Fritz Leiber

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Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr. (December 24, 1910September 5, 1992) was an American writer of fantasy, horror and science fiction.


Short Fiction[edit]

Night's Black Agents (1947)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market expanded edition published by Berkley ISBN 0-425-03669-3 in 1978
  • Besides, what difference did if make if there had been two genuine coincidences? The universe was full of them. Every molecular collision was a coincidence. You could pile a thousand coincidences on top of another, he averred, and not get Tom Digby one step nearer to believing in the supernatural. Oh, he knew intelligent people enough, all right, who coddled such beliefs. Some of his best friends liked to relate “yarns” and toy with eerie possibilities for the sake of a thrill. But the only emotion Tom ever got out of such stuff was a nauseating disgust. It cut too deep for joking. It was a reversion to that primitive, fear-bound ignorance from which science had slowly lifted man, inch by inch, against the most bitter opposition.
    • “The Hill and the Hole” (p. 165); originally published in Unknown Worlds, August 1942
  • He had the illusion, he said, of getting perilously close to the innermost secrets of the universe and finding they were rotten and evil and sardonic.
    • “The Dreams of Albert Moreland” (p. 182); originally published in The Acolyte, #10, Spring 1945
  • I’ll have to learn to snowshoe. I had my first lesson this morning and cut a ludicrous figure. I’ll be virtually a prisoner until I learn my way around. But any price is worth paying to get away from the thought-destroying din and soul-killing routine of the city!
    • “Diary in the Snow” (p. 203); originally published in the first edition of Night's Black Agents (1947)
  • There are vampires and vampires, and not all of them suck blood.
    • “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (p. 228); originally published in The Girl with the Hungry Eyes and Other Stories, Avon Publishing, 1949
  • That’s what everybody’s been looking for since the Year One—something a little more than sex.
    • “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (p. 230)
  • There are vampires and vampires, and the ones that suck blood aren’t the worst.
    • “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (p. 240)
  • I realized that wherever she came from, whatever shaped her, she’s the quintessence of the horror behind the bright billboard. She’s the smile that tricks you into throwing away your money and your life. She’s the eyes that lead you on and on, and then show you death. She’s the creature you give everything for and never really get. She’s the being that takes everything you’ve got and gives nothing in return. When you yearn towards her face on the billboards, remember that. She’s the lure. She’s the bait. She’s the Girl.
    • “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (p. 241)
  • I’ve never found anything in occult literature that seemed to have a bearing. You know, the occult—very much like stories of supernatural horror—is a sort of game. Most religions, too. Believe in the game and accept its rules—or the premises of the story—and you can have the thrills or whatever it is you’re after. Accept the spirit world and you can see ghosts and talk to the dear departed. Accept Heaven and you can have the hope of eternal life and the reassurance of an all-powerful god working on your side. Accept Hell and you can have devils and demons, if that’s what you want. Accept—if only for story purposes—witchcraft, druidism, shamanism, magic or some modern variant and you can have werewolves, vampires, elementals. Or believe in the influence and power of a grave, an ancient house or monument, a dead religion, or an old stone with an inscription on it—and you can have inner things of the same general sort. But I’m thinking of the kind of horror—and wonder too, perhaps—that lies beyond any game, that’s bigger than any game, that’s fettered by no rules, conforms to no man-made theology, bows to no charms or protective rituals, that strides the world unseen and strikes without warning where it will, much the same as (though it’s of a different order of existence than all of these) lightning or the plague or the enemy atom bomb. The sort of horror that the whole fabric of civilization was designed to protect us from and make us forget. The horror about which all man’s learning tells us nothing.
    • “A Bit of the Dark World” (pp. 261-262); originally published in Fantastic, February 1962
  • I thought of how people are like planets—lonely little forts of mind with immense black distance barring them off from each other.
    • “A Bit of the Dark World” (p. 263)

Poor Superman (1951)[edit]

  • Everyone knows Newton as the great scientist. Few remember that he spent half his life muddling with alchemy, looking for the philosopher's stone. That was the pebble by the seashore he really wanted to find.

Bazaar of the Bizarre (1963)[edit]

First published in Fantastic Stories of Imagination (1963), this novelette has been reprinted in several anthologies, including The Spell of Seven (ed. L. Sprague de Camp, Pyramid Books, 1965), Bazaar of the Bizarre (Donald M. Grant, Publisher, 1978), and Ill Met in Lankhmar (White Wolf Publishing, 1995), ISBN 1-56504-926-8.

