Return to the unique and evocative world of The Dying Earth in this tribute anthology featuring the most distinguished fantasists of our day. Here are twenty-one brand-new adventures set in the world of Jack Vance’s greatest novel.
A dim place, ancient beyond knowledge. The sun is feeble and red. A million cities have fallen to dust. Here live a few thousand souls, dying, as the Earth dies beneath them. Just a few short decades remain to the long history of our world. At the last, science and magic are one, and there is evil on Earth, distilled by time … Earth is dying.
Half a century ago, Jack Vance created the world of the Dying Earth, and fantasy has never been the same. Now, for the first time, Jack has agreed to open this bizarre and darkly beautiful world to other fantasists, to play in as their very own.
The list of twenty-one contributors eager to honour Jack Vance by writing for this anthology includes Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Hand, Tanith Lee, Michael Moorcock, Terry Dowling, Lucius Shepherd, Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, Tad Williams, Walter Jon Williams and George R.R. Martin himself.
Many years ago, when I was still a moody teenager, I was browsing in a local used book store. I read a lot in those days – still do, but sadly not as much as when I was a teen, as life has a habit of interrupting like it never did when I was a kid. I enjoyed mostly horror and fantasy, with the occasional foray into science fiction. Sci-fi hadn’t caught my attention as much as the other two genres, though I did enjoy Ray Bradbury’s stories, and the Dune series.
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, I just had nothing better to do on that particular day. Nothing had caught my fancy on any of the many shelves, so I turned my attention to the cheapest of the cheap books, piled in wooden boxes set on the floor. And there it was – Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth. At the time, I’d never heard of Jack Vance, didn’t know what he wrote, didn’t know if he was any good. But the title had caught my attention. In the midst of my depressing and negative teenage angst, the Earth dying had a certain appeal to me. I paid a few coins for the dog-eared paperback and ambled off home.
Hours later, bleary eyed and yawning, I read the final page and closed the cover. Although tired, with a slight headache from reading for too long in poor light, I was ecstatically happy and grinning like a loon. What I had just read, just experienced, was, for me, nothing short of amazing. Pure brilliance. That world, under it’s fading red sun. Those people, in their crumbling cities. The magicians, sorcerers, thaumaturges, with their spells. Spells so vast many years were needed to memorise just one. The creatures, the demons, the created beings. And the stories! Oh, what imagination, what creative genius! I fell asleep a very happy teenager. And when I awoke the next morning, I turned straight to page one and read it all again.
Songs Of The Dying Earth – an anthology of short stories by 21 notable authors, and edited by George R. R. Martin, was put together as a tribute to Jack Vance and the fabulous world he created.
Each of the stories is lovingly crafted, trying – and succeeding – to capture the essence of the original tales. Some use characters and places created by Vance, others use their own original people and cities in the style of Vance. Each one is a thoroughly enjoyable read but, in my opinion, there are two that are weaker than the others. It seemed to me that they were trying too hard to emulate Jack Vance – most notably the unique language that he uses. That’s not to say they’re not good short stories though, as they are.
Reading this anthology transported me back to my youth, to the joy, wonder and amazement I experienced when I first read Jack Vance’s work. It was almost as if I was back in the bed of my teenage years, curled up under the covers, desperately reading as fast as I could, trying to reach the final page before the dying batteries in my torch finally gave out.
If you haven’t already read The Dying Earth by Jack Vance then I implore you – buy it as soon as you can and lose yourself in it’s magnificence. And once you have done so, make sure you get your own copy of Songs Of The Dying Earth and travel back to Mr. Vance’s masterpiece.
Trust me, it’s worth every penny. Go get it. Now.
Songs Of The Dying Earth is available to purchase from Amazon and all other good book sellers.