Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Green Magic" - a short story by Jack Vance, a master of the Science Fiction/Fantasy World (June, 1963)

I offer my great thanks to Fred of Fred!s Place, a blog I have followed for years and Mudpuddle for turning me onto Jack Vance

"Howard Fair, looking over the relics of his great-uncle Gerald McIntyre, found a large ledger entitled:


Open at Peril!
Fair read the journal with interest, although his own work went far beyond ideas treated only gingerly by Gerald McIntyre.
"The existence of disciplines concentric to the elementary magics must now be admitted without further controversy," wrote McIntyre. "Guided by a set of analogies from the white and black magics (to be detailed in due course), I have delineated the basic extension of purple magic, as well as its corollary, Dynamic Nomism."
Fair read on, remarking the careful charts, the projections and expansions, the transpolations and transformations by which Gerald McIntyre had conceived his systemology. So swiftly had the 

technical arts advanced that McIntyre's expositions, highly controversial sixty years before, now seemed pedantic and overly rigorous." From "Green Magic" by Jack Vance 

After rereading Dune by Frank Herbert, I realized there was about a fifty year gap in my knowledge of Science fiction and fantasy works.  Back in the day I liked Phillip Farmer, Isaac Asimov, and 

Robert Heinlein.  Only in the last few months have I begun to read in this area again.  I recently read and really enjoyed Clifford Simak's Hugo Award winning novel, The Way Station, several works by the powerfully imaginative Octavia Butler and two wonderful short stories by Isabell Wong and Alyssa Yap, both of Filipino ancestry.  I have also read a few short stories by writers like Karen Russell and Leonora Carrington that border on the fantasy genre.  I must not forget to mention a stunning debut novel Bald New World by Peter Tieryas.  I also reread Brave New World.  There are other genres such as steampunk that blend into fantasy and science fiction also.  Of course there is Horror Fiction.

I wanted to find out what I had missed in the last fifty years.  Who better to ask than the readers of my blog, as smart and as literate group as can be found on this planet.  

Both Fred and Mudpuddle said some of the work of an American writer, Jack Vance (born 1916, died 2013, both in San Francisco Bay Area) was perhaps superior to Dune.  I did some quick research, the literary output of Vance is huge, over sixty books and uncounted short stories, mostly published in pulp magazines.  His work is still under copyright and I could find only one short story online, "Green Magic", first published in 1943. I read this story and loved it.  It is squarely a work of fantasy, of dark magic showing us the dangers of reading the journals of deceased great uncles who made a life long study of the cycles of magic.  

The journal is read by Howard Fair, himself a student of the black, white and purple cycles of magic.  He has been known to conjure up a demon to liven up a dull party. He is shocked when he reads of his uncle's exploration of the green cycle of magic, something hitherto fore unknown to him.  He invokes a sprite from the green world, who warns him against a study of the green cycle.  Howard ends up spending hundreds of years mastering this realm.  Finally he longs for his old world and returns to his apartment only to discover he has been gone only two hours.  I will leave much of the plot unspoiled.  Readers of the great Irish fantasy writer

The very real fun in this story is Vance's creation of the theories of magic, simulating great learning in an arcane realm.  We see how Howard has been changed.

I really enjoyed this story and will venture more into his world.

At the link to "Green Magic" there are links to webpages with lots of information on Vance.

Readers of Sheridan de Le Fanu, the great Irish fantasy writer (extensively posted upon on my blog) and the early 20th century Welsh master Arthur Machen will feel at home in this story.   Maybe they are the literary Lolos of Vance.

Again my thanks to Fred and Mudpuddle.  I will hopefully this year read a few more short stories and at least his Hugo Award Winning works.

Mel u


Mudpuddle said...

i'm very glad to hear you've discovered Vance; his wry humor and idiosyncratic style have kept me rapt through many years... i was pretty sure i had and had read all of his work, but this one, Green Magic, i haven't read... grrrr... i must see if i can download it somehow...
If you read anything else by him, i would recommend above all others, Eyes of the Overworld....

Buried In Print said...

"I wanted to find out what I had missed in the last fifty years." Heheh Isn't this often the question which drives us onto new reading projects?! I love that you're always venturing into new reading territory, one reading passion into the next.

I've always had the impression that Jack Vance was like Heinlein and Asimov in the sense that there were few/no/limited roles for women in his stories, so I haven't made an effort to explore, but perhaps I should take a peek.

Mel u said...

Mudpuddle. I did some checking, I can get a kindle edition of all four dying earth titles for $10.95. I might go with that. "Green Magic" can be read online at the link in my post.

Mel u said...

Buried In Print. I find my new projects don't superceed my old ones but enrich them one of my oldest projects is short stories by authors with Filipino ancestry and I found two delightful award winning Filipino fantasy writers to follow