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Writer Jack Vance Dead At 96

timothy posted about a year ago | from the 96-is-a-good-run dept.

Books 83

New submitter angelofdarkness writes "Jack Vance died Sunday evening. He was 96. Thank you for the stories and adventures and for influencing the games I still play after all these years. From the article: 'A science fiction Grand Master, Vance is probably best remembered for his four Dying Earth novels, which take place in a far-future Earth where the sun has dimmed and magic has been reestablished as a dominant force. They feature a brilliant picaresque adventure tone, including the unforgettable thief Cugel the Clever, and they were also celebrated in a recent anthology Songs of the Dying Earth, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. These books contain Vance's characteristic ironic, lightly humorous style, which has influenced generations of science fiction writers." Reader paai points to the official Jack Vance website, and this 2009 profile in the New York Times.

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83 comments

Also influenced D&D (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about a year ago | (#43859479)

For many, Vance is most remembered for "Vancian" casting in Dungeons and Dragons where spellcasters prepare their spells in advance and then cast the spells, causing them to leave their minds. Gary Gygax, one of the two major founders of D&D, liked Dying Earth and so incorporated the idea into the game. The casting idea does show up in the Dying Earth, but in a very different way, where spells are big and rare, and having a spell in one's mind takes up a lot of space. In contrast, in most versions of Dungeon's and Dragons a wizard could have many spells memorized at the same time. To some extent, Vancian casting has been a cause of controversy, with some people blaming it for being partially responsible for the overpowerd nature of spellcasters in some editions, especially 3.0 and 3.5. Yet, many who rejected 4th edition did so because 4th dropped the Vancian casting.

Vance is also remembered in D&D in a different way- the legendary lich-wizard "Vecna" was named that as an anagram of Vance. Jack Vance had a lot of influence on a lot of different aspects of scifi and fantasy culture.

Re:Also influenced D&D (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43861705)

Among many other things that found their way into D&D, he created IOUN stones. Gygax decided that all-caps wasn't necessary, which I always thought was a shame.

Also, 4e's Wizards did have Vancian casting - unlike every other class, they had a spellbook with multiple big spells in, and chose which one to memorise each day. It's not the bastardised, fucked-up version of Vancian casting earlier editions used, and it's not pure Vance, but it was a cool addition. 3e's overpowered casters weren't due to the spell memorisation system - they were because the playtesters and designers were literally incompetent, adding and changing rules "because duh, that makes sense!" then "playtesting" by playing exactly as they would in an earlier edition, without actually looking at the rules. Save-or-lose spells come to mind - the playtesters played blaster wizards whose idea of a fight-ending spell was Fireball, not considering the new monster maths' effects on HP and failing to recognise the way the rules massively nerfed saving throws.

I'm an idiot grog who goes off on tangents.Vance owns. Ignore the rest.

Re:Also influenced D&D (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43861745)

Nothing has done as much harm to tabletop gaming as Vancian casting. This is putting completely aside any debates over the balance of spellcasters in D&D, the mechanic itself, as a game mechanic, is one of the worst examples to still endure (in the form of Paizo's Pathfinder) from the Dark Ages of game design when no one knew what the fuck they were doing. These days, thankfully, game designers have largely moved on as far as the format of video games are concerned.

But, again, still, tabletop gaming as a hobby remains a crippled ruin because of traditionalists clinging to one of the worst game devices in history.

Remember kids: games are not stories. If some mechanic would make for a great story, driving plot and drama, that doesn't mean that it is a good mechanic for games.

Re:Also influenced D&D (4, Insightful)

PraiseBob (1923958) | about a year ago | (#43862509)

Remember kids: games are not stories. If some mechanic would make for a great story, driving plot and drama, that doesn't mean that it is a good mechanic for games.

If you want a pure strategy and tactics game, then choose a boardgame or computer game. Everyone I know that likes pen & paper RPG, likes it specifically because it makes a great format for collective storytelling, with some rules thrown in (the book), and some chance thrown in (the dice), to make it more challenging / interesting / dramatic.

Settlers of Catan is a well balanced game, with great mechanics- but people don't name their cities and come up with riveting tales about the empires they are building. Warhammer 40k is a great tactical wargame, but there usually isn't a lot of "character development". D&D is neither of those games.

Re:Also influenced D&D (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#43863951)

What a bunch of B.S. D&D came from miniatures wargaming. The whole dungeon crawl thing was just another terrain. The "interactive improv theater" idea of D&D is something quite recent. Honestly, it was added in retrospect by players who just got bored with combats. Look at the damn rules of AD&D - spends most of its time describing combat and spends very little telling players how to riff off of each other, never contradict another player telling a story, and the well-worn story archetypes such as "the hero's journey".

