Strange Wonders: A Collection of Rare Fritz Leiber Works
by Fritz Leiber
Edited by Benjamin Szumskyj
Review by Steve Sawicki
Subterranean Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596063242
Date: 31 October 2010 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Editor Benjamin Szumskyj makes some interesting points when he discusses whether or not an author's leavings should receive any attention at all after their death. In some cases authors have left instructions about what they would like done with their partials and scribblings but in most cases the decision is left up to those who remain. Thus, we have this collection of Fritz Leiber's remains (literalistically speaking). The book is broken into four parts, fragments and drafts, beginnings, poetry, and other. The fragments and drafts are comparable to an artist's doodles or sketches. It is, essentially, either an author learning the craft or just playing around with forms, settings or situations to see what it feels like. Since this is Fritz Leiber we get some early Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser pieces as well as some of his earliest explorations of SF. The same holds true for the beginnings section where we can see Leiber trying to stretch his writing muscles and work out situations and characters and language in works that we know better from reading the finished and polished versions. The poetry is another example of a writer playing with words and the final two pieces in the other section almost defy description.
Just as I am not sure how I really feel about this book I am equally sure that others out there will love it and find the chance to read Leiber almost before he became Leiber unbearably exciting. You can certainly see the author in the early writings and in the fragments but you can also see the architect as well and I'm not fully convinced it's all that great to look at the insides of things. It can take a bit of the magic away. But that's just me.
Regardless of whether you find this kind of poking around interesting or not, worthwhile or not, Subterranean Press has put together a beautiful vehicle for the delivery of such. Editor Benjamin Szumskyj has done a great job in presenting these works just as they are. He's also done a very nice job of giving you the background on these pieces along with some discussion about the path to publishing them. If you are a hard core Fritz Leiber fan then you really can't pass this up. If you like going behind the scenes to understand how things end up as they are then you will probably enjoy it as well. If you are looking for finely honed craft and storytelling you should look elsewhere. But, then, this book is exactly what it advertises itself to be, a collection of Leiber in creation.