Il meglio di Fritz Leiber
Leiber is basically a Fifties’ author: his style shows it clearly, however more refined he is in comparison with his fellows. He is not widely loved, in Italy, or elsewhere; in my opinion, there is a basic misunderstanding: he was really a fantasy an
Leiber is basically a Fifties’ author: his style shows it clearly, however more refined he is in comparison with his fellows. He is not widely loved, in Italy, or elsewhere; in my opinion, there is a basic misunderstanding: he was really a fantasy and horror writer, rather than a sci-fi author (no matter how brilliant Big Time is). His long-lasting work will be the saga of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser: the most pleasant to read today.
Anyway, I wanted to know his sci-fi side first, and here are my impressions..
Gonna roll the bones. Even heavy in its stylishness, as it is often the case with Leiber. Great story, but not at all specifically sci-fi: some futuristic comparison is scattered here and there, with no real tie to the dreamy plot.
Sanity. Social sci-fi with a twist.
Wanted: an enemy.
The ship sails at midnight. Such a story, romantic and alien at a time, would deserve a cover by Frank Paul, as in the old Amazing or Astounding magazines! And fun is made at would-be artists.
The enchanted forest. Obsessive, nightmarish, brilliant sci-fi.
Coming attraction. One of the most famous Leiber’s stories; a dark, painful foreseeing of a sexuophobic America, born of the conservative mores of the Fifties, and definitely far from our present sensibility.
The man who never grew young. A haunting fantasy tale.
Poor superman. Bitter social sci-fi, somehow in the line of some humouristic stories by Asimov.
A pail of air. The jewel in this collection, uniting catastrophic hard sci-fi, horror and a touch of romance, as the best Leiber is wont to do.
The foxholes of Mars. Like Gonna roll the bones, could have been set in any place, any time; Leiber himself declares he was forced to give it a Martian setting. Anyway, poignant anti-militaristic story about how war makes man unhuman.
The big holiday. More than a story, a Bruegel-like depiction of the ultimate carnival in a dreamed small-town America: Bradbury would have appreciated.. No TV, no commercials, no greed..
The big trek. Another dream vision of a dark future, with Dr Seuss-like bizarre creatures in a colourful, detailed landscape.
Space-time for springers. Great cat story.
The night he cried. Parody of hard-boiled, misogynist detective stories. Interest limited to its times.
A desktop full of girls. Brilliant parody of detective stories and psychoanalytical fad as well, with increasing thrills and a touch of horror. What a rich style.
Rump-titti-toh-tah-tee. Clever use of mass-conditioning techniques, in an enjoyable, humorous bohemian setting, as in Ship sails at midnight.
Little old miss Macbeth. More description of a “tableau vivant” than a story, incredibly rich in weird, haunting and meaningful details which will express their full meaning only in the last sentence. It reminded me of Poe’s poem “Conquering worm”.
Mariana. Overpowering husband finds himself phased out by shy, helpless wife. But she will not stop there..
The man who made friends with electricity. Between fantasy and horror: a Communist-hating American patriot learns to listen to voices from the wires; when he discovers that electricity flows freely to the USSR as well, their relationship turns sour.. First instances to my knowledge of expressions “freedom-fighters” and “true blue” (which doesn’t have a political meaning: strangely, the Republican colours ids red, blue is democrat!).
The good new world. Though downplayed by the author himself, this humouristic, farcical story is full of inventions, in the domain of sociological sf: a follower of “The merchants of space”.. a society where everybody has to cumulate as many jobs as he can is as near as ever!
America the beautiful. Though the author is proud of this story, and it is much more smoothly and elegantly written than the previoius one, one really cannot feel involved with the anguish which is given for granted. There are too many sous-entendus from the times of peace marches , we cannot catch any more.