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Fritz Leiber's Biography

Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr. (December 24, 1910 - September 5, 1992) was an influential American writer of fantasy and science fiction.

To describe him as popular, amongst both fans and his fellow writers, might be an understatement: his science fiction novels The Big Time (1958) and The Wanderer (1965) and the short stories "Gonna Roll them Bones" (1967), about a gambler playing dice with Death, and "Ship of Shadows" (1970) all won Hugo awards; "Bones" also won a Nebula award.

As the child of two Shakespeareanan actors - Fritz Sr. (see below) and Virginia (nee Bronson) - he showed a great fascination with the stage, from short stories featuring travelling Shakespearean companies such as "No Great Magic" and "Four Ghosts in Hamlet", to the actor/producer protagonist of the novel A Specter is Haunting Texas. An interesting feature of The Big Time is that though it is about a war between two factions changing and rechanging history throughout the Universe, all the action takes place in a small bubble of isolated space-time, about the size of a theatrical stage, with only a handful of characters.

Among his most famous works are the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, written over a span of 50 years. The first of these, "Two Sought Adventure", appeared in Unknown in 1939. They are concerned with an unlikely pair of heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, who are found in and around the fascinating city of Lankhmar, a fertile hunting ground. (Fafhrd was based on Leiber himself and the Mouser on his friend Harry Fischer.) Although in many ways the stories now appear somewhat cliched, these stories were, in fact, the progenitors of many of the tropes of the sword and sorcery genre. It has been noted that Terry Pratchett's city of Ankh-Morpork bears more than a passing resemblance to Lankhmar.

Leiber had married Jonquil Stephens on January 16, 1936, and their son Justin Fritz Leiber was born in 1938. Jonquil's death in 1969 precipitated a three year bout of alcoholism, but he then returned to his original form with a fantasy novel set in modern-day San Francisco, Our Lady of Darkness - serialised in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as "The Pale Brown Thing" (1975) - in which cities were the breeding grounds for new types of elementals, summonable by the dark art of megalopolisomancy. The short parallel worlds story "Catch that Zeppelin!" (1975) added yet another Nebula and Hugo award to his collection.

Fans awarded him the Gandalf (Grand Master) award at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1975, and in 1981 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America voted him the recipient of their Grand Master award.

He wrote a short autobiography, which can be found in the collection The Ghost Light (1984).

He also acted in a few films, once with his father in RKO's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).