Mike’s Prattle


Fritz Leiber – “Appointment in Tomorrow” (aka Poor Superman); “A Pail of Air”; “When the Last Gods Die;” “Dr. Kometevsky’s Day;” “The Foxholes of Mars;” “Yesterday House;” “I’m Looking for “Jeff”;” “The Big Holiday;” “X Marks the Pedwalk;” “Time in the Round;” Borderlands

Posted by Mike on November 26, 2009

This line of Fritz Leiber stories takes me from roughly July 1951 to somewhere in 1953 (as well as one a decade later). A few of the stories in this order are not here as I read them earlier, either as part of library check outs or the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series.

“Appointment in Tomorrow” or “Poor Superman” by the time it made The Best of Fritz Leiber is one of those 1950s stories obsessed with the McCarthy era and the whole impending nuclear war that always strikes me as dated in the modern age where the USSR was dismantled and the epithet “socialist” apparently meaning “liberal” in the modern age, which I guess shows to some extent that McCarthyism maybe never went fully away. One of Leiber’s obvious interests is the whole war between science and magic, a theme visited in his Gather, Darkness! novel originally written in 1943. Here it’s all mashed up as a future US is dominated by an organization with a supercomputer. However much is not as it seems as the story unfolds the secret story of the country being controlled by a group of people not interested in science and the scientists who have finally had enough and attempt to confront them. I honestly found it tough to keep interest in the story as it definitely verged on the preachy side.

“A Pail of Air” I liked a lot better, the Earth pulled out of its orbit by a “dark star” ends up killing most of its inhabitants due to the freezing of its atmosphere, except for a small family living in a somewhat preprepared building who periodically dons space suits to bring back frozen oxygen in pails. Of course the young boy whose perspective we see from sees an unusual light on one of his trips implying he’s not alone…

“When the Last Gods Die” is one of those Leiber short shorts that reminds me something of Lord Dunsany’s work, sort of vast epic and poetic but ultimately not terribly filled out. “Dr Kometevsky’s Day” wasn’t great, a futuristic short where the eponymous Dr’s prophecies about planets disappearing appears to be coming true when the moons around Mars disappear and a group of people, all married, notice it. I found that the group marriage concept was probably better explored in a previous story “Nice Girl with 5 Husbands.” “The Foxholes of Mars” was also very short and more like Last Gods, having to do with a future war and its effects. “Yesterday House” I’ve totally forgotten without a reminder, but I remember liking it quite a bit (will have to come back and fresh).

“I’m Looking for “Jeff”” is a creepy ghost story about a woman’s ghost who only certain people in a tavern see who seems to cause trouble with those who do. Her goal like many a spectre is to unleash revenge on the man who killed her, the eponymous Jeff, via the seduction of another bar patron. This one might have fit right into Night’s Black Agents had it not been written so late. And finally “The Big Holiday,” a surprisingly upbeat short short about the inhabitants of an off world town and what they do periodically to celebrate. This takes me up to right before The Green Millenium novel, which will give me a chance to pause a while with Leiber.

Two more, from library books, first the short short “X Marks the Pedwalk,” about the war between pedestrians and drivers and the rules of road rage and what happens when it’s taken a step too far and the attempts to change the rules. It just ain’t like it used to be… Second, “Time in the Round” from Galaxy May 57 (and the Third Galaxy Reader), another future vision where entertainment comes in the form of viewing past time events and a trio of kids who decide to view it, one too young and bloodthirsty who manages to circumvent the strictures keeping him out and the resulting chaos.

So I’ve got to mention the video game Borderlands, which was something of an addiction for a couple of weeks, a loot heavy first person shooter/role playing game hybrid on a planet that’s something like a futuristic wild west. Many of the NPC characters had almost redneck-like accents that were hilarious, particularly the car boss Scooter, who was virtually classic and amazingly I never got tired of. It’s a simple story, you’re trying to find the pieces of a key to open an alien vault that supposedly has secret weaponary or some such thing. Honestly the whole finale really wasn’t much to my taste, but I think maybe I hadn’t upgraded my weaponary enough to make the penultimate stage of the game all that fun (I honestly took off running when I was close enough to the vault). Then I though the boss was too difficult at first, but fortunately there was a teleport I could use to go reload and come back. When I did I figured out that all I needed to do was use a certain area of the map for cover and the boss was pulverized no problem. I also found the car battles a lot more difficult than the straight shooting ones. But for the most part it was just extreme fun throughout the game, one of those “alright just one more mission” games that keep you up late. At the time I’d even put Lost Planet on hold to play it and then after this reading got the best of me, after I got lukewarm with Dragon Age: Origins. But I assume I’ll return to that one when the latest reading frenzy ebbs.


One Response to “Fritz Leiber – “Appointment in Tomorrow” (aka Poor Superman); “A Pail of Air”; “When the Last Gods Die;” “Dr. Kometevsky’s Day;” “The Foxholes of Mars;” “Yesterday House;” “I’m Looking for “Jeff”;” “The Big Holiday;” “X Marks the Pedwalk;” “Time in the Round;” Borderlands”

  1. Vince Treacy said

    I think that the characters in Appointment in Tomorrow were based on Astounding editor John W. Campbell and his star writer, L. Run Hubbard, who founded Scientology and its published its first scripture in Astounding in 1950.

    So the story only makes sense if you keep this particular satirical target in mind.

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