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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: (urth) Wolfe on _The Dying Earth_
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 23:46:07 

I recently checked a collection of essays on Jack Vance, which was published
last year in Britain, out of the library.  One of the essays is by Gene
Wolfe, entitled "The Living Earth."  In this essay Wolfe discusses each of
the stories in _The Dying Earth_, describing the special virtues of each.

In addition to being of interest to Vance fans, this essay reveals a good
deal about Wolfe's own aesthetics.  Of most relevance to TBOTNS, perhaps, is
his discussion of "T'sais."  After summarizing the story, Wolfe says: "That,
of course, is not a plot.  It is an outing, an expedition, a picnic, if you
will.  But not a plot.  From the lack, the story gains immeasurably."  Wolfe
goes on to discuss how in the preceding stories we immediately grasp the
plot, and hence are more interested in the incidental details than in the
plot.  "In 'T'sais' we are off the map.  Here there be not dragonflies but
dragons.  Because the story is unplotted, anything can happen, and we wait
with baited breath to see what happens next.  Besides, we _are_ T'sais.  We
don't want to [be the protagonists of the earlier stories].  What we want
(and we want it terribly) is to do what T'sais does: we want to wander
across the Dying Earth with protective runes on our wrists and enchanted
swords at our sides.  'Turjan' is fiction; 'Mazirian' is better fiction;
'T'sais' is life and Heaven." (89)

There are a number of other items in the book of interest to Vanceans,
including a ten-page autobiographical sketch by Vance himself, essays by Tom
Shippey, David Langford and Dan Simmons, and what looks to this non-expert
to be a comprehensive bibliography.  The book is _Jack Vance: Critical
Appreciations and a Bibliography_, ed. A. E. Cunningham (Boston Spa &
London: The British Library, 2000).  I don't know if there's a US edition;
there's no ISBN apparent.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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