Settlers of Catan is well-balanced?!? Oh, now THAT is hilarious! Settlers is well-known for being horridly UN-balanced! You made all the right choices, you placed in the right areas - and yet you watch while turn after turn, the dice fail to roll your numbers. You lose. LOL. Ask any serious Euro-gamer: Settlers of Catan is a joke. Might as well play Monopoly or Sorry, the outcome is equally random.

Re:Also influenced D&D (2)

PraiseBob (1923958) | about a year ago | (#43865597)

What a bunch of B.S. D&D came from miniatures wargaming.

And dice came from throwing rocks around, and chess came from an Indian game called chaturanga, and cards and dominos both had the same precursor game in China. I hate to break it to you because it makes me feel old too, but Gygax's original version of dungeon crawling is the same kind of ancient history to most players today. When compared to the average age of most players, the "recent" trend of improv theater has been that way their whole lives.

Settlers is well-known for being horridly UN-balanced!

Any game that uses dice adds an element of randomness. Thats the entire point of dice after all. It makes it possible for less skilled players to stay competitive, and keeps the game on the "casual" side of things. Otherwise you go into a whole different game category, and get games like Chess & Go, where the best player will almost always win. (People don't give their chess pieces unique names and personalities either!)

Re:Also influenced D&D (2)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43869229)

Don't know about the "something quite recent"; from my own experience circa '79, it was a natural outgrowth of the whole character and delving bit that we'd have some interesting yarn-spinning and negotiations going on; these started partly as a carry-over from our diplomatic discussions while playing double-board Risk. For that matter, at the several GenCons I was at in late '80s (our computer club ran Midi-Maze), saw some of the D&D folks show up for a game all in costume, and the play of the play seemed almost as important as the play itself.

You don't know what you're talking about. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43864741)

Everyone you know, hmm? This is like a rich, straight, white guy writing about black culture and what it's like to grow up as a gay black male in the Deep South just because "he has a lot of black friends".

But to reply more seriously, when a game mechanic gets in the way of the enjoyment of the experience, it is a bad game mechanic, by definition. And Vancian Magic has caused more frustration and confusion due to its (by design!!) absurd and anti-intuitive nature than any other mechanic of the d20 system or all of them combined. Yes, this includes the infamous food for ragefests called "Alignment", too. Mechanics can and do get in the way of roleplayers and rollplayers alike, and no where in D&D is this more prevalent than the Vancian Casting system.

D&D is a game, whether it's used for fantasy war simulations or improv theater or, more often, both, and as such, is subject to the rules of game design / theory.

Disclaimer: in every single game of D&D I've ever played in my life, the first system to get hit with houserules is the magic system. There even official supplements which provide not one, not two, but many different ways to alter the magic system so that it doesn't use Vancian Casting at all -- most notably, in Unearthed Arcana for the 3.X editions of the game. 4th edition doesn't really use Vancian Magic, and I think there's a damn good explanation for that.

And just to rub it in a little more: D&D has only gotten to be more like a strict wargame as it has iterated. 4th edition is almost nothing but, and famously so. Your D&D-playing friends probably didn't bother to tell you this because you are obviously not interested in a game you don't play.

Re:Also influenced D&D (1)

JimtownKelly (634785) | about a year ago | (#43868163)

I think you've nailed it, Bob. Though it's been years since I was a D&Der/Traveller, the appeal was truly the collective storytelling. It was also a great pretext to by hexagonal graph paper.

Re:Also influenced D&D (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43988901)

Most people haven't even heard of most of these.

In memoriam (2)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year ago | (#43859499)

posted to: http://foreverness.jackvance.com/ [jackvance.com]

Thank you for your written works --- they meant a lot to me, and I would have been a better person if I'd discovered them when I was younger. Thank you to your family for sharing your gifts with us --- I know that must have been a sacrifice at times and it is appreciated.

I just wrote in a card being given to a young lady who is just graduating high school,

``Life is a message written in ink. Write carefully, write beautifully, & write w/ character.''

Congratulations on a life written w/ care, using beautiful words and w/ a character which shines as an example of what men should aspire to be.

Re:In memoriam (3, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#43859689)

``Life is a message written in ink. Write carefully, write beautifully, & write w/ character.

P.S. Write out words in full, especially when they're only four goddam letters, or you'll look like a twat.''

FTFY.

Re:In memoriam (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about a year ago | (#43859831)

But he was just writing with character!

Re:In memoriam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43860109)

But he was just writing with character!

Don't you mean, "But he was just writing w/ character!"?

Re:In memoriam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43862115)

``Life is a message written in ink. Write carefully, write beautifully, & write w/ character.

POST SCRIPT Write out words in full, especially when they're only four goddam letters, or you'll look like a twat.''

Fixed That For You.

Fixed that for you. Wouldn't want to look like a twat, and all.

Re:In memoriam (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43869279)

Thank you, Sir or Madame, for my first good laugh of a long day.

To the main subject: Thank you, Jack, for everything - the stories, the instruction, the laughs, and the language. Oh! the language.

