initial influences die hard) than they do here, it’s really the stories that win you over as two friends come up against some of the most imaginative and unusual threats you’ll ever find in fantasy.

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