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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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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.
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George R.R. Martin
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