Tag Archives: fritz leiber

Conan the Cimmerian

Conan of Cimmeria is the creation of pulp author Robert E. Howard. Conan was introduced to the world in a short story called “The Phoenix on the Sword” in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. Through a series of fortuitous if controversial events in the decades after Howard’s death, the character grew to become a part of American mythology and culture, one of the most well known fictional characters in modern history.

It is best to know Conan as introduced by Robert E. Howard.

Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black haired, sullen eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.

Howard wrote less than 30 stories featuring Conan during his lifetime. The number of Howard stories featuring Conan represents just a fraction of Howard’s total output; a prolific author who made his living writing for the pulps in the 1920s and 1930s, Howard wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 stories. The Hour of the Dragon was Howard’s only full-length Conan novel. Stories featuring his other characters were revised or rewritten by L. Sprague de Camp and released as Conan stories long after his death, hence elements of Kull stories in particular came to be associated with Conan lore. The original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard were later curated, restored, and released in modern editions now available from Del Rey. These include The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Bloody Crown of Conan, and The Conquering Sword of Conan.

There are Conan purists, and there are Conan fans regardless of creator or medium. Aside from the collected stories, Conan has appeared in novels, comics, movies, live action television series, cartoons, RPGs, and video games. Like many Conan fans from my generation, I came to know of his adventures through the paperback story collections published by Lancer, later reprinted by Ace. The Frank Frazetta covers are iconic representations of Howard’s best known character. These editions spawned myriad pastiches in the sword and sorcery vein.

These cover scans are from the library of Christopher Fulbright. Please note that Realms of Night has an eBay page with occasional horror auctions. Follow our page and save us as a favorite seller for updates.

Fritz Leiber

fritzleiber-authorphotoFritz Leiber (1910 – 1992) was an American author of horror, science fiction and fantasy, credited with coining the phrase “sword and sorcery” and forging new paths in that genre with his immortal tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, a pair of heroes whose first adventure appeared in one of the earliest issues of Unknown in 1939.  His first novel, Conjure Wife, a notable horror classic, also had its first appearance in that relatively short-lived magazine helmed by the venerable John W. Campbell. Leiber followed up with a second novel, the now-classic Gather, Darkness!, which appeared in Astounding in 1943. His first collection, Night’s Black Agents, was published by Arkham House in 1947, continuing a long career that won him accolades, admirers from all genres, and a huge number of awards.  He won six Hugos and several Nebulas. He won the World Fantasy Award in 1975 for “Belsen Express” and again in 1977 for Our Lady of Darkness, a novel he wrote after a dark period in his life following the death of his first wife, when he struggled with depression and alcoholism.  He was given a Gandalf Grand Master Award by the World Science Fiction Society in 1975, and the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards for Lifetime Achievement.

Leiber’s work was an influence on many writers, including Harlan Ellison, Ramsey Campbell and Neil Gaiman to name just a few. Leiber is widely acknowledged to have had a hand in shaping modern fantasy, and used fantasy motifs in modern day settings long before urban fantasy was a popular sub-genre. While his numerous novels and novellas were mostly fantasy and science fiction, he also wrote amazing horror stories collected in many volumes throughout the years. He lived out his later years continuing to write and receiving royalties from TSR, who licensed rights to use characters from his world of Lankhmar in Dungeons & Dragons.

Born in Chicago, Leiber earned a Bachelor of Psychology degree from the University of Chicago and went on to study at the Episcopal General Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. According to a brochure from Easton Press, he served as a minister at two Episcopalian churches in the early 1930s. Some of his other professions included college professor, airplane inspector, and associate editor of Science Digest.

Leiber was a chess enthusiast, an avid cat person, and a poet. Following in the footsteps of his father who was a Shakespearean actor, Leiber appeared in a handful of films in the 1930s, a 1970 horror film Equinox, and a 1979 documentary based on the non-fiction book The Bermuda Triangle by Charles Berlitz. He was married twice and died suddenly in 1992 of “organic brain disease,” according to Wikipedia.  His autobiography, written in the early 1980s, can be found in the 1984 Ace edition of his collection Ghost Light, shown below.

You can hear Fritz Leiber’s wonderful and poignant live reading of Clark Ashton Smith’s “A Night in Malneant,” which I found quite moving, thanks to Will Hart at CthulhuWho1. Alternatively, in the event that blog should disappear, you can download the file here, or listen using the media player below.


Many of Leiber’s works are still in print and available in ebook formats. To see what’s out there, click here.

The cover scans below are from the library of author Christopher Fulbright. The featured image for this post is from cover art by Jack Gaughan.