Jack Vance, who has died aged 96, was a writer of science fiction and high epic fantasy whose work was oddly at variance with the journeyman genre in which it first appeared. His prose – detailed, exotic, resonant of feelings, sounds and fragrances – soared well above the requirements of the genre; he described alien landscapes with bizarre and inventive energy in language that was ambitious, wordy, sometimes lurid, always bold.
One of his best-known titles, The Dying Earth, began as a collection of short stories in 1950 and eventually expanded to become a whole series of books set in a far-off future in which the sun is slowly going out, and technology and magic coexist.
His output was vast: he published more than 60 books, some under pseudonyms, among them 11 mystery novels, three of them as Ellery Queen. In addition, he wrote some of the first, and perhaps best, examples of "planetary adventures".
He, along with Edgar Rice Burroughs in the early years of the 20th century, and his contemporaries Leigh Brackett, Philip José Farmer and Edmond Hamilton, helped to create the idiom, and his novel Big Planet (which first appeared in a magazine in 1952, and was subsequently revised and expanded) is probably his best of this kind.Over 60 years later, I still remember reading Big Planet in Startling Stories, a pulp SF magazine, and the name of its hero, Claude Glystra—who had the "pushbutton rasp of authority" in his voice when he needed it. When a writer can make that kind of impression on a young reader, that's the kind of quiet success few of us ever achieve.