Status 17 October 2003 10:30 am GMT+1:

39 questions in all, 16 answered

STYLE: Matt (Polled Round 1 : WOW!)
=> Answered 10 August 2003

=> Answered 10 August 2003

THIRD JOE BAIN AND OTHER INTERRUPTED SERIES: Steve Sherman and Mike Transreal (Polled Round 2: WOW!)
=> Answered 17 August 2003

TEAM SPORTS: Funambulist
=> Answered 17 August 2003

=> Answered 17 August 2003

=> Answered 4 September 2003

POINT OF VIEW: Matt Hughes
=> Answered 4 September 2003

=> Answered 4 September 2003

=> Answered 15 September 2003

=> Answered 15 September 2003

=> Answered 15 September 2003

=> Answered 15 September 2003

=> Answered 15 September 2003

BAD RONALD: WHY ? : Mat Hughes (WOW)
=> Answered 6 October 2003

=> Answered 6 October 2003

=> Answered 6 October 2003

See the answers at bottom of this post.

The 23 outstanding questions are :

NEXT BOOK: Goldfish
ANDREI SIMIC: Rob Friefeld
THORNE SMITH : Matt Hughes
ELLERY QUEENS BOOKS: Emphyrio + Aldiboronti
C.L. MOORE: Sam Salazar
E.E. DOC SMITH: Joe Gottman
MAGICK: gurugeorgey

*** NEXT BOOK ***

3/8 6 :31 am Goldfish / Luk
Okay... Here's mine

With Lurulu now finished, and having expressed the fact of already thinking of a new book, what will the setting be? Back to more Fantasy (i.e. Lyonesse, Dying Earth) or more SF-esque like Ports of Call... What's the book going to be about?

Kind regards,

Reformulated later : :

"Will you please give us a hint what your new work will be about?"

*** HUMOUR ***

Aldi 3/8 8 :17 am

The question Matt suggests is a good one; I've often wondered as to the development of Jack's style, that inimitable voice which sounds through all of his works, save for the earliest. (Although, having said that, it's always amazed me that Dying Earth was written at such an early point in his career.)

For my own question I'd like to ask Jack how important he considers humour as an element of his work. His sense of playfulness and fun is evident in the great majority of his books, sometimes breaking out in the most unexpected of places. It's one reason why I love his stuff so much.

Reformulated later:
How important do you consider humour to be as an element of your work? (The wit and verbal dexterity of your characters are, for me, one of the major reasons your books are such a delight to read.)


Paul Penna 5/8 8:36 pm

Given his fondness for interesting and unusual words, both real and invented, does he do crosswords? If so, does he prefer US or UK style? Or any other type of word game, e.g., acrostics?


Martin Read 7/8 4:24 am

Did Jack set the verse "Bagshilly Plain", in The Face, to the old Irish tune "Dear Old Donegal," or is it just a coincidence that it fits?


Steve Sherman 8/8 6:24 pm

In Freitzke's Turn, you refer (in a footnote) to the starmenter Yane Cargus, who raided the Convent of the Divine Prism at Blenny, on Lutus, capturing two hundred and thirty novitiates.

In Suldrun's Garden, Aillas' two most trusted confererates, with whom he escapes from the Ska, are Yane and Cargus. Did you intentionally reuse this name, divided up into two characters, or is this simply a particularly remarkable instance of long-term memory in action?



Willem 23 Aug 2003 11:03 m

Where does Jack locate the city of Vogel Filschner in the Palace of Love? i sounds like the present area between rotterdam (netherlands) and antwerp (belgium)
related to this: why does he introduce more then once people in his books with a dutch background that are not the most friendly ones.
vogel filschner seems to be from the future area where nl is now located.
does vance have any special thoughts about the dutch or is it the connotation of dutch in the english language that prompts for something negative (this is based on the long history of wars between NL and GB whereby the brits developed a lot of expressions like a dutch treat, a dutch party, dutch courage etc etc)


Habeascorp 26/8 1:59 pm

Many of the protaganists in the novels are very logical people with some form of dangerous delusional belief - e.g. that the world centres around themselves- or as shown in the Dragon Masters, an inability to relate beyond their own terms of reference. As such there actions are internally consistent-if only you knew their delusion or terms of reference to start with. As this is a real condition, is it something that was considered in writing any novels or was it merely the love of logic which created such wonderfull characters.


Rob Friefeld 30/8 6:24 pm

Andrei Simic - you've slipped his name in a few times. Is he just a friend, or did you pick up some ideas from him?


SDAOHR 31/8 8:37 am

If he could chose his own title for the story he wrote to put something behind the title: 'Space Opera', what sort of title might he contemplate?



