Most of Vance’s work was published under the name Jack Vance. but he also wrote 11 mystery novels as John Holbrook Vance and a further three as Ellery Queen and also singly used the pseudonyms Alan Wade, Peter Held, John van See, and Jay Kavanse.
The author won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and he was a Guest of Honor at the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention in Orlando, Florida. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America made him their 14th Grand Master in 1997 and he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001, in the hall’s sixth class of two deceased and two living writers.
Vance won awards for his work and these were the Hugo Awards, in 1963 for The Dragon Masters, in 1967 for The Last Castle, and again in 2010 for his memoir This is Me, Jack Vance!. He also received a Nebula Award in 1966, which was also for The Last Castle; the Jupiter Award in 1975; the World Fantasy Award in 1990 for Lyonesse: Madouc. He also won an Edgar, which is the mystery equivalent of the Nebula award, for the best first mystery novel in 1961 for The Man in the Cage.
Jack Vance, the mystery, science fiction and fantasy writer who died in his sleep aged 96 at home in California was described by the New York Times Magazine in a 2009 profile as “one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices.”
Vance’s science fiction first appeared in the “pulps” (a term used to describe the type of paper the books and magazines were printed on) in the 1940s and then graduated to multi-volume tales set in the space age. Most of his science fiction were set in a world that had long been colonised by humans although this would vary to include some “colonisation” type themes.
Vance’s Joe Bain series, which included The Fox Valley Murders, The Pleasant Grove Murders, and an unfinished outline published by the VIE), is set in an imaginary northern California county. These books are the closest that he came to the classical mystery form using a rural policeman as protagonist.
The three books that Vance published under the “house name” of Ellery Queen were all written to specifications by the publishing house and very revised.
Jack Vance has also wrote mysteries that were set in his science-fiction universes. An early 1950s short story series features the character of Magnus Ridolph, an interstellar adventurer and amateur sleuth who is old and a bit more sedate than most detectives whose exploits seem to have been inspired by those of Jack London’s South Seas adventurer, Captain David Grief. A number of Vance’s the other science fiction tales include mystery, spy thriller, or crime-novel elements.
The author was an original member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers’ Guild of America (SAGA), which is a loose-knit group of heroic fantasy authors that was started in the 1960s and led by Lin Carter. The sole and very serious purpose of the group was to promote the sword and sorcery subgenre.
An complete Edition of all Vance’s works was published in a limited edition of 44 hardback volumes. A special 45th volume contains the three novels Vance wrote as Ellery Queen.
Tributes from the world of science fiction writers have been flooding in following news of the death of the author’s death on the 26th of May.
Jack Vance, the mystery, science fiction and fantasy writer died age 96 in his sleep at home in California on Sunday, his family announced yesterday. The author leaves behind more than 50 novels and 100 short stories.
By Michael Smith