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The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber
james_nicoll


The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.

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Yeah, I was not happy with this book when I read it decades ago, and I don't imagine it has aged well even from that starting point.

What became of Leiber's writing as he aged beyond this point? This came out when he was in his mid-50s.

He had issues with drinking, as I recall, which seems to have impacted his writing, particularly after his wife died in 1969: only novel I see after 1970 and the rate at which new short works came out dropped off notably after 1980.

In terms of awards, he was just entering his prime. After the Wanderer he earned 4 more Hugos, 3 Nebulas, 2 World Fantasy Awards and a BFA Award.

1958 HugoThe Big TimeBest Novel or Novelette
1965 HugoThe WandererBest Novel
1968 HugoGonna Roll the BonesBest Novelette
1968 NebulaGonna Roll the BonesNovelette
1970 HugoShip of ShadowsBest Novella
1971 HugoIll Met in LankhmarBest Novella
1971 NebulaIll Met in LankhmarNovella
1976 HugoCatch That Zeppelin!Best Short Story
1976 NebulaCatch That Zeppelin!Short Story
1976 World FantasyBelsen ExpressBest Short Fiction
1978 World FantasyOur Lady of DarknessBest Novel
1980 BFAThe Button MolderBest Short Fiction


Agreed about the so-so covers. And am I the only one who didn't have to look to the upper right to know, know that the cat-girl cover bore Penguin imprimatur?

Sounds like something that would be right up SyFy's alley, including having some washed up B lister as the main catgirl alien. Tori Spelling maybe?

Chase Masterson (of DS9 "fame").

Not just cat-people: horse people[1] and whale people and all sorts of (fill in terrestrial animal) people. It's unclear whether they're all Sexy: the mechanics may be prohibitively difficult in some cases.

[1] "Great headed horses with tentacles in the cup of their hooves": probably a My Little pony fanfic by now.

My only memory of this book involves a Ferris wheel. And "popovers".

So, censored proto-Chuck-Tingle?

A Hugo for Best Fanservice might spare fans some embarassment. Time goes by and the reasons behind certain awards are no longer obvious or defensible.

I don't see nearly as much fanservice (as in 'aren't science fiction fans great?!!?!' instead of the anime kind) around these days as I used to, I don't know if I'm just reading different stuff or if the fandom has moved away from wanting as much of that kind of thing.

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
"The could have dismantled one of the Solar System’s Moon-sized worlds not adjacent to the Earth."

But those other worldlets would not have yielded such a rich bounty of helium-3.

Yeah, not one of Leiber's better books :-) but I've been trying to think of multiple viewpoint Big Disaster novels before it and can't come up with any.

Storm? By George Stewart?

The multiple viewpoints reminded me very much of 70s disaster movies eg Earthquake, Towering Inferno. Did Leiber in fact invent this paradigm? if not who did, or was it parallel development?


(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
OK, so definitely not something to reread - I read it as a teen, mildly enjoyed it (and even then found some bits problematic). Reading the review and the comments here inspired me to look at
Leiber's bibliography and realizing how early most of his work was. I reread The Green Millennium a few years ago and found it odd, but enjoyable (although with all the caveats that much fiction from that long ago usually entails), but other than more sex, sadly Leiber's attitudes don't seem to have changed over the decades. I'm now mildly interested to see how A Spectre Is Haunting Texas has aged - I read it even longer ago than The Wanderer.

I suspect A Spectre Is Haunting Texas dated quickly, perhaps the moment Hubert Humphrey started running for President, on 27 April 1968.

Unfortunately, the first installment of the novel ran in the July 1968 issue of Galaxy.

Political events outrunning the extrapolations of one's near-future SF novel? It would appear autopope's not the first author to be afflicted with this difficulty.

I remember reading this as a teenager and being somewhat taken aback by the fact that Barbara and the elderly Grand Wizard bond over Doc Smith; that was probably a major political statement, coming that soon after Smith's death.

Doc was still alive then.

Someone has already added James' critical comment to the wikipedia page for the novel.


"The Wanderer" is one of those books where I like the idea far more than the novel that it was turned into. The less a section focuses on the people on Earth, the better it is.

In terms of other, better novels of 1965 (I'm a Brunner fan, but I do think The Whole Man is a little thin), probably the best option would be Aldiss's Greybeard.

One thing I recall from The Wanderer is this Thog-worthy passage. Margo's astronaut boyfriend is stationed at a base on the Moon. Meanwhile, back on Earth, she is watching the sky in horror as the Moon disintegrates.

Margo's lips formed the word, "Don," and she shivered and hugged Miaow to her.

How Margo's lips are involved in forming the word "Don" has eluded me all these years.

(Miaow is a cat, in case anyone needs that explained.)

HAL 9000's lipreading algorithm thought she'd said "Bomb", and that was the cause of all the trouble.

One thing in this novel that stuck with me is the really, really, really minor character who is in love with his giant analog computer.

As the real world ocean deviates from the predictions of his machine, Fritz Scher slowly goes mad.
He stood up from his desk and walked over to the sleekly streamlined, room-long tide-predicting machine. Inside the machine a wire ran through many movable precision pulleys, each pulley representing a factor influencing the tide at the point on Earth’s hydrosphere for which the machine was set; at the end of the wire a pen drew on a graph-papered drum a curve giving the exact tides at that point, hour by hour.

At Delft they had a machine that did it all electronically, but those were the feckless Hollanders!

[Much later...]

So Fritz had no one at whom to direct his mocking laughter when the tide went down during the evening hours. And later, around midnight, he had only the tide-predicting machine with whom to share his rationalizations as to why the tide had gone down so far, according to the very few reports that were still trickling in. But that rather pleased him, as his devout affection for the long, sleek machine was becoming physical. He moved his desk beside her, so he could touch her constantly. From time to time he went to a window and looked out briefly, but there was heavy cloud cover, so his disbelief in the Wanderer was not put to the crucial test.



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