Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Jack Vance, fantasist extraordinaire, is dead.

 Will McLean sends me sad but not unexpected news: One of my favorite writers, Jack Vance, is dead. He was nearly 100 years old. Here's an article that talks about his work.

My own take on Vance: when I was a kid and read his stuff, I thought it was intriguing exotic. And indeed many people will say even today that he was great at creating exotic situations and characters. But as I got older and more well-read in history, I came to the conclusion that Vance's characters in particular were much more realistic than I supposed.

 Vance's characters often had seemingly irrational beliefs and practices; these were generally observed by commonsensical characters, sometimes from Earth, and one could easily identify with the observer and feel superior to the others, the exotics. I remember well the day when my own exoticism rose up and took control of me and I realized I could never feel superior to a Jack Vance character again. In other words, Vance's work was reportage more than it was invention. He just had a keen eye and a talent for recording what he saw.

Update: a much more substantial appreciation of Jack Vance.

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