Damon KnightConjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber, is easily the most frightening and (necessarily) the most thoroughly convincing of all modern horror stories … Leiber develops [the witchcraft] theme with the utmost dexterity, piling up alternate layers of the mundane and outré, until at the story’s real climax, the shocker at the end of Chapter 14, I am not ashamed to say that I jumped an inch out of my seat … Leiber has never written anything better.
Ryan HarveySexism is inherent in the story; it’s about the overturning of the masculine myth of dominance, and for that reversal to make sense, the reader has to view the novel in its time period, when only men were professors, and they all possessed meek little wives who gossiped and held tea and biscuit receptions. Leiber takes the old saying about “behind every man . . .” and gives it the supernatural twist.
Scott Lazerus1)But from the perspective of the early ‘40s, when the story first appeared, could Leiber have been pointing out that, since women did not have access to men’s positions in society, they would still find a way to exercise power, even if it does have to be from the shadows? All the professors at Hempnell are men, but the women are presented as having just as much, and possibly more, influence over the college’s power structure.