The Vance Treasury – Make your own!

I’ve been doing a little background research, for those of you interested in following along as we build The Jack Vance Treasury. Now, remember, this book will be between 175,000 and 225,000 words long, including introductions etc. Although it’s very unlikely things will run this long, I’m allowing 10,000 words for main volume introduction, foreword, story notes etc. That’s likely to be very generous, but still…

Now, using figures from the Vance Integral Edition website, I estimate that there were a total of 123 works published between 1944 and 1984 that might be considered to be “short works”. For the purposes of this discussion, short works means anything under 50,000 words. Now, we are almost definitely not going to consider anything beyond the 31,300 words of “The Dragon Masters”, but that still leaves 109 possible titles.

From there, our original list of 25 stories already amounted to 303,300 words, nearly 97,000 words longer than we need. We’ve also had a further 165,500 words of stories recommended to us. Those stories are:

Abercrombie Station (20700)
Chateau d’If (22100)
Dodkin’s Job (13100)
Fader’s Waft (36400)
Flutic (14000)
Sulwen’s Planet (5200)
The Houses of Iszm (30100)
The Murthe (9500)
The Potters of Firsk (6600)
Ullward’s Retreat (7800)

That gives us a full long, long, long list of:

A Practical Man’s Guide (2.7)
Abercrombie Station (20.7)
Aboard the Galante (7)
Alfred’s Ark (2)
Assault on a City (17.4)
At the Inn (2.1)
Bird Island (41.6)
Cat Island (1.4)
Chateau d’If (22.1)
Cholwell’s Chickens (16.7)
Cil (9)
Clang (2.1)
Coup de Grace (7.4)
Crusade to Maxus (21)
D P (6.9)
Dead Ahead (6.5)
Dodkin’s Job (13.1)
Dover Spargill’s Ghastly Floater (5.4)
Dream Castle (5.8)
Erze Damath (3.4)
Fader’s Waft (36.4)
Faucelme (7)
Flutic (14)
Four Hundred Blackbirds (7.6)
Freitzke’s Turn (18.2)
Gold and Iron (44.6)
Golden Girl (4.6)
Green Magic (4.6)
Guyal of Sfere (17.5)
Hard Luck Diggings (4.6)
I’ll Build Your Dream Castle (5.8)
Lausicaa (7.1)
Liane the Wayfarer (4.1)
Masquerade on Dicantropus (5.6)
Mazirian the Magician (6.1)
Meet Miss Universe (7)
Milton Hack from Zodiac (17.5)
Morreion (15.9)
Noise (4.6)
Nopalgarth (35.5)
On the Docks (4.3)
Parapsyche (35.3)
Phalid’s Fate (10.9)
Planet of the Black Dust (5.6)
Rumfuddle (20.2)
Sabotage on Sulfur Planet (12.7)
Sail 25 (10.7)
Sanatoris Short-cut (5.8)
Seven Exits from Bocz (3.5)
Shape-Up (4.9)
Sjambak (9.3)
Son of the Tree (30)
Spa of the Stars (7)
Space Opera (50)
Spatterlight (5.5)
Sulwen’s Planet (5.2)
Telek (21.8)
The Absent Minded Professor (5.8)
The Augmented Agent (14.9)
The Bagful of Dreams (10.3)
The Caravan (15.6)
The Cave in the Forest (4.5)
The Columns (7.8)
The Deadly Isles (45.1)
The Devil On Salvation Bluff (7.2)
The Dirdir (46.3)
The Dogtown Tourist Agency (40.2)
The Dragon Masters (31.3)
The Enchanted Princess (7.8)
The Flesh Mask (40)
The Four Wizards (3.9)
The Gift of Gab (17.9)
The God and the Temple Robber (5.5)
The House Lords (4.5)
The Houses of Iszm (30.1)
The Howling Bounders (6.5)
The Inn of Blue Lamps (7.2)
The King of Thieves (6.2)
The Kokod Warriors (11.7)
The Kragen (25.6)
The Languages of Pao (45.2)
The Last Castle (21.4)
The Magnificent Red-hot Jazzing Seven (3.8)
The Manse of Iucounu (6.5)
The Men Return (3.3)
The Miracle Workers (25)
The Mitr (2.2)
The Moon Moth (12.4)
The Mountains of Magnatz (10.7)
The Murthe (9.5)
The Narrow Land (9.1)
The New Prime (8.8)
The Ocean of Sighs (6.4)
The Overworld (10.6)
The Phantom Milkman (4.1)
The Pilgrims (13.5)
The Pnume (47)
The Potters of Firsk (6.6)
The Raft on the River (2.6)
The Rapparee (40.2)
The Secret (3.2)
The Seventeen Virgins (9.1)
The Silver Desert and the Songan Sea (5.4)
The Sorcerer Pharesm (9.2)
The Stark (12.7)
The Sub-standard Sardines (8.3)
The Telephone was Ringing in the Dark (An Unfinished Manuscript) (25.6)
The Ten Books (7.3)
The Uninhibited Robot (12.2)
The Unspeakable McInch (6.3)
The Visitors (5)
The Wannek (49)
The World Between (9.1)
The World-Thinker (9)
Three Legged Joe (6.5)
To B or Not to C or to D (7.5)
T’sais (9.8)
Turjan of Miir (5.6)
Ulan Dhor (Ulan Dhor Ends a Dream) (9.4)
Ullward’s Retreat (7.8)
When the Five Moons Rise (4.8)
Where Hesperus Falls (3.4)
Wild Thyme and Violets (4.8)

