Jack Vance was born John Holbrook Vance on August 28, 1916, in San Francisco, California.
Jack Vance's parents separated when he was young, and he spent much of his early childhood living on his grandfather's ranch, a setting that fostered Vance's connection for the outdoors and his love of reading. When his grandfather died, Vance jumped from job to job in his efforts to support himself and his mother. Thereafter he studied mining engineering, physics, and English at the University of California at Berkeley.
Upon graduation in 1942, Vance worked in a California shipyard before joining the Merchant Marine, during which time he wrote his first series of fantasy stories, The Dying Earth, which were later published in 1950.
Vance, who cites L. Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and P.G. Wodehouse as influences in his writing, continued to write mainly in the science fiction and fantasy genres (though he did publish a number of mystery novels under the pseudonym Ellery Queen), in which he was won Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards.