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‘His Night Mind’
The Dreams Of Albert Moreland - Fritz Leiber

In the first minute of the story the author captured the essence of urban alienation in Post-World War II Manhattan, in a brief sketch of a handful of chess-playing types.

“The War and the Dream” haunted the narrator and the protagonist in this chilling recollection of a WWII bomber pilot about meeting a man whose psyche was far more damaged than his own had been by suffering through the “Tremendous duty and cataclysmic consequences” of the late dehumanizing war. The subject, Albert Moreland is a professional level chess player who merely plays games for a quarter at a local arcade. During a session with the narrator, a former bomber pilot, Albert confesses to being caught in a reoccurring interactive dream with an unknown malevolence.

Leiber, best known for his Fafred and the Grey Mouser adventure yarns, is one of the few science fiction and fantasy authors to explicitly cite WWII as a great maiming of the masculine Aryan psyche. Mervyn Peake’s trilogy, Titus Groan, Gormanghast and Titus Alone offer an exquisitely wrought and eerily implicit statement of this vast painful fact, Leiber takes a winding road into the human mind where we reach for the heart of the cosmos in our dreams. This is deftly done, as if the reader’s mind’s eye were guided by Carl Jung through a nightmare had by H.P. Lovecraft.

Here is Leiber’s statement on the Post-World War II period, which we are told was the pinnacle of western culture, peace and prosperity, because dad had a car and mom had a washing machine and we all plucked cool drinks from a refrigerator in a house that might belong to the family in a mere 30 years’ time:

“…the mad, dismal state of the world, for it was October and sense of utter catastrophe had not yet been dulled, and I thought of the million drifting Morelands suddenly shocked into a realization, of the desperate plight of things and the priceless chances lost forever in the past, and of their own-ill-defined but certain complicity in the disaster. I began to see Moreland’s dream as a symbol of a last-ditch, to-late struggle against the implacable forces of fate and chance.”

Leiber captured an anxiety of feeling now dead, since burnished from the ashen horror of reality into the bright shining lie of posterity, and did so in the shadow of the very monstrous event which began the unraveling of our world even as we worshipped it as the sacral, collective deed of our fathers. This monstrous tale, set in the bowels of the most monstrous city, the narration of Leiber takes the reader beyond the very stars of night into a vault of alienage that reminds us that we were once naked creatures shivering in the night.

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