Jack Vance, Unsung Giant of US Fiction

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2009 8:10 PM CDT
Fans of science fiction author Jack Vance say he remains an undervalued American prose stylist.   (Jackvance.com)
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(Newser) – An American literary giant has been crafting violent, poetic, psychologically complex novels for decades. Trouble is, his characters inhabit rocket ships and battle lizard creatures. "Jack Vance is the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don’t get the credit they deserve," says writer Michael Chabon. He's not alone: Vance fans have long tried to launch his literary reputation beyond the sci-fi realm, to little effect, Carlo Rotella writes in the New York Times.

Vance's pungent style and digressive, anecdotal stories deflected Hollywood's attention and likely kept him off best-seller lists. Now 92 and blind, Vance lives in the Oakland Hills, largely ignored by literary critics. But Rotella bristles at the suggestion that Vance remained trapped in "adolescent" science fiction. "Yes, Vance worked exclusively in adolescent genres—if under that heading we include the transformative experience of falling in love for the first time with a beautiful sentence."