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Jack Vance, a Dying Earth Map and my favourite cover of any of his books. November 12, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’ve always loved Jack Vance’s baroque fiction. I’ve mentioned it before, Vance was no man of the left – and some, though not all by any means, of the treatment of women characters was, I put it kindly, of its time. But he could write, he really could. I love his science fiction in particular – the Durdane trilogy, the Alastor series, all these and more got their hooks into me many many years ago. And with an author so prolific there’s quite a few I still haven’t read. But in truth his fantasy and science fiction were not so different. The science fictional elements often provided a backdrop to what was most important, the interplay between characters – which was the main ingredient in his fantasy.

Both his fantasy and his science fiction had a remarkable dream like quality – and as someone not entirely entranced with fantasy I still think his Dying Earth stories are pinnacles of achievement in that genre (I’m also fond of the books which draw on Celtic and other myth – the Lyonesse ones). Mordant, clever, sometimes vicious and always deceptively simple. There’s an amorality to it, good doesn’t win through much of the time, cleverness and intelligence don’t either. But playfulness, or perhaps big-heartedness can.

Anyhow, I was a bit surprised to find this, maps of the Dying Earth from RPGs. Not sure how necessary a map is – and whether he had any input – does anyone know? One of my favourite passages in any of his novels is in the Demon Princes series where a character visits a far future Earth, Holland – if I recall correctly, and the way in which Vance’s descriptions make some quite familiar elements seem not so much alien as utterly fantastical while still being grounded in reality of sorts.

This by the way, is my favourite cover of any of his books. My father had it in a small collection of science fiction novels that he had collected by the early 1970s. I couldn’t have been more than eight or nine when I first read it and it has stayed with me ever since.

 

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