Now, from there, you can make your own. Remember, though: 210,000 words of fiction is pretty much the limit.

21 thoughts on “The Vance Treasury – Make your own!”

  1. Here’s my take:

    The Dragon Masters (31.3)
    The Miracle Workers (25)
    Chateau d’If (22.1)
    The Last Castle (21.4)
    Guyal of Sfere (17.5)
    Flutic (14)
    Dodkin’s Job (13.1)
    The Moon Moth (12.4)
    Sail 25 (10.7)
    The Narrow Land (9.1)
    The New Prime (8.8)
    Lausicaa (7.1)
    Shape-Up (4.9)
    Green Magic (4.6)
    The Men Return (3.3)
    The Mitr (2.2)

    207,500

    Opinions will differ — although I’d guess consensus on at least half will come fairly readily. Any other offerings?

    ~Tim

  2. Jonathan, here is:

    My ideal VANCE TREASURY

    Short Stories:

    The Men Return (3.3)
    Dodkin’s Job (13.1)
    Green Magic (4.6)
    Sulwen’s Planet (5.2)
    The Moon Moth (12.4)
    = 38.6 k words

    Mazirian/Cugel/Rhialto

    Guyal of Sfere (17.5)
    Flutic (14)
    The Murthe (9.5)
    =23.5 k words

    Science Fiction novellas or shorter novels:

    The Houses of Iszm (30.1)
    Son of the Tree (30)
    The Last Castle (21.4)
    Domain of Koryphon (52.7)
    134.2 k words

