In lieu of a typical author spotlight—for which Neil Gaiman was not available—instead we present this afterword to “An Invocation of Incuriosity” that Mr. Gaiman wrote and published alongside the story’s original appearance in the anthology Songs of the Dying Earth.
I would have been thirteen. The anthology was called Flashing Swords, the story was called “Morreion,” and it started me dreaming. I found a British paperback copy of The Dying Earth, filled with strange misprints, but the stories were there and they were as magical as “Morreion” had been. In a dark second-hand bookshop where men in overcoats bought used pornography, I found a copy of The Eyes of the Overworld and then tiny dusty books of short stories—“The Moon Moth” is, I felt then and feel now, the most perfectly built SF short story that anyone has ever written—and around that point Jack Vance books began to be published in the UK and suddenly all I had to do to read Jack Vance books was buy them. And I did: The Demon Princes, the Alastor trilogy, and the rest. I loved the way he would digress, I loved the way he would imagine, and most of all I loved the way he wrote it all down: wryly, gently, amused, like a god would be amused, but never in a way that made less of what he wrote, like James Branch Cabell but with a heart as well as a brain.
Every now and again I’ve noticed myself crafting a Vance sentence, and it always makes me happy when I do—but he’s not a writer I’d ever dare to imitate. I don’t think he’s imitable.
There are few enough of the writers I loved when I was thirteen I can see myself going back to in twenty years from now. Jack Vance I will reread forever.
© 2009 by Neil Gaiman.
Originally published in Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance,
Edited by George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois.
Reprinted by permission of the author.
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