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.
Michael Chabon told Rotella, "Jack Vance is the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don't get the credit they deserve. If The Last Castle or The Dragon Masters had the name Italo Calvino on it, or just a foreign name, it would be received as a profound meditation, but because he's Jack Vance and published in Amazing Whatever, there's this insurmountable barrier."
Vance's unique style and ability with language has earned him a loyal following of readers who in the 1990's banded together to produce the Vance Integral Edition, a 45-volume set of his complete works, and more recently created www.pharesm.org.
Jack Vance, passed away on May 26, 2013, lived outside of Oakland, California. He's published roughly sixty works of fiction and he says that his most recent work, ‘This is Me, Jack Vance!’ (2009), will be his last. He won the Hugo Award for Best Related Books in 2010