Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Game of Memories Down at the Silver Eel

There's a nifty fanzine, published in 1978, called The Silver Eel, (The Eel was the favorite watering hole for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) and if you're a big fan of Fritz Leiber, as I am, you need a copy. It contains, among other things, an appreciation of Leiber by Karl Edward Wagner, a remembrance by Harry Otto Fischer, who created the original versions of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and who was himself the model for the Mouser, an interview with Leiber, and a bibliography of the Fafhrd and Mouser stories. It also has a bunch of other articles, cover reproductions, and a ton of artwork. This item usually goes for $10.00  to $20.00 on Ebay and at the moment doesn't seem hard to find. Go get one. You won't be disappointed.
   Anyway, as I was re-reading the interview with Leiber this morning, I was reminded of an odd incident from my childhood. I discovered Leiber and his two sword & sorcery heroes in the early 1970s. In fact I read Leiber before I read Robert E. Howard, the Conan books being out of print at the time. I was a huge fan of Fafhrd and the Mouser. Now here's the thing. In 1977 I was living in the small Northern Georgia town of Canton, which sits at the foothills of the Blue-ridge Mountains. In those days the place was major league Podunk. The town didn't have a bookstore. It didn't even have any of the fast food chains like MacDonalds or Burger King. It did have a locally owned fast food place called the Burger Chief. (The Burger Chief's claim to fame was an item called the Deluxe Burger which was a big cheeseburger topped with coleslaw.) There was also a Dairy Queen, but it only served ice cream. No food.(I know. My family owned it.)
   Canton also didn't have any convenience stores, but it had several small mom and pop groceries. Those sorts of places were on their way out even in 1977 so I don't know what possessed someone in Canton to open a new one, but they did, right at the bottom of a long hill where HWY 5 intersected HWY 20. It seems in my memory that that this new small store was very well stocked. Maybe it was part of a chain. I can't recall the name of the place, but it was only open a year or two. In any case, on one visit my dad and I made to the place I saw that the store had put in a small magazine rack. I was disappointed that there weren't any comic books I'm sure, but then my gaze fell on a magazine called Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy. I picked it up and leafed through the magazine, only to find that it contained a BRAND NEW Fafhrd and Mouser story called Rime Isle.
    Now how this rather esoteric magazine ended up in this short lived grocery store in a Podunk small town I'll never know. But I knew it was meant for me. That was a long time ago, and I don't know what happened to that magazine. Probably lost it when I moved a while back. But I do remember the thrill of finding that new story. Here was sword & sorcery by one of my heroes that wasn't a reprint from a musty old pulp magazine. This was hot off the press and it was all mine. Rime Isle was eventually collected with some other stories in Swords & Ice Magic, the last of the 'Swords' collections. (Next to the last if you count The Knight and Knave of Swords, but I don't.)
   So there ya go. Funny how a little something will nudge a long dormant memory.

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