Re:In memoriam (4, Interesting)

Zan Zu from Eridu (165657) | about a year ago | (#43859797)

The girl I met in Eridu
Was kind beyond belief;
The hours that I spent with her
Were hours far too brief.

Where willows shade the river bank,
She urged that I recline.
She fed me figs and poured me full
Of pomegranate wine.

I told of force and time and space,
I told of hence and yonder;
I asked if she would come with me
To know my worlds of wonder.

She clasped her knees; her voice was soft;
"It dazes me to ponder
The blazing stars and tintamars,
The whirling ways you wander!

"You are you and I am I,
And best that you return.
And I will stay in Eridu
With all this yet to learn."

- Navarth

R.I.P. mad poet, you will be missed dearly

Re:In memoriam (1)

thoth (7907) | about a year ago | (#43865753)

I am sad, Vance is one of my favorite authors.

In high school I read a short story of his, Mazirian the Magician from the short story collection The Dying Earth - now that volume is titled Mazirian the Magician following Vance's preference. It blew me away and the sequel, Cugel the Clever, originally The Eyes of the Overworld, was even better. It set the tone for the "hostile world vs man having to outsmart everybody he meets" Vance was always excellent with.

Later when Lyonesse came out, I read it in two or three days, I just couldn't put it down. His Lyonesse trilogy was incredible; my favorite fantasy novel is still book 1, Lyonesse, now titled "Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden". Other favorites include the Cadwal Chronicle trilogy, Maske: Thaery, and the Planet of Adventure series.

When the VIE (Vance Integral Edition) formed and looked for volunteers, I ignored it at first, much to my regret. Later I joined in when they were almost done, and proofread a few short stories (wrapping up a final book) and an index. Had I joined earlier, I might have been a proofreader for Lyonesse, my favorite novel, and listed in the VIE credits. Lost opportunity there!

A favorite scene from Lyonesse involves Aillas visiting Murgen a powerful wizard. Murgen's enemies have booby trapped the road to his home, and every day he must discover, outwit, and defeat various traps. Aillas asks "why do you let you enemies, all lesser wizards, do this to you?" Murgen responds "It is beneath my dignity to notice their efforts". Murgen is saying that he's too great a wizard to complain about their attempts... I just love that quote/scene. Something along those lines at least, I can't remember the word for word quote. I think of it sometimes for inspiration when I'm stuck on a problem... and how not finding the solution is beneath my dignity so I must work harder to fix it right. ;)

Anyway, Vance is a towering figure, great plots, language, and characters.

A remarkable author.... (1)

MEK (71818) | about a year ago | (#43859523)

... and a very nice man. One of Science Fiction's most elegant and imaginative writers.

Re:A remarkable author.... (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | about a year ago | (#43862701)

... and a very nice man. One of Science Fiction's most elegant and imaginative writers.

He will be missed.
He was a good writer, and people were fond of his works. He created worlds within paragraphs, he did things with words that even for for an sf-author were quite beyond imagination. He taught me how to read, after school taught me how to recognize words and lines.

Great back when I was a teenager, still great now? (2)

Camembert (2891457) | about a year ago | (#43859539)

Jack Vance: I read around 10 of his books as an SF obsessed teenager. A particular personal favourite was the Tschai cycle. But, that's already 30 years ago. I wonder how his stories hold up these days? I find much classic SF too simple nowadays.

Re:Great back when I was a teenager, still great n (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43859889)

Vance can be read multiple times. He never wasted words, every sentence drives the plot or sets a scene. He was funny, witty, stylish and laconic. Often his writing is as compressed as the notes in a screenplay.

I re-read the Tschai novels every 5 years or so. I enjoy them immensely.

Re:Great back when I was a teenager, still great n (2)

Jesrad (716567) | about a year ago | (#43859913)

His short(ish) novel "The blue world" can't get old, as it is mainly an intemporal replay of much of man's history.

Re:Great back when I was a teenager, still great n (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43859985)

Same here for the Tschai books, my copy got pretty worn out.
I sampled a comic book version of it recently, but that was not for me. Perhaps I'll try the original again one of these days.

Re:Great back when I was a teenager, still great n (3, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43861579)

I re-read his books regularly. I just finished my fifth read of the Lyonesse trilogy a few months ago.

The reason he's re-readable is because his books aren't about "how the story turns out". They're about atmosphere, imagination, whimsy, and most of all, dialogue. I loved Niven & Pournell's Mote in God's Eye, but when I tried to re-read it I was bored to tears. Not so with Vance's material.

However, I suspect that that's not for everyone. In fact, I think my own tastes have changed - when I was young, reading was about plot, plot, and plot.

The Tschai books (collected as Planet of Adventure) are whacking good fun. A bit slow until the protagonist meets Zarfo, half-way through the second book, but then Vance pulls out the stops and makes up for it. I see that I haven't read it since 2001, so it looks like that just went to the top of my list for summer reading.