    Total k words = 211.8

    Argument:
    this list includes the simply best short stories. ‘The Men Return’ is a Vance’s unforgettable comi-tragic evocation of chaos. ‘Dodkin’s Job’ is one of his classic statements on the human condition, technocracy, and ‘Organization’, or the tendency of modern political structures to crush the individual. ‘Green Magic’ is Vance’s classic evocation of an ‘otherwhere’. Other such evocations occur in ‘Bagful of Dreams’, or in Lyonesse, in the Irerly or Tanjectery episodes. ‘Sulwen’s Planet’ is a masterly classic exposition of one of Vance’s favorite themes: the squabbling academics. He treats this theme in many other places, such as Night Lamp and the Demon Prince books. ‘The Moon Moth’ probably Vance’s best short story, is one of many vancian treatments of cultural discontinuity.
    ‘Guyal of Sfere’, though such an early story, remains greatly beloved and is always rewarding to read. It is certanly the most important of the ‘Maziran’ stories, and has an evocation of Vance’s musical theme.
    ‘Flutic’, in my opinion the most perfect of the universally marvellous Cugel episodes, is choiceworthy in the context of a treasury collection because of its concentration on the most important cugelian aspect: wrangling, conniving thievery. However, no Cugel episode choice can be wrong. Among those which have been discussed, ‘The Sorcerer Pharesm’ (9.2k), features the famous stone works, and the search for Totality; ‘Aboard the Galante’ features Vance’s best exposition of sexual chicanery (in which the women come off triumphant), ‘Bagful of Dreams’ (10.3k) features the famous haggling with Iolo, and an incursion into an otherwhere (a theme already covered by ‘Green Magic’), The Seventeen Virgins (9.1k) includes some sexual chicanery, and the card game with Phampoon–another incursion into an otherwhere. My own second choice would be ‘The Inn of Blue Lamps’ (7.2k) which includes the bladder contest between champions sellected by Cugel and Bunderwal. ‘Liane the Wayfarer’ is not first rate Vance, being somewhat derivative and thus ‘perfervid’ in a non-vancian manner, is in any case a proto-Cugel episode.
    ‘The Murthe’, is both the best and the shortest Rhialto episode. It is also one of Vance’s most astonishing sociological statements.
    ‘The Houses of Iszm’ is the best example, in novella form, of what may be the major vancian theme, namely the interplay of ecology, economy, politics and tourism, which finds its ultimate expression in Cadwal, though many of the middle period novels deal with these themes, notably ‘The Face’ and more particularly Maske:Theary. It is a great story which includes tourism, sailing, a better treatement of cultural discontinuity than in ‘The Dragon Masters’, and is structured as an international who-done-it.
    ‘Son of the Tree’, a beautifully evoked wandering chase from world to world across the galaxy, is a proto version of ‘Ports of Call’, and embodies one of Vance’s major statements of his religion theme. It includes his most important treatment of his trademark druids and features the famous ‘world tree’, also evoked in ‘The Palace of Love’. It includes nicely handled political intrigue and one of the clearest expositions of Vance’s sentimental pragmatism or ambiguity, whereby, at the end of a titanic ordeal, the hero finds that his motivation is absurd, that his enemy is his friend, and that the woman he thought he loved does not interest him as much as another one he recently met. Finally, in the battle against the Son, Vance offers a refreshingly prescient post-modernist treatment of a hackned si-fi theme.
    ‘The Last Castle’, like ‘Miracle Workers’ and ‘Dragon Masters’, is a story of a lost aristocratic society in a colonial struggle with alien beings–obviously metaphorical for aspects of the contemporary western situation. All three are first rate masterpieces, though the second, being the earlyiest, is probably the least of them. The ‘Miracle Workers’ deals less richly with the colonial aspect. ‘The Dragon Masters’ deals less richly with the aristocratic and the ‘lost culture’ aspect. The Miracle Workers, with the jinksmen and the ‘first folk’, and the Dragon Masters with the sacerdotes and ‘basics’, include fantastical and ‘cultural discontinuity’ aspects. The fantasy element is not present in The Last Castle, but the other elements are treated more richly, and the fantasy aspect is represented elsewhere among my proposed texts. ‘The Last Castle’ is probably the actual best, because it is the most atmospheric and deals so fully with the aristocratic-colonial element, which is such an important vancian theme.
    ‘Domain of Koryphon’, though both neglected and often denigrated, is one of my own favorite novels. In many respects it is a dry run for Cadwal. It is extremely moody, and is one of Vance’s most successful treatments of an intensely political situation which invites the reader to a reconsideration of many contemporary prejudices. It includes the marvellous episode of the voyage in the wind-runner landboat, one of the highpoints in Vance’s work.
    If space permitted I would propose ‘The Dogtown Tourist Agency’ (40.2k), which is basically a Ridolph story, ‘The Kokod Warriors’ in fact, which though still emphasising tourism, adds the Tchaish situation of a stand-off of alien empires. It is also very much in Vance’s ‘mystery’ vein, otherwise neglected by the proposed lists, while also being a return to the lighthearted manner of so many of the early works, but with Vance’s mature power.
    As for ‘Gift of Gab’, ‘The Narrow Land’ and ‘Sail 25’, as good as these stories are in themselves, and also as popular as they are with those Vance readers who dig his science fiction side best, they are not, in my opinion, in the very first rank, and the delights they offer are already, to some extent, to be found in, for example, ‘The Men Return’, with its potent evocation of an exiguous environment, ‘The Last Castle’ or ‘Sulwin’s Planet’ with their treatements of alien biology and culture, or ‘Son of the Tree’, ‘The Houses of Iszm’ or ‘The Moon Moth’with their context of alien culture and interplanetary economics. It would be nice to also include some of the early ‘fluf’, such as ‘Coup de Grace’, but the antic aspect of ‘Flutic’, or any Cugel episod, as well as the inconsiquent mood of ‘Sulwin’s Planet’, offer a good taste of this.
    So, presented in chronological order, which is how I would do it, the contents would then be:

