Image of Fritz Leiber


Lifetime: 1910 - 1992 Passed: ≈ 31 years ago


Writer, Poet, Playwright, Chess Expert


United States

Fritz Leiber

Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr. was an American writer of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He was also a poet, actor in theater and films, playwright, and chess expert. With writers such as Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Leiber is one of the fathers of sword and sorcery and coined the term.

Fritz Leiber was born December 24, 1910, in Chicago, Illinois, to the actors Fritz Leiber and Virginia Bronson Leiber. For a time, he seemed inclined to follow in his parents' footsteps; the theater and actors feature in his fiction. He spent 1928 touring with his parents' Shakespeare company (Fritz Leiber & Co.) before entering the University of Chicago, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received an undergraduate Ph.B. degree in psychology and physiology or biology with honors in 1932. From 1932 to 1933, he worked as a lay reader and studied as a candidate for the ministry, without taking a degree, at the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, Manhattan, an affiliate of the Episcopal Church.

After pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at the University of Chicago from 1933 to 1934 and again not taking a degree, he remained in Chicago while touring under the stage name of "Francis Lathrop" intermittently with his parents' company and pursuing a literary career. Six short stories later included in the 2010 collection Strange Wonders: A Collection of Rare Fritz Leiber Works carry 1934 and 1935 dates. He also appeared alongside his father in uncredited parts in George Cukor's Camille (1936), James Whale's The Great Garrick (1937), and William Dieterle's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).

In 1936, he initiated a brief, intense correspondence with H. P. Lovecraft, who "encouraged and influenced [Leiber's] literary development" before Lovecraft died in March 1937. Leiber introduced Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in "Two Sought Adventure", his first professionally published short story in the August 1939 edition of Unknown, edited by John W. Campbell.

Leiber married Jonquil Stephens on January 16, 1936. Their only child, philosopher and science fiction writer Justin Leiber, was born in 1938. From 1937 to 1941, Fritz Leiber was employed by Consolidated Book Publishing as a staff writer for the Standard American Encyclopedia. In 1941, the family moved to California, where Leiber served as a speech and drama instructor at Occidental College during the 1941–1942 academic year.

Unable to conceal his disdain for academic politics as the United States entered World War II, he decided that the struggle against fascism mattered more than his long-held pacifist convictions. He accepted a position with Douglas Aircraft in quality inspection, primarily working on the C-47 Skytrain. Throughout the war, he continued to regularly publish fiction.

Thereafter, the family returned to Chicago, where Leiber served as associate editor of Science Digest from 1945 to 1956. During this decade (forestalled by a fallow interregnum from 1954 to 1956), his output (including the 1947 Arkham House anthology Night's Black Agents) was characterized by Poul Anderson as "a lot of the best science fiction and fantasy in the business". In 1958, the Leibers returned to Los Angeles. By then, he could afford to relinquish his journalistic career and support his family as a full-time fiction writer.

Jonquil's death in 1969 precipitated Leiber's permanent relocation to San Francisco and exacerbated his longstanding alcoholism after twelve years of fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. He gradually regained sobriety, an effort impeded by comorbid barbiturate abuse, over the next two decades. Perhaps as a result of his substance abuse, Leiber seems to have suffered periods of penury in the 1970s; Harlan Ellison wrote of his anger at finding that the much-awarded Leiber had to write his novels on a manual typewriter propped up over the sink in his apartment. Marc Laidlaw wrote that, when visiting Leiber as a fan in 1976, he "was shocked to find him occupying one small room of a seedy San Francisco residence hotel, its squalor relieved mainly by walls of books". Other reports suggest that Leiber preferred to live simply in the city, spending his money on dining, movies, and travel. In the last years of his life, royalty checks from TSR, Inc. (the makers of Dungeons & Dragons, who had licensed the mythos of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series) were enough in themselves to ensure that he lived comfortably. In 1977, he returned to his original form with a fantasy novel set in modern-day San Francisco, Our Lady of Darkness, which is about a writer of weird tales who must deal with the death of his wife and his recovery from alcoholism.

In 1992, the last year of his life, Leiber married his second wife, Margo Skinner, a journalist and poet with whom he had been friends for years. Leiber died a few weeks after a physical collapse while traveling from a science fiction convention in London, Ontario, with Skinner. His cause death was a be stroke.

