In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. A Short Fiction/Short Story category was added the next year, with the first one being won in 1973 by L. Sprague de Camp for his novella The Fallible Fiend. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. The category has remained part of the awards to the present day, although a re-alignment in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, Fritz Leiber won the award for his story “The Button Molder,” which was presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.
Leiber opens the story by teasing about how much can happen within a ten second period of time and the appearance of a ghost. His character then goes on a lengthy discussion about his living situation in San Francisco as he finds a new apartment and sets himself up as an author and amateur astronomer, working from his building’s roof. With long ruminations on what it means to be an author and techniques of story-telling, the story feels very autobiographical in nature and it is only the occasional hints back to those important ten seconds that remind the reader this is a story and not an essay about Leiber’s life.
Fritz Leiber was born on December 24, 1910 and died on September 5, 1992.
Fritz Leiber won six Hugo Awards for his novels The Big Time and The Wanderer as well as the novelette “Gonna Roll the Bones,” the novellas “Ship of Shadows” and “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and the short story “Catch That Zeppelin.” “Gonna Roll the Bones,” “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” and “Catch That Zeppelin” also received the Nebula Award. He won the World Fantasy Award for the short story “Belsen Express” and the novel Our Lady of Darkness. He won his first British Fantasy Award for The Second Book of Fritz Leiber and his second for “The Button Molder.” He won the Geffen Award in 1999 for the Hebrew translation of Swords and Deviltry. The 1962 Worldcon presented him with a Special Convention Award in 1962 for his collaboration with the Hoffman Electronic Corporation for their use of science fiction in advertising.
In 1967 LASFS presented him with a Forry Award. He won a Gandalf Award in 1975 as a Grand Master of Fantasy and the next years received a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. In 1981 SFWA named him a Grand Master and he received a Special Balrog Award. He received a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988, and in 2001 he was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
Leiber is one of the few people who was a guest of honor at multiple Worldcons, having the honor in 1951 at NOLACon I, the 9th Worldcon, held in New Orleans in 1951 and again in 1979 when he was a guest of honor at Seacon ’79 in Brighton, UK. He was the Guest of Honor at the 4th World Fantasy Con in Fort Worth, Texas in 1978. Leiber has most famously collaborated with Harry Fischer on the concept for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for the story “Lords of Quarmall.” He has also collaborated with Judith Merril and Fredric Brown.
Leiber first published “The Cloud of Hate” in the May 1963 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, edited by Cele Goldsmith. He included it as the lead-off story in the Lankhmar collection Swords in the Mist and in 1975 it showed up in Sword & Sorcery Annual. When Donald M. Grant published a collection of three Lankhmar stories in Bazaar of the Bizarre, “The Cloud of Hate” was one of the those chosen. It showed up in the Lankhmar omnibus volumes The Three of Swords and Lean Times in Lankhmar as well as Thieves’ House: Tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Volume 2 and The First Book of Lankhmar. The story has been translated into Dutch, German, and twice into French, usually for collections of Leiber’s Lankhmar stories.
“The Cloud of Hate” is one of Leiber’s many stories about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The two are serving as watchmen on the evening of a gala celebration of the betrothal of the Lankhmar Overlord’s daughter to the Prince of Ilthmar. They are stationed far from the festivities on a cold, foggy street. The action, however, starts below the streets of Lankhmar, with a mob of five thousand summoning the physical manifestation of hate to flood the streets and, one assumes, attack the Overlord’s party.
Recently I completed my reading of all of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. After I had put down the second or fourth collection (this depends on how you approach the editions from White Wolf, which collected the books doubly in single volumes, and these are the publications with which I began my survey), I made some faintly denigrating comment on Goodreads (if I remember it correctly), something about the quality of these stories being like flies caught in amber. This was a metaphor for Leiber’s soupy, languid, highly embellished prose style.
But a year or so later, as I got to the end of The Knight and Knave of Swords and then the termination of Swords and Ice Magic, I found that I had really begun enjoying these stories. I had even begun to admire the writing style. So I bought, without question, Robin Wayne Bailey’s Swords against the Shadowland out of interest to see who possibly could be so foolish as to try to meet Leiber on his own brilliant terms.
