No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

The Worlds of Fritz Leiber

A collection of Leiber's short stories from the 50s through the 70s. When I spotted the book at a garage sale, I noted that most of the story titles were unfamiliar. Sadly, there's a reason for that. Most of these are pretty weak, and Leiber's preoccupation with young girls obtrudes uncomfortably from time to time. But there are a few light and amusing gems in there: "Mysterious Doings in the Metropolitan Museum" tells of the great world beetle convention. "The Last Letter" tells of how the mail systems in the 25th century go haywire when a piece of mail is found that is not a printed advertising circular, but rather some sort of missive writed by a person using an inky stick or something of the sort. And "Our Saucer Vacation" lets us readers visit Earth as part of a family of tentacly aliens on holiday: only you can prevent illicit civilization meddling.
The headliner is Catch That Zeppelin, an alternate history-esque vignette of 1930's New York City, as seen through the eyes of zeppelin engineer Adolf Hitler. Not really that good a story - Fritz himself allows that it was awarded the Nebula and Hugo "to comfort my old age -- old people do have an advantage in such competitions, if they can manage to function at all." But there's a detail that provides some extra weirdness to the story. The bullk of the story relates the details experienced by the narrator after being thrown back into a 1930s NYC with a zeppelin moored at the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the city. At the end of the story, the narrator is thrown back into the present:
When I at last fully came to myself, I was walking down a twilit Hudson Street at the north end of Greenwich Village. My gaze was fixed on a distant and unremarkable pale-gray square of building top. I guessed it must be that of the World Trade Center, 1,350 feet tall.

It seems his 'present' is yet another, possibly happier, alternate history.
Tags: book

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