Freitag, 28. Dezember 2012

“Shadows with Eyes: Six Tales of Crawling Horror”

By Fritz Leiber.
Ballantine Books. 1962. $0.35
Cover by Richard Powers

5 · A Bit of the Dark World · nv Fantastic Feb ’62
36 · The Dead Man · nv Weird Tales Nov ’50
62 · Power of the Puppets · ss Thrilling Mystery Jan ’42
84 · Schizo Jimmie · ss The Saint Detective Magazine Feb ’60
93 · The Man Who Made Friends with Electricity · ss F&SF Mar ’62
102 · A Deskful of Girls [Change War] · nv F&SF Apr ’58

                                                                         My copy.

This started out as a Face Book horror literature group entry that grew a wee bit too long. And since I’m a lazy shit, I decided to use it as this week’s blog entry! So you have my apologies that I’m not covering every story in the collection this time.

Some times it’s the little things that can make such a huge difference. I started reading Fritz Leiber’s anthology “Shadows with Eyes” last night. So far I’ve only made it through the first story (novelette) “A Bit of the Dark World” which originally appeared in the February 1962 issue of “Fantastic”. It’s a great story that reeks of modernity. Even though it was written over 50 years ago you can see that Mr. Leiber was going out of his way to write a cosmic weird tale that had absolutely no gothic or pulp trappings. The setting is the Pacific coastal mountains just an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles. We are introduced to our three main characters who are a Genre writer/Psychologist and a younger couple who are probably screen play writers for SF films. On the way to the Psychologist’s summer house in the mountains they discuss what place classic horror has in modern society since it seems that nothing can be considered unexplainable by modern science anymore. They also agree that since the world has become so busy and sophisticated that we don’t bother to look past the mundane horrors around us. The psychologist also postulates that since every scientific discipline has become so focused, cubby-holed and introverted that one discipline has no idea what the other is doing and no one seems to care that because of this situation there is no true “grand picture” of what reality is. Shortly before they reach the Psychologist’s house they all experience a phenomenon that appears to be both objective and subjective at the same time. Oddly the neighbour of the psychologist who is also riding along doesn’t seem to experience anything out of the normal. It’s also insinuated that the man is fairly mundane as far as sensitivity or imagination is concerned. This entire philosophical discourse takes place in the first few pages setting up everything else that comes. Damn! This is just a long short story that gives us more ideas in a few pages than most novels contain in hundreds of pages. It would take another 16 years, but Mr. Leiber has just set up the driving philosophical argument that is the basis to his 1977 novel “Our Lady of Darkness”. What we get here though is a wonderful story of truly cosmic weirdness/horror without any of the old clichéd trappings of the pulp tradition.
Read t if you can find it!

At the beginning I said that it’s the little things that can make such a huge difference.  “A Bit of the Dark World” is only 31 pages long and is divided into four chapters. Each chapter starts with a wonderful Epigraph which all fit beautifully into each chapter. The Epigraph to the fourth chapter almost brought me out of my bed though.

“But the third sister, who is also the youngest——! Hush, whisper whilst we talk of her! Her kingdom is not large, or else no flesh should live; but within that kingdom all power is hers. Her head, turreted like that of Cybele, rises almost beyond the reach of sight. She droops not; and her eyes rising so high might be hidden by distance; but, being what they are, they cannot be hidden; through the treble veil of crape which she wears, the fierce light of a blazing misery, that rests not for matins or for vespers, for noon of day or noon of night, for ebbing or for flowing tide, may be read from the very ground. She is the defier of God. She is also the mother of lunacies, and the suggestress of suicides. Deep lie the roots of her power; but narrow is the nation that she rules. For she can approach only those in whom a profound nature has been upheaved by central convulsions; in whom the heart trembles, and the brain rocks under conspiracies of tempest from without and tempest from within. Madonna moves with uncertain steps, fast or slow, but still with tragic grace. Our Lady of Sighs creeps timidly and stealthily. But this youngest sister moves with incalculable motions, bounding, and with tiger’s leaps. She carries no key; for, though coming rarely amongst men, she storms all doors at which she is permitted to enter at all. And her name is Mater Tenebrarum—Our Lady of Darkness.”


                                                              Thomas de Quincy in “Suspiria de Profundis

This quote had my inner geek jumping for joy! Not only is “Our Lady of Darkness” one of my all time favourite novels (It was the subject of one of myvery first postings.), but I’m also a huge fan of Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy of films. This short Epigraph added that extra drop of joy that brought the cup, which was my reading experience, to over flowing.

Thank you Mr. Leiber, where ever you are, for sharing so much joy and wonder with me all these many years!

Lastly, I hope that everyone survived Christmas, the Apocalypse and that everyone has a happy New Year!
Let's make 2013 a good one.
I'm still waiting for my flying car though!



  1. Wow, I've never seen that Leiber book! I was familiar with the three pictured on the back cover. Great Powers art.

  2. Hi Will,

    I also have this one!

    More Powers goodness! :-)

    I only have the first two on the back cover.

    take care.