Before I get to a review of Leiber and then, specifically, to Bailey, I want to detail the kind of place I come from. As I become a regular contributor to Black Gate, I realize that there are quite a number of books that I really should have read while I was growing up. Now, I’ve read a lot of fantasy. That will be apparent. But sometimes I pick up a new volume, open the cover, begin reading, and ask myself, “Why didn’t I read this twenty-five years ago?” One of the answers might be because of my intense snobbishness, a youthful shortcoming that I slightly touched on last entry. Another reason is because, at the beginning of eleventh grade, I artificially arrested the sheer volume of my high fantasy reading by consciously “growing up” and turning my back on the genre in preference for established “literary” pursuits. But also, as I cast my memory back through the years, I’m coming to believe that I didn’t read a lot of these works then because a lot of these weren’t all that visible.
One of the many freedoms of Sword and Sorcery, it seems to me, is that it enables the adoption of a world that allows the writer to comment on just about anything on which one would want. One of Robert E. Howard’s purposes in the construction of his own Hyboria was to create a conglomerate of cultures, no matter how anachronistic their juxtapositions, so that his hero Conan might have any kind of adventure that Howard might think up. Whereas for previous tales, Howard perhaps had to construct different heroes for different historical epochs (Bran Mak Morn for the Celtic Picts, Solomon Kane for the sixteenth century, Kull for Atlantis), in the Hyborian Age Conan might be a thief, a soldier, a pirate, and ultimately a king, his adventures all the while providing Howard with powerful commentary on “civilization.”
So, too, writers after Howard have utilized this purpose. Dave Sim, through his creation of Cerebus the Aardvark, begins by commenting on the Sword and Sorcery genre itself (as well as the mainstream comic books of Sim’s time) and then goes on to explore High Society, Church & State, marriage – and this last, in Jaka’s Story, is as far as my reading has taken me, but I understand that Sim is so far reaching in his exploration of topics that in a much later volume he even explores the life and works of Ernest Hemingway through Cerebus taking on the position of Hemingway’s personal secretary!
Terry Pratchett uses the Sword and Sorcery milieu to ingenious satirical effect, cribbing directly (I believe) from Fritz Leiber in order to forecast to his readers, in the very first pages of the very first Discworld novel, just what tone and material his readers may expect. Pratchett’s initial perspective characters, soon abandoned, are Bravd and the Weasel (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, obviously). I quote the following description in order to give an example of Pratchett’s satirical treatment of Sword and Sorcery and to underscore, specifically, Pratchett’s debt to Leiber. For more humor, one might want to pick up this book and enjoy the way that these characters talk to each other – it’s impressively Leiberesque.
By Fritz Leiber, from a Screenplay by Clair Huffaker
I have never watched a movie and then immediately felt an urge to “Read the Jove Paperback” (or whatever publisher released the tie-in). Movie novelizations are marketing after-thoughts and I think most readers pick them up as after-thoughts as well. A wanderer in a bookstore might spot a paperback copy of Blockbuster Film You Kinda Enjoyed and think to herself, “Hey, this might be a fun airplane read.”
But there aren’t as many bookstores to wander in these blighted times and with the gap narrowing between the time of a film’s release and its DVD/Blu-ray popping up in the impulse item rack of the supermarket, the niche genre of the novelization has entered a slow death cycle. Fewer big tent pole movies are getting the prose treatment.
I’ve read more than my sane share of novelizations, the majority from Alan Dean Foster because Alan Dean Foster rocks (he even responded to my review of his Clash of the Titans novelization). But with Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, I found myself for the first time in the peculiar reverse position of wanting to see a movie because of the novelization.
The reason: Fritz Leiber.
The idea of one of the Grand Masters of speculative fiction, an icon of sword-and-sorcery, penning any genre film novelization is delicious. And penning a Tarzan novelization … that’s the colored sprinkles on top of the chocolate doughnut. Novelization or not, it’s a Fritz Leiber Tarzan book.