    1. Guyal of Sfere
    2. Son of the Tree
    3. The Men Return
    4. The Houses of Iszm
    5. Green Magic
    6. Dodkin’s Job
    7. The Moon Moth
    8. The Last Castle
    9. Sulwen’s Planet
    10. Domain of Koryphon
    11. The Murthe
    12. Flutic

    All of these stories, in my opinion, are the best, or not inferior to, others in their categories, and, in the space allotted, would offer the richest possible vancian feast.
    A great cry will instantly go up because my proposition neglects this or that favorite. I can only say that, in the alloted space, this is how I would solve the problem of a Vance Treasury which aims to be ‘a completely definitive selection of Jack’s short fiction, a single volume argument for why he is an important and fascinating writer, the book that will always be the first stop for new Vance readers in years to come’.

    Paul

  3. Tim’s list is excellent. I would only repeat that to the extent choices are limited to shorter texts the collection is driven into Vance’s earlier work which–I reapeat, though wonderful, lacks the supreem qualities of the mature periods.
    I copy below some fragmentary reflections on this matter I composed the other day:

    Vance’s œuvre has three periods, three modes, three modes and several major themes. The periods break down as follows: the early period extends from Mizirian the Magician (published as ‘The Dying Earth’), written in 1944, to about 1960, which saw the writing of the first ‘The Star King’, which was the first Demon Prince, novel, as well as the masterful ‘The Moon Moth’. The middle period extends to about 1980. The late period begins with Cugel: The Skybreak Spatterlight (published as Cugel’s Saga), and includes the major trillogies Lyonesse and Cadwal, as well as the substantial novels Night Lamp and Port of Call – Lurulu.
    Though wonderful masterpieces swarm in all these periods, one cannot ignore that Vance’s work progresses though time; the early period, for all its delights, is therefore not the strongest. But it is there, with few exceptions, that the shorter works are to be found. The middle period is composed mostly of shorter novels, or series composed of shorter novels, but the late period, with the exception of the Cugel episodes, is composed exculsively of massive texts. We may look to the late period, however, for a clear exposition of the major vancian themes, which, casting a light back on the early work, may provide some guidance.

