Legendary science fiction and fantasy writer Jack Vance, author of the acclaimed and highly influential Dying Earth series, died Sunday at his home in California. He was 96.
A native of California, Vance wrote his first published work of fiction -- a short story called "The World-Thinker," published in 1945 -- while at sea with the Merchant Marines. For the next 25 years he worked various jobs (including carpentry and sailing) while continuing to write and publish in pulp magazines and elsewhere, winning two Hugo Awards in the 1960s for The Dragon Masters (1963) and The Last Castle (1967), which also earned him a Nebula Award. It was also during this period that he first published The Dying Earth, a collection of linked stories that is still considered one of the best fantasy books of all time, and launched a series of stories that influenced the likes of George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison and Michael Moorcock.
By the 1970s Vance was writing full time, and continued to craft acclaimed fantasy series, including more Dying Earth stories, the Lyonesse trilogy, the Demon Princes series, The Cadwal Chronicles, the Alastor cluster and the Durdane series, among many other standalone novels, short stories, short story collections, novellas and even mystery novels. By the 1980s, lifelong vision problems had left him legally blind, but he continued to write with the aid of software written especially for him. His final novel, Lurulu, was published in 2004, followed by a Hugo-winning memoir, This Is Me, Jack Vance!, in 2010. He was also a lifelong music lover and an avid world traveler, visiting the likes of Tahiti, Ireland, Italy and Kashmir (among many others) with his wife, Norma, who died in 2008.
Over his more than six-decade career Vance inspired countless sci-fi and fantasy writers and developed a devoted fanbase. Along with his Hugo and Nebula awards, his writing earned him a Jupiter Award, a World Fantasy Award and an Edgar Award (for mystery writing). In 1984, he was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and in 1997 he was made a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the 14th author to receive the honor. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001.
The announcement of Vance's death on his official website included this quote from Lurulu, his final novel.
"At the last moments of the universe, with eternal darkness converging from all sides, surely someone will arise and cry out: ‘Hold back the end for a final moment, while I pay tribute to the gallant brewmasters who have provided us a pathway of golden glory down the fading corridors of time!’ And then, is it not possible that a bright gap will appear in the dark, through which the brewmasters are allowed to proceed, to build a finer universe?"
And just to emphasize the joy Vance took in life, here's a clip of him -- aged 96 -- jamming on his ukulele and kazoo.