Thursday, October 21, 2004


Reading this appreciation of Jack Vance I found myself cast back in time to the first moment I encountered his work: the novella "The Dragon Masters." It was a moment my 12-year-old self would never forget. The dislocation, the sense of strangeness mixed with the familiar. I loved "The Dragon Masters." I still love it.

When I was in elementary school, our teacher, god bless her, took us on field trips to the public library, and I'd dash up to the adult section because that is where they kept the Science Fiction. They had these amazing collections of the Best of Galaxy. Those anthologies blew my mind. You have to understand--I had no critical filters back then. I could care less about characterization, about literary style. I just loved stories. So I'd check out these huge tomes of Best of Galaxy, and in one of them, along with the work of Cordwainer Smith, I found The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance. It, along with "Scanners Live in Vain," changed my life.

When I read those old anthologies, some of which hadn't been checked out for years, I entered a truly alien world. All of it took me to another place. All of it coursed right into my nervous system and my reptilian brain. It's still all stored in my subconscious, and has mixed together with Nabokov and Whittemore and Carter and everyone else. It's all a homogenous soup at this point, each influence just as useful.

What amazes me is that Vance is still writing, even today. Unbelievable. I can't imagine writing to that age. The inspiration would have dried up.

He really is a living legend.



At 7:57 PM, Blogger Matthew Cheney said...

Have you read any of his recent work? I'd be curious to know how it holds up. I only know his '50s and '60s writings. The Dying Earth was the one that first blew me away. Haven't read anything by him in ages, though.

At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read his recent stuff, either. I suppose I'm afraid of finding that I don't like it as much as his classics, or my memory of his classics. Which is rather cowardly of me.


At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maske: Thaery, the three Alastor novels (Trullion, Marune, Wyst), Emphyrio, the three novels in the Lyonesse cycle (Lyonesse, The Green Pearl and Madouc) are later novels of his, all wonderful. Lurulu (isn't that a Dunsany reference?) is coming out in December.


At 6:11 AM, Blogger Hoshisato said...

I've the Vance Integral Edition and the later books are certainly worth reading. The main character in Ports of Call and Lurulu is the actual voyage and as soon as you realize that it is a very well written story.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Tim Stretton said...

"Night Lamp" (1995) is up there with his best. "Araminta Station", the first of the Cadwal Chronicles, also repays re-reading although the series declines in interest thereafter.


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