Truly, one of the great ones has gone.
First and foremost, my thoughts are with his family and friends and I hope they can all take comfort from how much Vance’s writing was loved by fans and admired by writers and critics. I am right there with them. Jack’s writing, every single word, is on my bookshelves. I have read his books until they fell apart and then I bought new ones, and will continue to do so.
Blind since a disastrous operation to preserve his weak eyesight in the 1980s, Vance continued to write using software called BigEd, and producing some of his finest work. His writing style is unique – flamboyant, colourful, sardonic. Every character from fey to king, space pirate to demon, is a master of loquacious erudition, able to cut the banter with sinister menace or dry humour.
During rehearsals Zamp attempted to simplify and modernize certain obscure phrases, and again found himself in controversy with Gassoon, who insisted on fidelity to the original. “All very well,” cried Zamp, “but speech is spoken that it may be understood. Why present a drama which simply bewilders everyone?”
“Your mind lacks poetry,” Gassoon responded sharply. “Can you not imagine a drama of hints and dreams which totally transcends the animal titillations and spasms and hooting sounds upon which your reputation is based?…Authenticity must be our watchword.” - "The Magnificent Showboats…" (pg.121)
That he was good is not in question – he’s an SFWA Grand Master and has won a clutch of awards . The New York Times described him as “one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices”. You can find a dozen, two dozen writers such as George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Liz Williams, Dan Simmons and Robert Silverberg that have been influenced by him. In fact these and many others contributed to the anthology set in Vance’s future Earth - Songs of the Dying Earth.
And that he was loved by fans is obvious. No other author has ever enjoyed such engagement. In 1999 a group of fans began what was to become VIE – the Vance Integral Edition, a six-year project to create a definitive hardback reprint of Vance’s entire body of work – "the restoration of Vance’s works to the state intended by their author." Produced with Vance’s full co-operation, this totalled 45 volumes.
Vance’s stories transported me to worlds of wonder, of beautiful nightmares, of fey magic - all so real I felt I had been there, stood on the ground and walked through those incredible cities and landscapes myself. There’s nothing more I can say except: "Thank you, Jack Vance, for so many worlds, so many, many hours of pleasure I found in your books."
Raise a glass, Mr. Vance liked beer, and so do I. The man is gone, jazz musician, sailor, writer. His work remains. Foreverness.
Lyonesse trilogy (Lyonesse: Madouc received the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel)
The Dying Earth
The Eyes of the Overworld
The Man in the Cage (Edgar Allen Poe award)
The Dragon Masters (Hugo award)
You can buy e-book versions at Vance’s own shop.
You can leave your tributes and thoughts at Vance’s official site.
David Gullen's short fiction has appeared in Catastrophia, Art from Art and ARC Magazine. More on his website.