Jack Vance


Mr VanceAfter a brief respite, we bring to a close our travels through my creative influences, primarily in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with my favorite author, the great Jack Vance.

It’s humbling to use my bumbling words to try to describe Mr. Vance’s exquisite prose, but I’m all you have to introduce you to one of the most gifted writers you may not have read.  For those who have enjoyed Jack Vance stories, you will understand and forgive, since there are few who would put their writing up against his and not feel some awe.

I won’t build you a romantic tale of tragedy and triumph from his life.  Jack Vance was a man living an ordinary existence very little different from your own, most likely.  He worked a variety of jobs when younger, married when he was thirty (and stayed married for 60+ years – which might just be extraordinary, after all – until his wife Norma’s passing, ), published his first story in 1945 and continued producing in the seven decades since.  He has a love of sailing and jazz; no doubt many of you share the same.  His gift for writing…ah, that is truly special.

It will be difficult to tell of his work without gushing, but I will strive to keep the adulation to a mere pedestal level (as opposed to my regular deification of his talent).

Jack Vance has had many great accomplishments and been recognized by the appropriate gaudy awards and honors.  You will find the most compelling of his accolades are those from people who read his books.  He excels in painting worlds and characters patently unbelievable into absolute credibility.  His elegance of dialogue and wit make his characters both unreal and instantly enviable.  No person could possibly talk like a Jack Vance character and yet what a magnificent world it would be if we could.

The landscapes and worlds he creates are made to be seen and smelled and heard within the reader’s mind.  The detail he lavishes on the societal structures, mores, behaviors and colors of his worlds and living creatures makes it easy for you to envision the environment each tale takes place within.  Color is an especially strong theme within his books.

As with the previously discussed Larry Niven, Jack Vance also has a “collected universe”, in this case called the “Gaean Reach”, within which many of his stories take place.  But whereas Niven’s universe is ordered and logical, Vance’s world’s are disparate and unique.  Though there may be echoes of Earth within them, the structure and flavor of the worlds take bold new directions in history and purpose.

His writing in the Science Fiction and Fantasy field continues well into the time he has been legally blind (since 1980), with some of his finest work published since then.  There are Jack Vance devotee’s who swear by his fantasy work (Dying Earth, Lyonesse) and legions more who trumpet his science fiction masterpieces (Demon Princes, Tschai, Cadwal) and still others (or perhaps the same), who love his less categorical work (Galactic Effectuator, Emphyrio, his mystery tales).

This is what I can tell you with out hyperbole:  You will enjoy reading Jack Vance as much as any author within the genre.  There is a good likelihood that you will enjoy reading Jack Vance…period.

Though I am loath to try to limit my recommendations for reading Jack Vance stories, I give you my three best ideas to entrance you, at the Jeremy Shuttles Adventure page:


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