Episode 18 – Fritz Leiber’s “Swords Against Death” with special guest Jen Brinkman

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

Swords Against Death (Ace Books, 1970) by Fritz Leiber was originally published in paperback as part of Ace Books’ complete seven volume saga of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Although Swords Against Death is second in the series chronology, it was actually the fifth book published.

The stories is this volume are “The Circle Curse” (1970), “The Jewels in the Forest” (1939), “Thieves’ House” (1943), “The Bleak Shore” (1940), “The Howling Tower” (1941), “The Sunken Land” (1942), “The Seven Black Priests” (1953), “Claws from the Night” (1951), “The Price of Pain-Ease” (1970), and “Bazaar of the Bizarre” (1963). “The Jewels in the Forest” was the very first Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story to appear in print, under its original title “Two Sought Adventure” in Unknown magazine in 1939. The subsequent four stories also appeared in Unknown, which was cancelled in 1943 due to wartime paper shortages.

A further handful of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories including “Claws from the Night” and “The Seven Black Priests” trickled out over the next two decades. In 1957 all of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories to date except “Adept’s Gambit” (1936/1947) were collected in the Gnome Press hardcover Two Sought Adventure. This collection was later expanded to provide the spine of Swords Against Death.

Jeffrey Catherine Jones provided the cover art for Swords Against Death, 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:

SWRDSGNSTC1970

SWRDSGNSTD1970

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were written-up for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in issue 27 of The Dragon (1979), followed by the Twain and various other denizens of Nehwon being given a whole chapter in the Deities & Demigods (1980). TSR released the generally well-regarded Lankhmar: City of Adventure in 1985, followed by the adventure modules CA1: Swords of the Undercity (1985) and CA2: Swords of Deceit (1986). The Lankhmar setting would continue to receive attention with the release of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, but once again that’s a tale for another day….

Reading Resources:

Swords Against Death (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Book 2) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser publication order reading listMichael 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.
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 3 – Fritz Leiber’s “Swords and Deviltry”

Swords and Deviltry (Ace Books, 1970) by Fritz Leiber was originally published in paperback as part of Ace Books’ complete seven volume saga of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Although Swords and Deviltry is first in the series chronology, it was actually the fourth book published.

Leiber and his lifelong friend Harry Otto Fischer created Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in an exchange of letters in 1934, basing the pair loosely on their own friendship, with Fischer as the diminutive Mouser and Leiber as the towering Fafhrd. The first story featuring the Twain (as they are often called) to appear in print was “Two Sought Adventure” AKA “The Jewels in the Forest” in 1939 in Unknown magazine. A handful of further Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories trickled out over the next two decades until Cele Goldsmith commissioned brand-new stories for Fantastic magazine starting in 1959, which lead to the Ace paperback collections of the late 1960s.

Other than the continued interest in Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, this new appreciation of Leiber’s fantasy fiction was one of the biggest contributors to the sword and sorcery renaissance of the 1960s. In fact, Leiber is credited with coining the term “sword and sorcery” in 1961 when Michael Moorcock called for a name for the type of fantasy fiction that Howard, Leiber and others were coming to exemplify.

By the time Swords and Deviltry was published Leiber had been writing tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for over 30 years, but it is only in this book that he revealed their full origins in the stories “Induction” (1957), “The Snow Women” (1970), “The Unholy Grail” (1962), and “Ill-Met in Lankhmar” (1970).

Swords and Deviltry featured a typically moody Jeffrey Catherine Jones cover, although the effect is compromised by the trade dress of later printings:

SWRDSNDDVL1970.jpgSWRDSNDDVC1973.jpg

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’s gaming history actually predates their first publication, as Leiber and Fischer created a complex three-dimensional board game in 1937 to amuse themselves and help them visualize the Twain’s stomping grounds of the city of Lankhmar and the world of Nehwon. This game was later re-developed and published by TSR as Lankhmar in 1976.

Leiber and Fischer weren’t mere hands-off IP licensors, however. Leiber would contribute a witty conversation with Fafhrd and the Mouser about wargaming in the very first issue of The Dragon (1976), followed by the short story “Sea Magic” in issue 11 (1977). Fischer’s short story “The Childhood and Youth of The Gray Mouser” then appeared in issue 18 (1978).

Lawrence Shick and Tom Moldvay gave Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser their first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons write-up in issue 27 of The Dragon (1979). The Twain and various other denizens of Nehwon were given a whole chapter in James M. Ward’s and Robert J. Kuntz’s Deities & Demigods (1980), with memorably gritty illustrations by Jennell Jaquays.

Future notes on the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series will cover later TSR Lankhmar publications, post-TSR licensees and other games that have been directly influenced by the city of Lankhmar. Stay tuned!

Reading Resources:

Swords and Deviltry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Book 1) (trade paperback/Kindle ebook)

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser publication order reading list – Some cognoscenti feel that Swords and Deviltry is not the ideal introduction to the Twain and recommend that their stories be read in original publication order instead. Michael Curtis and the Goodman Games crew have compiled just such a reading list for the DCC Lankhmar Kickstarter, helpfully highlighting stories they consider “essential reading”.

Further 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.

 

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.