I have never made any secret of my admiration for--or my debt to--the works of Jack Vance. I've been commissioned with the pleasurable task of writing a magazine article on Vance, the Vance Integral Edition, and Vance's influence on my own writing. The only downside to this egocentric enterprise is that I'm limited to 800 words. I'll blog more about the article later, but one thing I wanted to do was to give the unitiated a flavour of Vance's work in a short space; I decided to include a hunderd or so words of Vance's prose. The question immediately arose: which hundred?
I now have very many excerpts, most of which I can't use in the article, but which deserve exposure to a wider audience. Hence the latest thread, 'One Hundred Words of Genius': over the next few weeks I'll be posting some of my favourite hundred-word quotations, illustrating some aspect of Vance's art. And to prove that Vance is not my obsession alone, I'll start with some suggestions made by other aficionados.
Today's 'Hundred Words' are submitted by Patrick Dusoulier, the pre-eminent translator of Vance into French. It's an appropriate passage to begin with, because it's the start of the first work Vance ever published:
Deep in thought, Mazirian the Magician walked his garden. Trees fruited with many intoxications overhung his path, and flowers bowed obsequiously as he passed. An inch above the ground, dull as agates, the eyes of mandrakes followed the tread of his black-slippered feet. Such was Mazirian's garden--three terraces growing with strange and wonderful vegetations. Certain plants swam with changing iridescences; others held up blooms pulsing like sea-anemones, purple, green, lilac, pink, yellow. Here grew trees like feather parasols, trees with transparent trunks threaded with red and yellow veins, trees with foliage like metal foil, each leaf a different metal--copper, silver, blue tantalum, bronze, green iridium.
In his first hundred words, Vance has set the tone for the entire 'Dying Earth' cycle to follow: beautiful, startling, cruel. It does not surprise the reader to learn soon after of Mazirian's character: callous, avaricious, vengeful.
Next time in 'One Hundred Words of Genius' I'll look at another element of Vance's art.