Aldiboronti 31/8 3:03 pm

Do you consider spirituality, religion, call it what you will, to be an essential and timeless part of the human condition, or is that sense of the numinous a mere product of gaps in our knowledge which, as science relentlessly fills in those gaps, will one day wither on the vine?


Paul Penna 3/9 7:53 pm

Do you find yourself identifying with any of the characters you create? If not in full, at least with some of their traits? Alternatively, do any of your characters exhibit traits which you wish you possessed yourself, or possessed in greater degree? If so, which characters and which traits?


Andreas 10/9:
Hello Jack,

since you offered the possibility to ask questions I take the risk of putting this one:

Please let me go far afield ...
"Emphyrio" in my opinion is about the three (Christian) virtues Believe, Hope, Love!
Believe ... in Truth (and Justice), Hope ... to install the former (Truth and Justice) and
Love ... the most important quality the ability to have emotions which makes live worth living (the "Emph"-part of Emphyrio, I suppose), having a soul. The meaning of LIFE: "Is it right that I should be born, live and die with no more effect than a blade of grass on Dunkum's Heights?"
There are some more biblical aspects (parallelities) in this book: Beneath the religion of Finuka the real (spiritual) level is the Emphyrio one. He lived about 2000 years ago and was nailed to death! The table of truth! The language of the legend itself! The welfare agents!
Perhaps others ...
"Emphyrio" in my opinion is a really touching book, because of it's melancholy mood (relations Ghyl-Amiante, Ghyl-Shanne) ... it's just great!
'And if it bears a lesson or moral, lies beyond the competence of him who put this question'.

What I'd like to know is: Did you intended it this way or did all come subconscious or ... what prompted you to write you a book like this?


Matt Hughes 15/9:

Also: did he read Thorne Smith as a young man, and did Smith have an influence on his style (there are similarities in the dialogue).
Reformulated by Matt (I think he'd forgotten he'd asked that one already, in fact...) 2/10:
This question is just an instance of a writer wanting to know if the writer he likes likes another writer he likes. You know what that's like.

Did you read Thorne Smith (e.g., the Topper books, Night Life of the Gods), as a young man? If so, do you think his works had any influence on you?


Agenerak 15/9:

having referred to san francisco as 'that den of iniquity' in the newest cosmop i wonder what exactly the city brings to mind to you...
i'm sure you missed out on the Cobweb bar , the Tong Wars, Emperor Norton, and Oofty Goofty the human punching bag of the 1800s. there were certainly some oddball beatniks running around probably at the time when you were referring to sf....yes?

i've always seen this as a city of avante busted toys running amok politely with a heavy hand of gentrification brushing those off the beaten path out of the city or under the rug.

my first initiation in the city was in the early 70s when a gorilla always played guitar for the tourists, the human jukebox was not arrested for selling pot, and the fog in Chinatown was very strange in that setting at night.


Emphyrio 16/9:
I've never tried very hard to track down your Ellery Queen books; I always got the impression you never liked them much and they'd been butchered by editors. At long last I've got round to picking them up second hand, and just started on 'The Madman Theory' -- and I'm enjoying it! Whatever the editors may have done, there's still a strong flavour of 'Jack Vance'.

What do you think of these books now? Do you wish you'd written more of them? Were the editors worse than sf houses like DAW?

with added question by Aldiboronti 16/9 :
Just as a follow-up to Tim's question. Did they impose a 'house style' on you, or leave you pretty much to your own devices?


Aldiboronti 18/9

Given the choice of an alternate life, of all the planets and societies in the Vancean universe, which would you choose to live in?


David Pierce 23/9

The "Analects of Confucius" has this to say about being a gentleman:


There are nine things the gentleman turns his thought to: to seeing clearly when he uses his eyes, to hearing acutely when he uses his ears, to looking cordial when it comes to his countenance, to appearing respectful when it comes to his demeanour, to being conscientious when he speaks, to being reverent when he performs his duties, to seeking advice when he is in doubt, to the consequences when he is encouraged, and to what is right at the sight of gain.(AL 16:10; Lau 164-167).

Almost every Vancean protagonist fulfills the idea of a Confucian gentleperson, and many Vancean milieus exemplify values such as harmonious society, proper conduct, and personal equanimity. Even the villains and louts of Vance stories possess dignity! This is perhaps most apparent in the mannered dialogue you employ, wherein each and every character -- hero, anti-hero, nobleman, peasant, child, villain, lecher, crook, monster -- is on an approximately equal elocutionary footing, extending to his fellows at least a modicum of respect.

