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:


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.

Episode 23 – H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror” with special guest Bob Brinkman

Hoi and Jeff discuss H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness & Other Tales of Terror with special guest Bob “The Voice” Brinkman!

Given H.P. Lovecraft’s omnipresence today, it’s easy to forget that he had largely faded out of reading public’s mind within a few years of his death in 1937. August Derleth and Donald Wandrei did their best to keep Lovecraft in print by founding the small press Arkham House in 1939, but the publishing house’s output for its first 20 years was mostly limited to high quality hardcovers in short print runs.

Arkham House was often on tenuous financial footing from its very founding, but the snowballing revival of interest in Lovecraft’s Weird Tales compatriot Robert E. Howard in the 1960s seems to have also raised Lovecraft’s visibility. Arkham House seized the opportunity by releasing three newly re-edited omnibus volumes of Lovecraft’s fiction, The Dunwich Horror & Others (1963, revised 1985), At the Mountains of Madness & Other Novels (1964, revised 1986), and Dagon & Other Macabre Tales (1965, revised 1986) and then licensing the stories for paperback publication.

At the Mountains of Madness & Other Tales of Terror (Beagle/Ballantine Books, 1971) was a slimmed-down version of the Arkham House hardcover and featured the novel At the Mountains of Madness and the short stories “The Shunned House”, “Dreams in the Witch-House”, and “The Statement of Randolph Carter”.

The stark and surreal cover painting of Brown Jenkin from the 1973-1974 Ballantine printings is by British artist John Holmes (not *that* John Holmes by the way, nor Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set author John Eric Holmes either, although the latter did write about Cthulhu/Lovecraft in Dragon magazine issues # 12 & # 16):


Gary Gygax didn’t include any monsters drawn directly from Lovecraft’s stories in Dungeons & Dragons, but the yellow mold that first appeared in the original Dungeons & Dragons rules would have been right at home in the cellar of “The Shunned House”, as would the various other jellies, molds, oozes, puddings, and slimes. The undeniably Lovecraftian mind flayers made their first appearance a couple of years later in Eldritch Wizardry (1976) and are now iconic D&D monsters.

James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz included a Cthulhu Mythos chapter in Deities & Demigods (1980). The Elder Things and Shoggoths from At the Mountains of Madness received full write-ups as well as magnificently ooky Erol Otus illustrations. Although TSR believed that Lovecraft’s fiction was in the public domain, their West Coast rivals Chaosium had secured a license from Arkham House to produce games based on the Cthulhu Mythos. This combined with Chaosium’s license from Michael Moorcock to publish an Elric of Melniboné RPG lead TSR to remove the Cthulhu Mythos and Melnibonéan sections from the third printing onwards of Deities & Demigods. As a result, the first two printings of Deities & Demigods are now highly sought after collector’s items.


Reading Resources:

Virtually all of H.P. Lovecraft’s writings published in his lifetime are in the public domain. Probably the best online repository of his work can be found here:


Having said that, the current Penguin Classics trade paperback collections are worth looking at since they feature all of Lovecraft’s solo fiction in corrected manuscripts, as well as introductions and very informative notes by leading Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi:

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1999)

This collection includes “The Statement of Randolph Carter” and is available here:

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001)

At the Mountains of Madness can be found in this volume, which is available here:

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) (trade paperback)

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (Kindle Edition) (Kindle ebook)

The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (2004)

“The Shunned House” and “The Dreams in the Witch House” are both found in this collection, available here:

The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)

You could also consider either of the following two options if you want Lovecraft’s complete solo fiction in a handsome one-volume hardcover:

The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (Knickerbocker Classics) (hardcover)

H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction (Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions) (hardcover)
Gaming Resources:

Call of Cthulhu remains the gold standard of Lovecraftian and indeed mystery and horror gaming. A free PDF version of the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules can be found here and more information about the game line can be found here.

Beyond the Mountains of Madness is an epic CoC campaign following up on At the Mountains of Madness (RPGNow affiliate link)

Christmas in Kingsport includes Bob Brinkman’s CoC scenario “Silent Night” (RPGNow affiliate link)

Halloween Horror Returns! includes Bob Brinkman’s CoC scenario “Hope” (RPGNow affiliate link)


Bonus Art Gallery!:

The landscapes and structures in At the Mountains of Madness are likened several  “the strange Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich”, many of which can be found in the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City:


Howard V. Brown’s cover painting for the February 1936 issue of Astounding Stories is the first known illustration of a shoggoth:


And last but not least, Virgil Finlay’s illustration for “The Shunned House” in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales is a minor masterpiece:


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.