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 28 – Robert E. Howard & L. Sprague de Camp’s “Conan the Freebooter” with special guest Diogo Nogueira

(Please also see the Episode 2 and Episode 17 show notes for additional details about the Lancer/Ace Conan books.)

Conan the Freebooter (Lancer Books, 1968) by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, was part of the first comprehensive paperback edition of the Conan saga. Conan the Freebooter  was the eighth volume published, although it is third in the internal chronology–later printings of the series numbered the books in chronological order. When Lancer went out of business in 1973, Ace Books picked up and completed the series, keeping it in print until the mid 1990s.

As with the other Lancer/Ace Conan books, series editor de Camp filled in gaps in Conan’s timeline by expanding Howard’s unpublished notes and fragments, re-writing non-Conan stories, and writing entirely new stories. For the purist, the Howard-only stories in Conan the Freebooter are “Black Colossus” (1933), “Shadows in the Moonlight” (AKA “Iron Shadows in the Moon”, 1934), and “A Witch Shall be Born” (1934).

In 1955, L. Sprague de Camp rewrote the then unpublished Howard story “Hawks over Egypt” as “Hawks over Shem”, changing the setting from Cairo in AD 1021 and adding the fantastic elements to turn it into a Conan tale. “The Road of the Kings” received the same treatment, being transferred to the Hyborian Age from the Ottoman Empire in AD 1595. Both of the original Howard stories were suppressed after de Camp’s rewrites and would not see print until they were collected in the small-press hardcover The Road of Azrael (Donald M. Grant, 1979).

John Duilo contributed possibly the worst Conan cover ever, an anatomically nonsensical depiction of Conan’s battle with the great gray man-ape from “Shadows in the Moonlight”:

1 - Conan_Freebooter_Lancer_1968

The sad thing is that Duilo was normally an exceptional illustrator, as evidenced by the moody romanticism of his Western art and the sleazy verve of his men’s magazine covers.

The later Boris Vallejo cover interpreting the climax of “A Witch Shall be Born” is much better, but static in comparison to the furious energy of Frank Frazetta:

5 - Conan_Freebooter_Ace_1986

In both “Black Colossus” and “A Witch Shall be Born” we see Conan as a cunning strategist who leads thousand of men into battle. It’s easy to imagine Gary Gygax and company playing out these Hyborian Age conflicts in the pre-Dungeons & Dragons miniatures wargame Chainmail (1971) or in the later Swords & Spells (1976) ruleset. Other story elements from Conan the Freebooter that stand out as being proto-D&D include Shevatas the “thief among thieves” from the prologue to “Black Colossus” and gray man-ape of “Shadows in the Moonlight” is certainly the “APE, Carnivorous” of the AD&D Monster Manual (1977). As always, Robert E. Howard’s stories remain the motherlode of swords & sorcery inspiration….


Reading Resources:

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Conan of Cimmeria Book 1)

The Bloody Crown of Conan (Conan of Cimmeria Book 2) TPB (trade paperback)

The Bloody Crown of Conan (Conan of Cimmeria Book 2) (Kindle ebook)

These books are part of the Del Rey/Ballantine 3-book trade paperback series collecting the Conan stories in the order they were written by Robert E. Howard, often going back to his original typescripts. Also included are many of Howard’s Conan story drafts, note, and fragments, but none of the posthumous revisions and new stories by de Camp, Carter, et al. “Black Colossus” and “Iron Shadows in the Moon” both appear in the first volume and “A Witch Shall be Born” appears in the second volume.

http://freeread.com.au/@RGLibrary/RobertEHoward/REH-Conan/@Conan.html is an online public domain repository of all of the Conan stories that were published during Robert E. Howard’s lifetime and several posthumously published works that are out of copyright.


Additional Reading:

Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures collects Robert E. Howard’s original versions of “Hawks over Egypt” and “The Road of the Eagles”, untouched by L. Sprague de Camp.


Gaming Resources:

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells (PWYW RPGNow affiliate link)

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells Addendum (PWYW RPGNow affiliate link)

This is Diogo Nogueira’s rules-light, fast and furious swords and sorcery roleplaying game. It’s available as Pay What You Want in PDF and at-cost in print, so please check it out!

Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age (RPGNow affiliate link) is a 1975 ruleset from Fantasy Games Unlimited for wargaming in the Hyborian Age. The setting information was written by none other than Lancer/Ace Conan series co-editor Lin Carter.


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.