(The concept of manners has always appealed to me because if one practices them, whether they be Confucian, Victorian, American Southern, or even barbaric, it generally seems preferable to the alternative: an absence of manners. Manners foster tolerance and lend grace, even in violent situations, as when masters duel with both swords and irony. Manners may be the finest means of providing balance between one character and another.)

Jack, has Confucian thought been an influence on your writing?

*** C.L. MOORE ***

Asked by Sam Salazar 6/10

I don't see any particular Thorne Smith influence but I do see definite points of similarity between C.L.Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories from the 1930s Weird Tales and
the Dying Earth stories and I know JV read Weird Tales at one time; I wonder whether he remembers these ones...?

Jirel Discovers Magic
The Dark God's Shadow
The Dark God's Kiss, etc.


Asked by Hbeascorp 7/10

I noted your family interest in tarzan. Did your parents ever have the opportunity to read your work and what did they think?

*** E.E. DOC SMITH ***
Asked by Joe Gottman 9/10

Is Lens Larque's name a tribute to the sci-fi writer E. E. "Doc" Smith? Smith is best known for two series of novels, the Lensman series and the Skylark series.


Some ignorant sot who occasionally stumbles onto the Jack Vance Message Board has suffered a hallucination in which your prose vaguely resembles (to his margarita-damaged brain) that of James Branch Cabell. Although one hesitates to believe anything spoken by said dolt (i.e., the Poster at the Board*), could you set our minds at ease by disclaiming any influence by M. Cabell?

* Think of "The Lurker at the Threshold," folks.

*** MAGICK ***
Asked by gurugeorgey 16/10

There's a lot of magick of various sorts in Jack's stories, and to anyone who's studied the occult, some of his descriptions of magickal techniques and the sorts of things that happen in magickal "events" are vaguely reminiscent of the real thing (if "real" is the appropriate word in this context!). Questions:-

1) What's the extent of Jack's reading in, or study of, the occult?

2) Did he ever meet a guy called Jack Parsons back in the 40s? (Jack Parsons was a Californian rocket scientist who knew a few science fiction writers and also "dabbled" - as the saying goes - in the occult.)

Asked by Cealla 17/10/03


It is now 7 years ago that I found the 3rd Lyonesse book, [b]Madouc, tucked in a cardboard box in a rural post office, which then functioned as the informal lending library of the little community of Tlell on the Queen Charlotte Islands. For me, a roamer and a traveller, there was no better cure for the perpetuous rainfalls of that region.

My enjoyment and appreciation for the book quickly became so apparent that I was told by the postmaster to simply keep it and take it with me - and so I did. A long time passed before I realized that I was actually reading the last of a triology. Living a bush life without electricity for the following years - I lacked the sophistication of electronic information systems. This all changed quickly when I became a student, of course - and it is only now after so many years that I undertook to obtain the remaining books through interlibrary loans.

The books remain elusive to conventional purchase - out of print and therefore missing from bookstore shelves. The books came to me these past two month from Northen & Western Alberta and interestingly (to me at least) arrived in exactly reversed chronological order in such a way - that I could only read them in such a fashion, as the return dates were inflexible.

I actually believe that there is no other way to read them. I simply cannot imagine that I would have been able to survive the suspense - had I read them in their original order. I like it this way - from Madouc - to the Green Pearl - to Suldrun's Garden. Just right for me. It almost feels like having a story narrated by an elderly relative where adventures of long ago are divulged and then through interest and further questions by the young listener lead to events even further back in time.

It is amazing to me how much suspense there is to be found for me in each of the books - though everytime I stand assured of the ending and know how my heros and heroines will fare. This either describes me as a thoroughly naive individual or yourself as a truly gifted storyteller.

In the past I spent 5 years living in County Donegal in the Gaeltacht. Storytelling was very much appreciated there and the title of "storyteller" is not easy to come by amongst a people who florish with oral tradition and the ability to paint pictures into thin air.

So therefore I would formulate my question: "Did you choose the chronological order for the Lyonesse triology because it was the way the story naturally evolved or was the story crafted by you in chronological order because it is simply the conventional method of narrating an adventure?
Otherwise did the entirety of the Lyonesse triology stand known to you before you simply wrote it down - or did you perhaps perceive the framework for all three books from the very beginning?

Why this interests me - I can't tell you, but for some reason it truly does.

Sln agus beanacht!
Thank you

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



2/8 7 :21 pm : Matt Hughes
Why the style?

You arrived at your distinctive style after a number of years in which you tried different approaches. You must have known that, while it would delight some, it was sure to put others off. That meant you would sell fewer books than plodders like Heinlein or Asimov. What made you do it?

