Soundbook: A Bad Day for Sales by Fritz Leiber
Leiber was heavily influenced by H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Graves in the first two decades of his career. Beginning in the late 1950s, he was increasingly influenced by the works of Carl Jung, particularly by the concepts of the anima and the shadow. From the mid-1960s onwards, he began incorporating elements of Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. These concepts are often openly mentioned in his stories, especially the anima, which becomes a method of exploring his fascination with, but estrangement from, the female.
Leiber liked cats, which feature prominently in many of his stories. Tigerishka, for example, is a cat-like alien who is sexually attractive to the human protagonist yet repelled by human customs in the novel The Wanderer. Leiber's "Gummitch" stories feature a kitten with an I.Q. of 160, just waiting for his ritual cup of coffee so that he can become human, too.
His first stories were inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. Leiber later wrote several essays on Lovecraft such as "A Literary Copernicus" which formed key moments in the serious critical appreciation of Lovecraft's life and work.
Leiber's first professional sale was "Two Sought Adventure" (Unknown, August 1939), which introduced his most famous characters, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. In 1943, his first two novels were serialized in Unknown (the supernatural horror-oriented Conjure Wife, partially inspired by his deleterious experiences on the faculty of Occidental College) and Astounding Science Fiction (Gather, Darkness).
1947 marked the publication of his first book, Night's Black Agents, a short story collection containing seven stories grouped as 'Modern Horrors', one as a 'Transition', and two grouped as 'Ancient Adventures': "The Sunken Land" and "Adept's Gambit", which are both stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
Book publication of the science fiction novel Gather, Darkness followed in 1950. It deals with a futuristic world that follows the Second Atomic Age which is ruled by scientists, until in the throes of a new Dark Age, the witches revolt.
In 1951, Leiber was Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention in New Orleans. Further novels followed during the 1950s, and in 1958 The Big Time won the Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Leiber published further books in the 1960s. His novel The Wanderer (1964) also received the Hugo for Best Novel. In the novel, an artificial planet, quickly nicknamed the Wanderer, materializes from hyperspace within earth's orbit. The Wanderer's gravitational field captures the moon and shatters it into something like one of Saturn's rings. On Earth, the Wanderer's gravity well triggers massive earthquakes, tsunamis, and tidal phenomena. The multi-threaded plot follows the exploits of a large ensemble cast as they struggle to survive the global disaster.
Leiber received the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 1970 and 1971 for "Ship of Shadows" (1969) and "Ill Met in Lankhmar" (1970). "Gonna Roll the Bones" (1967), his contribution to Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions anthology, received the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette in 1968.
Our Lady of Darkness (1977)—originally serialized in short form in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under the title "The Pale Brown Thing" (1977)—featured cities as the breeding grounds for new types of elementals called paramentals, summonable by the dark art of megapolisomancy, with such activities centering on the Transamerica Pyramid. Its main characters include Franz Westen, Jaime Donaldus Byers, and the magician Thibault de Castries. Our Lady of Darkness won the World Fantasy Award—Novel.
Leiber also did the 1966 novelization of the Clair Huffaker screenplay of Tarzan and the Valley of Gold.
Many of Leiber's most-acclaimed works are short stories, especially in the horror genre. Owing to such stories as "The Smoke Ghost", "The Girl With the Hungry Eyes" and "You're All Alone" (later expanded as The Sinful Ones), he is widely regarded as one of the forerunners of the modern urban horror story. Leiber also challenged the conventions of science fiction through reflexive narratives such as "A Bad Day For Sales" (first published in Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1953), in which the protagonist, Robie, "America’s only genuine mobile salesrobot," references the title character of Isaac Asimov’s idealistic robot story, "Robbie". Questioning Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, Leiber imagines the futility of automatons in a post-apocalyptic New York City. In his later years, Leiber returned to short story horror in such works as "Horrible Imaginings", "Black Has Its Charms" and the award-winning "The Button Moulder".
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