Fritz Leiber – The Pale Brown Thing
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction January/February 1977
Late last year, I read Fritz Leiber’s Our Lady of Darkness. While writing about that book, I discovered that an earlier version of the story had been published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Leiber later claimed that this version, titled The Pale Brown Thing, could be read as an alternative telling of the same story rather than just a draft version of Our Lady of Darkness. I was intrigued. A few days after I published my post on Our Lady of Darkness, a kind soul emailed me scans of the two editions of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction that featured Leiber. I had really enjoyed Our Lady of Darkness, but I didn’t feel the need to read another version of it straight away.
I waited 6 months. I felt like that would be enough time to put myself in the frame of mind that would allow me to both enjoy the story for a second time without it being too repetitive and to be able to remember enough of one version to compare it to the other. It was certainly long enough to allow me to enjoy the story again. I remembered enough to stay a few pages ahead of the plot, but I had forgotten enough to stay interested. Unfortunately, I had forgotten far too much to make any kind of interesting comparison between the two versions of this story. I can’t remember a single thing from Our Lady of Darkness, the longer of the two versions, that does not take place in The Pale Brown Thing. In fact, I am quite unsure as to how the second version is longer. How is it different? What did Leiber add? Is the longer version better?
I guess this is a pretty pathetic post. I’ve ended up just repeating the questions I set out to answer. Maybe I’ll reread Our Lady of Darkness in another 4 months and try again. I can conclude that reading both versions of this story is probably unnecessary if you’re not a huge Leiber fan.
I know I haven’t said much about the actual story here, but I will remind you that I wrote a post on that less than a year ago. Check that one out if you’re curious. In sincerity, I don’t plan on another reread any time soon, but I am still intrigued by Thibault De Castries and his science of megapolisomancy. Wouldn’t it be so cool if a copy of that mysterious book actually turned up?