ANSWER 10 August 2003:
To tell the truth, I wrote the way I felt like... I just decided, the hell with it, Im going to write what I feel like writing, and forget trying to please John Campbell. I got tired of writing commercial trash, although I wasnt thinking in those terms, at the time.
I got tired of writing about cheap thrills in Science. Three-legged Joe was one of them- I had ice cold mercury being superconductive, and killing Three-legged Joe, because it was superconductive - that was a rotten story. There was one about, well, I wont go into it, I detest them all... Still, I wrote them, sold them, made a few bucks. I did as good a job as I could- some I think are pretty good- I like Miracle Workers, for instance, and Moon Moth. The Blue World, that was a gadget story; I dont like it much, the idea of making weapons out of iron distilled from peoples blood you dont need to do that- iron comes from what people eat, and in order to get iron, all you have to do is get it out of the stuff they eat!
"I would say Blue World was the last of my gadget stories, after that, I got more interested in people, like Navarth, and the protagonist of Tschai, and well, I wont go into details..


Kilo Volt 4/8 5 :55 pm

OK, I'll pitch one in as well... For one as unhealthily interested in music as yours truly, I'd be fishing for some jazz recommendations:

"Which are your favourite 3 (or 5, or ...) jazz albums. A short list of absolute masterworks for the interested novice, so to speak... On a related note, do/did you write on music at all, and if so, are there certain albums or artists that you can still associate with certain of your works?"

Perhaps not of interest to everyone, and arguably more than one question. What I'm not after is an explanation why jazz is the only true musical format. Been there, done that. I'd like some real listening tips.

ANSWER 10 August 2003:
That demands some thinking about its not as easy as it sounds; theres so much beautiful music but I could suggest the Buck Creek Jazz Band, Black Eagle Jazz Band, anything by Jack Teagarden, maybe some of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, from the second phase, with Wingy Manone, Sidney Arodin, George Brunies.. those are perfect records. Then the Jelly Roll Morton piano sides.. the basics, nothing fancy, to get started with.
But the Black Eagles, and Buck Creek, are probably the best jazz bands that ever existed; even though theyre contemporary, theyre better in every respect than the bands the pseudo-critics like to consider, like King Oliver .. of course that was a great band, I like King Oliver, love it, appreciate it very much, but they havent achieved the complete mastery of technique, like these others Ive mentioned..
I think Beiderbecke is the greatest jazz musician that ever existed; but its hard to recommend Beiderbecke to neophytes, because you cant appreciate him until you know the music better.
To me, Jazz does not exist solely of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Bessie Smith; these are socially progressive, and - politically correct- but theres so much other music out there; for instance I could mention Benny Strickler, whos absolutely unknown to almost everybody, but he was one of the really great trumpet players; his playing is so wonderful, its not showy, its not blasting, its not show-offy, its just easy, and relaxed, gorgeous relaxed music, music music music, pure music.. Benny Strickler, no one knows who he is..

Plus a personnal invitation to Kilo Volt:
You can tell K.V., if he wants to come over to the house here, bring over a couple of steaks, fry em, you know, over here, Ill play him some good music.. If he wants to bring his wife, well have a party, well play some good music-


Steve Sherman 5/8 9:05 am
The outline for the third Joe Bain book, The Genesee Slough Murders, which will appear in Volume 44 of the VIE, treats the actual murders rather briefly, so much so that I had to reread it to find out who got killed and why.

On the other hand, some of the more incidental scenes are quite fleshed out: the trees on the waterway and the demonstrations, the pickup truck burglary, Miranda's mysterious phone companion, Joe's ongoing battles with Howard Griselda, and so on. My impression is that the finished novel would have been just as good a read as its two predecessors.

Yet it was never written. I've seen correspondence at the Mugar from the Bobbs Merrill editor, Robert Ockene, who was a great fan of the Joe Bain books and at one point wrote that he looked forward to publishing the third one.

So what happened? Why was The Genesee Slough Murders never realized?


Jack's answer:

Bob Ockene, the editor for the first two Joe Bain books, died of leukemia. When I wrote the outline for Genesee Slough, I never did flesh it totally out; I never got the story really plotted to my satisfaction.. but for one reason or another, the new editor at Bobbs Merrill turned it back, I dont know on what basis. But I kind of gave up writing that stuff, the stories werent making any money for me, particularly .. of course nothing was making any particular money for us, in those days
I will say this: I really like Joe Bain, I like the situation, the locale, which is a blend of the sort of area in which I grew up, over the other side of the hills from the Bay Area. The locale is a kind of synthesis of several of the counties over there- its pretty authentic, the feeling of the countryside at the time I was growing up, anyway..

