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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.


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

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