Jack Vance (1916-2013), the veteran pioneer of fantasy and science fiction, as well as a prolific master in many other genres, died just short of a century old this year, on May 26, 2013.
But his massive legacy has been fittingly preserved in two huge publication projects: the Vance Integral Edition (VIE), a 44-volume set of his complete works acclaimed by some as “one of the more remarkable publishing feats of the last 50 years,” and the Vance Digital Edition, a series of e-books “created from latest digital versions of the Vance Integral Edition texts,” and sold directly from the official Jack Vance website, www.jackvance.com.
John Vance, Jack Vance’s son, described to me how one man, Paul Rhoads, marshaled and directed the efforts of hundreds of enthusiasts to create the VIE.
“Seeing that Vance was largely out of print and becoming ever harder to find, he decided to do his best to save the work from obscurity and put together a high-quality, uniform set of the entire oeuvre. Starting with conversations on a fan forum, he crowd-sourced a team (this was before crowd-sourcing was a known phenomenon), beginning a collaboration which ultimately consumed tens of thousands of man-hours and involved several hundred volunteers working together over the course of several years via the web. The effort was organized and managed from the top by Paul.”
Vance exerted a tremendous influence on post-war science fiction and fantasy, introducing ideas, exotic prose techniques and aesthetics all too rare in the genres of the 1950s. His fantasy cycle the Dying Earth series not only helped define the dying earth subgenre, which it gave its name to, but also provided much of the material and inspiration for the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.
Individual novels and stories, such as “Big Planet” (1952), “The Languages of Pao” (1958), “The Moon Moth” (1961), “The Dragon Masters” (1963), and “The Last Castle” (1966) are hailed just as much as classics as his monumental cycles.
The Vance Digital Edition e-books are made available in Mobipocket/Kindle and EPUB formats, with full sideloading instructions for installing them onto e-readers, and without DRM.
“We do not believe the problem of piracy will be cured by limiting the ability of our customers to enjoy Jack Vance’s work in the way they see fit; rather, we offer an inexpensive, high quality product–and rely upon the integrity of the great majority of our customers,” says the website. “Our eBooks may be read on any device, however, whenever, wherever.”
Prices range from $4.99 to the $19.99 omnibus editions, but the great majority of the most celebrated works are priced at $5.99.
“The VIE was primarily a limited run print edition. But a byproduct of the work included digital files of Vance’s stories, which were used to create a ‘Vance Digital Edition’ of e-books. The formatting, art and media are different, but the texts are pure VIE output. That’s a great thing for Vance readers,” John Vance said.