Edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan.
Dust jacket illustration by Tom Kidd.
Strange things happen...
Throughout his long and impressive career as a celebrated professional storyteller, Jack Vance showed a fascination not only with having characters solve mysteries in all sorts of dramatic and wondrous situations using their powers of observation, deduction and common sense, but also with the possibility of higher states of mind in play, other realms of existence, even spirit worlds.
Vance approached such things with a healthy, properly wary, scientific curiosity, even while embracing the liberties allowed any popular entertainer, and so made the exploration of such higher states part of his stock in trade.
Whether richly displayed in his Dying Earth stories with their wizardly spellcasting, eldritch beings and strange dimensions, or in his science fiction tales with the incredible mental powers afforded races like the Green Chasch, the Fwai-chi, the Meks of Etamin 9 besieging the final human strongholds in “The Last Castle,” even given to divergent human peoples on Koryphon, Maske and countless other worlds, or to the likes of his most extraordinary Demon Prince, Howard Alan Treesong, Vance was forever drawn to what else might comprise human (and other) natures in all their myriad forms.
Minding the Stars: The Early Jack Vance Volume 4 reflects this beguiling blend of the practical and the otherworldly, combining tales that explore the workings of such mental powers with other stories selected from the earlier days of the Grandmaster’s illustrious career.
In Vance’s own words:
“Strange things happen. Almost everyone has had some sort of brush with the paranormal, even the most resistant and skeptical of persons. The range of events is wide and only roughly amenable to classification. In olden times angels and demons were held responsible; to date no one has produced a more reasonable explanation. Phenomena such as telepathy and poltergeists may well be manifestations of different and distinct principles; there may be two, three, four, or more such realms of knowledge, each at least as rich and intricate as physics or astronomy. There is little systematic study. Conventional scientists shy away from the field because they are, in fact, conventional; because they fear to compromise their careers; because the subject is difficult to get a grip on; because scientists are as susceptible to awe and eeriness as anyone else. So: the mysteries persist; the lore accumulates, and we know for sure no more than our remote ancestors, if as much.”
— Jack Vance, 1970
John Holbrook "Jack" Vance (1916–2013) was an American mystery, fantasy and science fiction writer. Though most of his work has been published as by Jack Vance, he also wrote 11 mystery novels using his full name John Holbrook Vance, three under the pseudonym Ellery Queen, and once each using the pseudonyms Alan Wade, Peter Held, John van See, and Jay Kavanse.
Vance won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and he was a Guest of Honor at the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention in Orlando, Florida. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America made him its 14th Grand Master in 1997 and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2001, its sixth class of two deceased and two living writers.