Posts tagged ‘Jack Vance’

 

Detail: Cover by Ean Taylor for 'The Way the Future Was' (1983 Granada edition)

 

Fred’s death was reported and mourned all over the world. Here are excerpts from just a small selection of the remembrances from fans, friends and the media.

  • “Grand master passes through the final Gateway.” —Simon Sharwood, The Register.

  • “On Monday, September 2nd, 2013, one of the last remaining great figures in the science fiction genre passed away. Frederik Pohl was 93 years old, with a long and distinguished career writing, selling and editing science-fiction stories.” —Andrew Liptak, Kirkus Reviews.

  • “Like some magnificent sequoia, he was both a vibrant, majestic, respirating presence and a token of a distant, almost unimaginable past. He was given a Grandmaster Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America twenty years ago, but that tribute hardly begins to do justice to his immense accomplishments.” —Paul Di Filippo, Barnes and Noble Review.

  • “Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (Nov. 26, 1919 – Sept. 2, 2013) was almost a living artifact of a bygone era in science fiction, as well as one of the genre’s most fertile and perennially refreshed talents. Born in the immediate aftermath of World War I, he died in the epoch of Google Glass and the Large Hadron Collider, without ever losing his imaginative spontaneity or intellectual curiosity, or his ability to upset and disturb the genre consensus.” —Paul St John Mackintosh, TeleRead.

  • “弗雷德里克·波尔是为数不多的可以担当起“科幻小说大师”头衔的科幻作家.” —The Beijing News.

  • “Frederik Pohl was a science-fiction author of extraordinary longevity and accomplishment. In hundreds of stories between 1940 and 2010, and dozens of longer works from 1953, he became the sharpest and most precise satirist in the science-fiction world. Kurt Vonnegut may have created greater myths of the awfulness of America, and Philip K Dick may have had a profounder understanding of the human costs of living in a unreal world; but Pohl — from experience garnered in the field of advertising — knew exactly how to describe the consumerist world that began to come into being after the Second World War.” —John Clute, The Independent (UK).

  • “In all, he published more than 60 novels. His most lauded effort was Jem: The Making of a Utopia (1979), which remains the only science fiction title to have won the National Book Award.” —The Independent (Eire).

  • “La ciencia ficción tiene nombres que cualquier que se diga fanático tiene que saber. Uno de ellos es Frederik Pohl, y si su nombre no te suena, en este artículo te contamos por qué este hombre que acaba de pasar a la inmortalidad a los 93 años contribuyó a que cientos de miles se hagan fanáticos de este género.” —Nico Varonas, Neoteo.

  • “Described as prickly and stubborn (he was married five times and divorced four), Pohl resisted the Internet for years, according to family and friends, but in 2009 launched a blog called ‘The Way the Future Blogs.’ Like much of his writing throughout his life, it was funny, skeptical and perceptive and it won a Hugo Award.” —Ben Steelman, Star News Online.

  • “科幻黄金时代硕果仅存的科幻大师之一的Frederik Pohl于9月2日因呼吸困难(respiratory distress)去世,享年93岁。Frederik Pohl以科幻期刊编辑和作家的双重身份闻名,他在60年代作为科幻期刊的编辑连续多年获得雨果奖,之后又以作家身份获得了多次雨果奖和星云奖。” —Chinese Writers Network.

  • “A stickler for detail, Pohl was determined to get as much science correct as possible in his books. His research took him all over the world and he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004, when he published the final novel in the Heechee saga, he apologised to his readers for having suggested, in Gateway, that aliens might have taken refuge in a black hole. With the physics of black holes having been more fully understood in the intervening years, Pohl acknowledged that nothing and no one could exist within a black hole.” —The Telegraph.

  • “Avec un coup d’avance et l’humour noir qui caractérise son style, son œuvre dé voile , pour l’humanité, un avenir inquiétant en partie advenu: omniprésence de l’informatique, montée du terrorisme, raréfaction des ressources, pollution, surpopulation, crise du logement, fanatisme religieux. . . . Après Jack Vance et Richard Matheson , c’est la troisième figure majeure de la SF américaine qui s’éteint cette année.” —Macha Séry, Le Monde.

  • “Despite being 93, he worked to ‘Safeguard Humanity’ to the end.” —Eric Klien, Lifeboat Foundation.

  • Continue reading ‘Obituaries and Tributes to Frederik Pohl’ »

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.