Re:Great back when I was a teenager, still great n (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43863769)

Tip: when reading Planet of Adventure, and you come to the part with the Dirdir cage, play Kraftwerk's Man-Machine album in the background.

Vance was a giant in the field (1)

Nova Express (100383) | about a year ago | (#43859589)

Easily one of the Top 10 SF Writers of all time, and a huge stylistic influence on the field.

My own tiny tribute [lawrenceperson.com] , along with scans of some of his rarer first editions from my library.

Re:Vance was a giant in the field (1)

Optali (809880) | about a year ago | (#43859643)

Truly one of the best. Sad loss for us fans. I was recently starting to read "Songs of the Dying Earth" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songs_of_the_Dying_Earth, ISBN ISBN 1-59606-213-4), a tribute from other authors to the Master of the art of world building. Well, I will remember him drinking a tankard of Tatterblass or maybe some vintage from Almery in his honour.

Re:Vance was a giant in the field (4, Interesting)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about a year ago | (#43860115)

A favorite of mine was the novella the Moon Moth, which was his entry in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthologies. The society depicted was about as foreign as could be imagined, and described in such amazing detail:

"And what instruments do you play?"

"Well—I was given to understand that any small instrument
was adequate, or that I could merely sing."

"Very inaccurate. Only slaves sing without accompaniment.
I suggest that you learn the following instruments
as quickly as possible: The hymerkin for your slaves. The ganga for conversation between intimates or one a trifle
lower than yourself in strakh. The kiv for casual polite intercourse. The zachinko for more formal dealings. The
strapan or the krodatch for your social inferiors—in your case, should you wish to insult someone. The gomapard*
or the double-kamanthil** for ceremonials." He considered a moment. "The crebarin, the water-lute and the slobo are
highly useful also—but perhaps you'd better learn the other instruments
first. They should provide at least a
rudimentary means of communication."

* Gomapard: one of the few electric instruments used on Sirene. An oscillator produces an oboelike tone which is modulated,
choked, vibrated, raised and lowered in pitch by four keys.
** Double-kamanthil: an instrument similar to the ganga, except the tones are produced by twisting and inclining a disk of
rosined leather against one or more of the forty-six strings.

Re:Vance was a giant in the field (1)

david.given (6740) | about a year ago | (#43860765)

Oh, _The Moon Moth_ is brilliant. There's a (slightly mangled; there's a repeated section in the middle, but all the text is present) dodgy copy online here:

http://www.unexploredworlds.com/RealPulp/htm/rpulp145.htm

Definitely worth a read. (Apparently it's been adapted to a graphic novel; it seems a shame to miss out on the Vancian prose, though.)

Personally I have a soft spot for the Demon Princes novels. Classic tales of revenge, with a twist; you don't realise quite how much characterisation Vance sneaks in until after you've read them. Must reread...

Re:Vance was a giant in the field (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865099)

As soon as i saw this article I thought of that story, I read what 30 years ago, but couldn't remember the title.

Thank you for posting the link!!

Re:Vance was a giant in the field (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43860309)

Truly one of the best.
Sad loss for us fans.

I was recently starting to read "Songs of the Dying Earth" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songs_of_the_Dying_Earth, ISBN ISBN 1-59606-213-4), a tribute from other authors to the Master of the art of world building.

Well, I will remember him drinking a tankard of Tatterblass or maybe some vintage from Almery in his honour.

And I shall dine, in remembrance of him, on a dish of braised leeks.

Vance was meticulous in his portrayal of colors, clothing, artifacts and odd cultural nuances. One world, one culture was rarely enough to contain him for the duration of an entire story. And he took Clarke's Law on technology and magic and wrapped it around his little finger.

One of my top 10 favorite authors of all time, and just the other day I was lamenting that he was no longer active.

Re: Vance was a giant in the field (1)

thesupraman (179040) | about a year ago | (#43867575)

Can someone comment on if he writing is actual Science Fiction, or Fantasy that now seems to be lumped in to Science Fiction on the basis that it happens 'in the future'?
The comments I have seen so far seem to indicate that it is Fantasy, not Science Fiction, and it makes a difference to some of us.
Not to detract from it of course! Just wondering.

The basic difference for those who care is fantasy is generally set in a middle ages like setting (although not always), and calls on magic or mysticism for its special abilities. Science fiction at least attempts to have a scientific explanation for the things that are done, and generally (but not always) does not show a regression to middle ages type society.

It seems nearly all of the discusssion here is about future-setting fantasy, rather than science fiction.

The books certainly sound interesting however.

