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A Sad Day for SF

It is a sad day for fans of science fiction and fantasy.

Word has just gotten out that Jack Vance, one of the grandmasters of our genres, and IMNSHO one of the greatest writers of our times, passed away on Sunday. He was 96.

I had the honor of meeting Jack a few times, but I cannot claim to have known him well. But he had a huge influence on me and my work, and for the past fifty-some years has ranked among my very favorite writers. Every time a new Jack Vance book came out, I would drop whatever else I was doing and read it. Sometimes I did not mean to, but once you cracked the covers of a Vance book, you were lost.

It pleases me no end that Gardner Dozois and I were able to do our tribute anthology, SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, when Jack was still alive, so he could hear how many of today's fantasists he had inspired. Vance's Dying Earth ranks with Howard's Hyborian Age and Tolkien's Middle Earth as one of the all-time great fantasy settings, and Cugel the Clever is the genre's greatest rogue, a character as memorable as Conan or Frodo (either of whom Cugel would likely swindle out of their smallclothes, had they ever met).

Vance was equally adept at writing SF and mystery, and will be remembered as one of the very few writers ever to win an Edgar Award along with Hugos and Nebulas. The output was prodigious, and there is scarcely a bad book among them. If you haven't read Jack Vance... well, I pity you, but I envy you as well. You have some amazing adventures ahead of you. The Dying Earth, Lyonesse, the Demon Princes, BAD RONALD, Liane the Wayfarer and Chun the Unavoidable, Emphyrio, Showboat World, Big Planet, the Dirdir and the Pnume and the Chasch and (yes) the Wankh, the Last Castle, the Dragon Masters, the Moon Moth... the list goes on and on and on and on.

Jack Vance left the world a richer place than he found it. No more can be asked of any writer.


Scott Rivera
May. 29th, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC)
Read a few of his novellas and they are all great. Never read the Undying Earth series will have to since you speak so highly of it. What I have read he was awesome and a pioneer. My hope and a selfish one is that you will live long and be able to give us as many great stories as he has. More from the world of asoiaf. Sorry if I'm volunteering you for another 30 years of work :/. He will be missed among fantasy and Sci-fi fans.
May. 29th, 2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
I have never read Vance
but I've been meaning to ever since I first heard about your anthology.

This reminds me of the death of Kurt Vonnegut. He is probably my greatest influence and I never had the opportunity to meet him before he died. But then again, they do say we should never meet our heroes.
May. 29th, 2013 11:14 pm (UTC)

One by one we watch our brothers set their feet upon the rainbow.

I have before me a copy of The Green Pearl at this moment.
May. 29th, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC)
heres to the passing of another of the greats. amen.
May. 29th, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC)
A tremendous loss. Time for another re-read of ... well, not so much "too many" books as "too few" -- and that's saying something.

He'll be much missed.
Jun. 1st, 2013 05:18 pm (UTC)
Quite so, my dear Elio. As I always say, two times around the block when it comes to reading classic SF is the only way to go.
May. 29th, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
I have never read Jack Vance, but I am sorry to hear of his passing. In his honor I will most certainly purchase Tales of a Dying Earth and read it next. I have a feeling I'm in for a treat considering George's recommendation and the countless positive reviews his work has received. RIP Mr. Vance. I'll be visiting you for the first time in your world very soon.
Michael J. Walsh
May. 30th, 2013 12:02 am (UTC)
One of the great ones. He made even footnotes in stories interesting.

He had a great life.
May. 30th, 2013 05:44 am (UTC)
Indeed; he pioneered the surreal footnote, without which Terry Pratchett, among others, would have failed to reach full flower.
May. 30th, 2013 01:16 am (UTC)
I have been sad all day since I heard the news. But grateful as well, to see so many others mark the passing of one of the greats.
(Deleted comment)
May. 30th, 2013 05:00 am (UTC)
Just went and purchased all 4 Jack Vance Dying Earth Novels for my Kindle on Amazon.com. They were $6.64 each which is a heck of a deal for the hours of entertainment I will surely get out of them. Will give them a read in the months ahead.

May. 30th, 2013 08:42 am (UTC)
If you've not read any Vance, that is where I'd start. For roleplayers, that series provided the basis for the D&D magic system AND the model for the thief class (in the person of Cugel the Clever) - Gary Gygax said so himself.
Aaron Singleton
May. 30th, 2013 06:05 am (UTC)
I just found out about this. I discovered Vance on your site, George, back in 2001 or so. I left a comment about him here, on your blog, a few years ago, to which you replied. Anyway, I came by here to say thank you and to share this great loss.
May. 30th, 2013 08:23 am (UTC)
Because of your constant praise I bought the Dying Earth series a few month ago. RIP
May. 30th, 2013 09:17 am (UTC)
Very say news. THE DYING EARTH had an impact on the fantasy genre that is unparalleled, and the one-volume version of LYONESSE may be the greatest one-volume fantasy book of all time aside from LORD OF THE RINGS. I really need to read more of his stuff, particularly DEMON PRINCES which I've heard many good things about.
May. 30th, 2013 09:29 am (UTC)
"Noise" has changed me
I was a teenager when I read "Noise" by Jack Vance. This story is one of most important things I've ever read in my life. A beautiful story about beauty and longing you cannot bear.

