I’ve been in a Dungeons and Dragons kick recently, so as part of that I’ve been delving into Appendix N, E. Gary Gygax’s list of authors and works from the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons first edition Dungeon Master Guide. The influence of authors such as Leiber on D&D is pretty obvious when you read the stories listed in the DMG.
This interacts with my interest in pulp and adventure fiction as I gain more appreciation for why I like what I like. At least so far, it turns out my taste overlaps a lot with Gygax. I appreciate Appendix N because it covers a surprising range of styles and eras. At least half a century of imaginative literature is covered there.
Frtiz Leiber was an author I had heard of, but never read, so I picked up the first Leiber volume I found at the library about Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. That turned out to be Ill Met in Lankhmar [Amazon link], which is a fantastic piece of writing, and also a brutal gut-punch of a story. The City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokes is harsh and unrelenting place that has no place for the weak, or the unlucky.
Ill Met appears to an origin-style story written much later than the initial entries in the series, of when the two protagonists first met. If one wanted to be unkind, you could say the gist of the story is: play stupid games, win stupid prizes. But, like The Moon Pool, there is unexpected complexity here, as when Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser’s drunken jesting about whether it is murder to kill a man in the course of a fight returns in haunting fashion during the climactic battle.
A feature I appreciate about F&GM [a nice abbreviation for an iconic duo] is that while they are both deft with a sword, their combat scenes are very much about using their wits to defeat their enemies. They are above all crafty, always aiming to get the loot and scoot. Or at least, they are when not blinded by thoughts of revenge.
since this is my introduction to Leiber, i don’t know whether it is an ideal starting point, but I do look forward to the roguish adventures of F&GM, of which there are many.
Other Appendix N books