Jack Vance, one of science fiction’s most respected writers, died May 26 at the age of 96.
Vance’s first published story, “The World-Thinker,” appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1945. Another sale early in his career was to 20th Century Fox, who also hired him as a screenwriter for the Captain Video television series. Over the years Vance wrote more than sixty books in three genres, including 11 mystery novels as John Holbrook Vance and three as Ellery Queen.
While I enjoyed every Vance story I ever read, it was his five-novel Demon Princes series that really hooked me. They relate Kirth Gersen’s revenge on five notorious criminals who carried his village off to slavery when he was a child. The first three books came out in the 1960s, then he didn’t write another for 12 years. I was afraid he’d never finish. I was able to start breathing again when the last two were announced by DAW, finally appearing in 1979 and 1981.
Two traits that set Vance apart from many other writers were use of an elevated diction, and his power to create future cultures that felt deeply changed from our own by time and technology. As Sidney Coleman said in a review for F&SF, “his people are true citizens of the future, not just twentieth-century Americans in fancy dress.”
Jack Vance was a Guest of Honor at MagiCon, the 1992 Worldcon, named a SFWA Grand Master in 1997, and recognized with a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 1984. He was inducted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001.
Vance’s “The Dragon Masters” won the Hugo in 1963. His 1966 novelette “The Last Castle” won both the Hugo and Nebula.
In 2010 his autobiography This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”) won the Best Related Book Hugo.
In 1946, Vance met and married Norma Genevieve Ingold (she died in 2008).
In years gone by Frank Herbert and Poul Anderson were among Vance’s closest friends. The three jointly built a houseboat which they sailed in the Sacramento Delta. The Vances and the Herberts lived near Lake Chapala in Mexico together for a period.
[Thanks to Sam Long and John King Tarpinian for the story.]