Leiber, Fritz (Reuter), (Jr.) Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Fritz (Reuter) Leiber (Jr.) 1910–

American fantasy and science fiction writer.

A writer of speculative fiction since the 1930s, Fritz Leiber received his first Hugo award in 1958 for The Big Time, a part of his acclaimed Change War series. He is noted for his skillful portrayals of the human condition within possible futures. Leiber has also been consistently praised for his strong characterizations, vivid, almost tactile imagery, and the ability to create dark atmospheres of terror and superstition in the midst of rational, modern settings. His theatrical background is evident in his use of settings which serve as imaginary stages upon which psychological dramas are enacted with precise, unpretentious dialogue. Nowhere is this sense of dramatic unity better demonstrated than in The Big Time, in which, for most of the action, a single room is used as the backdrop for a war waged through time.

Another important novel in Leiber's career is the earlier Gather, Darkness! It is typical in its posing of social commentary—in this case, the responsibility inherent in technological advancement—within an entertaining framework. His other Hugo winner, The Wanderer, again shows his concern for the individual within society. In allowing readers to anticipate imminent disaster through the eyes of ordinary people, he persuades them to care about the characters and their plight.

Leiber's fantasy chronicles, notably the Grey Mouser/Fafhrd stories, are among the most literate and realistic in the heroic-adventure form. Unlike many earlier varieties of hero tale, Leiber's stories have believable protagonists who owe their fortunes to resourcefulness and luck, rather than brawn and violence.

Because of the enduring quality and distinctive style of Leiber's work, many critics have decried the lack of recognition which he has received outside the community of fantasy and science fiction writers.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 45-48; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 2; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 8.)