Re: Vance was a giant in the field (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | about a year ago | (#43869965)

Can someone comment on if he writing is actual Science Fiction

It was often ethnological science fiction. The Moon Moth, Tshai, The Languages of Pao are about what you eat as breakfast, where do you buy shoes, what do cops do, pecking order, changing the pecking order, etc

Sadly his work will be lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43859693)

And now that he's passed, in 75 years people will be able to read what he wrote in the public domain. So most likely no one will read it, except for the one book on project Gutenberg.

Re:Sadly his work will be lost (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43859799)

Never waste a crisis. You should run for office.

Nice Tribute (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43859705)

i still play

Nice tribute to a great author. How about writing like an adult?

Ob (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43859731)

Hidden Persuaders, a classic.

Lyonesse (2)

C0C0C0 (688434) | about a year ago | (#43859751)

I've actually never gotten around to Dying Earth, but I have vivid memories of being immersed in Vance's Lyonesse trilogy (Starting with Suldren's Garden). At a time when it seemed like everyone was aping Tolkien, Vance went back to a sort of magical Camelot mixed up with Atlantis and Midsummer Night's Dream. It's one of the books I recommend to anyone who will listen to me.

Re:Lyonesse (2)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year ago | (#43859951)

Agreed. Lyonesse is simply magical, and it and Poul Anderson's _The Broken Sword_ and _The Merman's Children_ are a welcome break from imaginary fantasy world, instead being steeped in history and tradition.

Re:Lyonesse (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43861665)

The middle book of the trilogy (The Green Pearl) is my favorite book, bar none. I've read it seven times.

I used to use Orlo's quips in my .sigs: "A notable scheme has occurred to me", "I also am of noble blood, or so it seems to me".

Questions for the fans (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | about a year ago | (#43860151)

I've never heard of the guy and was looking a bit into his stuff on Amazon. How "humorous" are his writings?

Re:Questions for the fans (1)

CaseCrash (1120869) | about a year ago | (#43860453)

I've never heard of the guy and was looking a bit into his stuff on Amazon. How "humorous" are his writings?

I don't think I'd ever describe his writings as "humorous". They are well written with amazing story-lines and well worth reading, but they're definitely on the more serious side,

The more defining characteristic of his writing would be how much he can pack into each line, without it seeming cramped. It's incredible how much happens in the Cadwal Chronicles (three books, although the third one is super short, kind of like an extended epilogue).

RIP, Jack Vance.

(PS, all my WoW toons are named for his characters)

Re:Questions for the fans (3, Interesting)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43860505)

I've never heard of the guy and was looking a bit into his stuff on Amazon. How "humorous" are his writings?

Don't look for belly-laughs. He's not Terry Pratchett. He went more for the sly, subtle approach, often with characters playing elaborate practical jokes on each other. This is a signature feature in the Dying Earth series, where the players all know that the sun could wink out at any instant, had already pretty much been there/done that/recycled the T shirt for polishing rags and so really had nothing to lose. Also, his "clever protagonists" often are not nearly as clever as they think they are, Especially Cugel the Clever and Rhialto the Marvellous. Joke's on them.

As an aside to the scientific nit-pickers, yes, I know that the projected fate of the Earth is to be swallowed up as the Sun goes nova. However, there are hints that, as in Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time, that the people of the Earth have plundered the entire rest of the Universe to sustain their ancestral planet and that only at the end are they left with the dregs. And possibly everyone not inclined to take e.e. cumming's advice about the Universe next door after wearing out the current one. And in the end, what does it matter? Good stories!

Re:Questions for the fans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43864413)

*I've never heard of the guy and was looking a bit into his stuff on Amazon. How "humorous" are his writings?*

The humor is there, but it tends to be quite witty, dry, and sardonic...and his command of the English language so masterful that most folks will need to have an unabridged dictionary open next to whatever JV book they are reading just to figure out what the hell he is saying. One other thing...don't expect much in the way of "and they lived happily ever after".

Start with the Lyonesse series, and prepare to lose a few days...the bit about a young Princess Maduoc trying to find out what a pedigree is will have you rolling.

For you aspiring authors...JV could spin off a whole new world in a two-line footnote, and there is a massive body of his work to investigate. Have fun...

Reading his books his best memorial / also Wolfe (4, Interesting)

Savantissimo (893682) | about a year ago | (#43860155)

Those who haven't read The Dying Earth series, or Jack Vance's later Lyonesse series really are missing a treat. It isn't for no reason that in 2006 his fans published a meticulously copy-edited 44-volume edition of his works, usually selling for over $3500. (There are cheaper editions, of course.)

Gene Wolfe is a big fan of Jack Vance's writing. Wolfe himself is one of the best writers ever - the Science Fiction Writer's Association named him Grand Master for lifetime achievement this year. (29 named in the last 38 years, 10 still living, Jack Vance was named in 1997)
Wolfe's Book of the New Sun [amazon.com] , which made his name, recasts Vance's Dying Earth series, while adding mind-bending depths. Highly recommended.