Mike Transreal 5/8 9:59 am

And, aside from the Joe Bain novel, which projects and series would you have liked to continue, assuming editorial support?
You've mentioned in interviews, etc. over the years that you might return to your Lyonesse setting, continue with The Man from Zodiac, The Narrow Land, possibly Maske:Thaery and others. [Not too sure if JV mentioned a possible sequel tpo M:T, or if it's wishful thinking.]

Jack's answer:
I have not the slightest idea, not an ounce.. I see myself as semi-retired, although I am working on another story-


QUestion from Funambulist 4/8 10 :37 pm:

I have never heard you mention an affinity for any team sport, yet team sports constitute an important element in some of your work. How important (if at all) do you think sports, or athletic competition, is in general to human society?

Jack's answer:

I cant answer that question specifically, I dont have an opinion.
Personally, I used to like college football; was very much interested in it. In the 20s and 30s, college football really had some romance to it, with the coonskin coats, guys with ukeleles, hip flask pockets, you know, and flappers-
I like baseball, but I dont like professional football, or basketball, or professional games of any sort..

Do you think team sports provide an outlet of some sort?

Jack's answer:

I think that amateur team sports, well, even the professional ones, provide a focus for the district which they represent, but I dont have any really original theories about this, everyone else probably has the same notions
I invented a couple of games, for fun, hussade, particularly- one time I was told that up at the University of Washington someone was going to start playing hussade! But nothing ever developed ... Ive heard a lot of half-hearted references to getting the game in motion, but again, nothing has ever occurred.'

Do you think that sports are inevitable, in a certain sense, because of something in the make-up of any human society?

Jack's answer:

I dont have any real theories, in this regard I wouldnt argue one way or the other.


Question from Rob Friefeld 3/8 4 :57 pm

Merlings in Trullion, morphotes in Koryphon: the nightmare notion of a malignant race under the water, ready pull you down. Is this based on a myth or experience?

Jack's answer:
Neither one! No morphote has ever grabbed my leg, as far as I know- I would remember if it had..

Is it purely a psychological idea? I think it is powerfully effective that these are things people must live with, rather than solving the problem with depth charges and poisons.

Jack's answer:
No, these races are just story elements, they dont have any particular, strong significance. Just part of the environment of the particular story.


Question asked by Fironzelle 4/8 12 :18 am


I've seen you use sentient aliens with good effect to contrast with humanity in the future. The Wannek, Chasch, Pnume, and Dirdir particularly molded their human symbiotes on Tschai. The aliens of the Last Castle, Dragon Masters, and Marune were all engaged in being remade in Man's image, remaking Man to their specifications, or remaining aloof from Man as much as possible.

The Demon Prince stories were more devoid of alien-human interaction (with the major exception of the almost human Star King, Malagate), but often portrayed mutually incomprehensible members of the human universe dealing with one another. Will the constantly changing scientific background to our lives force us and our descendants to abandon social rigidity and adopt a protean flexibility toward morality and social thought? Do you think that the apparent plasticity of our behavior patterns will allow us to change with scientific progress, or even permit the survival of core values of Western civilization?

Jacks answer:
The question is impossible to answer intelligently regarding the future of the human race, there are so many trillion possibilities that its pointless to have any specific theories in this regard. Any ideas you have are bound to be wrong.
From our contemporary point of view, we might as well just observe whats happening, with interest of course; but predicting anything seriously is just blowing smoke. I dont think seriously, at all, about future changes. The possibilities are so awesome, or not awesome, but so many that its pointless. I dont have any theories about the future of the human race- though nothing would surprise me.

[Johns prompt: But will our behaviors continue to flex, to adapt to changing conditions?]

Jack: Well of course, that goes without saying.

[Johns prompt: Do you think that the core values of Western civilization will survive?]

Jack: Not so much a question of surviving, theyre going to alter, go different directions I dont even know what the core values are anyway, they alter from year to year.
There will be changes, probably very slow, maybe so slow that nobody will notice. For instance if we were transplanted back to Victorian times, we could very easily adapt to life there, without any big, whats the word, dislocation. Wed have to think a bit, tip our hat a little more often .. wed just be careful. In the same way, if we were transplanted to a society a hundred years from now, we might not even recognize the difference; there might be laws against fast automobiles, or ...
As far as my use of aliens, I use them as plot devices. I dont like to use aliens in my stories, generally speaking, because theyre well I wont go into the reasons, theyre complicated - but I use them only when necessary; the thrust of my work, I think, is about the way human societies act and react to each other, with ordinary, garden-type human beings...