    The three modes of Vance’s work are well known: fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. It is not generally realized that Vance wrote no less than 14 of the latter, 5 of which fall into the middle period. But the ‘mystery’ aspect of Vance overlaps his fantasy and his science fiction. Many of the fantasy stores, rather than being primarilly concerned with magic or demons, are essentially episodes of theft, while many of the science fiction stories are crime investigations. In Fader’s Waft Rhialto seeks to recover the missing Persiplex in order to restore the law known as the ‘blue prinsiples’. In Flutic Cugel discovers Waymish’s hidden stash of scales and effects his own theft of Masters Twango and Soldink. Magnus Ridolf, Miro Hetzel, and even Kirth Gersen, though protagonists of science fiction stories, are basicly investigators.

    The 3 vancian modes may be labled 1) ‘dark’ or ‘moody’, 1) ‘pragmatic’ or ‘straight forward’ or ‘philosophical’ and 3) ‘comic’ or ‘antic’. These modes, in various combinations, lend distictive colors to each text. The mysteries tend to be largely ‘straight forward’ in tone, while stories like Tchai and Durdane are a mixture of ‘dark’ and ‘pragmatic’, though all contain lighter episodes. The Magnus Ridolph stories are exculsively ‘antic’, while the Cugel stories, though largely comix, are sprinkled with ‘darkness’. Vance’s comidy itself, however, has a ‘pragmatic’ cast, such as the famous passage where Cugel counterballance and so cancells the maladictions he has accumulated the night before arriving at Cil:

    What were the terms of the bandit’s curse? ‘—immediate onset of cankerous death.’ Sheer viciousness. The ghost-king’s curse was no less oppressive: how had it gone? ‘—everlasting tedium.’
    Cugel rubbed his chin and nodded gravely. Raising his voice, he called, “Lord ghost, I may not stay to do your bidding: I have killed the bandits and now I depart. Farewell and may the eons pass with dispatch .”
    From the depths of the fort came a moan, and Cugel felt the pressure of the unknown. “I activate my curse!” came a whisper to Cugel’s brain.
    Cugel strode quickly away to the southeast. “Excellent; all is well. The ‘everlasting tedium’ exactly countervenes the ‘immediate onset of death’ and I am left only with the ‘canker’ which, in the person of Firx, already afflicts me…”

    But this ‘pragmatic’ attitude, which Vance so often turns to comic use, has a more sober aspect which we see in his political thinking. In Cadwal, for example, where human passion confronts law, Vance’s penchant for examining tangled and contraditory situations from perspectives which are both indulgent and coldly logical lends his work a smiling philosophical cast. …

  4. Paul Rhoads has provided a thoughtful justification for each of his choices. I can’t spare the time, at this moment. However, note that Paul often prefers Vance stories for their sociological content. Many of us prefer the stories in which Vance has melded style and content into a magical whole that is greater than the parts.

    In this regard, I would be dubious about any work pre-1956 (is your goal to produce a “representative” collection of Vance or a “best” collection?). In addition, Son of the Tree and Houses of Iszm are simply too long to include; they are not important enough to displace several later works of superior quality, regardless of their idea content.

    Paul is too fond of The Murthe. As I noted earlier, Morreion is the best short work Vance has ever produced, combining style, tone, mood, atmosphere, imagination, characters, and sardonic plot. If you do not include Morreion in a Jack Vance Treasury, I will hunt you down.

    You’ve got to include the Big Three, of course: The Moon Moth, Dragon Masters, and Last Castle. I have a personal prejudice in favor of The Miracle Workers, because it was the first Vance story I ever read, right in the pages of Astounding SF with a great Kelly Freas cover. But setting that to the side, this was Vance’s first Hugo nomination and that must indicate something.

    Domains of Koryphon is again too long, and probably favored by Paul for its idea content (it has been classed as one of Vance’s “polemical stories”). I find technical issues in this novel somewhat problematical.

    Several of your own and the contributed lists have included multiple entries from the Cugel corpus. Sadly, the practical solution is to pick just one to represent all (I don’t envy your task in deciding which one is “best”).

    The basic problem with Vance is that most of his stuff is pretty good. So choosing just 210,000 words is necessarily excruciating. I wish you luck and look forward to the result.

