This afternoon Terry Dowling and I delivered the final manuscript for The Jack Vance Treasury to Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press. I’m really pleased with the final book. The stories are strong, the cover art I’ve seen looks lovely and George Martin did a terrific introduction. I’m hoping to see galleys soon, and with a little luck the book’ll be out not too long after Christmas.
Bill over at Subterranean Press has just posted the final table of contents for The Jack Vance Treasury. It’s taken some conversation between Terry and I, a little back and forthing on whether this story should go in or whether it should be that one, but we’ve ended up with about 225,000 words of stories. You can see the final list here. I’d really like to thank John Schwab and everyone at the Vance Integral Edition who didn’t just make the project easier, they helped substantially to make it possible. Without their digital files, we’d have been scanning and proofing until doomsday (shudder).
I’ve also seen a near-final copy of the cover by Tom Kidd, which is just lovely (the b&w sketch on the SubPress page doesn’t do it justice), and George Martin has written a wonderful appreciation for the book. The other thing that is a real highlight is the interstitial material. Jack has written a brief preface for the book, and we’ve managed to source comments from him on almost all of the stories which will run as afterwords (the main source of these, for VancePhiles, was the 1976 The Best of Jack Vance). We’ve also managed to include a biographical sketch written by Jack which hasn’t been widely seen. Given that Jack’s always preferred to let his work speak for itself, this additional material provides some interesting context on this major writer.
As to when you’ll be able to get the Treasury, actually buy one – I think probably in the first quarter of 2007 (Jan/Feb most likely). When I’ve got solid information on that I’ll post it here. In the meantime, you can pre-order the book.
I’ve not done this before, so I hope the person involved doesn’t mind, but I received a comment from Jim Henry, which I’m moving up here because I want to respond here on the main blog. Commenter Jim Henry wrote:
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.
What do you put into a collection of work and what do you leave out? There is a view, neatly stated in Jim’s comment, that you should not reprint the most famous, the most readily available work by an artist in an anthology, collection, or whatever. The underpinning argument, from a publishers perspective often goes like this: if you reprint “xxx”, which has been reprinted twenty-five galumpty times, then the dedicated fans who’ve bought everything else won’t buy it. If, however, you include this never before seen item from said creator’s garden shed, then all of the fans will buy it. The problem with this is it leads directly to buying Led Zeppelin’s Greatest Hits without “Stairway to Heaven”, Queen’s Greatest Hits without “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and The Best of the Beatles without “Hey Jude”. This doesn’t strike me as entirely reasonable. It also doesn’t strike me as entirely honest. If I buy Led Zeppelin’s Greatest Hits it better have “Stairway” on it. Similarly, if I buy a best of Harlan Ellison it better have “Jeffty is Five” in it, no matter how often it’s been anthologised. And, for Jack Vance, that really does mean you pretty much have to include “The Last Castle”, “The Dragon Masters”, and “The Moon Moth”. Yes, they’ve been widely available. Yes, they’ve been often reprinted. But, without them, this wouldn’t be the best of Jack Vance, a real treasury.
I’ve been engaged in discussions, considerations, and deliberations about all maner of things to do with Jack Vance of late (as regular readers will now). There’s been the matter of stories to be shortlisted, read, interstitial materials to be considered etc etc as the structure of The Jack Vance Treasury is sketched out.
Now, while the important details are known – it’s a 175-200,000 word book with a cover by Tom Kidd, an intro by George Martin and a foreword by Jack Vance – there are other details that I have been chatting with my co-editor about. The major one today is the illustration of Vance’s stories by Jack Gaughan.
As many of you will know, the late Jack Gaughan was a well-known and well-respected artist who did a lot of science fiction illustration in the ’50s and ’60s for the magazines, pulps etc etc. He illustrated a number of Jack Vance stories and novels, perhaps most famously both “The Dragon Masters” and “The Last Castle” for Galaxy in the 1960s. My question for Coode Streets with a Vancean bent is what are your thoughts on the appeal of the Gaughan Vance illustrations? Are they spot on, or do they miss the mark today? I’m curious to hear as many opinions as possible, so let me know and feel free to fire up the Vance telegraph and have the Vancephiles post to the comments thread.
A few more details on the upcoming Subterranean Press edition of The Jack Vance Treasury are emerging, as things progress in the background. It seems the cover will be done by award-winning artist Tom Kidd. I’ve loved his work for years, especially his Gnemo stuff, which I first saw back in 1993. Also, while things may change, George R.R. Martin has agreed to provide an introduction. Alongside a preface by Jack himself and a few other things, I think this should be a very cool book.