Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This Is Me, Jack Vance!

by Jack Vance

On the shortlist for non-fiction genre stuff for this years Hugo, read on printout from the voter packet. Kind of a strange production in a number of ways. For one, I don't read much non-fiction genre stuff in general. Also this book talks very little about Vance's writing career itself or his underlying reflections on the process of writing. As well, it's very selective, giving a semi detailed look at his years 11 to 20 and then arching over the rest of his life in a very piecemeal fashion. There are some poignant moments here, and on the whole it's fairly interesting as a reflection on a personal career and the uneven fashion it emerged in. At the same time I think this does a lot less than it could as an autobiography or (this being for Hugo consideration) as a reflection on science fiction. Judged as history it’s somewhat awkwardly framed and feels like it leaves the greater part of the story untold. Viewed as a commentary on writing by a major writer it’s even more partial, at times deiberately refraining from providing this sort of perspective. Judged as an adequate testimony to Vance’s life it’s unknowable, and reaches to overly subjective criteria. It may receive my vote, but I hope the other pieces I've yet to read will be more appealing in these concerns.

Worse than: Keep the Aspidistra Flying! by George Orwell
Better than: Gandhi’s Truth: On the Origin of Militant Nonviolence by Erik Erikson

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