Wandering Through the Public Domain #19

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon:

Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) was a name that appeared multiple times in the Retro Hugo ballot this year. His Conjure Wife took the best novel Retro Hugo, and another Leiber novel, Gather, Darkness! was the second-place finisher. He was also in the hunt for Best Novelette for “Thieves’ House”. 

While none of these works are currently in the public domain, I did find a podcast with an hour-long discussion of Conjure Wife on Internet Archive. The podcast was Necronomipod (which appears to be from 2007 and a completely different iteration than the current day podcasts of the same title, which discusses weirdness and true crime).

Conjure Wife was adapted as a movie called Inner Sanctum in 1948, and the movie is in the public domain and available on Internet Archive. Interestingly, Fritz Leiber Sr., father of the writer, was an actor and played Dr. Valonius in the movie.

However, there are plenty of other Lieber works, from short stories to full-length novels, available on Project Gutenberg and Librivox, so I thought this would be a good time to take a look.

Short stories:

All of these stories except “Dr. Kometevsky’s Day” and “Time in the Round” have been recorded for various collections on Librivox

Novelettes, Novellas, and Novels:

Librivox volunteers sometimes make their own anthologies by recording a set of stories as a stand-alone audiobook project, either on their own or with a group of volunteers. Lieber features in several of these audiobooks:

One more interesting Librivox anthology is X Minus One Project. This collects an assortment of short SF tales that were adapted by the radio show X Minus One that ran from 1955-1958. The anthology includes “The Moon is Green” by Leiber, along with other stories by authors like Robert Sheckley, H. Beam Piper, Frederik Pohl, and several others. (X Minus One adapted even more famous stories by the likes of Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury, but those stories aren’t in the public domain yet.)

Speaking of X Minus One, the series adapted three Leiber stories during its run, and they are available on Internet Archive:

Recent Librivox releases:

  • Deathworld by Harry Harrison (1925-2012)

    A world that actively seeks to kill the colonists. Not a pleasant place. The hordes of ferocious animals all come with deadly poison and a will to kill as many humans as possible. Even the plants have teeth and claws and toxins dripping from every surface. They fly, crawl and run for the chance to sink something terrible into a human arm or leg. Oh, and did I mention the 2G gravity? Pyrrus is its name. The settlers there were supermen… twice as strong as ordinary men and with instantaneous reflexes. They had to be. For their business was murder…a 3 year old Pyrrian had a loaded gun strapped to his forearm and knew how to use it or he was a dead 3 year old. It was up to Jason dinAlt, interplanetary gambler, to discover why Pyrrus had become so hostile during man’s brief habitation…if he could stay alive long enough to even make a start…


  • A Martian Odyssey and A Valley of Dreams by Stanley Weinbaum (1902-1935)

    The first of these stories was originally published in the July 1934 issue of Wonder Stories. It was followed four months later by a sequel, “Valley of Dreams” in the same magazine. These classic stories take us to Mars where we meet a Martian, or at least something very different from us, and several other completely original specimens of life. The Martian “Tweel” looks like an ostrich and the Egyptian god Osiris – for good reason, as you will find out if you listen to the story!


  • With Her in Ourland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)

    Third in the trilogy of the feminist classics, after Moving the Mountain and Herland. In Herland, three American young men discover a country inhabited solely by women, who were parthenogenetic (asexual procreation), and had borne only girl children for two thousand years; they marry three of the women. Two of the men and one woman leave the country of Herland to return to America; Jeff Margrave remaining in Herland with his wife, Celis, a willing citizen; Terry O. Nicholson being expelled from Herland for bad conduct; and Ellador electing to leave Herland with her husband, Vandyck Jennings. We now continue the story, told from the viewpoint of Vandyck Jennings, as they return to America.


  • Doomsday Eve by Robert Moore Williams (1907-1977)

    In the midst of the war—that terrible conflict that threatened humanity’s total destruction—the “new people” suddenly appeared. Quietly performing incredible deeds, vanishing at will, they were an enigma to both sides. Kurt Zen was an American intelligence officer among the many sent to root them out. He found them. Taken captive in their hidden lair, he waited as the enemy prepared to launch the super missile, the bomb to end all bombs—and all life. If only he could find the source of the new people’s power, Kurt alone might be able to prevent obliteration of the Earth…. 

5 thoughts on “Wandering Through the Public Domain #19

  1. Let me strongly recommend “Time in the Round” even before finishing the article. I can’t say how good it is or what it signifies, because I read it when I was very young and lacked critical abilities. It’s one of my favorite stories of all time. Fritz delightfully captures the minds of the children. We love The Butcher … but if he were a grown-up, we’d hate him….

  2. Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air” was probably one of the first SF stories written for adults I ever read — probably at seven or eight — and it scared the daylights out of me for years. His imagery of the Earth slowly dying, and all of humanity waiting for death — as demonstrated by the frozen bodies in the apartment building — as the world is slowly drawn away from the sun: brilliant and terrifying.

    Glad you supplied all these links to stories by Mr. Leiber. He is still far and away my favorite SF writer, and I appreciate anything that keeps his flag flying.

  3. I’m glad for comments like these—I don’t have time to read or even skim most of the stuff I mention here—my column has always been more of a “oh hey here’s a thing someone might be interested in” so specific endorsements are much appreciated.

    I did have the opportunity to record “The Last Letter” for one of the short works collections and I really enjoyed it. More a tongue in cheek fun story than something scary.

  4. Internet Archive do have a scan of the original magazine publication of Conjure Wife, though I am never entirely convinced that what they distribute they do so legally.

  5. @David Gustafson, A Pail of Air is the first adult SF I remember reading. It’s certainly the first time I made the effort to remember the title and author.

    I, too, was perhaps seven or eight years old. And it’s stuck with me for almost fifty years.

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