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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Leiber/Moskowitz: 1963

From LW Currey:

Leiber, Fritz. TYPED LETTER SIGNED (TLS). 2 pages, dated 7 December 1963, to "Dear Sam" [Moskowitz], signed, "Congrats! Fritz." Accompanied by the original envelope with a handwritten postscript on the back side. Written in response to an article on Leiber that Moskowitz wrote (with Leiber's cooperation) for the December issue of AMAZING STORIES. Leiber congratulates Moskowitz on "a good job of compacting a lot of diverse material." He praises his balanced treatment of the various stages of L's career and says, in the case of one topic at least, that "you may see deeper into my motives than I do." He offers some factual corrections of a few "tiny" matters, pointing out that his famous short story "Smoke Ghost" was rejected by WEIRD TALES before it was accepted by UNKNOWN; that his mother's British ancestry did not stop her from belonging to the Daughters of the American Revolution; and that he could not "recall living in a boarding house, theatrical or otherwise." Moskowitz made the point in his article that Leiber had not read WEIRD TALES regularly when he was growing up and suggests as a reason that L's "seeking rational explanations interfered with my enjoyment of such tales." All Leiber remembers is that he found the WT stories "too frightening and -- oddly -- too depressing!" and adds that he may have been "repelled by the element of fatalism in practically all supernatural horror fiction." And the adults in his household did not approve of such reading material. Stepping back, Leiber writes, "it's certainly odd to be on the inside of the story this time (the story being your profile, I the protagonist) and peer out of my cage in space-time, as it were, and see the author - you - describing what I do ..." He ponders the impossibility of a biographer's reproduction of the "exact truth" of the "welter of minutia" that constitutes a person's life. Leiber closes with some remarks about his alcoholism and membership in AA, subjects that were suppressed by the editors of AMAZING STORIES. A frank and revealing document that blends inward - and outward - looking speculation by and about one of the major post-WWII authors of fantasy and sf. Typed with narrow margins on a half-sheet of letter-size paper arranged in portrait mode, with name and address penciled in at top as an afterthought, and with an ink emendation (itself emended in pencil) near the end of the letter. Leiber wrote a postscript on the back side of the envelope, mentioning that he was working on a new novel, THE RED-HEADED NIGHTMARE, whose "gimmick" is "photonic booms." Accompanied by a carbon of short letter from Moskowitz to Leiber, dated 17 June 1964, saying that he has just ghost-edited an anthology for Leo Margulies in which he used Leiber's "Spider Mansion," and that he will be sending him $25 and a copy of the book (titled WEIRD TALES). Sam Moskowitz was one of the pioneers of genre science-fiction scholarship, approaching the subject from historical and sociological as well as literary vantage points; editing anthologies, magazines and book reprint series; and championing the work of obscure authors as well as the genre itself. Though not always meticulous in his research or discerning in his taste, he took seriously a field of literature that academic critics ignored until much later, and blazed many of the trails that they smoothed out later. In saying that he made up in enthusiasm what he lacked in rigor, it could be argued that the former virtue was, at the time, the more needed one. Leiber's letter has two faint creases where folded for mailing and is near fine, as is envelope; the Moskowitz letter, on pulpy browning paper, has some light carbon smudges, but is otherwise near fine. (#100292)

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