Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fritz Leiber, Jr. (1910-1992)

Author, Editor, Poet, Playwright, Essayist, Actor, Preacher, Teacher, Chess Player, Fencer
Born December 24, 1910, Chicago, Illinois
Died September 5, 1992, San Francisco, California

Fritz Reuter Leiber, Jr., was born on Christmas Eve 1910 in Chicago. He was the son of the actor Fritz Leiber, Sr., and the actress Virginia Bronson. For a time, Junior entertained thoughts of being an actor as well. He acted on stage and appeared with his father in the movies Camille (1936) and The Great Garrick (1937). Fritz Leiber, Jr., also acted in the 1947 thriller The Web, and Equinox, a horror movie from 1970 with Frank Bonner, later Herb Tarlek of WKRP in Cincinnati. Like H.P. Lovecraft, Leiber lived with his two aunts, though also with his parents. Studious and retiring, he graduated from the University of Chicago in 1932 with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree and with honors. He followed that up with studies at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan and work as a lay preacher, as an editor of encyclopedias, and as a teacher at Occidental College in Los Angeles. During World War II, Leiber worked in an aircraft plant. Afterwards he became an editor for Science Digest, the most enduring job he ever held. In the early 1960s, Leiber ghosted a year's worth of continuities for the Buck Rogers comic strip.

Leiber's career in science fiction and fantasy began with "Two Sought Adventure," a story of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Unknown (Aug. 1939). His writing career spanned half a century, during which time Leiber won many Hugo, Nebula, and other awards. Along with Robert Bloch and Ray Bradbury, Leiber was one of the star writers who contributed to Weird Tales during the 1940s. His stories were few--eight in all--but they were enough to earn him a hardcover edition in 1947 under the Arkham House imprint. It was his first book. Dozens more followed. A champion chess player and fencer, Leiber endured ups and downs of poverty, addiction, alcoholism, and the loss of his wife. Despite that, we can call his life a triumph. I hope he felt the same way. Fritz Leiber, Jr., died on September 5, 1992, in San Francisco. He was eighty-one years old.

Fritz Leiber, Jr.'s Stories in Weird Tales
"The Automatic Pistol" (May 1940)
"The Phantom Slayer" (Jan. 1942, reprinted in Night's Black Agents as "The Inheritance")
"Spider Mansion" (Sept. 1942)
"The Hound" (Nov. 1942)
"Mr. Bauer and the Atoms" (Jan. 1946)
"Alice and the Allergy" (Sept. 1946)
"In the X-Ray" (July 1949)
"The Dead Man" (Nov. 1950)

Further Reading
There's no shortage of reading on Fritz Leiber and his work. I found some of the information for this posting in Seekers of Tomorrow by Sam Moskowitz (1966).

The Girl with the Hungry Eyes and Other Stories, an Avon book from 1949 with a cover by an unknown artist. Other authors in the collection: William Tenn, August Derleth, P. Schuyler Miller, Frank Belknap Long, and Manly Wade Wellman. 
The Big Time, one side of an Ace Double. The cover of this book is one of the reasons why people read science fiction. The artist was Ed Emshwiller, aka Emsh.
And here's the other side, with art again by Emsh.
Fantastic Stories of Imagination from August 1963 featuring a Grey Mouser story. The cover artist was Vernon Kramer.
Ed Emsh was back to create this cover of a special Fritz Leiber issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (July 1969).
In 1973, DC published five issues of Sword of Sorcery, adapting Leiber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories to the comics. Michael Kaluta created the cover for the first issue, one that may owe a little to Hal Foster. 
Howard Chaykin and Bernie Wrightson contributed the cover to the second issue.
Howard Chaykin penciled the cover art for the third issue. The Grand Comics Database believes Vincente Alcazar may have been the inker.
Chaykin and another unknown inker--possibly Walt Simonson--created the fourth cover in the series.
Walt Simonson was the artist on the fifth and last issue of Sword of Sorcery. Despite their short run in the comics, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser continued their adventures in a world imagined by Fritz Leiber.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. There's also this comic incarnation of the Twain: