As a teen I once read an Ace Pocketbook my dad left lying around entitled Eyes of the Overworld. This fantasy tale was set on a future Earth beneath a weak red sun threatening to wink out momentarily. Life is precarious in this dangerous time when science and magic have crossbred. "Overworld" chronicles the doings of a crafty rogue named Cugel who burns every bridge he crosses and often falls prey to his overly clever schemes.
I rushed through the book, then read it again, the writing so compelling, the language so rich and unique, that I immediately became a fan of Jack Vance.
Vance was born the same year as my father and died Sunday at age 96. For over sixty years he wrote science fiction, fantasy and mysteries. He won Hugo awards for The Dragon Masters and The Last Castle back in the day—both favorites. But my top Vance tales remained those such as "Overworld," set in a time called The Dying Earth.
As authors go, Vance was quite a character. A blue collar guy who lived in Oakland, California, he believed the sci fi author's role should be muted in terms of publicity so as not to impose his personality between the reader and the world the author had created. He claimed to be in it for the money and never read science fiction.
Looking back on my own stories, I often find a turn-of-phrase, an ironic description, a subtle underselling of scene or character that are stamped into my writing genes thanks to many decades of reading Jack Vance.
So journey well, Jack. You were a guy who just wanted to turn a buck telling tales.
I should be so fortunate.