Episode 29 – Fritz Leiber’s “Swords in the Mist” with special guest Joey Royale

Special guest Joey Royale of Drinking & Dragons joins us to discuss Fritz Leiber’s Swords in the Mist!

(Please also see the Episode 3 and  Episode 18 show notes for additional information about the saga of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser)

Swords in the Mist (Ace Books, 1968) by Fritz Leiber was originally published in paperback as the third book in Ace Books’ complete seven volume saga of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

The stories is this volume are “The Cloud of Hate” (1963), “Lean Times in Lankhmar” (1959), “Their Mistress, the Sea” (1968), “When the Sea-King’s Away” (1960), “The Wrong Branch” (1968), and “Adept’s Gambit” (1947). “Adept’s Gambit” was the very first Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story written in 1936, only to be rejected for publication in Weird Tales magazine. It did not appear in print until after World War II in the hardcover collection Night’s Black Agents (Arkham House, 1947). H.P. Lovecraft himself read “Adept’s Gambit” in manuscript after Leiber’s wife Jonquil opened a correspondence between the Leibers and Lovecraft that lasted until Lovecraft’s death in early 1937. Lovecraft became a great champion of “Adept’s Gambit”, calling it “remarkably fine & distinctive bit of cosmic fantasy”. The draft that Lovecraft read and critiqued is now lost, but we do know that Leiber removed the overt Cthulhu Mythos references in the story and eventually created the world of Nehwon rather than continuing to set Fafhrd and the Mouser’s adventures in the Mediterranean and Near East of Antiquity.

The other particularly notable story in Swords in the Mist is “Lean Times in Lankhmar”, which was originally commissioned by Cele Goldsmith for the all-Leiber November 1959 issue of Fantastic magazine. Leiber’s career had hit the doldrums in mid-1950s partly due to alcohol problems, so Goldsmith’s commissioning of “Lean Times in Lankhmar” was significant step in bringing back Fafhrd and the Mouser. New tales of Nehwon would appear regularly after that up until the late 1980s, enshrining the Twain as Leiber’s most beloved creations.

Jeffrey Catherine Jones provided the cover art for Swords in the Mist, opting to create an overall mood of mystery and epic adventure rather than a literal depiction of a scene from any of the stories. Once again though, the trade dress of later printings constrained and compromised the overall effect:

SWRDSMST1968SWRDSNTHMB0000

TSR continued to hold the role-playing game license for Lankhmar during the 1990s, publishing the following adventures for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition: LNA1: Thieves of Lankhmar (1990), LNA2: Newhon (1990), LNA3: Prince of Lankhmar (1991), LNQ1: Slayers of Lankhmar (1992), LNR1: Wonders of Lankhmar (1990), and LNR2: Tales of Lankhmar (1991). Additionally, Lankhmar: City of Adventure was updated for AD&D 2E in 1993 and it was followed by the sourcebook Rogues in Lankhmar in 1995. TSR’s last Lankhmar product was the boxed set Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar: The New Adventures of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser (1996), which was both a campaign setting and a stand-alone game featuring a stripped-down version of the AD&D 2E ruleset. TSR self-destructed shortly thereafter in 1997 so that was the end of Lankhmar in Dungeons & Dragons. That wasn’t the end of Fafhrd and the Mouser’s adventures in roleplaying though, but once again that’s a story for another day….

Reading Resources:

Swords in the Mist (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Book 3) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser publication order reading list – Michael Curtis and the Goodman Games crew have compiled an original publication order reading list for the DCC Lankhmar Kickstarter, helpfully highlighting stories they consider “essential reading”.

Additional Reading:

Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: Cloud of Hate and Other Stories collects the 1973 DC Comics series Sword of Sorcery, featuring adaptations and original tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by comics legends Denny O’Neil, Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, and Jim Starlin.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (Dark Horse, 2007) – This is a trade paperback collection of the 1991 Epic Comics series scripted by Howard Chaykin with pencils by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. In the mid 1990s Mignola would also go on to provide the cover art and interior illustrations for White Wolf Publishing’s four-volume collected edition of The Adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Fritz Leiber and H.P. Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark collects H.P. Lovecraft’s pedantic but kindly letters to Leiber and his wife Jonquil, Leiber’s Lovecraftian fiction and poetry, and Leiber’s insightful essays on Lovecraft’s writings.

If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

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