This is Me, Jack Vance!

Jack Vance
This is Me, Jack Vance! Cover

This Is Me, Jack Vance!: Or, More Properly, This is


I have already had to return this book to the library because I had it through inter-library loan, and late fees for inter-library loan are death. So I am a bit self-conscious about saying bad things about it, without being able to make specific references, But here goes.

I am currently reading the Dying Earth cycle by Vance out of a commitment to exploring Golden Age SF and a challenge issued by the website Worlds Without End to read a book by one of the Grand Masters of Science Fiction each month for the year 2012. Such fantasy fiction is not to my taste, but I looked forward to Vance's memoirs to see where this stuff came from. Vance, however, states that he is not interested in writing a nuts and bolts book about SF writing. He wants to tell his personal story, and he is doing so via dictation. An operation for glaucoma almost blinded him in the 1980's. Since then he has worked with computers, early versions of voice recognition software, and for the memoirs diction. His wife dies during the dictation of the book, but at this writing he is still alive in his mid-nineties.

So it seems churlish to say the book is not very interesting. There are many biographical tidbits a reader might want to know more of, but perhaps it's the dictation method and a natural diffidence that keeps them from print. The memoirs turn into an overlong "What I Did on my Summer Vacation" report. There is little personal insight and essentially no relationship betweenf the life, which involved periodic adventurous world travel, and the fantastic fiction it produced. It is not surprising late in the book in what passes as some personal reflection to learn that Vance prefers cozy to hard-boiled crime fiction. It is not unlike the account he gives of his own life.

I am not, or at least not yet, a Vance fan. But they are legion. I wonder what they have made of this lukewarm memoir.