Re:Reading his books his best memorial / also Wolf (2)

rvw (755107) | about a year ago | (#43860365)

Those who haven't read The Dying Earth series, or Jack Vance's later Lyonesse series really are missing a treat. It isn't for no reason that in 2006 his fans published a meticulously copy-edited 44-volume edition of his works, usually selling for over $3500. (There are cheaper editions, of course.)

About a year or two ago I looked for EPUB ebooks from him, but couldn't find them. For him a bit late, but not for me: jackvance.com/ebooks/shop/ [jackvance.com] . No DRM, and a good price. I think I will start reading again! :-) And thanks for the Gene Wolf tip!

Re:Reading his books his best memorial / also Wolf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43860819)

+1 for Wolfe, Also recommended is Matthew Hughes. Although his most recent series (Hell and Back) deals with an autistic crimefighter allied with the devil (which is surprisingly better than it sounds), most of his work is set in the Archonate, which feels similar to Vance's spacefaring series. I'd particularly recommend his Hengis Hapthorne books, which explore how the forenamed detective deals with the how sympathetic association (aka magic) intrudes on the world.

Another book recommendation would be _Anvil of the World_ by Kage Baker.

Finally, there is also _Songs of the Dying Earth_, where a number of esteemed writers pay homage to Vance by writing a series of short stories set in the world of the Dying Earth.

A toast to a worthy life lived. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43860183)

Almost a century of life, and plenty accomplished in that time.

Re:A toast to a worthy life lived. (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43860519)

Almost a century of life, and plenty accomplished in that time.

Jack Vance, Andre Norton. Sometimes the good don't die young.

We still miss them, though.

golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (4, Interesting)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about a year ago | (#43860445)

Seems all the authors I grew up on are going. Anne McCaffrey last year, David Eddings in 2009, Fred Saberhagen in 2007, Robert Jordan and Roger Zelazny at the far too young age of 58 in 2007 and 1995 respectively, Robert Asprin in 2008 at the hardly older age of 61, Isaac Asimov age 72 in 1992, Arthur Clarke in 2008, and Robert Heinlein in 1988. Just glad Jack Vance lived this long.

I suppose it's only natural-- published, successful authors were all at least 20 years older than I was when I started reading for fun. The first author I read for fun on my own was Tolkien, 4 years after his death, and from there I got into SF/Fantasy. It was also my introduction to bookstores, as the public libraries at that time either didn't carry Tolkien-- still too new for them, or always had all their copies checked out.

When the price of paperbacks went over $5 in the early 1990s, rising at more than double the rate of inflation, it seemed like sheer greed to me. Jarred with the generally positive morality depicted in the books, making that seem hypocritical. So I gradually dropped out, quit buying new from bookstores, and now I hardly ever even visit anymore, not even used bookstores or libraries, and have lost my familiarity with the titles available. Too many other leisure activities to do. And I haven't taken to the e-readers, too much DRM. For me the golden age of the SF/Fantasy book and bookstore was the 1980s. $1.95 each in the early 80s, cheap enough I'd try lots of books, no need to check a review or award list beforehand to see if it was worth the money. Was good while it lasted.

Re:golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#43863429)

I don't mean to launch a flame war, but in my only somewhat humble opinion Zelazny, Saberhagen, and especially Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Vance are in a class well ahead of McCaffrey, Eddings, Jordan, and Asprin.

I think mainstream science fiction and fantasy, just like mainstream fiction, horror, and romance, isn't that good. I read more as a teenager than I do now, and part of that is due to a busier schedule but much is due to the fact that my tastes became more refined. It's no big loss if you refuse to spend $9 on the most recent Laurell Hamilton book.

Re:golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about a year ago | (#43865553)

Forgot to mention Fritz Leiber and Andre Norton, and I'm sure I missed others. I didn't say I thought all those authors were great, or that they never "laid an egg". I've come to really dislike time travel in stories, and it was McCaffrey that inadvertently helped show me why time travel is so broken. Her dragons were crazy powerful--- in addition to the stock abilities of breathing fire and flying, they teleport even interplanetary distances faster than light speed (guess mere flying isn't an awesome enough method of travel), time travel, telepathically communicate, bond with humans so loyally that they suicide when their chosen human dies, and put Viagra to shame in their ability to arouse sexual passion. She resorted to flimsy excuses for why the dragonriders didn't do a whole lot more time travel to fix every mistake they ever made, prevent every tragedy from happening. I agree with your division, actually. But where would you put Tolkien? What is that criticism about Tolkien, that it is just "comfort food"?

Nevertheless, I enjoyed them all. Sometimes a body just wants a bit of light, fun reading, an escape, a happy ending with a few twists so it's not too boringly obvious.

Re:golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#43868207)

A kindred spirit - I hate time travel in stories too. I think the only time travel fiction I still genuinely enjoy is the first Back to the Future film. I was pleased that the Star Trek reboot involved a non-repeatable accidental transition into an alternate universe, so that it allows a rehash of the setting without opening the door for all of the typical time travel nonsense.

