Vance Interview in Locus, Nov 1984

Return to the Elder Isles

Smiling Jack in Locus, nov.1984  (c) C.N.Brown

JACK VANCE has completed the second book in his "Lyonesse Cycle."
From childhood daydreaming to this new volume of "146,150 sweated-out words," the fantasy realm of Lyonesse and the world of the Elder Isles have developed over a lifetime. "When I was a kid, nine or ten years old, I first began writing fairytales set in the same forest, full of magic. I remember reading some Russian fairytales, some Howard Pyle, and it seemed like a lovely thing to write. I made some drawings and maps too, but I was a little kid and I never finished those stories."

Vance's first sf was written for a college English class. "It was roundly denounced," he declares. But he later came to be known primarily as a science fiction writer. "There was a long period in which I didn't do anything else except this so-called science fiction.".
He mistrusts the term because "It's hard to say where science fiction leaves off and fantasy starts. Many physicists would consider faster-than-light space travel impossible. "Science fiction" is a house of many doors, many windows, many chimneys...."
Finally, when he had finished the "Demon Prince" series, "I wanted to write a large book -- three large books. As far as I know, no one has written about Lyonesse before, and it seemed high time to do it. It belongs to the Elder Isles, mentioned in Celtic and Breton legends as By Brasil and Ys, and Avalon in the Arthurian legends. Lyonesse is one country in the south of the main island, By Brasil. There are six or seven large islands, and twenty or thirty smaller ones surrounding, in a land area about the size of Ireland.
It's a lovely place for having some nice mythological romance."
Like all of his worlds, the Isles are places with a special richness, a quality that has invested his work since the first daydreams. "I just can't get away from it, this intensity of atmosphere, of light. Not bright white sunlight, but a richer, goldener color. It's got so much color in it that the shadows are colored with these dark, somber hues, dark greens and maroons. That's where you might see little eyes peeking out at you from behind the harebells."

While THE GREEN PEARL is somewhat longer than LYONESSE, the work went more quickly on Vance's new word processor -even with his notorious care over language. "Each word I took out of the word processor and I polished it separately. Each word has to be segregated and inspected and examined for flaws and then put back. The writing went easily, though, and took about a year."

Face to computer, Jack in Locus, nov.1984  (c) C.N.Brown

If Vance had had his wish, the first book in the trilogy would have been called "Lyonesse I: Suldren's Garden", to be followed to "Lyonesse II: The Green Pearl", and "Lyonesse III: Madouc". All three volumes are directly connected. "THE GREEN PEARL takes up where the first book leaves off, after a little backing and filling. All the characters that I didn"t kill off in the first one reappear in full regalia.
It's complicated, devious, with a lot of subplots."
The third book, MADOUC, has also been plotted. Although it will conclude the trilogy, vance say write other tales of the Elder Isles. Traditionally, they vanished in a great flood, but he could not bring himself to end the trilogy with such a catastrophe. "I love the Elder Isles and the people that live there. If the disaster occurs -- the waves crashing in, everybody screaming and yelling and getting drowned -- It's going to occur without my help. I"ll try to prevent it as long as possible. With a place this size, you could go on forever with romances and fairytales and legends."

© Locus Magazine, Jack Vance - 1984
Photos credits C.N.Brown
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