It would be fair to say that Jack Vance, who passed away at the age of 96, was one of my all-time favourite authors.
My first introduction his writing was The Anome many years ago, and it took me a while to get used to his style of prose and storytelling. Then I read The The Demon Princes saga, and was hooked. I’d love to be able to say I’ve read every book he wrote over a career spanning well over half a century, but quite a few have gone out of print over the years.
Whether it was overt fantasies or space-opera epics, the style was similar, picaresque adventures through exotic cultures, resourceful if sometimes amoral lead characters, and memorably melodramatic villains.
He had a gift with language that set him apart his pulp-SF peers; you only had to read a few lines of his prose to recognise his distinctive style. His books were filled with vivid descriptions, akin to painting pictures with words. He would never introduce a minor character without first giving an impression of what they looked like.
Jack Vance’s name is of course well-known to gamers through Dungeons and Dragons taking inspiration from his 1950 short story collection “The Dying Earth”, with the magic system referred to as “Vancian magic” ever since. There are at least two licenced games based on his work; Pelgrane Press’ “The Dying Earth RPG”, and the GURPS worldbook “Planet of Adventure”. And while my own work-in-progress game isn’t explicitly based on any specific setting of his, it’s still a very strong influence.