Mystery and science fiction author Jack Vance died on Sunday at his home in Oakland, California, according to a statement posted on his official website.
Vance’s works included The Dragon Masters and The Last Castle. During his lifetime, the author wrote more than 60 books and also authored mystery novels under his full name, John Holbrook Vance.
The author was born in San Francisco and raised on his maternal grandparents ranch in Northern California after his parents separated. He went to college, then worked at a naval shipyard in Hawaii after graduation. He left shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Vance also served in the US Merchant Marine. Some of his first works were published in pulp magazines during his service. One of his best-known books, The Dying Earth, started as a collection of short stories published in the 1950s. But it quickly expanded to become an entire series set in a far-off future where the sun is fading and technology and magic work together.
Along with his vast output of books, Jack Vance was known for creating some of the first, and arguably best, examples of “planetary adventures.” Along with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edmond Hamilton, Leigh Brackett, and others, Vance helped create the idiom. Big Planet is considered one of the best.
During his career, Vance won two Hugo awards, given for excellence in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. The Dragon Masters won the Hugo in 1963, then The Last Castle won four years later. Pulitzer-prize winner Micharl Chabon once called Vance “the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don’t get the credit they deserve.”
But while he may not have received widespread credit like J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, or others have seen, Vance still had a lasting impact on his fellow writers. Many have spoken of the writer and how his imagery helped to free their own imaginations. Those writers include Jack L. Chalker, Michael Moorcook, George R.R. Martin, and others.
Vance met and married Norma Ingold in 1946. They settled in the same house in Oakland, California where he died over the weekend. Norma died in 2008.
[Image via Hayford Peirce]