Jack Vance, a fantasy writer I'm been in awe of since childhood, has died. He was thee years shy of a hundred.
He left a body of work that is truly staggering in its volume, scope, and quality.
I first stumbled on Jack in Melbourne's Space Age Books, a long gone palace of fantastique delights for fantasy and SF fans that was located a few doors north of Swanston and Lonsdale Streets.
The book I picked up was City of the Chasch, the first volume in the stunning PLANET OF ADVENTURE series. It was the word ADVENTURE that hooked me.
More than other other fantasy writer, I found Jack's work magical and truly transporting. He cooked up fully-fleshed-out worlds of mind-bending wonder with just twenty-six carefully heated alphabetical ingredients. His works, set in galaxies a million light years from here, and in times few of us could even imagine, were so utterly complete, so real, so authentic in their customs, social structures, and histories (past and future), I never stopped wondering how the hell he did it, how he managed to get everything so right. And that's why I'm still in awe of his talent up to this very day. A sad day.
Whenever friends or bloggers lament the sorry state of cinematic fantasy, I always think of Jack. My mind automatically turns to a man who set a literary standard that no film could possibly meet. Of course, someone will create a cinematic world based on Jack's imaginings, and someone will pilfer elements of what made Jack so visionary (Cameron did it in AVATAR), but nobody will do Jack as Jack did Jack. Nobody will get it right without surrendering quality and intelligence.
Before Jack, I read Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Ballard, Moorcock, Leiber, Van Vogt, Malzburg (Barry), Ellison, Bester (Alfred), and others too many to list here. I ate their works up. They took me to places beyond my experience, beyond my childhood when childhood wasn't so sweet. When its realities felt harsh.
When I met Jack, I journeyed further, and I encountered a type of science fantasy that, though set in remote places, blended the grand adventure of R.M. Ballantyne (a favorite of my pre-teen years) with the exotica of fully realized alien worlds. His prose soared, his characters sweated 'til we smelt them, and his affinity for invention colored every chapter. One couldn't read about things like 'sky rafts' and not be pulled into Jack's boundless creations.
If you've never met Jack, I envy you your first handshake. You won't let go.
John Holbrook Vance, RIP