Strange Wonders: A Collection of Rare Fritz Leiber Works

fantasy book reviews Fritz Leiber Strange Wonders: A Collection of Rare Fritz Leiber WorksStrange Wonders: A Collection of Rare Fritz Leiber Works by Fritz Leiber

Strange Wonders is an eclectic collection of Fritz Leiber‘s lesser-known stories, poems, fragments, rough drafts, and daily writing exercises collected by Benjamin Szumskyj who, in his introduction, admits that he’s not certain Leiber actually would have approved of their publication. He justifies himself by explaining that because Leiber didn’t destroy the material (which was mostly printed on cheap typing paper) before his death, he knew it would be found and possibly exposed some day.

The first half of Strange Wonders contains 23 story fragments — some of which appear to be precursors of some of his published fiction (e.g., the hero of “The Tale of the Grain Ships” is The Grey Mouser). The second section is a reprinting of Leiber’s In the Beginning, which is a set of Sunday School-type science and ethics lessons for children that were published in the journal The Churchman. Next are 15 poems, several previously published. Those about Leiber’s wife, Jonquil Stephens, who died after 33 years of marriage, are deeply moving. Then there is a descriptive piece about Mr. Leiber’s excruciatingly detailed investigation of the inner workings of his digital clock (which contains several lines like this: “02-6012-6122-6932-5942-5952-59″) and finally a farcical SF piece organized around the zodiac.

Reading Strange Wonders, I felt like I was sitting in a tree and peering into Mr. Leiber’s bedroom at night. As any voyeur should expect, I was rewarded with views both awkward and titillating, many of which were almost certainly not meant to be observed. I witnessed a spatter of clumsy dialogue, a bit of fumbling and groping, and several premature climaxes. But there was also much imagination, creativity, and artistic technique on display. It was fascinating to watch Fritz Leiber at work, even if I was sometimes left unsatisfied by the lack of consummation.

Strange Wonders will surely appeal to fans of Fritz Leiber, for it clearly bears his stamp and contains previously unpublished works that are related to stories we’re familiar with. This collection will also appeal to aspiring writers who want to see how a master fantasist practiced and honed his craft.

Strange Wonders: A Collection of Rare Fritz Leiber Works — (2010) Publisher: In regards to Fritz Leiber, I believe that publication of such unpublished and uncollected works only strengthens his literary greatness. Through fragments, drafts and practice writings, we can clearly see the evolution from Leiber, the amateur, to Leiber, the professional. We are exposed to the clear way in which he dedicated his life to the written word and trained his abilities to produce the award-winning masterpieces that we read even today. While some may object to such a volume, I ask them this–is not the dream just as important as the empire that had been built from it? Are not the blueprints and sketches as impressive as the buildings and the artwork? We must place all this into perspective, and seethat publishing such works is not a smear upon Leiber’s legacy. Rather, it completes a full circle. If we are asked to be thorough in the biography of an individual, then we must also do so for their bibliography.

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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

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4 comments

  1. I was curious about this one when I ran across it. Nice review, Kat.

  2. Thanks, Greg. If you want to read the book, I will send you my ARC. Email me.

  3. Your review cracked me up, Kat. Love the comparisons to…other sorts of awkwardness. ;)

  4. Thanks, Kelly! I did kind of feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there…

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