Thursday, May 30, 2013

Death of a master

There's lots of cool JMR Higgs news, but I'll post it tomorrow.  I have sad breaking news: science fiction and fantasy master Jack Vance is dead.

I've had to revise my opinion a bit on some of the science fiction writers I liked as a teenager, but I've never wavered from my opinion that Vance is a wonderful writer. When I was in high school, I bought my first science fiction magazine, the July 1972 issue of "Fantasy and Science Fiction," and it had a serial of a Jack Vance novel, The Brave Free Men. When I was still in high school, I wrote him a fan letter. He wrote back.

From 1972 on, I read Vance, and I never really stopped. He put out his last novel, Lurulu, the same year he turned 88. He was done with fiction after that, but put out a charming memoir, This Is Me, Jack Vance! in 2009, which of course I read. He was 96 when he died.

Vance had a distinct style, was witty and was inventive in creating strange customs and culture. He thought little of overbearing institutions and of religion, but liked feasting, wine, jazz (old school) and world travel.

He did write some minor works, but in general was remarkably consistent in his output. He was very good at writing novellas, long short stories, and some of his most famous stories were at that length: "The Dragon Masters" and "The Last Castle" both won Hugos, and "The Moon Moth" was included in SFWA's "Science Fiction Hall of Fame." The Dying Earth, a famous early book, is a collection of related stories. Some of his other best books are story collections, too: Eyes of the Overworld, for example, and its sequel, Cugel's Saga. Emphyrio is a really good novel, and Dan Clore, who runs the RAW Fans group on Facebook, put it on  his list of best libertarian science fiction novels.  I also like the Lyonesse trilogy (World Fantasy Award for the final book of the trilogy, Lyonesse: Madouc, but read the other two), the Cadwal chronicles trilogy and most of the Alastor Cluster novels.

Not sure how I can excuse putting this up on the RAW blog, but I assume that sombunall of you are interested in really good science fiction and fantasy. Dan Clore likes him a lot, and I do, too, and that's from two RAW fans who spend a lot of time promotion RAW on the Internet.

The Guardian ran this excellent appreciation by Christopher Priest. For more Vance links, please see the last day or two of my Twitter account. 

1 comment:

michael said...

Fine obit for a writer I've yet to read. You make me want to read him ASAP.

I know when my favorite writers die, it feels like a personal loss, as if the writer was a member of my family. It sounds like Vance was one of your guys, so my condolences. It sucks.

But what a LIFE he lived!

Thanks for this.