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Journal of No. 118


August 25th, 2010

The Worlds of Fritz Leiber @ 02:07 pm

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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.
 
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From:therrin
Date:August 26th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've read that one under a different cover and I know exactly what you mean.

Catch That Zepplin sees a lot of reprinting. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks it isn't that great. It just isn't memorable.

Have you read The Best of Fritz Leiber Volumes 1 and 2? I have volume 2 and it had several stories I'd never read before and rather liked. It also had several that I thought were less deserving of a reprint than some of his other works.
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:August 26th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
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I don't know that I've read TBoFL, but I'll keep an eye out. I like him a lot, but I haven't been a completist.
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From:therrin
Date:August 26th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
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I may mail you a book or two when I get to Va. I think I can count on you to mail them back?

Who have you been a completist* for? I've been for Asimov and that's about it. If I was going to pick a second person to be completist for it would be Fritz though. With Lewis Padgett coming in a close third if that didn't sound quite so expensive. (When I went down to the rare-science fiction store in Santa Monica, the guy had had books worth thousands on the shelves, but the Lewis Padgett stuff,* THAT was the stuff he kept in the safe.)

*Ok, the signed stuff** but still signed Asimov 1st edition foundation trilogy wasn't pricey enough to keep in the safe.
** I still want to know how they signed it.
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From:essentialsaltes
Date:August 26th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
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That would be kind of you. I'm pretty dependable, if I do say so myself.

As for completism... let's see... HPL and PKD are probably the only ones that I'm pretty sure I have absolutely everything. In the I-bet-pretty-close-to-complete... Stephen Donaldson. Umberto Eco. James Blaylock. Jonathan Lethem. Borges. Those leap to mind.

Journal of No. 118