  5. Paul makes an important point. There is so much good stuff that just picking ‘the best’, however you measure it, is not necessarily the best answer (and would surely give you all three Rhialto stories, for instance). With 200,000 words to play with there is scope to pick from Vance’s various ‘flavours’ and still have a Treasury comprising only first-rate work.

    What sets Vance apart from most others in the field is his philosophical and tonal range. The final version, whichever stories are chosen, should reflect that breadth.

    ~Tim

  6. I’d like to hear an argument about, rather than a mute assertion, that I prefer ‘Vance stories for sociological content’ rather than, as David put is, stories which meld ‘style and content into a magical whole’. Have I not protested at length against concept based liturature, which, in my opinion, is the fundamental artistic problem with science fiction? Have I not commented, at length, upon the nature of Vance’s artistry, emphasising his generation of atmosphere?

    I will not comment upon David’s preferences, since there is no accounting for taste, but I protest the contention that I have proposed either ‘Houses of Iszm’ or ‘Son of the Tree’ for their ‘idea content’. To me, though early works, they are first rate, fully ‘melded’ and, as I point out, representative not of ‘ideas’ but simply early versions of basic vancian stories, later told again in forms too long to include.
    ‘The Miracle Workers’ is the first version of a story Vance retell in ‘The Dragon Masters’ and ‘Last Castle’, though the latter is not only the latest, it is also the shortest and, in my opinion, the best version of this wonderful story, and therefore the one to choose for a ‘treasury’–though, again, one can hardly go wrong choosing one of the other two. However, why eat only olives when peppers are also on offer?

    As for ‘The Domaines of Koryphon’, though I think the philosohical point of this book is striking and important, above all I think it is a marvellous artistic expirience. This books is offten attacked for being poorly plotted, an matter I have commented upon fully in Cosmopolis.

  7. Tim: I don’t necessarily disagree. What I would say is this. I’m one of two members of an editorial team. At some point in the next three weeks, probably mid-June, I will sit down and read about thirty or so stories. These will comprise every story of less than 50,000 words to receive a recommendation here on my blog, over at the Jack Vance message boards, at the Asimov’s forums, or that has been sent to me directly. The most likely approach will be that I will read along, noting what I, from a personal point of view, think is good enough to go into a book like the one Terry and I envisage. While reading I will make notes about tone, theme – that sort of thing. It wouldn’t do anyone any good if we somehow managed to produce a book that is one-note in any way. When I have that list, I’ll sit down with Terry and we’ll start arguing. How much of the book can be given over to this? How much to that? Can we squeeze this one in? And, somewhere along there representing as broad a range of Jack’s work, within the framework we have set ourselves, will be considered. Once that’s done, and we have a list, we’ll then argue out running order etc, and see where we end up. Then on 1 August, we send the whole lot to the publisher to produce galleys.

  8. Paul: I guess the simplest response I can give to your interesting and detailed post is that I don’t know enough about Vance to comment intelligently. The best I can do is read the stuff that’s recommended, and then go on from there. In terms of including novels, as I’ve said, that’s well and truly outside our remit. It’s not something the publisher welcomes, and I doubt it would be something that the Vances or their agent would welcome either. This is supposed to be a collection of the best of Jack’s short fiction. That said, if the book is successful (and early indications are promising), then maybe a second Treasury, combinining a selection of the 50,000 – 75,000 word novels might work. Who knows?

  9. I would like to suggest a story that I think is far too often overlooked: Frietzke’s Turn. It’s relatively short and a stand-alone work, notwithstanding that it is generally bundled with The Dogtown Tourist Agency. It’s a later story and I think shows Jack in the full flower of his skills, plus, it touches on one of the more interesting themes to run through Jack’s work, i.e., the megalomaniacal ubermensch villain. The best known version is of course Howard Alan Treesong from The Book of Dreams, but Faurence Dacre from Frietzke’s Turn is in the same vein. I think the story stands on its own as one of Vance’s best, but to the extent there is any interest in or goal of touching on the various themes for which Vance is known, Frietzke’s Turn is the only short work of his that features a Treesong-ian villain. A similar idea showed up in a number of his other works, besides The Book of Dreams: Bad Ronald, The House on Lily Street, the Cadwal Chronicles. But Frietzke’s Turn presents it in a short (and fascinating) work.

