In a career spanning a half century, Leiber proved himself to be a master of “sword and sorcery” (a term he coined), especially with his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories set in the world of Nehwon. He also wrote a wide range of science fiction, from his Change War series, in which factions fight battles across alternate worlds, to highly original and varied futuristic situations. His urban fantasy includes You’re All Alone, the twice-filmed Conjure Wife (as Weird Woman, 1944, and Burn, Witch, Burn, 1961, also called Night of the Eagle), Our Lady of Darkness (1977), “Smoke Ghost” (1941), and other works.
You’re All Alone is set in Leiber’s native Chicago, Illinois, where he grew up as the son of two Shakespearean actors. It began with his idea about people who lived secretly in the stacks of the city’s public library, which he linked with the question of whether people were alive or merely manifestations of behaviorism behind their faces. As with some of his other works, he pushed the envelope of sexual mores in this story, at one point having Jane perform a strip tease for Carr in the midst of a crowded nightclub. Because she is outside the pattern, only he sees her. It is instructive to examine the limits to which he could go in the original 1950 version and compare the sex scenes re-edited for the 1980 book.
Although Leiber’s setting is highly original and...
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