  • The Devourers are the most accomplished merchants in all the many universes — so accomplished, indeed, that they sell only trash. There is a deep necessity in this, for the Devourers must occupy all their cunning in perfecting their methods of selling and so have not an instant to spare in considering the worth of what they sell.
  • The Devourers want not only the patronage of all beings in all universes, but — doubtless because they are afraid someone will some day raise the ever-unpleasant question of the true worth of things — they want all their customers reduced to a state of slavish and submissive suggestibility, so that they are fit for nothing whatever but to gawk at and buy the trash the Devourers offer for sale.
  • The Devourers want to brood about their great service to the many universes — it is their claim that servile customers make the most obedient subjects for the gods.

A Pail of Air (1964)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market first edition published by Ballantine (#U2216)
  • “Life’s always been a business of working hard and fighting the cold,” Pa was saying. “The earth’s always been a lonely place, millions of miles from the next planet. And no matter how long the human race might have lived, the end would have come some night. Those things don’t matter. What matters is that life is good. It has a lovely texture, like some thick fur or the petals of flowers—you’ve never seen those, but you know our ice-flowers—or like the texture of flames, never twice the same. It makes everything else worth while. And that’s as true for the last man as for the first.”
  • To understand why George fell for this story, one must remember his stifled romanticism, his sense of personal failure, his deep need to believe. The thing came to him like, or rather instead of, a religious conversion.
  • “You are not the first to be shocked and horrified by chess,” he assured her. “It is a curse of the intellect. It is a game for lunatics—or else it creates them.”
    • “The 64-Square Madhouse” (p. 74); originally published in If, May 1962

Catch that Zeppelin! (1975)[edit]

This short story won both the 1976 Hugo Award and the 1975 Nebula Award
  • Beside me, traffic growled and snarled, rising at times to a machine-gun rata-tat-tat, while pedestrians were scuttling about with that desperate ratlike urgency characteristic of all big American cities, but which reaches its ultimate in New York.
  • There is an inescapable imperative about certain industrial developments. If there is not a safe road of advance, then a dangerous one will invariably be taken.

Gather, Darkness! (1950)[edit]

First serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1943; published as a novel in 1950. All page numbers from the 1975 mass market paperback edition published by Ballantine Books (Catalogue number 24585)
  • “You have been told that the Great God rules the universe—earth and sky. I tell you the Great God is fake!”
    • Chapter 1 (p. 8)
  • But now the priests think only one thing. How to hold on to their power as long as mankind lasts—until the sun darkens and the earth freezes!
    • Chapter 1 (p. 15)
  • No matter how hard and wearisome an age this might be, it was certainly a very exciting one with regard to manifestations of the supernatural.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 54)
  • “Armon Jarles, there is only the cosmos and the electronic entities that constitute it, without soul or purpose, save so far as neuronic minds impose purpose upon it.
    “Armon Jarles, the Hierarchy embodies the highest form of such purpose.
    “Armon Jarles, the supernatural and the idealized have one trait in common. They are not. There is only reality.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 105)
  • What is idealism? It is distortion. A giving of false values to things which in reality do not possess those values. Personalities differ chiefly in their pattern of values. When the values are largely false, the personality is unstable.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 106)
  • He knew that ahead lay many perils—threats to his bodily welfare. And recently Jarles had come to have a great respect for that bag of flesh and bones which contained his ego.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 117)
  • The idea of brutality actually shocks him, thought Goniface amusedly. I wonder what name he has for the toil we exact of the commoners, and the penances we impose on them?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 126)
  • I suppose that every blundering idealist who hasn’t been brought face to face with the hard facts of life carries, at the back of his mind, a sneaking suspicion that villainy is a very dashing and romantic thing. When your mind turned turtle, or when they turned it for you, your new personality was necessarily fabricated out of all your fragmentary romantic notions of villainy—unlimited ambition and conceit, absolute lack of emotion, and all the rest of the supervillain ideology!
    • Chapter 14 (p. 144)
  • “Dreams mean nothing,” he said coldly. “They are unreal.”
    “They’re as real as anything else,” she shot back at him. “And they merely mean conscience.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 145)
  • “Conscience is only social pressure,” he told her, tense without quite knowing why, “the impulse to submerge your ego in that of the herd, and do what other people want you to because you’re afraid of their censure. Realistic self-interest frees a person from the childish restrictions of conscience.”
    “Are you sure of that, Jarles? What about your dreams? Conscience may be partly what you say it is, but it’s more than that. It’s hearkening to the wisest thoughts that have occurred to the minds of the human race.”
    • Chapter 14 (pp. 145-146)
  • After all, to the truly skeptical mind, diabolic forces are just as reasonable building blocks for the cosmos as mindless electrons. No possibility, however seemingly fantastic, should revolt the truly skeptical mind. It all depends on the evidence. The evidence decides everything.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 195)
  • Goniface was thinking how like his own was the destiny of the whole Hierarchy and of every priest in it. Whether they murdered their families—and their own youth—actually or only in spirit, it amounted to the same thing. They betrayed and deserted them, left them for dead, to enjoy the power and pleasures of a sterile tyrant class.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 207)

