Leiber, Fritz (Reuter), (Jr.)

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Fritz Leiber

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All I ever try to write is a good story with a good measure of strangeness in it. The supreme goddess of the universe is Mystery, and being well entertained is the highest joy.

I write my stories against backgrounds of science, history and fantasy worlds of swords and sorcery. I write about the intensely strange everyday human mind and the weird and occult—about which I am a skeptic yet which interest me vastly. I always try to be meticulously accurate in handling these backgrounds, to be sure of my facts no matter what fantastic stories I build from them.

The tales in [The Best of Fritz Leiber] are predominantly science fantasy. They are arranged in the order in which they were first published, all except "Gonna Roll the Bones." It seemed best to lead off with a story that displayed to advantage all my talents, such as they are. It was actually written next to the last of the twenty-two stories in this book. (p. 298)

["Sanity" and "Wanted—An Enemy"] reflect my wry worries about war, pacifism, and world government….

"The Ship Sails at Midnight" is the romantic tale of a love that was unconventional, at least then. The goddess Mystery makes an appearance, perhaps. I picked it as my best single story for an [August] Derleth anthology….

["Coming Attraction"] was denounced by a minority of its first readers as Unamerican (I don't know why—it's Unrussian too) and praised by quite a few fellow writers…. It and the novelette "Poor Superman" mirror the intense concern of 1950 with McCarthyism, computerization and, above all, the bomb. (p. 299)

I wrote "The Night He Cried" because I was distantly angry at Mickey Spillane for the self-satisfied violence and loveless sex and anti-feminism he was introducing into detective fiction and because he had the temerity to publish a couple of stories in the fantasy field, about which I have a parental concern. My rage seems remote now, yet the point was valid. (p. 300)

"Little Old Miss Macbeth" caused Robert P. Mills, then editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction, to observe, "Surely Fritz Leiber is the most vividly visual of all science-fantasy writers." This seems extreme, yet for me vision is "worth all the rest" of the senses, as Macbeth put it. It may be due to my youth as an actor and the child of actors. I visualize most of my stories and set many of them on an imaginary stage. Some, like The Big Time, have only one set. (pp. 300-01)

"The Good New Days" looks at the Beat Generation and our slum planet, but aims at entertainment first.

"America the Beautiful" might be thought of as "Coming Attraction" revisited. Another Britisher encounters a different, but equally disturbing future America. Low-key and heavy on the atmosphere, but as always I've tried to make the story the thing….

I seem to have had four chief bursts of creativity, triggered off by the Second World War, the nuclear bomb, the sputniks, and the war in Vietnam. I'm glad I've been able to react to those dreadful stimuli with laughter as well as fears….

So, as I say, there you have them, the best of my science-fantasy stories. But I hope to write better ones. I'll never stop writing. It's one occupation in which being crazy, even senile, might help. (p. 301)

Fritz Leiber, in his afterword to his The Best of Fritz Leiber (copyright © 1974 by Fritz Leiber; reprinted by permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc.), Doubleday, 1974, pp. 298-301.

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