Sci-Fi Author Jack Vance Dead at 96

Science fiction, mystery and fantasy writer Jack Vance’s very prolific career came to an end this week with his death at the age of 96 at his home in Oakland, California. Vance had authored more than 60 books during his lifetime, many of them award-winners.

Although his given birth name was John Holbook, he chose to write his many fictional works under the name of Jack Vance, although he used as many as six different pen names to write many of his literary offerings, including Ellery Queen, Jay Kavanse, Peter Held and Alan Wade.

His work in the mystery, science fiction and fantasy genres earned Vance numerous accolades, including the prestigious “Hugo Award” for two of his novels, “The Last Castle” and ”

The Dragon Masters” in addition to his popular “This is Me, Jack Vance” autobiography released three years ago. His son proclaimed his San Francisco-born father as one of a kind and a humble “blue-collar” worker.

Although he managed to get his first book published in the mid 1940s, his work really didn’t begin to get the attention of critics or readers alike until some thirty years later. His lifelong accomplishments are even more amazing considering that Vance was legally blind for the past three decades.

The Guardian writes:
blockquote>Vance’s lasting impact may lie in the influence he had on other writers. Many have spoken of the way in which his imagery freed their own imaginations, while others may be argued as having come under Vance’s thrall. These include writers as diverse as Ursula K Le Guin, Jack L Chalker, Michael Moorcock, George RR Martin and Gene Wolfe. The critic John Clute has even suggested that JG Ballard’s “peneplainal venues” might be traced back to Vance.

He was legally blind since the 1980s but continued to write using speech software on his computer.

Jack Vance playing the jazz banjo and kazoo in 1979 in San Francisco

Jack Vance playing the jazz banjo and kazoo in 1979 in San Francisco (photo courtesy :Hayford Peirce)