Conjure Wife (1953)[edit]

First published in Unknown Worlds in 1943; published as a novel in 1953. All page numbers from the 2009 trade paperback edition published by Orb
  • What is superstition, but misguided, unobjective science? And when it comes down to that, is it to be wondered if people grasp at superstition in this rotten, hate-filled, half-doomed world of today? Lord knows, I'd welcome the blackest of black magic, if it could do anything to stave off the atom bomb.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 26).
  • A scientist ought to have a healthy disregard for coincidences.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 39).
  • Thoughts are dangerous, he told himself, and thoughts against all science, all sanity, all civilized intelligence, are the most dangerous of all.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 106).
  • What was life worth, anyway, if you had to sit around remembering not to mention this, that, and the other thing because someone else might be upset?
    • Chapter 11 (p. 116).
  • Things are different from what I thought. They’re much worse.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 209).

The Big Time (1958)[edit]

  • What have I always told you about Soldiers? The bigger the gripe, the smaller the cause! It is infallible!
  • I know only too well from a personal experience that is number one on my list of things to be forgotten.
  • It’s this mucking inefficiency and death of the cosmos — and don’t tell me that isn’t in the cards! — masquerading as benign omniscient authority.
  • Nations are as equal as so many madmen or drunkards.
  • In the wake of a Big Change, cultures and individuals are transposed, it’s true, yet in the main they continue much as they were, except for the usual scattering of unfortunate but statistically meaningless accidents.
  • Sometimes I wonder if our memories are as good as we think they are and if the whole past wasn’t once entirely different from anything we remember, and we’ve forgotten that we forgot.
  • Poets are wiser than anyone because they’re the only people who have the guts to think and feel at the same time.
  • Of course, if you assume a big enough conspiracy, you can explain anything, including the cosmos itself.
  • Now is a bearable burden. What buckles the back is the added weight of the past’s mistakes and the future’s fears.
  • For that matter, where did I get off being critical of anyone?

The Wanderer (1964)[edit]

All page numbers from the 2000 paperback edition published by Victor Gollancz
  • I abominate any organization that denies cats are people!
    • Chapter 3.
  • It was always worth everything to get away by himself, climb a bit, and study the heavens.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 26).
  • There was always something new to be seen in the unchanging night sky.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 33).
  • They’ve heard about space but they still don’t believe in it. They haven’t been out here to see for themselves that there isn’t any giant elephant under the earth, holding it up, and a giant tortoise holding up the elephant. If I say “planet” and “spaceship” to them, they still think “horoscope” and “flying saucer”.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 37).
  • Devils may be nothing but beings intent on their purpose, which now happens to collide with yours.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 113).
  • Not for the first time Richard reflected that this age’s vaunted ‘communications industry’ had chiefly provided people and nations with the means of frightening to death and simultaneously boring to extinction themselves and each other.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 158).
  • There was an omnipresent sense of crisis.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 259).
  • The greater the variety of intelligent life Don saw, the more he became sensitive to its presence.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 259).
  • Paul stared out at the randomly scattered, lonely stars and wondered why he had always so easily accepted that they represented order.
    • Chapter 34 (p. 270).
  • Then time seemed to stop, or rather to lose its directional urgency of movement; it became a place in the open where one stood rather than a low, narrow corridor down which one was hurried.
    • Chapter 40 (p. 312).
  • The gods spend the wealth the universe gathers, they scan the wonders and fling them to nothingness. That’s why they’re the gods! I told you they were devils.
    • Chapter 42 (pp. 336-337).
  • What do you care? You always liked loneliness better than you liked people. No offence — liking yourself’s the beginning of all love.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 340).

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