I think it's too tempting to consider Tolkien cliché because we've all encountered a hundred knockoffs. I also think it's tempting to downplay his contribution because he's well known by non-fantasy fans while many other good fantasy writers are overlooked. I would consider him good, but not among the best.

I have nothing against, McCaffrey and Eddings as brain candy, I just don't consider it a great loss if I fail to get my wife and kids interested in them. If none of my children ever read anything by Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, or Vance - that's a tragedy. (Okay, not really a tragedy, but a sad gap in their education in literature.)

Re:golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (1)

Z8 (1602647) | about a year ago | (#43865847)

When the price of paperbacks went over $5 in the early 1990s, rising at more than double the rate of inflation, it seemed like sheer greed to me.

Not saying your wrong, but it seems funny to me that $5-$10 for a full novel would seem greedy. I guess I'm just on the other side of the scale. I'm always amazed at some level when I read a good novel—it feels like I should have had to have paid $1000 for the experience because of the hundreds of hours of talented work that went into it.

Re:golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43869535)

Never had much of a budget for books, yet roughly a third of any money I made was spent of them. Only time I could reliably afford new paperbacks was the few years late '80s I worked winding transformer coils. In the "olden" days most of the towns and cities I lived in had at least a used-bookstore or two; current city had three when I moved here in '88 and now they are all gone, along with the used record store and the surplus outlet for clothing and gear. (Civic improvement, don'cha know.)

I've never begrudged an author his due, yet was happy to be able to buy books used, where he got nothing at all, having presumably gotten his 'cut' from the first sale. In slimmer times, it was a one of my rituals, one or more times a month, with a scavenged five or tenner from the last paycheck to hike down to the booksellers, spending hours finding items for the next batch of reading. It was usually heavy on science fiction, spy novels (the great run from late '60s-early '70s up through the end of the Cold War) and a bit of 'most everything else - history, biography, explorer's stories, even the odd textbook or three.

But my most favorite memories are from reading the slew of books from a panoply of writers (or is that the other way 'round?) who told the stories of 'what if' science and beyond, the great mind-stretch of possibles and the people and tales within. I miss my books, and I miss the people who wrote them.

What people at the farther end of getting older don't talk about much is the sadnesses that accompany the simple celebration of friends, family, books as all of them vanish in the race to the end. So read, enjoy, remember, and try to pass on the thrill and passion of discovery that starts with page 1.

Re:golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43869547)

Apologies - finger twitched, clicked wrong button, so un-edited mistakes. As for the rest, it was on my mind, FWIW, or isn't.

Re:golden age of SF/Fantasy paperback is so over (1)

unitron (5733) | about a year ago | (#43869849)

When the price of paperbacks went over $5 in the early 1990s, rising at more than double the rate of inflation, it seemed like sheer greed to me.

Not saying your wrong, but it seems funny to me that $5-$10 for a full novel would seem greedy. I guess I'm just on the other side of the scale. I'm always amazed at some level when I read a good novel—it feels like I should have had to have paid $1000 for the experience because of the hundreds of hours of talented work that went into it.

In 1968, one hour of federal minimum wage (before any deductions) would buy at least one paperback, maybe two if both were on the lower end of the price scale.

Or 4 to 5 gallons of gasoline.

Dying Earth series and subgenre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43861019)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_Earth
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_Earth_%28subgenre%29

Jack Vance only wrote four books in his Dying Earth series, and he wasn't even the first to conceive of the idea. (see Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique series).

It's a shame he did not write more in the series.

Movies (1)

ballpoint (192660) | about a year ago | (#43861447)

As far as I know no Vance book has ever been turned into a movie or a series. For some reason, Jack Vance seems to be not as widely known or appreciated for what he brought to the genre.

While I know it might/will be a disappointment once it eventually and inevitably happens, I'd love to see a capable director rise up to the occasion anyway. There's certainly more than enough detailed quality material.

So long, Mr. Vance, and thanks for all the text.

Re:Movies (1)

John Bokma (834313) | about a year ago | (#43862519)

R.I.P. Jack Vance. Like I just wrote somewhere else: Jack Vance means to me for books what the Pixies mean to me for music. As for movies: "Bad Ronald was adapted to a not particularly faithful TV movie aired on ABC in 1974, as well as a French production (Méchant garçon) in 1992; this and Man in the Cage are the only works by Vance ever to be made into film." and: "... Twentieth Century Fox, who also hired him as a screenwriter for the Captain Video television series." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Vance [wikipedia.org]

Re:Movies (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43862545)

Jack liked writing, but didn't really like the "business" of writing. He hated schmoozing and promoting his books which is why he never got much press. I the ten years that I've known him, he's never talked about his books or his writing career (he loved to talk about politics and old jazz). All the work that went into his website (which has DRM free versions of all his books) and into the GIANT 44 volume set was done by his fans (including George RR Martin). There has been some interest from Hollywood in making a movie based on his stories, but deals keep falling through because he was never popular enough.

