Vance Interview in Locus, Nov 1984
Return to the Elder Isles
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
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
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
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
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
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
Locus Magazine, Jack Vance - 1984
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