Fortunately for my literary education, I eventually picked up a copy of Cugel's Saga and soon fell in love with its arresting combination of "high" vocabulary, picaresque adventures, and wondrous setting. Vance was an unexpected surprise to me at the time. I'd read several authors whose works contained elements I'd also found in Vance – such as Clark Ashton Smith's penchant for archaisms – but I'd never found them all in those of a single author before. So impressed was I that I immediately sought out first its follow-up, The Eyes of the Overworld and then The Dying Earth, both of which likewise impressed me, sending me on a quest to read everything by Vance I could get my hands on.
I bring all this up because today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of John Holbrook Vance. Born in San Francisco in 1916, Vance led a remarkable life. During the Great Depression, he took up a variety of menial jobs to support himself and his mother, during which time he also attended university, eventually graduating in 1942. During World War II, he joined the Merchant Marine, an experience that led his lifelong love of sailing and the sea. Throughout this time, he made his first efforts at published writing in science fiction and fantasy, genres he had loved since he was a teenager. By the end of the 1940s, Vance started to achieve success as a writer, which encouraged him to devote himself to the craft fulltime. The rest, as they say, is history.
There's a great deal that could be said about Jack Vance and his influence on fantasy, science fiction, and the hobby of roleplaying. Rather than do that at this time, I will instead urge you to read one of his many stories. Whether you choose one of his Dying Earth tales, the Lyonesse trilogy, the Planet of Adventure series, or almost any other with his byline, you'll find joyful stories tinged with melancholy and wild, unpredictable imagination presented through singular prose. Vance is truly one of the Giants of fantasy fiction and he deserves to celebrated by all who appreciate superb writing and creativity.
Happy Birthday, Mr Vance.