For those of you that are interested in him as a person (not just as an author), the end of his life was a good one. He died at home with his family the way he wanted to go. About ten years ago he moved in with his son and grandchildren and spent his time listening to audio books, talk radio, old jazz and "playing" his lute. I write "playing" because he was real REALLY bad. Although I disagreed with him on almost every political issue, I thoroughly enjoyed talking politics with him. He was a really interesting person and will be missed.

Re:Movies (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about a year ago | (#43865009)

Hey, checking out the wiki I see that, like me, he played the tenor banjo. In tandem with the kazoo...anybody can play those! Badly or otherwise.

I'd thought I'd read that he went blind about 10 years ago - wiki says he was legally blind since the 80s, but persisted in writing with specially developed software right until the end. Great that he didn't let that faze him.

Re: Movies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43866179)

Sincere thanks for sharing these personal details and make us part of this virtual service.

There is indeed a movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43866157)

Correction...he wrote a suspense novel called "Bad Ronald" that was made into a nice little fringe TV movie in the early 70's. Check it out...and it should definitely be remade.

With Vance the plot was secondary (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43862041)

Even if you don't like science fiction you should read the Dying Earth trilogy. The language and rhythm of Vance's prose make these works much more than the sum of their plots and characterization. His language is terse yet elegant. His settings are amazingly imaginative but efficiently conveyed. With run of the mill pulp writing you get the plot and the setting. With most big name sci fi writers you also get deep character development and high concept. Those bore me to death. In the Dying Earth through his use of language the characters, settings, and action remain deeply fascinating. There is an ever present cynicism and sense of meaninglessness in the face of the end of the world, making the occasional glimpses of morality and hope more compelling.

Read Jack Vance Aloud (2)

Yergle143 (848772) | about a year ago | (#43863539)

His books are so very very well written. And when it comes to colors and places and properly placed latinate adjectives that leave you scrambling for your dictionary, there are few better. And the most important thing to know about Jack Vance is that he recognized the most alien of places is the construct of human culture.
I can't imagine even one of his books made properly into a movie unless Punctilio becomes trendy.
To the outsider go pick up any of his books on E-bay, pour yourself a glass of wine by a cozy fire, and let yourself go. How about "The Last Castle" as a start.
And so funny...

Just read his autobiography (1)

Steve1952 (651150) | about a year ago | (#43864325)

I have been reading Jack Vance since I was about 11, many years ago. I knew that he was in his mid 90's and blind, and I never expected him to write anything again. However when I was looking at his works on Amazon a few weeks back, I saw that last year, at the age of 95, he was still in good enough shape to have written (or at least dictated) a biography called "This Is Me, Jack Vance! Or More Properly, This Is I".

So, thinking that this would be a good way to show my appreciation for all the fun his works had given me, I purchased it. Now I am glad that I did. Hope that some other fans also did the same! Not a bad way to go, hearing about your latest Amazon sales figures for work that you published at the age of 95.

Re:Just read his autobiography (1)

John Bokma (834313) | about a year ago | (#43865843)

I have the book, but haven't read it yet. It has a lot of photos, which I like. Also, note that while the majority of his work is out of print (sadly) you can get ebooks at http://jackvance.com/ [jackvance.com] . If you find an error in the book itself, email them and they look into the best way to fix it :-).

Subterranean press publishes some of his work in beautiful hard covers. Sadly they go out of print too fast... Well, maybe they'll consider reprinting some, now.

I love Vance... (1)

wazoox (1129681) | about a year ago | (#43865697)

... but people keeps mentioning the dying earth series, Cugel and friends; and these are precisely the only four books from Vance that I didn't like much if at all. I found all of his marvellous inventions of many strange civilisations and customs so much more interesting; the space operas, the exotic adventures on strange worlds...

Farewell, Mr. Vance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43865797)

It seems fitting that his passing wasn't noticed until days later, even by those who would be interested. I have yet to meet another person who reads Jack Vance.

Of Mr. Vance's works, my favorites are The Cadwal Chronicles, Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga, and Clarges. His written style, subtle sense of humor, and penetrating understanding of human motivations have left their imprint on me; no other author I've read is as sardonically amused by the blatantly impossible idealism of science fiction. Mr. Vance's writings taught me that people are people, no matter their place or era. If it was this honesty that hurt his popularity, then God bless him for hewing to the truth.

Thank you for entertaining and enlightening me, Mr. Vance.

Alastor and Durdane series (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about a year ago | (#43866449)

were also very good -esp Alastor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Vance#Alastor

and often chronicled fantastic events and very level-headed protagonists

-I'm just sayin'
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