Jack Vance was an amazingly prolific writer, and he wrote for over six decades. That’s two decades shy of Jack Williamson’s astonishing eight-decade run as an SF writer, but still pretty darned impressive. Vance made his fiction debut in the Summer 1945 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories with “The World-Thinker,” and his last short story, “Phalild’s Fate,” appeared in the ebook collection Chateau d’If and Other Stories in April 2012, a year before he died at the age of 96. No one is entirely sure how many books he produced in all that time, and estimates range from 60 to as high as 90.
Not too surprisingly, one of the marvelous things about Jack Vance is that I’m still discovering his work. I’ve never read his Durdane trilogy from the 1970s, for example — and in fact, I acquired a complete set for the first time last April at the Windy City Pulp & Paper show here in Chicago. Before I settled in to read it, I had a look back at its publishing history (doesn’t everyone do that?), and discovered just how many editions there have been over the years. Here’s a quick survey of a few of the more interesting incarnations of one of Vance’s more overlooked fantasies.
The Durdane trilogy consists of three novels, first published as paperback originals by Dell in the early 70s with covers by the great Paul Lehr:
The Anome (1973)
The Brave Free Men (1973)
The Asutra (1974)
[Click on any of the images in this article for bigger versions.]
I was really delighted to find a complete set in fabulous, almost brand new condition at Windy City this year. While I was scanning the covers, I flipped the books over and scanned the backs as well, since that saves me from having to type in the book blurbs. Here you go (click for more legible versions):
A little homework revealed that all three novels were originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, each broken into two installments. I’m not certain if the magazine versions were abridged, but probably. The first, The Anome, also appeared under a different title: The Faceless Man. As we’ll see in a second, when Ace reprinted the novels a few years later, that was their preferred title.
The magazine appearances were:
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February and March 1971
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July and August 1972
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May and June 1973
Below are the covers for the first installments of each, with covers by Jack Gaughan, Ron Walotsky, and David Hardy, respectively.
Four years after Dell brought the series into print, Ace reprinted the entire trilogy for the first time:
The Faceless Man (June 1978, 224 pages, $1.75, cover by Dave Meltzer)
The Brave Free Men (August 1978, 251 pages, $1.95, cover by Dave Meltzer)
The Faceless Man (December 1978, 204 pages, $1.95, cover artist unknown)
They re-wrote the back-cover text, too. Here’s a sample from The Brave Free Men:
The Faceless Man is Dead —
The Brace Free Men Are Born!
The land of Shant has known peace so long that war is a lost art — and now a monstrous enemy has been unleashed upon her, spreading murder and rapine with inhuman fervor.
One man above all lusts for revenge against the demonic Roguskhoi: to the end he has already deposed the Faceless Man himself. But to destroy the Roguskhoi, Gastel Etzwane must unite a world whose only safety has lain in separateness. But Etzwane has little choice: he must free the men of Shant from the tyranny of their strictly regulated social order, set them free to fight to their deaths…
Click the image at right to read the text in its native environment.
A decade later, Ace reprinted the series with a fine set of new covers by Peter Dana:
The Faceless Man (May 1987, 224 pages, $2.95)
The Brave Free Men (October 1987, 251 pages, $2.95)
The Asutra (January 1988, 204 pages, $2.95)
If you’re interested in an omnibus edition, you have a couple of options. VGSF / Gollancz published a handsome single-volume edition in the UK 1989, with a cover by Mark Salwowski. There’s also the hardcover edition put out by the Vance Integral Edition folks, as Vance Integral Edition #27, in 2005.
Spatterlight Press released digital editions of all three novels, and an omnibus collection, for the first time in 2012, with marvelous new covers by Konstantin Korobov. Their Facebook page is here.
Our most recent coverage of Jack Vance includes:
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
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
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.