[Johns prompt: Would you postulate that in the future, and under widely varied conditions, that human society will allow a continuum of behaviors?]

No, I wouldnt. That kind of talk is for people, very earnest young fellows, with funny eyeglasses, that go to coffee bars, and have earnest arguments with each other, very avant- garde types This is just one possibility, among ten thousand, it might go the other way; society might get more strict, its not impossible, although the tendency seems to be, as we look back over the last hundred, two hundred years, that people are acting a little bit more loose all the time, more undisciplined, a little bit more free and open, which is, I believe, all to the good - in general.


Question asked by Matt Hughes 10/8 9:04 pm

Ax, you can file this for future use, perhaps. But here's what I'd like to hear about:

Why have you never, or almost never, written in the first person? Is it because it's limiting in terms of putting a story together? Or do you like to have a little distance from your point-of-view characters? Or does it just not appeal to you? Or...?

Jacks answer:
All three!
I much prefer standing a little distance from whats going on, so I can report with a bit more freedom on the scene as a whole. If youre writing in the first person, it has certain advantages, you can report upon emotions with a lot more facility, and impact, than somebody making an exposition. But if youre good at it, by telling how somebody looks and feels, you can get the same effect.
In fact Im reading a book right now, by P.D. James, a lady writer, she does a marvelous job of talking in very far off exposition, making the emotional feelings, sorrows, and joys of her characters so real.. shes very, very good at this, works hard at it.
But the answer to the question is, I think standing apart from the action gives you a little wider view..
I like to keep myself out of my stories, as much as possible, so nobody can say, aha.. that damn Vance, thats how he, thats his there he goes again, you know - hates dogs - ...


Question asked by mije 21/8

dear Mr. Jack Vance

About 8 years ago we decided to call our firstborn Glawen. At that time my husband and I were reading 'the Cadwall chronicles'. We found the main character a really nice and friendly boy, with a very nice name ... Glawen Clattuc. Our oldest son was born on the 22nd of February in 1995 and we called him Glawen, it really suits him. But there's one thing I would very much like to know: It is a very special name, we never heard it anywhere. Did you make it up, does it come from your own fantasy, or does it exist? It would be nice to know if there are any other Glawen's or if our Glawen is the only one. I hope you can answer my question.

with regards
Marije Binsbergen

the Netherlands

Jacks answer:
I made the name up, so your Glawen may be the only one!

I work very hard evolving names that seem to suit the circumstances, and the personalities of the people involved. Glawen IS a good name, I like it too.. a very nice name for the person involved


Asked by Agenerak 4/8 11 :53 am

I have a few questions:

Which books did you wish was turned over to a pen of well-fed incontinent food poisoned dogs for their appalling artwork? This would be the ones that stood out in your mind from yore that truly upset you.

Also what cover(s) made you say to yourself 'they got it right! ha!' if ever?

There was one, an Underwood book, one of the Cugel stories, absolutely appalling I built up the story to a crescendo, a surprise, a climax, but the artist gave away the surprise! Like, in the Mountains of Magnatz, the surprise was that when Cugel was going across the lake, he hooked his anchor on the nose of this giant under the water, and pulled him up.. but that was supposed to be a surprise, you know.. But the artist, he drew a big picture, showing this giant out of the water, pouncing on Cugel! No surprise! He did that on several others of his drawings; made me insane with rage...

There was one illustrator, I forget her name, she copied a picture out of a Russian book of fairy tales, sheer, bald-assed plagiarism. The picture was copied, every line, from the Russian book of fairy tales. And then, the people in the costumes, they were supposed to be costumes of the future, she made them all dressed up like Regency bucks, from 1803, or 1804, Regency clothes awful, awful, awful

(John V. prompt: Any others? Any with overly-voluptuous female figures?)

Oh, no, no. I cant think of any others, offhand.

On the other hand, the illustrations for the Dragon Masters were so excellent, so magnificent, they got me an award for the story, I couldnt have gotten the award if that guy Jack Gaughan hadnt done such magnificent illustrations.

(John V. : Was that the first edition?)

Appeared in Galaxy magazine.. theyre just magnificent illustrations, except, with one exception, which I wont go into..


Attel 7/8 3:09 am

I would like to know if you have ever had any formal training in Anthropology and if not what resources you used if any when describing the various cultures in your stories for example The Sarkoy or The Tadousko Oi in the DEMON Prince Series!


No, I dont have any formal training, Ive just done a lot of reading. I read everything I can.. in fact I just finished reading a book on anthropology.
I think every intelligent person ought to be fascinated by anthropology, the surroundings, the environment. I wouldnt say Im interested in anthropology, but that Im interested in my environment; I want to know everything I can about my environment, which includes history, the world..

