This past month, I’ve been working my way through a collection of short stories and novellas by Jack Vance. Vance is a figure from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, a contemporary of Heinlein and Asimov, though perhaps not nearly as well known as the other big names. And that’s sad because I have been consistently amused by Vance’s stories.
What sets Vance apart is his prose. Vance plays with language, well suited to his fantastic worlds, but he makes it sound so natural and believable. There’s a certain fairy tale-like quality to his telling, more akin to Lord Dunsany than to bowdlerized children’s stories. At times he approaches poetry in the way he goes about.
One thing I can say: Vance’s stories are meant to be read, all the better if aloud. They’re a marked contrast to more modern science fiction and fantasy, which often seen like TV scripts in way they rush through plot and characterization. Vance, on the other hand, takes his time developing the story, so the words are meant to be savored.