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Vintage Treasures: Green Magic: The Fantasy Realms of Jack Vance

Monday, May 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Green Magic Underwood Miller-small Green Magic Jack Vance-small

Jack Vance was one of the most prolific fantasists of the 20th Century at both long and short lengths, producing some 55 novels and dozens of short stories. Underwood-Miller published no less than 60 hardcover volumes of his work during his lifetime, chiefly collections, and Subterranean Press produced some eleven volumes of his short stories and novellas, starting with the massive Jack Vance Treasury in 2007, and including The Early Jack Vance, a thoroughly delightful five-volume set that ended with Grand Crusades.

All those marvelous hardcover volumes were aimed at the collectors market, however, and sadly Vance had precious little fantasy short fiction reprinted in paperback. In fact, he had relatively few mass market collections at all. Ace gave us a handful of science fiction collections, including The Worlds of Jack Vance (1973), Galactic Effectuator (1981) and The Augmented Agent and Other Stories (1988); DAW published Dust of Far Suns (1981) and The Narrow Land (1982); and Pocket just one: The Best of Jack Vance (1976).

But what Vance lacked in quantity, he made up in quality. His 1979 collection Green Magic: The Fantasy Realms of Jack Vance, one of the very few collections that focuses on his fantasy work, gathers some of his very finest work, including the title story and the brilliant “The Moon Moth.” It appeared in hardcover from Underwood Miller in 1979, and was reprinted in paperback by Tor in 1988.

Green Magic includes stories spanning nearly two decades, from 1950 to 1967, including two Dying Earth tales (“Liane the Wayfarer” and “The Pilgrims”), and the Astounding novella “The Miracle Workers.” It also includes a new foreword by Poul Anderson, and an introduction by John Shirley.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents:

Foreword by Poul Anderson
Introduction by John Shirley
“Green Magic” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1963)
“The Miracle Workers” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1958)
“The Moon Moth” (Galaxy Magazine, August 1961)
“The Mitr” (Vortex Science Fiction Vol. 1, No. 1, 1953)
“The Men Return” (Infinity Science Fiction, July 1957)
“The Narrow Land” (Fantastic, July 1967)
“The Pilgrims” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1966)
“The Secret” (Impulse, March 1966)
“Liane the Wayfarer” (The Dying Earth, 1950)

Here’s the back covers of both volumes.

Green Magic Underwood Miller-back-small Green Magic Jack Vance-back-small
Green Magic jacket flap

Green Magic jacket flap

[Click any of the images for bigger versions.]

There’s some splendid quotes on the back of both the hardcover and paperback editions, but not much to pique your curiosity about the stories. For that, I think it’s worthwhile reproducing the inside jacket flap of the Underwood Miller hardcover, which teases the contents nicely (at right; click for a legible version.) Here’s my favorite line:

His characters, by turns freakishly familiar and affectionately eccentric, wander and strive in continuums (“worlds” is too narrow a term) filled with bizarre circumstance, antique magic, sublime desperation.

Our most recent coverage of Jack Vance includes:

The Durdane Trilogy
The Omnibus Volumes of Jack Vance, Part I: Planet of Adventure
The Omnibus Volumes of Jack Vance, Part II: Tales of the Dying Earth
The Omnibus Volumes of Jack Vance, Part III: The Demon Princes
Madouc
Dream Castles: The Early Jack Vance, Volume Two
Magic Highways: The Early Jack Vance, Volume Three
Minding the Stars: The Early Jack Vance, Volume Four
Grand Crusades: The Early Jack Vance, Volume Five
Big Planet by Jack Vance
Jack Vance and Appendix N: Advanced Readings in D&D
The Dying Earth: An Appreciation
Jack Vance, August 28, 1916 — May 26, 2013
New Treasures: Songs of the Dying Earth
New Books: Tales of the Dying Earth

Green Magic was published in October 1979 by Underwood Miller. It is 287 pages, priced at $15. The cover is by George Barr.

The Tor reprint was published in August 1988. It is 273 pages, priced at $3.95. The cover is by Rodney Matthews. I bought an unread copy on eBay for $2 earlier this year.

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

10 Comments »

  1. I loved reding GREEN MAGIC when it was published. It contains two of Vance’s best stories: “The Miracle Wokers” and “The Moon Moth.” I’m also fond of the DYING EARTH story,
    “Liane the Wayfarer” with its amoral cunning.

    Comment by kelleyg@ecc.edu - May 30, 2016 11:35 am

  2. Thanks, Kelly. Did you buy the Underwood Miller volume, or the Tor paperback? I don’t have the hardcover, but I wish I did.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 30, 2016 12:11 pm

  3. I think The Moon Moth may be the Jack Vance story that most perfectly encapsulates his entire oeuvre.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 30, 2016 1:15 pm

  4. I’m not sure I can argue with that, Joe.

    Have you seen Humayoun Ibrahim’s marvelous comic adaptation from 2012?

    Comment by John ONeill - May 30, 2016 2:13 pm

  5. I … was unaware that such an adaptation existed; I’ll definitely have to look it up!

    Comment by Joe H. - May 30, 2016 2:39 pm

  6. I really loved it. Here’s the review at Tor.com:

    http://www.tor.com/2012/05/21/a-re-telling-full-of-musical-script-jack-vances-qthe-moon-mothq-adapted-by-humayoun-ibrahim/

    Comment by John ONeill - May 30, 2016 3:59 pm

  7. “Green Magic” itself is a wonderful story. The first Vance collection I saw was EIGHT FANTASMS AND MAGICS, a 1969 hardcover that did have a paperback edition, from Collier. Very good book, with stories like “The Men Return”, “Guyal of Sfere”, “The New Prime”, and “The Miracle Workers”. The edition I saw, from my school library, had Vance’s name crossed out, with a note: “Pseudonym for Henry Kuttner”, even though Kuttner died long before some of these stories appeared. This was a common misconception, largely due to Kuttner’s use of numerous pseudonyms, and his ability to adopt many different voices (aided, of course, by his wife, the great C. L. Moore).

    Eight Fantasms and Magics (Collier edition)

    Trying to think of the quintessential Vance story (and “quintessential”, in its literal meaning, is a pretty Vancean word!) — “The Moon Moth” is certainly an excellent choice. “The Last Castle”, too. I have a great fondness for “Guyal of Sfere”. “the Men Return”. And, also, “Green Magic”.

    Comment by Rich Horton - May 30, 2016 5:00 pm

  8. I think that (Eight Fantasms) was the first full-on Vance collection I read — I remember getting it from the public library — although I’m sure I’d encountered at least random individual short stories in other anthologies prior to that.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 30, 2016 5:08 pm

  9. I never even knew that Collier paperback existed. (One more to track down!) Those psychedelic primary-color covers usually do nothing for me, but that one has a rather unique charm. Thanks, Rich!

    As for the “quintessential” Vance story (this is a fun game!)… I’d go with “The Moon Moth,” or perhaps “The Dragon Masters.” I also love “The New Prime,” although I admit it’s not really typical Vance.

    And I should come clean and admit I haven’t read “The Last Castle” yet, so I’ll leave a slot for that one. :)

    Comment by John ONeill - May 30, 2016 7:43 pm

  10. I had the TOR paperback. One of my favorite ACE Doubles is from 1973 and has THE LAST CASTLE one side and THE DRAGON MASTERS on the other. It’s ISBN-10: 0441166415.

    Comment by kelleyg@ecc.edu - May 30, 2016 8:47 pm


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