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Tribute to Jack Vance

by on Jun.04, 2013

Jack Vance died in his 96th year on the 26th of May, 2013, in the city of Oakland, California. He was a native San Franciscan, born in 1916. The reason the world cares about Vance can be tersely stated: The Dying Earth, 1950; Eyes of the Overworld, 1966; Cugel’s Saga, 1983; Rhialto the Marvellous, 1984; Big Planet, 1952; Showboat World, 1975–and these are but a fraction of his titles, and the genres he had mastered.
I first encountered him in a flop house in Juneau, Alaska, whence I had hitched from L.A. in the summer of 1967. Trashy paperbacks abounded in the lobby, but I was lucky enough to grab a golden nugget from that heap, THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD.
I was essentially a poet til I read this book. A strictly metric poet who scorned “free verse” which I couldn’t see as verse at all.
The graceful opulence of Vance’s language was a revelation. Here was untethered imagination. More. Here was prose as rich in rhythm and inflection as verse. I was agog. I was delighted. Two years later, back in L.A.–upon finishing my hommage to Vance–a sequel to Overworld called A Quest for Simbilis–I was able to get his address from Don Wollheim at DAW. I wrote Vance a letter asking if it was OK to publish my hommage and promised him a percentage of the take. His reply was sober and straight-faced, “I’m a trifle flummoxed by your proposal, but I don’t see why not.” He tactfully added that no skim off from my profits was necessary. I made sure the book began with an acknowledgement of my debt to him.
Since Vance, there has appeared no equal in his mastery of the comic, fantastic picaresque. Who has excelled him in devising such a variety of rogues, rascals and sly rapscallions? Who has matched his inventiveness of situation or his exquisite ironies? The intricate elegance of his prose stands to this day unequalled in “the genres”.
Thank you Jack!

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