Fritz Leiber (1910 – 1992)

Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr.

(December 24, 1910 - September 5, 1992) was an influential American writer of fantasy and science fiction.

To describe him as popular, amongst both fans and his fellow writers, might be an understatement: his science fiction novels Ship of Shadows" (1970) all won Hugo awards; "Bones" also won a Nebula award.

As the child of two Shakespearean actors - Fritz Sr. (see below) and Virginia (n�e Bronson) - he showed a great fascination with the stage, from short stories featuring travelling Shakespearean companies such as "A Specter is Haunting Texas. An interesting feature of The Big Time is that though it is about a war between two factions changing and rechanging history throughout the Universe, all the action takes place in a small bubble of isolated space-time, about the size of a theatrical stage, with only a handful of characters.

Much of Leiber's best works are short stories, especially horror. In such stories as "The Button Moulder."

Among his most famous works are the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, written over a span of 50 years. The first of these, "Two Sought Adventure", appeared in Unknown in 1939. They are concerned with an unlikely pair of heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, who are found in and around the fascinating city of Lankhmar, a fertile hunting ground. (Fafhrd was based on Leiber himself and the Mouser on his friend Harry Fischer.) Although in many ways the stories now appear somewhat clich�d, these stories were, in fact, the progenitors of many of the tropes of the sword and sorcery genre. It has been noted that Terry Pratchett's city of Ankh-Morpork bears more than a passing resemblance to Lankhmar.

Leiber married Jonquil Stephens on January 16, 1936, and their son Justin Fritz Leiber was born in 1938. Jonquil's death in 1969 precipitated a three year bout of alcoholism, but he then returned to his original form with a fantasy novel set in modern-day San Francisco, Catch that Zeppelin!" (1975) added yet another Nebula and Hugo award to his collection.

Leiber was heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Graves in the first two decades of his career. From the late Fifties onwards, he was increasingly influenced by the works of Carl Gustav Jung, particularly by the concepts of the Anima and the Shadow. Often, these concepts are mentioned openly in his stories, especially the Anima, which becomes a method of exploring his fascination but estrangement from the female.

In the last years of his life, Leiber married his second wife, Margo Skinner, a journalist and poet with whom he had been friends for many years.

Fans awarded him the Gandalf (Grand Master) award at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1975, and in 1981 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America voted him the recipient of their Grand Master award.

He wrote a short autobiography, which can be found in the collection The Ghost Light (1984).

He also acted in a few films, once with his father in RKO's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).

Books by Fritz Leiber