From the blog team:

Fred wins!

Robert Silverberg accepts the 2010 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award on behalf of Frederik Pohl at Aussiecon 4. (Photo by Laurie D.T. Mann.)

Robert Silverberg accepts the 2010 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award on behalf of Frederik Pohl at Aussiecon 4. (Photo by Laurie D.T. Mann.)

2010 Hugo Award Winners

Best Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster

Best Fanzine
StarShipSofa, edited by Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Writer
Frederik Pohl

Best Semiprozine
Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and Cheryl Morgan

Best Professional Artist
Shaun Tan

Best Editor, Short Form
Ellen Datlow

Best Editor, Long Form
Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars,”
written by Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford, directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Moon, screenplay by Nathan Parker; story by Duncan Jones, directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)

Best Graphic Story
Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm,
written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; art by Phil Foglio,
colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

Best Related Book
This Is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”)
by Jack Vance (Subterranean Press)

Best Short Story
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh (Asimov’s Jan. 2009)

Best Novelette
“The Island” by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2, Eos)

Best Novella
“Palimpsest” by Charles Stross (Wireless, Ace, Orbit)

Best Novel (tie)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
The City & The City by China Mieville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Seanan McGuire

Congratulations to all the winners!

 

Jack Vance, 1979.

Jack Vance, 1979.

One weekend last summer — to be exact, on the morning of 19 July, 2009 — a lot of New Yorkers got a surprise when they opened their Sunday Times Magazine. What they found was particularly pleasing to those among them who chanced to be science-fiction fans, for there in that prestigious journal was a critical — and very favorable — essay on a writer that it called “one of America’s most distinctive and underrated voices.” And the owner of that voice, it said, was none other than our own Jack Vance.

It was not only Carlo Rotella, the critic who wrote the Times piece, who thought so. He was able to quote Michael Chabon (“Vance is the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don’t get the credit they deserve. If The Last Castle or the Dragon Masters had the name Italo Calvino on it, or just a foreign name, it would be received as a profound meditation.”) and Dan Simmons, who said that discovering Vance “was a revelation for me, like coming to Proust or Henry James…. He gives you glimpses of entire worlds with just perfectly tuned language. If he’d been born south of the border he’d be up for a Nobel prize.”

As one of those Vance-loving sf fans myself, I read the Times piece with astonishment and pleasure, for science fiction has long had a bad press — slightly relieved in recent years by the impressive earnings of writers like Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov — from most of the country’s respectable journals. But what this piece said was not only interesting, it was precisely true. Jack Vance not only imagines wonderful things to tell us about, he embodies his visions in a special individual kind of language that is all Vance’s own.
 

I came late to Vance. Most of his early stories appeared in magazines and other places that I didn’t normally read. Friends with my best interests at heart did try to persuade me to give this Vance person a try, but I never quite got around to following their sage advice. Then Horace L. Gold began to find the editing of Galaxy too much for him to handle. I helped him as needed for a while; then he retired and the publisher asked me to take over.

I not only had read little of Vance, I had never — unusually among the sf writers of the ’50s and ’60s — happened to meet him. We had many friends in common among the writers who lived, like Vance, in the Pacific Northwest, and they didn’t fail to keep me informed of his doings. With Poul Anderson and Frank Herbert, he had for a time owned a houseboat, and when one day it sank at its moorings, Vance was the one who worked out a way to refloat it.

With his late wife, Norma, whom he had met and married when they both were still college undergraduates, Vance was a world traveler, visiting unlikely spots all over the map, and writing whole books in improbable places. He had begun writing while in the Merchant Marine in the South Pacific in World War II, and kept it up in whatever part of the world he happened to be visiting at that specific moment. Whatever the locale, Jack wrote his stories in longhand, whereafter Norma typed them up to send out..

And then one day, after Horace had retired and I had inherited the batch of stories he had bought, I was going through them and I discovered one or two I had never seen. One was by Vance, and it was called “The Moon Moth.” It was the story of an Earthman posted as a diplomatic official on a planet whose people appear in public only when wearing ornate masks and communicate not by talking but by singing.

It caught my attention. Vance was what I thought of as an ornamental writer — mannered prose, complex sentences, formal dialogue. That was not necessarily a good thing. I’m as fond of Remembrance of Things Past (or whatever they’re calling Marcel Proust’s masterwork now) as the next man, but I don’t normally find that kind of linguistic mastery in the slush pile of a science-fiction magazine. Done beautifully, that sort of thing is beautiful. Done poorly, I send it back to the writer.

