Destiny Times Three (1945) by Fritz Leiber

DestinyTimesThree1I’m starting to wonder if Fritz Leiber’s early fiction is where it’s at in terms of sophistication and daring, while his later fiction is pure career fancy. If so, it’s probably an observation longtime readers of SF have already noticed, but of the small assortment of his works I’ve read, it’s becoming a pattern.

Leiber’s 1945 Astounding serial, Destiny Times Three, blends Nordic myth, Persian poetry, and a little bit of Wells into a multiverse story that explores a provocative moral question: What would you do if you found out your multiverse twin exists in a miserable dystopia and they resented you for having the better life?

A sense of guilt toward his dream-twin was the dominant fact in Thorn’s inner life. (23)

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The Wanderer (1964) by Fritz Leiber

TheWanderer1A predecessor to the disaster film genre, particularly the universally panned parody Disaster Movie (2008), where culturally-identifiable groups of people struggle, or amble, to survive against an uncontrollable, dangerous force. In the 1965 Hugo award-winning The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber introduces a sprawling cast of characters that spans the globe, while a UFP (unidentified flying planet) arrives in the sky and appears to consume the moon.

The shrewder souls thought: Publicity for a new horror film, or – aha—pretext for new demands on China and Russia. (ch. 14) Continue reading

The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

A Nazi, a Roman, and an English poet walk into a bar set in the Void of the Universe…

TheBigTime2

— Stop me if you’ve heard this one…–

That’s where Leiber starts his surreal tale about chronologically mismatched barroom patrons unwinding after a battle in the destructive Change War. It gets more bizarre as his Time Soldiers alternately carouse and argue with some lady “ghosts”, a fuzzy-tentacled moon alien, a satyr, and a Minoan warrior chick, with a devil horn hairdo and an atom bomb. Escorts are provided for amusement, one of whom narrates the story, in her unsophisticated and puerile way.  

The Change War is fought between cryptic rivals, the Spiders and the Snakes, within the Void of the universe. Leiber’s stage is the Void bar, his cast are the patrons, and, naturally, (although nothing about this book is natural), the hijinks ensue. Continue reading