Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chaykin and the Gray Mouser


Picked up the Darkhorse Comics collection of the Howard Chaykin/Mike Mignola adaptations of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. In case I never mentioned it, Fritz Leiber is my absolute favorite fantasy writer. Much as I love Robert E. Howard's work, Leiber is the better writer in my opinion, better being a highly subjective and situational term of course.
Anyway, Chaykin waxes nostalgic in his introduction to the adaptations, originally done as a series of comics for Marvel several years back, and he somehow manages to get most of his facts wrong.
Chaykin says, "We've all read the stories about these two wonderful characters-how Leiber read them in another writers work-sad to say I forgot whose-and simply absconded with them, adapting them and remaking them to his needs, using himself as a model for Fafhrd and making his dear friend, noted science fiction writer and editor Stanley G. Weinbaum, the basis for the Gray Mouser."
As my pal Chris would say, "Well...no."
The writer whom Chaykin can't recall was Harry Otto Fischer. He was indeed a dear friend of Leiber's and he created the characters of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in a letter to Leiber in 1934. Leiber then wrote his own letter, embellishing on Fisher's idea and giving more substance to the characters. Chaykin is right that Leiber based Fafhrd on himself, after Fischer did so first, but it's Fischer who is the Mouser, not Weinbaum. And, Leiber wrote the first actual fiction featuring the pair of heroes all by himself, begun in 1935 but not completed and published until 1947 as Adept's Gambit. In fact Fischer's only real contribution of prose to the saga is the first 10,000 words of the short novel. The Lords of Quarmall. He began and abandoned the story and Leiber picked it up 25 years later and completed it. Hardly a case of Leiber "simply absconding with them." All of my information comes from Leiber himself in his 1963 essay, Fafhrd and Me, reprinted in The Second Book of Fritz Leiber, a DAW book, published in 1975. Guess Howard didn't read that one...

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