    I’d also like to express the greatest possible support for The Miracle Workers, Alfred’s Ark, and Assault on a City (or, as it should now be known, The Insufferable Red-headed Daughter of Commander Tynnott, O.T.E. And for what it’s worth, I too would prefer The Sub-standard Sardines to The Gift of Gab, if you guys feel the need to include a talking-to-fish story.

  10. “When I have that list, I’ll sit down with Terry and we’ll start arguing.”

    You could sell a DVD of that event — a small potential audience, perhaps, but the discourse would be fascinating.

  11. David: It’ll be more gentlemanly than it sounds. I don’t think it’ll quite by the World Championship Vance Slapdown. More, ‘I like this one’, ‘ok’, ‘but not that one’, ‘ok’.

  12. From the debates here and elsewhere, the ones which seem likely to occasion the most debate are Dodkin’s Job, The Murthe and Abercrombie Station.

    Advocates of DJ argue that it is a timeless exploration of the role Man versus Organisation (a major theme of Wyst, and to a lesser extent Emphyrio); detractors see it as a standard ‘Astounding Story’ of its time. I am firmly in the former camp: the story stands alone divorced from its heritage, and is related with sufficient wit and deftness to justify its inclusion.

    The Murthe attracts some criticism for its take on gender relations. To my mind anyone offended by such material is unlikely to enjoy Vance. Its sheer elan and bathetic humour make it one of Jack’s masterpieces.

    As to Abercrombie Station, I did not include it in my own 200,000 words but it is a fine corrective to those who argue that Vance doesn’t write convincing female characters: Jean Parlier is as engaging as any heroine in the canon, at least until Wayness Tamm.

    The approach you suggest for making the final selection — sitting down, reading the material and then debating with a knowledgeable co-editor — seems to me exactly the right one. I have every confidence you will come up with a ‘Treasury’ indeed. (But not ‘When Five Moons Rise’, please…)

    ~Tim

  13. In spite of many years of buying every Jack Vance book I can afford used or new, I haven’t had the opportunity to read much of his short fiction yet, except the pieces collected in the Pocket Books _Best of Jack Vance_. I would suggest, though, that you mostly avoid the longer works and those that have been reprinted most frequently over the years, giving preference to those that have never been reprinted or haven’t been reprinted in many decades. For instance, _The Last Castle_ and _The Dragon Masters_ have been reprinted in paperback several times, and both appeared in the massive _The Hugo Winners_ anthology that SFBC kept in print for so long that used copies are easy to find.

    I would also suggest you avoid the short works that were incorporated into fix-up novels (e.g. most of the Dying Earth material) except for one or two representative pieces, perhaps notable for the degree of difference between the magazine and book versions.

  14. Perhaps I should amplify my disfavor regarding The Murthe, which others seem to prefer among the Rhialto stories. The writing is pure Vance, and there are any number of wonderful bits, e.g. the ensqualmations with the various magicians sitting around with their tongues darting in and out. I am not alarmed at all by the “gender politics”. But in the final paragraph, Llorio looks north, then south in indecision, then she and Calanctus both look to the east and are gone. The author seems to be dodging a resolution here, presenting some kind of compromise; if this was Gender War, then the ending is banal, or no ending at all.

    Morreion, on the other hand, has all the magic of which Vance is capable, and in the end Rhialto solves his staffing problem. Vance has often been faulted for weak endings; this one is a marvel to behold.

