Monday, May 09, 2005

Fame (I): I was linked to by Nicholas Whyte in his review of "Gonna Roll The Bones," by Fritz Leiber.

He actually links to my earlier post "Incomprehensible Visions" where I lament the inaccessibility of some of the stories in Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions, particularly "Riders Of The Purple Wage."

While I stand by what I said that post, I have to wince at that post being connected to "Gonna Roll The Bones." Leiber's story, while still containing all the symbolism and decodability of Farmer's, still works as plain old comprehensible story. The metaphor, rather than obscuring the story, sharpens it, makes it shine.

I read it years ago, in Ben Bova's The Best of the Nebulas. It's about a gambler playing dice with the devil, with a fun mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and tall tale elements. Here's a paragraph, describing Night Town:

At first Night Town seemed dead as the rest of Ironmine, but then he noticed a faint glow, sick as the vampire lights but more feverish, and with it a jumping music, tiny at first as a jazz for jitterbugging ants. He stepped along the springy sidewalk, wistfully remembering the days when the spring was all in his own legs and he'd bound into a fight like a bobcat or Martian sand-spider. God, it had been years now since he had fought a real fight or felt the power. Gradually the midget music got raucous as a bunnyhug for grizzly bears and loud as a polka for elephants, while the glow became a riot of gas flares and flambeaux and corpse-blue mercury tubes and jiggling pink neon ones that all jeered at the stars where the spaceships roved. Next thing, He was facing a three-storey false front flaring everywhere like a devil's rainbow, with a pale blue topping of St. Elmo's fire. There were wide swinging doors in the center of it, spilling light above and below. Above the doorway, golden calcium light scrawled over and over again, with wild curlicues and flourishes, "The Boneyard," while a fiendish red kept printing out "Gambling."

As a postscript to my old post, after pressing through Farmer's story, eventually I made enough sense of it to go back and actually dissect a lot of the first half--but really, if the story requires that much scrutiny to be comprehended, that's just not fun for me. Leiber's story was a lot of fun to read, and a lot of fun to think about.

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