He wrote a 100-page-plus memoir, Not Much Disorder and Not So Early Sex, which can be found in The Ghost Light (1984).

Leiber's own literary criticism, including several essays on Lovecraft, was collected in the volume Fafhrd and Me (1990).

Books by Fritz Leiber

The Creature from Cleveland Depths Cover image

The Creature from Cleveland Depths

Science Fiction
Nuclear Bombing Cold War

“The Creature from Cleveland Depths” also known as “The Lone Wolf” tells the story of a writer and his wife who refuse to move below-ground after the cold-war gets hot. The underground society discovers a decline in their ability to creatively innova...

The Green Millennium Cover image

The Green Millennium

Fantasy Fiction
Animal Adventure Science Fiction Cats Fun

From the classic science-fiction and fantasy author Fritz Leiber comes this intriguing tale of a green cat. From the author's introduction: "The world Phil Gish lived in was not a pretty one, and Phil didn't enjoy living in it. He was disillusioned,...

Bullet With His Name Cover image

Bullet With His Name

Governments Mystery Explore Society Conspiracy Technology

It follows the story of a man who becomes embroiled in a dangerous and complex conspiracy that threatens to disrupt the fragile balance of power in a world where privacy is a thing of the past. Fritz Leiber was an accomplished science fiction and fa...

Conjure Wife Cover image

Conjure Wife

Horror Novel
Love Power Tradition Exploration Supernatural Suspense Trust Magic Imagination Fantasy Storytelling Superstition

It is a captivating novel that explores the mysterious world of witchcraft and the power it holds over the lives of ordinary people. Written in 1953, this book weaves together elements of fantasy, suspense, and the supernatural to create a thrilling...

Nice Girl With 5 Husbands Cover image

Nice Girl With 5 Husbands

Science Fiction Novel
Marriage Love Betray Truth Short Stories Society Determination Life Secret Entertainment

What if a nice girl could have five husbands? In Nice Girl With 5 Husbands, Fritz Leiber tells the story of Anne Randall, a young woman who is able to marry five men at the same time. Anne is a kind and gentle soul, and she loves all of her husbands...

Destiny Times Three Cover image

Destiny Times Three

Science Fiction
Speculative Adventure Philosophical fiction Destiny Time Travel Twists Plotting

In a breathtaking leap through the corridors of time, Fritz Leiber's "Destiny Times Three" unfolds a riveting saga that defies the limits of the present. Imagine a world where destiny is not a solitary path, but a multidimensional tangle. A tantalizi...

Kreativity for Kats & Other Stories Cover image

Kreativity for Kats & Other Stories

Fantasy Science Fiction
Imaginative Short Stories Challenges Suspense Philosophical Perception Mission Universe

In the title story, "Kreativity for Kats," a group of cats, far more intelligent than their human counterparts, embark on a mission to save humanity from itself. With their superior intellect and feline cunning, they devise a plan to inject creativit...

Big Time Cover image

Big Time

A classic locked room mystery, in a not-so-classic setting. (Intro by Karen Savage)

No Great Magic Cover image

No Great Magic

They were a traveling group of Shakespearean players; perfectly harmless, right? wrong. For one thing, why did they have spacemen costumes in their wardrobes,next to caveman ones? Why was the girl in charge of backstage suffering from amnesia and ag...

Night of the Long Knives Cover image

Night of the Long Knives

"I was one hundred miles from Nowhere—and I mean that literally—when I spotted this girl out of the corner of my eye. I'd been keeping an extra lookout because I still expected the other undead bugger left over from the murder party at Nowhere to be...

Three Science Fiction Stories by Fritz Leiber Cover image

Three Science Fiction Stories by Fritz Leiber

The Moon is Green, Bread Overhead and What's He Doing In There?! Three of the best known and loved Science Fiction short stories by the wonderful Fritz Lieber. Always tongue in cheek, and always with a funny twist, Leiber deftly shows how humans w...

64-Square Madhouse Cover image

64-Square Madhouse

A machine of blinking lights and smelling of ozone is entered into a Grand Master chess tournament. One of the first of those things called computers. Would it be shamed by human genius or would it out think these human prodigies through sheer calcu...