RIP Jack Vance
Colin Shaw
May. 30th, 2013 09:29 am (UTC)
I also eagerly devoured his novels as a teenager and now feel inspired to re-read them. I loved his fast-paced stories and brilliantly preposterous dialogue. Let's hope that some of his more obscure - but still very worthwhile - work will now be re-published…
May. 30th, 2013 10:32 am (UTC)
It's extremely difficult to write a tribute to Vance because compared to his prose, anything I write would appear clumsy and awkward.

Instead, I will reproduce one of my favourite pieces of writing in all of SF and Fantasy. It's the opening paragraph of 'Emphyrio'. Vance was able to create images like this remarkably frequently.

"In the chamber at the top of the tower were six individuals: three who chose to call themselves "lords" or sometimes "remedials"; a wretched underling who was their prisoner; and two Garrion. The chamber was dramatic and queer: of irregular dimension, hung with panels of heavy maroon velvet. At one end an embrasure admitted a bar of light: this of a smoky amber quality, as if the pane were clogged with dust - which it was not; in fact the glass was a subtle sort, producing remarkable effects. At the opposite end of the room was a low trapezoidal door of black skeel."
May. 30th, 2013 10:57 am (UTC)
Jack Vance's Legacy
A very sad day indeed. One of our greatest writers in any genre has passed. My first Jack Vance experience was reading THE DEMON PRINCES which blew me away. Since then, whenever a Vance book came out, I had to get it and loose myself in his marvelous creations.THE DYING EARTH is his most enduring creation.I am lucky to have a copy of that book signed by Vance And the language! Jack was a first-rate wordsmith. Sometimes you may have had to look up one of his words in a dictionary, or google it as we say nowadays, but it was worth it. Reading Vance educated and changed you. His kind will sorely be missed. Read Vance, the experience will change you.
May. 30th, 2013 01:22 pm (UTC)
Requiescat In Pace
Philip Overkleeft
May. 30th, 2013 01:47 pm (UTC)
Vance (together with Tolkien) introduced me to SF and fantasy, a long time ago. Loved The Killing Machine, loved Emphyrio. And Suldrun's Garden contains the single most moving death scene I've ever read. Vance could be very funny as wel. Tamurello's fate (in The Green Pearl I think) is a prime example. Rest in peace!
May. 30th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
He was one of my favorite authors. He had more writing skill displayed in one book than most authors show in their entire lifetime. And he wrote a LOT of books. RIP Jack.
Carlo D'Anna
May. 30th, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC)
Jack Vance HBO series or something?
I don't have the ear of HBO execs, but if you do George could you please persuade them to do a series from one of Jack Vance's series? Just a thought. I spoke to you very briefly at a book signing in Seattle around 2000 or so before GOT was rabid and you asked me if I had ever read Jack Vance. I knew immediately that some of your writing style emulated his.
Ivo Steijn
May. 30th, 2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
My favorite writer. I worked a little on the Vance Integral Edition as a way of saying thank you to the man whose books I started reading when I was 9. I remember when Meulendijk, the Dutch publishers, would make my month better by publishing a new Vance book.

Some of his lines are still quoted around the house today. "That is not customary procedure"; "In view of the general protest we will withdraw our claim".
May. 30th, 2013 09:45 pm (UTC)
Hello George
Hello George,

From France here. It's time now with your help to get Lyonesse on HBO.


May. 30th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
Dying Earth
Sorry to hear about that, George. I read the anthology. Very good, and you put in a particularly good effort on your piece.
Dexter Hinkson
May. 30th, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
Jack Vance
I had the distinct pleasure of reading the Tales of the Dying Earth a few years ago. What struck me was the depth of his imagination and the breadth of his humor. It was writing that was captivating, and who can forget Cugel and Rhialto the Marvellous

Another Titan of the genre has fallen. RIP Jack Vance

Edited at 2013-05-30 10:17 pm (UTC)
Bjrn Jakobsen
May. 30th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC)
One of the pillars. So endlessly playful and creative. I am grateful he was here among us, he will be missed.
May. 30th, 2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
Sad news indeed. I was hoping SubPress would do a signed copy of "Dying Earth" to go along with my signed copy of "Songs... Dying Earth". Too late for that now. I feel very lucky to at least have his signature on "Songs...".

