Jack Vance, Science Fiction Grand Master, Dead At 96

So long, Jack.

By David Wharton | Updated

Vance1Over the course of his long career, Jack Vance won three Hugo Awards (1963 for The Dragon Masters, 1967 for The Last Castle, and 2010 for his memoir This Is Me, Jack Vance!). He won a Nebula Award (also for The Last Castle). He won the World Fantasy Award (1990, for Lyonesse: Madouc). He was named as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Most writers who took home even one of those honors could justifiably kick back and coast on the high for a while. Jack Vance has passed away at the venerable age of 96, but if leaving a legacy of work behind is a form of immortality, Jack ain’t going anywhere.

Vance’s first publication came in 1945, when Thrilling Wonder Stories ran his short story “The World-Thinker.” From there, he went on to pen some 50 novels across the genres of science fiction, mystery, and fantasy. He is probably best known for his Dying Earth series, which blended science fiction and fantasy in a distant future where our sun is dying and magic has reemerged. Other notable Vance works include his five-volume Demon Princes series and his two standalone SF novels Big Planet and Showboat World.

Vance is also cited as a powerful inspiration by such notable writers as Dan Simmons (author of the brilliant Hyperion series). In a 2009 New York Times profile of Vance, Simmons described discovering Vance as “a revelation for me, like coming to Proust or Henry James. Suddenly you’re in the deep end of the pool. He gives you glimpses of entire worlds with just perfectly turned language. If he’d been born south of the border, he’d be up for a Nobel Prize.” Acclaimed writer Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) said of Vance:

If The Last Castle or The Dragon Masters had the name Italo Calvino on it, or just a foreign name, it would be received as a profound meditation, but because he’s Jack Vance and published in Amazing Whatever, there’s this insurmountable barrier.

Having amassed an amazing career and lived to a ripe old age, Vance died peacefully in his sleep Sunday at his home in Oakland, California. If there’s a good way to go, that’s got to be it. Safe journeys, Jack.

You can listen to a lengthy 1976 Vance interview below, which is from an episode of the legendary sci-fi radio show Hour 25. It’s in 12 parts, so we’re just posting the first below. You can find the rest right here.