This was definitely in the beautiful territory.

One of Vance’s scholars has reported that Vance was impressed by the equally ornate style of James Branch Cabell. Both Vance’s and Cabell’s styles are similarly inflated, but I don’t think they are mannered in quite the same way. No matter. “The Moon Moth” was a fine story. I scheduled it for an early issue and sought more. It took a while, but ultimately my efforts did bear fruit as I received a new Vance manuscript called The Dragon Masters.

I read it at once and instantly loved it. It concerned a planet inhabited by humans, but from time to time visited by spaceships from another planet, this one inhabited by intelligent lizard-like aliens, called dragons, who kidnap humans for the purpose of breeding them into fighting troops. When they have achieved their purpose they have an army of mutated humans in several different types, including giant warriors. The dragons use these to capture more humans for their breeding experiments. However the humans of the raided planet have managed to capture one dragon spaceship with its crew, well before this story starts, and are breeding dragon warriors in the same way that the dragons breed (formerly) human ones.

It struck me as the perfect Jack Vance story, with a handsomely imagined setting, a carefully invented plot line, embellished by his unique use of language. I got busy.
 

I called Jack Gaughan, the most inventive of our stable of artists, and asked him to come in to discuss a particularly challenging set of illustrations. The wonderful thing about Gaughan was that he understood what I was asking for a good deal faster then most illustrators, and he did not disappoint. He came through with a bunch of his best work, including a cover and interior black and whites that involved thumbnail sketches of each of the purpose-bred races each side had created out of the captured samplings of the other.

I loved it.

I wasn’t the only one who did, either. When at last that issue was on the stands the reader mail was good, and when it came time for award voting The Dragon Masters had — of course — won a Hugo (though, curiously, it was described as a short story, I have never known why) and Gaughan had won an art Hugo of his own, specifically for The Dragon Masters work (and, I believe, the only time the award was given for a specified set of illustrations rather than for general high quality.)

Sometimes being an editor is fun.
 

For me the fun quotient was diminishing around that time. I have long believed as an article of faith that no one should hold the same editorial job for more than a decade or so, because (I believe) the best work is done when it is all fresh and new and after a while the editor is just going through the motions. A few years after The Dragon Masters, I proved that point by making a serious mistake with another Jack Vance story, The Last Castle. Jack had divided the story into a number of chapters and added a clutch of scholarly, but irrelevant, comments at the beginning of each chapter. Editors are put upon this Earth for the purpose of correcting an author’s errors in such matters, and I set myself to improving Jack’s chapter headers by cutting them fifty per cent or so.

The mistake wasn’t in making that decision — those chunks of prose were excessive and seriously distracting — it was in doing the cutting myself without first asking Jack to fix it. When he saw the published version he was unhappy. When I ran into him at a meeting of the Science Fiction Research Association in Lake Tahoe a little later his first words were, “Fred, you shouldn’t have done it,” And he never sent me another story.

Actually he didn’t have many opportunities to do that. Not long afterward, I took a week off to go to a film festival in Rio de Janeiro, and when I came back to the office I found that Bob Guinn had taken advantage of my absence to sell the magazines to another publisher.

Indeed, that was his right; he owned them. But I think he suspected that if I were around when he was making that deal I might have talked him out of it, and I certainly would have tried. It wasn’t a good idea. But by then it was a fait accompli.

I took it as a reminder of my convictions about the relevance of longevity to performance in an editorial job, and actually as an opportunity to try something else for a while. (The other publisher had no idea how to run the magazines, as I had expected. They hung on for a couple of years of dwindling quality and then were folded.)
 

For a time, I lost touch with Jack Vance, as I did with many of the Galaxy contributors after that. Then I heard that things were not going as well as he deserved for him. First came the word that he was losing his vision, and then that Norma had died. Before the blindness became total, he was still managing to get some writing done by scribbling a word or two, in giant letters, on each sheet of paper and then writing the next word or two on another sheet, und so weiter.

Since then we do keep in some sort of touch by the occasional phone call, and I was happy to learn that he now has a sensitive high-tech computer system to write with. He’s too good a writer, and too good a man, to be condemned to silence.