Jack Vance, described by his peers as “a major genius” and “the greatest living writer of science fiction and fantasy,” has been hidden in plain sight for as long as he has been publishing — six decades and counting. Yes, he has won Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards and has been named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and he received an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America, but such honors only help to camouflage him as just another accomplished genre writer. So do the covers of his books, which feature the usual spacecraft, monsters and euphonious place names: Lyonesse, Alastor, Durdane. If you had never read Vance and were browsing a bookstore’s shelf, you might have no particular reason to choose one of his books instead of one next to it by A. E. van Vogt, say, or John Varley. And if you chose one of these alternatives, you would go on your way to the usual thrills with no idea that you had just missed out on encountering one of American literature’s most distinctive and undervalued voices.
more from Carlo Rotella at the NY Times Magazine here.