R.I.P. Mr. Vance
May. 30th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
I've never read any of his books but I've wanted to for some time. Where's a good place for a Vance newbie to start?
May. 31st, 2013 12:52 am (UTC)
I'd try a standalone first, before getting into one of the big series. Maybe EMPHYRIO or THE NIGHT LAMP.
May. 31st, 2013 01:04 am (UTC)
I did not know of Jack Vance until George mentioned him as an influence at a signing in 2000 or so. It wasn't long until I met the Demon Princes, the Gray Prince,the Dragonmasters and explored Alastor. Actually, I still have a section of Alastor to finish. RIP Jack Vance. Glad your house lives on in ASOIAF.
May. 31st, 2013 01:52 am (UTC)
Amid the depressingly regular obits, it's exceptional to see such an outpouring as Jack Vance is receiving.

My high school English teacher confiscated the issue of Galaxy with the orange and green Gaughan cover for Dragonmaster, because I was supposed to be paying attention to Treasure Island . . .
May. 31st, 2013 04:02 am (UTC)
Thought of you when I heard the news. Condolences.
Steven Townshend
May. 31st, 2013 03:01 pm (UTC)
I only came to understand the brilliance of Vance last year when I listened to The Dying Earth on audiobook.

I fell in love.

Bought all the Dying Earth books I could get my hands on, reread The Dying Earth in print, and then Cugel and Rhialto.

In March after buying a recent Dying Earth edition, I wrote Spatterlight Press to ask why Turjan of Mir and Mazirian the Magician were arranged in a different order than I'd been used to reading them. I didn't realize I was writing John Vance, who asked his father, who emphatically stressed that Mazirian was meant to be first. From the horse's mouth. So be it!

I was reading Sylgarmo's Procalmation from Songs of the Dying Earth on the day Jack Vance passed. I'm grateful that there's so much of this book left to read, so much of his worlds still to discover. Love it.
May. 31st, 2013 07:11 pm (UTC)
It's a sad day indeed but there is a silver lining in regards to Sci-Fi and Fantasy, writers are like hydras, when one dies, three more come to take their place, that are just as good.
Carlo D'Anna
May. 31st, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
Gotta say that th"Planet of Adventure" series was my favorite. Talk about colorful and vivid characters? Vastly entertaining.
Jun. 1st, 2013 03:08 am (UTC)
Im sorry to hear that another well loved author has gone to the clearing at the end of the path. Ive not read his work but after your words im putting him at the top of my 'to read' list.
Jun. 1st, 2013 10:30 am (UTC)
Jun. 1st, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
Close to 100 years...
That is a good, long life to have lived.
Jun. 3rd, 2013 06:10 am (UTC)
I'm late to the wake on this news. I'm so sorry to hear about that. I enjoyed reading him a lot during my mid teens into my early 20s. I thought the cover art on the Gray Prince was haunting.
Jun. 4th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
Sad, sad, sad.

Heartwarming to know he was an influence on you GRRM. I suspected as much from your general style, but in particular I always thought the character of "Lann the Clever", the Lannisters' founder in ASOIAF, sounded like a sly nod to Cugel.
Jun. 5th, 2013 02:08 am (UTC)
Jack Vance
Terribly sad news, Jack was one of the first great writers I read so many years ago and I wandered the fields of his imagination with great anticipation. He had a style unlike any other.

Jun. 8th, 2013 04:48 am (UTC)
Yes I just read this in EW and came here to express condolences.
Jun. 11th, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC)
Jack Vance got me into reading English books in fifth grade when a friend of mine brought the Planet of Adventure series to class. My friend was reading it and I got curious. So I borrowed it from him when he was done and devoured it, probably missing a lot due to not understanding words here and there (being that I'm Swedish and I was 11 at the time). I got the main plot nevertheless and loved every second of it.

Since that day in fifth class I've loved science fiction, all thanks to Jack Vance and his Planet of Adventure.
Kellas Campbell
Jun. 14th, 2013 09:38 am (UTC)
My time with Jack Vance and Norma
Way back when I was about 15, I wrote Jack Vance a fan letter and he answered me back. We ended up writing each other all through my remaining years at high school, and then his family was kind enough to take me in for awhile. He used to play banjo at the kitchen table and tell stories of other writers he'd known -- he'd been good friends with the guy who wrote Dune. He wrote in a dark room -- the letters on the computer screen were huge, as he had such bad eyesight. They had a beautiful house, which they'd built themselves over the years. Norma was a wonderful person, too. I wish I'd been less of a jerk back then, but then, I had the unfortunate fate of being a teenage girl.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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