Saturday, August 1, 2020

The "later Leiber"

Recently I re-read The Second Book of Lankhmar (pictured, right), the 24th entry in the Millennium/Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, a series that boldly declared itself comprised of "some of the greatest, most original, and most influential fantasy ever written." And, as I am wont to do, began taking a few notes on a piece of scrap paper, that quickly became a flood, then a formal review. Which I planned to post here.

Yech... fugly, bland cover.
The review got so long and detailed that I split it into two, then offered it up to the honorable Dave Ritzlin of DMR Books. If you haven't been checking out the excellent works Dave has been pumping out, you're missing out. Follow their blog here.

I am told that the posts will appear on DMR Blog on Monday and Tuesday.

The Second Book of Lankhmar includes the later works of Fritz Leiber, including The Swords of Lankhmar (1968), Swords and Ice Magic (1977), and The Knight and Knave of Swords (1988). These latter two in particular are not among Leiber's more popular or well-regarded Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories at least among S&S fans. They are certainly far removed from Leiber's pulp roots and his days writing for the likes of Unknown, and are in my opinion only loosely sword-and-sorcery/heroic fantasy. There is little to no swordplay, they meander, and the adventures are more inward than outward facing. 

But I think they are interesting, and well worth reading at least once. And thinking about. Enriching my reading was Bruce Byfield's Witches of the Mind, which makes a clear-cut case for the considerable influence of Carl Jung on Leiber's stories, particularly after 1960. 


Matthew said...

I generally consider the later Lankhmar stories weaker than the first, though I haven't read all of Knight and Knave. Still, I look forward to your thoughts.

As for Jung and Leiber, I'd be surprised if Leiber wasn't influenced by Jung.

Robert Zoltan said...

I may be in the minority, but I enjoy his later stories as much as the earlier. And as I get older, perhaps because Leiber was when he wrote them, I enjoy them all the more. In my opinion, even the last ones, such as Sea Magic, The Mer She, and The Mouser Goes Below, are some of the most original and fantastic fantasy adventures ever written. They may require a bit more patience from the reader, just as Poe requires more patience than Stephen King. But the rewards are commensurate with the time invested. One can sink into these stories slowly and be lost in a landscape of the dreaming mind. And they are made rich, meaningful, and powerful partly by Leiber's understanding of the human psyche and archetypes, from which I agree that Leiber was clearly influenced by Jung and other such sources. Though his greatest source, as with all great writers, was his own life experiences, mind, and inner world.