Jack Vance has been one of my favorite writers ever since I first read his short story “Nopalgarth.” I immediate read my way through everything of his I could find, and when I finally encountered The Dying Earth, my mind was blown. The merger of science and magic and the idea of an Earth so old nobody remembers it’s history opened me up to a bunch of new fiction and established my taste in reading and writing.
On a recent plane trip I realized I’d forgotten to pack any books, but the airport book shop had Songs of the Dying Earth, an anthology or original short stories from mega names like Neil Gaiman and edited by George R.R. Martin. I bought the book despite that (I’m the only guy I know that doesn’t really like either of those writers, but my mixed feelings about Martin’s bibliography is another post) because I figured the big names of sci-fi and fantasy wouldn’t just phone it in, and for the most part, that’s true. The stories do a great job of evoking Vance, although none quite captures the almost foreign feeling you get from the original stories. Story telling has changed a lot since then, so I chalk it up to different sensibilities.
Of the wide variety of stories in the anthology, “An Incident in Uksvesk” by Elizabeth Moon was my hands down favorite. This particular story felt the least like something Vance would write, while at the same time doing an outstanding job of feeling like it belonged in his world. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you more.
Some other writers you might recognize that also contributed to the anthology include Silverberg, Tad Williams, Tanith Lee (her stories have always felt Vance-like to me) and Terry Dowling.