Galaxy Aug 1962


Jack Vance

Jack Vance

Starting early yesterday morning, my computer’s little warning bell has been ringing. Just one ring each time, because there is only one news item it wants me to know about: Jack Vance died yesterday. He was just three years older than I.

People will be posting all kinds of things about Jack, and if any of them seem worth it perhaps I’ll pass some comments on to you. But there’s just one memory that illuminates all the others in my mind, and that is of the morning when I came into the Galaxy office on Hudson Street and found waiting for me a manila envelope from Jack What was in it was a novelette called “The Dragon Masters.”

I’m not sure I poured myself a cup of coffee or lighted a cigarette (ah, those carefree smoking days.) I’m not even sure I sat down. What I’m sure of is that after a few moments’ thought when I had finished it I picked up the phone and called Jack Gaughan.

“Jack,” I said, “I’ve got a new story from Jack Vance that I love. It’s called ‘The Dragon Masters,’ and it’s about a race of dragon-like creatures from a distant planet who are at war with the human race. The dragons have captured some humans and the humans have captured some dragons and they both have genetically modified their captives to fight for them. Altogether there are around a dozen modified races, and I want a portrait of each, plus anything else you want to draw. I think Hugos will rain for this, so come get the ms.”

And he did, and they did. Vance won the Short Fiction Hugo that year and Gaughan got his first nomination for Professional Artist.


  1. SM says:

    Thank you sir. I don’t know if I have read anything by Vance, but I will have to track some down. He influenced a lot of people, including inspiring the magic system in old-school dungeons and dragons …

    What a marvelous list of people that Hugo award nomination reveals!

  2. B. Morris Allen says:

    @Frederik Pohl
    I’m glad you took the story. Not so much for The Dragon Masters itself, as for the recognition it provided Vance, and all the great stories that followed. A truly unique and talented writer. I’ve bought everything he owns twice over, and now that almost all his books are available as e-books, I’ll be buying them again. (

    As someone once said about Roger Zelazny, “I envy those encountering [Vance] for the first time”. You pretty much can’t go wrong, but I’d start with “The Languages of Pao”, or the story collection with “The New Prime” (one of the best SF stories of all time), or the Alastor series, or …

  3. Eric H. says:

    Just added the Kindle edition to my wish list. I will have to go to the library and find a hard copy to see the art work.

  4. Stefan Jones says:

    Every picture I’ve seen of Jack Vance was of him as a stout, gruff-looking geezer. Thanks for a look at him when he was younger!

    “The Dragon Masters” inspired a little boardgame about warring insect tribes, “Hymenoptera.” Long out of print.

    SM, you should look up “The Dying Earth” and/or “The Eyes of the Overworld.” Besides being a great introduction to Vance, they are where “Vancian” magic is described.

  5. H. E. Parmer says:

    SM: If you’ve never read anything by Vance, you’re in for a real treat.

    Since his last novel, I’ve had a few years to reconcile myself with the fact that this voice was falling silent. This just puts the period to it. But it’s still sad news.

    Godspeed, Jack.

  6. Bruce Arthurs says:

    I always felt Jack Gaughan’s color work came off a bit flat, but I adored a lot of his pen-&-ink work. That included the illustrations for “Dragon Masters” and “The Last Castle”, both by Vance, and especially for a story titled “Golden Quicksand” (forget the author’s name, sorry) that also appeared in GALAXY.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a collection of Gaughan’s work someday.

  7. Mike Levy says:

    Hi. You’ve probably seen this, but Jack Vance told the following story involving you at

    “I remember one time Fred Pohl and I were at some kind of convention up in Reno. I went up to him and said, ‘Hey there, Fred!’ He looked at me and said, ‘Who are you?’ and I got mad and said, ‘Go to hell, I’m not going to tell you.’ I walked away from him and was standing on the stairs there, and 15 minutes later he walked up and said, ‘Jack Vance, you son of a bitch, you.’ He was editor of Galaxy at the time. My agent sold him a story, but he’d sold it to someone else first as well, so he got Galaxy’s money and the other guy’s money too. Fred Pohl couldn’t publish the story. He called me and was mad at me. I was in Tahiti at the time. He said, ‘Give me that money back!’ So I wrote him one called ‘The Last Castle’ instead, which he was happy for.”

  8. Wayne Borean says:

    Jack Vance is one of my major influences, even though I write mostly Horror and Dark Fantasy. I loved his style.


  9. Eric says:

    Thank you kindly for sharing this. If there is anything else you recall about Jack Vance, it would be fascinating to hear about it.

  10. Bruce Arthurs says:

    Following up on my own comment, I found there WAS a collection of Jack Gaughan’s artwork published in 2010: OUTERMOST.

    Missed that, somehow. It’s on my wish list now.

  11. Theophylact says:

    I loved both Jacks. Hadn’t realized that Gaughan died so young; his covers for Ace were memorable, as well as his work for Galaxy.

  12. Eric M says:

    Thanks to one Grand Master for your thoughts on another.

  13. chris heinz says:

    He was truly a great writer. I believe I have read all his stuff.

    I wrote a review of the story “Chun the Unavoidable” from “The Dying Earth” for an English class sophomore year at M.I.T, 1969 or 1970. The prof hated it, but I didn’t care, I loved it.

  14. Dan Gollub says:

    I began reading a story of Jack Vance’s, and then began thinking about imagination. What helps with imagining? Feeling curiosity certainly plays a role. But what helps with feeling curiosity? Perhaps feeling sociable is a useful contributor. Feeling sociable can lead one to imagine interesting situations, presumably with others, in which one feels curiosity, and subsequent imagining can follow. Perhaps I should add I enjoyed reading the Jack Vance story.

  15. arcane says:

    I have always loved Jack Vance’s Magnus Ridolph stories, so I decided to check out the Dying Earth series after hearing this sad news. I was blown away by how good it really was.

    Moreover, I have come to realize that many of the authors I really like now were clearly influenced by reading Vance.

    Truly an amazing science fiction author. Anyone who hasn’t read him yet, go forth and sin no more. Pick up anything by him, and give it a try.