The story of a female vampire, a femme fatale, a girl who just one day walks into a photographer’s studio and wants to do some modelling.
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Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr was born in 1910 in Chicago, Illinois and died in San Francisco, California in 1992 when he was 81. His parents were actors and when he was a child he toured with them when they were acting. He got his degree in 1932 in psychology and then after graduating went to be a minister in the Episcopal Church. But didn’t finish and went back to do postgraduate studies in philosophy.
He is best known for his fantasy, horror and science fiction stories but he was also a chess master. He was one of he fathers of the Sword & Sorcery genre along with Robert E Howard and Michael Moorcock and it was Leiber who coined the term.
His early career was as an actor, following in his parents’ footsteps. But he did write some stories. His literary career seems to have been spurred on when he entered into correspondence with H P Lovecraft in 1936 (Lovecraft died in 1937) and he published his first Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser sword and sorcery story in 1939 in a pulp magazine.
He had been a pacifist but when the Second World War broke out he was convinced that the struggle against fascism was worth fighting and he went to work for Douglas Aircraft corporation but still wrote fiction.
He married Jonquil Stephens in 1936 and she died in 1969.
Leiber had a life-long battle with alcoholism and long period of addiction to barbiturates was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Despite the success of his novels he was extremely poor and lived in a down at heel hotel surrounded by bookshelves with a manual typewriter.
Things looked up towards the end of his life when he began to get royalty checks from TSR who were the publishers of the successful Dungeons & Dragons games and who had licensed his work.
Leiber died in 1992 of a stroke but he married Margo Skinner in the last year of his life
The Girl With The Hungry Eyes
Lieber published this story in 1949 and it was made into an episode of The Night Gallery in 1972 and has been made into a film twice, once in 1967 and then in 1995. It was also the title of a. Son by Jefferson Starship in 1979 on their album Freedom at Point Zero.
Our protagonist is a down at heel commercial photographer when The Girl seeks him out. Is this an act of philanthropy ? In fact as deadly as she is to all other men who covet her she seems to have a soft spot for our photographer and let’s him live, repeatedly rebuffing his attempts to engage in fatal lovemaking.
This seems a very male story. It is uncomfortable to read after the #MeToo revelations because it suggests that slapping the chops off The Girl would be an appropriate and even positive thing to do and that making a pass at a girl in an empty office is exactly what all men would and should do.
She is the only female in the story, and she is an archetype. She is a vampire and she punishes these men for their covetous lust but all the same they seem like poor saps driven to lust after her by their impulses. Again the suggestion is that it would be culturally impossible for them not to lust after her.
So the main mystery is why does she let him be? She even smiles at him. In fact he is the only man who ever meets her in the flesh and lives.
She is presented as the typical girl from a Film Noir movie, sassy, sexy, femme fatale. Someone like Lauren Bacal or even Sean Young in the first Blade Runner. I actually have a series of graphic novels called Fatale by Ed Brubaker. She is also like She by Rider Haggard and represents very much the Dark Anima.
When she appears it is like she has been conjured up. Though she looks like a girl of the street, she has no backstory, no history, nor even a name. She is a figment of the collective male unconscious. Leiber is even explicit about this.
Leiber was heavily influenced by the psychological theories of Carl Jung. Remember his first degree was in psychology and his later studies were in psychology so he was clearly interested in the way the world is and how we interpret it.. Leiber was also interested in Joseph Campbell’s work. Campbell was a mythologist and his analysis of The Heroes Journey has been the template for nearly all Hollywood movies, including Star Wars.
The Anima was Carl Jung’s idea and it is both compelling to men and tainted with evil. The Anima seduces and devours. Possession by the Anima where a man comes completely under its spell is what is happening here and Jung was clear this was a very bad thing. The equivalent would be Animus Possession in a woman, but we read very few stories about this.
The purpose of Jung’s psychology is to free oneself from identification with the unconscious and thus to be able to avoid being controlled by the archetypes.
Leiber at the end paints a picture of The Girl as a symbol of the advertising industry that wants everything for you. It is a personification of an empty promise.
The Girl is a vampire, but a psychic vampire. She draws something out of him and this makes him dizzy. It is her eyes that are the focus of her power. The Windows of the Soul.
When she appears it is like she has been conjured up. Though she looks like a girl of the street, she has no backstory, no history, nor even a name. She is a figment of the collective male unconscious.
At the end she wants everything from him, every aspect of his life he has mentioned to her. She wants his identity and his experiences even though when he was rambling on about these previously she seemed not to take any notice of them.
He knows that he has to give up the success she’s enabled for him. The price was just too great. But she lets him get away, when he fumbles with her blouse, she stops him.
I got this story in the Penguin Book of Vampire Stories which I’ve had for years.