Leiber, Fritz (Reuter), (Jr.) ALEXEI PANSHIN and CORY PANSHIN - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A Specter Is Haunting Texas resembles Fritz Leiber's very first science fiction novel—Gather, Darkness!…—in being an intermittently satirical melodrama about revolution. The target of both satire and revolution in Gather, Darkness! was organized religion. The target in A Specter Is Haunting Texas is Texas—which is to say the American impulse toward gigantism. (p. 15)

The differences that twenty-five years have made are that the satire in Specter—while it lasts—is painted in broader strokes than the satire in Gather, Darkness! and that the revolution in the newer book is a temporary failure rather than a success. Otherwise, the books are much of a piece.

At its best, Specter is not particularly original. It covers ground covered better in the Fifties by H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire…. [Its] greatest strength, in fact, is in conceits and occasional lines. And two-thirds of the way through it falls apart, its satire forgotten in favor of the melodramatic requirement of movement at any cost. (pp. 15-16)

A Specter Is Haunting Texas, like Gather, Darkness! before it, is without the same claims to stature, similarly spoiled. (p. 16)

Alexei Panshin and Cory Panshin, "The Elizabethan Theatre in 1590" (copyright © 1969 by Mercury Press, Inc.; reprinted by courtesy of Advent Publishers, Inc.), in their SF in Dimension: A Book of Explorations, Advent, 1976, pp. 11-18.∗