a book he finds in the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco. Drunk
at the time, he can't remember the najne or the location of the shop where
it was bought, and he can't retrace his steps. The book is called Megapol-
isomancy, A New Science of Cities, by Thibaut de Castries. It is about
the psychological and spiritual "paradental" effects of huge amounts of
steel, concrete, and people accumulating in the big cities. An even bigger
find is the little notebook-diary bound with it, once the property of
Clark Ashton Smith. Smith met de Castries in San Francisco in the twenties
and became a sort of acolyte of the old crank until he couldn't stand it
any more. De Castries had been the darling of the bohemian culture in
San Francisco at the turn of the century. However brief they are., those
passages where George Sterling and Jack London appear, are my favorite
parts of the book.
Our Lady of Darkness may well be the most self-reflective horror
novel ever written. Leiber is in total control of his form, and the char-
a ^ers almost come to life. The book is true to its tradition, and wonderful in its erudition and originality of thought. Important not only
because it entertains, but because it is also socially relevant.
Another recent masterpiece of Leiber's needs to be mentioned.
"Dark Wings," one of Leiber's best stories, is the story of a young woman
who meets her animus, her male self, in the form of an identical twin.
Later in the story the animus becomes a kind of bird-woman. The story is
lightly amusing, even warm, at first, but it builds to a horrifying climax.
The scientific establishment would have us believe everything has
an explanation— that enough facts stacked up will produce a clear future of who and what we are. In his horror fiction Leiber is telling us
this is not so. There is a point where the inanimate grows fangs and tears
at you, and the unreal becomes chillingly real. As we begin to doubt the
effectiveness of our technology, due to our many obvious mistakes, we plant
the seed of superstition, which blooms quickly among the more sensitive members of our society. Leiber's fiction is nothing if not humanistic and I
think he does much to further literature and the human cause.
Fritz Leiber is an important American artist. His lack of recognition
outside the cultish world of science fiction is a crime. I think his position
as Guest of Honor at the 4th World Fantasy Convention is a step in the right
direction. See you there.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Nights Black Agents, Arkham House, 19^7; Ballantine, 1961
Night Monsters,, Ace, 19&9
Shadows with Eyes, Ballantine, 1962
Conjure Wife, Twayne, 1953> and many subsequent paperback publications
Our Lady of Darkness, Berkley Putnam, 1977