Jack Vance is one of those authors who — well, simply put, if you haven’t read anything by Jack Vance, you really can’t claim to have read science fiction. His work has been what we are pleased to call “seminal,” stories that take the commonplaces of fantastic literature and push them just a little bit beyond where we thought they could go.
Reading through this bibliography is somewhat of a trip down memory lane for me. I first encountered many of these stories when they were published in the pulps (although by that time we didn’t call them “pulps,” because they were growing up and becoming “magazines”). I remember being captivated by such stories as “The Dragon Masters” (which won a Hugo) and “The Moon Moth” (which didn’t, and should have) when they first appeared in the early 1960s (although by that time, Vance had been a published author for nearly twenty years). I first ran across The Languages of Pao in its publication as a book, and dove headlong into the Planet of Adventure series and the Demon Princes. I still remember The Dying Earth as something particularly strange and rich.
Maybe that’s the most significant thing about Vance: when science fiction was about the beginnings of space flight and stories were concerned more with how rockets worked than how people reacted to them and a story about living on Mars was adventurous, Vance was spanning galaxies and millennia, writing great adventure stories that were really a lot more contemporary than one would expect.
This is not the first bibliography of Vance’s writings. It is, in fact, the fourth. It was simply, at its publication, the most complete (and the authors note that it probably is not completely complete). It has a lot of information: in addition to the annotated listing, by category, of Vance’s writings (including a number of mystery stories), there are a biographical timeline, listings of awards and honors, an outline for a mystery novel, radio and television scripts, a listing of book series, unpublished manuscripts, and even a listing of “phantom editions” and titles that are wrongly attributed to Vance.
The bibliography portion itself is chronological, with exhaustive listings for each title, including foreign-language editions, and, for the books, the cover summaries from the paperback editions, some of which are priceless in themselves. Fortunately, for those such as yours truly, for whom time is a somewhat fluid and arbitrary medium, there is an index of titles, as well as indices of illustrators and cover artists, editors, magazines and periodicals, publishers, critics and reviewers, and secondary sources.
We are also treated to an introduction by Robert Silverberg and an afterword by Tim Underwood, who as half of Underwood-Miller began reissuing Vance’s works in deluxe hardcover editions in the 1970s. As I said, there is a lot of information here, and anyone who takes science fiction seriously is going to find this a valuable resource indeed — it manages to give not only a solid listing of the work of Jack Vance, but a very good sense of what the world of science fiction writing and publishing was like in the Golden Age.
(The Borgo Press, 1994)