(John V. prompt: Your social environment? Physical environment?)

Just plain environment. Everything! Physical, social, everything. I guess I have an insatiable curiosity about everything


Willem 9/8 8:15 pm

A question on unpublished stories: are there any stories not published but lying around that could be published?
i am thinking of stories that needed editing, where bumped by publishers, stories that were not found good enough by Jack himself.
the more specific the answer is the better.
further i propose to add unpublished stories in the last vie volume.
(i can not imagine that no stories were withheld from publication for different reasons, some of those stories could be below standards, but some might be found good enough by the author to publish at request)


(John V. prompt: No studies that needed editing, were bumped by publishers..)



Charles 3/8 1 :33 pm

The collection Lost Moons has a great introduction, written by Jack Vance, which may well be the best part of the book. He describes the stories as lacking the distinction of being the worst that he has written, and says that the publishers are saving these stories for another volume, The Worst of Jack Vance.

No book of this name has ever been published and no collection I have seen would unequivocally qualify as the worst. What are the stories to which he is referring?


Oh I dont know, just a lot of the earlier stories. There are a lot of the earlier stories I dont like, Im ashamed of. They were all pretty nave.. the first few years I was writing, the short stories I wrote I was trying to find some.. I dont know.. lets just say, my early stories Im not proud of, my earliest stories Im not proud of..


Aldiboronti 22 August 22, 2003 12:53 pm

The Last Castle and Dragon Masters are absolute gems. Did winning the Nebula and Hugo for these stories make any great difference to your career in terms of sales, contract negotiations, etc?



(John V. prompt: Never got the feeling it meant anything)


(John V.: It never got you a single thing!!)

Zilch, zilch..

(John V.: Thank you for the honor..)

No, those guys dont give a damn about that stuff, all theyre interested in is scandal, sensation.. get me in the paper, then Id sell lots of books..

Look at Phil Dick. Phil Dick, besides being an awfully clever writer, he got the credentials of being crazy- he became big there was a big clique around him.
For my taste, he was too batty, too sarcastic, too sardonic, negative.. and yet, some of his stuff was just insanely funny.. but he was not a person I could relate to, at all..

(John V. : Did you meet him?)

Oh, yeah, sure..

(John V.: Did you know him well?)

Not intimately, but fairly well..

(John V.: Did you meet him at parties, in that way?)

I dont remember, to tell you the truth.
When I first met him, he was kind of meek, quiet, I didnt think he was going anywhere then the last time I saw him, Poul and I were invited over to a party over in Marin county, by some woman, didnt serve us anything, didnt even serve wine! Anyway, Phil Dick came storming in there, crazy as a coot, didnt acknowledge either me or Poul, stomped through, stomped out, did some other things while he was there, I forget what now. That was the last time I saw him.. wearing a cape, big boots, swaggering through the difference between that guy and the guy that I first knew.. where did I meet him, at Scott Merediths office, or Anthony Bouchers house?.. this quiet, modest, little nondescript fellow.. the difference between that guy, and the guy that came stomping through that party, you know, swaggering, like a big pirate, with a big cloak, big boots, not waving a cutlass at all, but just swaggering through there.. by this time, he had his reputation.. he was on drugs, dope, crazy or something.. He was a clever son of a gun.

There was a fellow named Avram Davidson, married a women named Gronya, she divorced him, ultimately, a nice lady, we liked her.. she married Dick, and they lived, oddly enough, rented a house out in East Oakland, by some coincidence, or chance, owned by Ali Szantho..

*** BAD RONALD : WHY ? ***

Question asked by Matt Hughes 3/9 2:41 pm

The book is well done, but the character and situation are repellent. What interests me is that BR is so different from the other Vance books. Where did it come from? Why was it written? The main thing I'd like to know is how JV feels about that book and character.

And an additional question by Matt Hughes 15/9 :
After reading JV's roundtable interview in Cosmo 42, I'd more than ever like to know what he thinks of Bad Ronald, both as a book and as a character.

Jacks Answer:
Bad Ronald came into being by an indirect process. I read in a newspaper, or somewhere, an account of a mother having her child sequestered, in a house, for some reason, for a long time. And the thought was horribly fascinating, a fascinating idea.. And it just occurred to me that this would make a good theme for a horror story... I just thought Id try my hand at it, see how it turned out So I did, and I just tried to write it without too many dramatics, detail, gory detail, just straight- in other words I wasnt trying to shock too many people, I just explained what I considered a fascinating, if horrible situation. And the story, I thought, turned out pretty well, even though it was very disgusting.
I think the book is a success. The character, Im dispassionate about, Im dispassionate in regard to all my characters. I just use them as a means to an end. I dont have any feelings of hatred, or passion toward Bad Ronald; of course I do feel sorrow at the plight of the girls, but thats why its called a horror story


Question asked by Dan Gunter 18/9

The Tschai novels seem to me to have some similarities to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoomian novels (A Princess of Mars, etc.). Had you read those or similar "interplanetary adventure" novels when you began writing the Tschai books? If so, what are your thoughts on the Barsoom books (or similar books)?

