the Little Red Reviewer

Let’s talk about Jack Vance.

Posted on: January 2, 2012

(As part of Vintage Science Fiction month, I’m going to be posting short bios about many of authors I’m reading. Many of these authors are “new to me”, so feel free to add your thoughts in the comments)

Let’s talk about Jack Vance.

Born in 1916 in California, Jack Vance spent most of his childhood there. Formulating wild fantastical stories at an early age, Vance’s imagination was encouraged by his family.  He attended University of California, Berkeley, and  studied Engineering, Physics, English and Journalism.  He  wrote his first science fiction short story during his time at Berkeley, but was derided by an English professor for trying to pass it off as a proper assignment.

Like many writers, Vance had a variety of careers – naval electrician, carpenter, surveying engineer, along with a stint in the Merchant Marine. Unfortunately, his decaying vision often made work difficult.

Friendly with Poul Anderson and Frank Herbert, Vance was exactly when and where he needed to be to create some of the most treasured science fiction and fantasy known.  After selling his first short story in 1945, Vance wrote and published consistently into the 1990’s, publishing more than 60 novels to date. Considered by many to be the greatest living science fiction writer, Vance has won nearly every possible genre award, many multiple times.

Best known for his Dying Earth stories (which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow), Vance published science fiction, fantasy, and mystery.  A theme seen in The Dying Earth stories, and elsewhere in his writings is that of a far future Earth, where humanity has colonized other planets and travelled among the stars.  It’s been so long since our “birth”, that we’ve forgotten where we came from. In 2009, the anthology Songs of the Dying Earth was published. A tribute to Jack Vance, in honor of how many authors his work has inspired over the years. The anthology features short works by Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Lucius Shepherd, Elizabeth Moon, Kage Baker, Tad Williams, and many more.

At at 95, legally blind, and “retired”, Vance continues to dabble in writing, using custom written voice recognition software.  His autobiography, This is Me, Jack Vance! was published by Subterranean Press in 2009.

What Jack Vance books have you read? what did you think of them?  How did you discover him?


12 Responses to "Let’s talk about Jack Vance."

My introduction to Vance came through a 1974 novel by Michael Shea (A Quest for Simbilis). It was an authorized, direct sequel to Vance’s “The Eyes of the Overworld”. At the time I was reading most of DAW Books as they were being published. Shea’s novel was a fun read but Vance’s book was better. It is worth picking up for fans of the Dying Earth series.

My second Vance book was “Star King”. It was the first DAW Books edition that came out in September of 78. I was hooked. This story of one man’s quest for vengeance against the worst people in the galaxy was amazing. I am revisiting it this month and the review will be posted later in the month.


I’ve got Star King, but haven’t read it yet. It sounds brilliant, and I’m looking forward to your review!


I’ve read the first two of the 4 novels that make up Tales of the Dying Earth collection (the first novel is actually a series of short stories). I’ve like them both, but the first one, the short stories, was my favorite. I’ve also read the first three or four stories from The Jack Vance Treasury published by Subterranean Press. I also have that autobiography that I want to read soon.

I’ve read comparatively few of the stories he wrote, but I’ve been most impressed with his work.


So far I’ve only had time to read the first one, the series of short stories. Here’s hoping I’ll have time to read the rest!


I look forward to your review. I’ll have to go re-read mine so that I can respond to your thoughts.


I haven’t read Vance yet, but I’ve got a friend at work who is continually urging me to try him. I have this list of must read books I’m going through alphabetically and blogging. Vance is on that, but I’m only up to the F’s as yet, I will get there though, I promise!


Haven’t gotten to Vance yet myself, but goodness, quite the bit of history and story behind him. His books have been on the list for a while for me, but to think…legally blind and still dabbling in writing…inspiring, that.


I read a few stories out of the Jack Vance Treasury a few years ago and just thought they were ok so I never finished the book.

Being a huge GRRM fan I bought Songs of a Dying Earth back when it came out. I read the first 3 stories out of it and I loved them. I then put the book aside feeling I should at least read some of the original material the book was based on so I picked up Tales of a Dying Earth. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet though. I look forward to review of it tomorrow.


I first started reading the Planet of Adventure books some time in the ’70s and loved it. Tried to get my hand on everything else he had written and in the end bought the Vance Integral Edition, so I think I own about everything Jack Vance has ever written, including the Ellery Queen stories. He remains one of my top 5 authors. I just discovered that the VIE texts are released on Amazon Kindle, at least here in the UK.


I haven’t read Vance yet. I love the idea of the bios for the month. I’m looking forward to learning about more authors. Thanks!


I picked up the TALES OF THE DYING EARTH omnibus on account of Vance inspiring Wolfe, as well as Glen Cook’s mention of it in the blurb for Erikson’s GARDENS OF THE MOON. I read it in 2009, and though I rather enjoyed the first “book”, the Cugel stuff was quite a chore. Overall, I decided I can’t really recommend it other than for its historical importance.

About a year later, I read Vance’s TO LIVE FOREVER, which was okay, but showed me that I’ve probably read enough Vance for my tastes.


Like Hans, I’ve collected most of Jack Vance’s work and read about 90% of it over the years (I’m rationing the remaining works). I wish I’d bought the Vance Integral Edition (only $1700!). For Jack Vance newbies, I’d recommend starting with the PLANET OF ADVENTURE series.


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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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