  15. I would like to endorce Tim and Chuck’s comments above.
    Regarding Jim Henry’s comment: while it is not for me to define what ‘Vance Treasurey’ means, my understanding of the the goal Terry and Jonathan are giving themselves is not to publish a book which will appeal to current Vance fans, but, as they say, one which will serve as a ‘first stop’ introduction to Vance for new readers. The method of asking current readers for suggestions for such a volume is somewhat at odds with this goal, since requests such as Jim Henry’s (though natural and highly understandable!) would seem to have nothing to do with it, but also because people’s personal opinions don’t have much to do with it either, since one can find someone who will have any given story as a favorite. A very wide sampling might be sure to turn up popular favorites, but the number of people posting in response to Jonathan’s feeler include only a few of us Vance fanatics.
    That said, since Tim and Chuck and I have such rock-solid vancian credentials, our advise will–no doubt!!–carry significant weight!

    That said, I certainly agree with Jim Henry to the extant that, as I have already said, there is no point, in the context of 200k words, being too repetitive or unimaginatively ‘popular’.

  16. Random comments, much too late:

    The one essential story: The Moon Moth. All else is open to discussion.

    If I have to omit one of the three essential common-themed texts, it would be The Last Castle. And if I could have only one, it would be The Miracle Workers. But to omit The Last Castle would be a damn shame.

    I would not use any texts from Rhialto, no matter how much I love them. They do not stand alone.

    I would not include either The Men Return or The Mitr. The former is too confusing, the latter too disturbing (one VIE volunteer dropped out, rather than do TI on The Mitr, her own daughter having been assaulted. Let experienced Vanceans only be exposed to Bad Ronald).

    I would definitely include Alfred’s Ark.

    I would include a couple of Cugel stories, the ones that stand alone best–surely Flutic–but no more.

    If it is a consideration that typical Vance be included, regardless of ranking, then I would consider The New Prime and The Narrow Land. They are not Vance’s very best, but they are very very good, and they are stories that only he could have written.

    A Jean Parlier story is essential, if only to refute the canard that Vance is incapable of creating convincing female protagonists. Abercrombie Station is perhaps more accessible, with its utterly unique theme of a low-gravity environment for the excessively obese.

    Sorry about coming to this discussion so late, but I’ve been travelling, and was only made aware of this dialogue through a visit to my fellow VIE editor Rob Friefeld.

    Steve

  17. I am aghast! How can Steve claim that Rhialto texts can’t stand alone, when Morreion’s first publication was “alone” as part of a Lin Carter “Flashing Swords” original anthology?

    The writing is masterful. Nothing else is needed to enjoy Morreion except intelligence and good taste.

  18. …I am delighted by the diversity of taste among ‘vancians’ exemplified by the comments in this thread! I’d like to get together with my VIE colleuges (Steve, Tim and Chuck), and, offering a consulting roll to David B., and anyone one else who wants to kibits, put together a 3 volume ‘Vance Treasury’ (sale price $100), each volumes being about the length of two short novels. The premis would be both ‘best’ (or ‘must read’) and ‘little known’.
    Off the top of my head, here is a draft dream set:

    volume 1
    Domains of Koryphon
    Last Castle
    Meet Miss Universe

    volume 2
    Son of the Tree
    The Kragen
    The Houses of Iszm

    volume 3
    Dodkin’s Job
    Alfred’s Ark
    The Murthe
    The Man from Zodiac
    Sulwin’s Planet
    The Men Return

    … + a few others…

  19. Paul – I assume this is a theoretical talking point, rather than a practical plan, yes? If it’s that, then it’s an intriguing notion and sure to be a talking point amongst Vanceans. If you’re actually planning on publishing this, is it something the Vance’s have okayed? It seems to rather step on the plans for the current volume, despite it’s greater length – surely not something you’d be looking to do.

  20. Paul’s proposal is just another scheme to slip The Murthe into a Vance collection instead of Morreion, the rest is camouflage.

    Don’t be led astray! Morreion is the supreme Rhialto story and greatest Vance fantasy novelette.

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