If you were familiar with other "interplanetary adventure" novels: Some of the events of the Tschai books vary dramatically from the basic formula of the Barsoom books and the like. For example, Burroughs would never have permitted the death of Dejah Thoris; by contrast, Ylin Ylan, the Flower of Cath, dies fairly early in Wannek, and Reith has no other love interest until Pnume. Did you intentionally vary from the formula, or were you just writing the story as it seemed fitting to you?

Jacks Answer:
My mother was addicted to fantasy; back in 1915 when Tarzan first appeared in Blue Book magazine, the people of San Francisco, she tells me, the ladies all whispered, told each other about this marvelous new story, and instantly- everybody was reading Blue Book, Tarzan..
Even before this my mother had a taste for fantasy stories, she had Robert Chambers books, Maker of the Moons, Tracer of Lost Persons, The King in Yellow, maybe some others, and when we moved from San Francisco up to the ranch, I was six, and she brought all these books up she didnt have the Barsoom books, just Tarzan, in fact only the first, Tarzan of the Apes, but I read Tarzan, and was fascinated by it, I got all the other books from the library..
Barsoom, I thought, was wonderful; Burroughs had a knack for creating this wonderful atmosphere; the Barsoomian atmosphere he created never left me. Burroughs, how shall I say it, some of his ideas can be criticized, he was, well, I wont go into a criticism, but one thing he could do profoundly well, was create an atmosphere; and the atmosphere of Barsoom got into me when I was seven or eight years old, and never left me.
I had no intention of emulating Burroughs Barsoom books in Tschai; I never even thought of Barsoom while I was writing Tschai; totally separate, brand new. The death of, ... whats her name..? was a plot device. Also it was leading up to developing the culture of Cath, these weird situations... From the standpoint of the story, I didnt want Reith saddled with a girlfriend, all during the other books..
At the end, I saddled him with this rather unlikely Pnume girl, which even at the time I thought was kind of unreal, and unlikely, but I decided to try to make it stick anyway.. if people thought that was a little strange, that he should become attached to a person of such totally strange sociological background, well.. I agree. (laughs) But I just thought Id take a whack at it. Thats the way it goes-


Question asked by Kilo Volt 21/8 5:40 pm

Well, I got my most burning question answered already, but if no-one else posts some more questions, I'll stop being polite and throw another one in for the poll:

Most of us are aware of the fact (if that it is) that you do not hold the Big Bang theory in high esteem, even if recent observations of the cosmic background radiation and its patterns of minute fluctuations seem to speak in favour of it. What are your reasons to differ, and what do you consider a more plausible scenario?



Jacks Answer:
My reasons, for not swallowing this theory totally, at a gulp, like a salmon swallowing a piece of insect, are because as far as I can see, the thing was initiated by people trying to explain the red shift, as indicating the distance and flight of the far off galaxies; and I was extremely skeptical of using this as evidence because I felt that there were other possible reasons, for the red shift, that might not indicate the Doppler..
I dont have any alternate proposals ... [the Big Bang] just doesnt strike me as being automatically right. And I feel like now, its conventional; all the scientists go for it.. they use the background radiation as evidence
These theories change, develop, every twenty or thirty years. One hundred years from now, who knows what ideas there will be.. Somebody is finding that Newtons laws of gravity dont work everywhere the same was as they work here; they work differently in far off galaxies, for inexplicable reasons. Dark matter, nobody knows, theres no evidence for it whatever.. scientists, in a very large handed manner, it seems, want to sprinkle matter around the universe, just in order to make the galaxies respond in what they consider a proper way, to the thrust, pull of gravity. If they dont put in the dark matter, the galaxies dont act right, so they have to postulate dark matter.. I cant see that the Big Bang theory makes any more sense than any of the other theories..
Shockley liked the steady-state; he manfully held on, until everybody piled on him, made him change.. his steady-state theory had some logical discomfitures, some drawbacks, they told him that doesnt work, this theory wont fly, Shockley, you know. Well all right, if you say so, so he did.
As far as Im concerned, Im just plain skeptical.. Im not denying the existence of the Big Bang, I just think it doesnt seem particularly likely.