Why has Jack Vance never been adapted?

Emphyricist

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Something that I've wondered about pretty much since I discovered him, is why Jack Vance has never, as far as I'm aware, been adapted for movies or television. Not that I mind the lack for my own sake—his work is perfect as it is—but Phillip K. Dick was a second-tier writer until studios began adapting his stories, whereon he became a household name even among non-SF readers. I'd love to see that for Jack Vance, and a lot of Vance's stuff seems much more amenable to adaptation that Dick's.

A lot of his short stories are based around a single clever idea and not amenable to adaptation, and his later work but pretty much any of his novels or novellas seems like it would make a compelling movie of the sort studios like to make. Jack Vance's longer works already tend to contain fast-paced action and the potential for dramatic special effects. I could the award-winning "The Dragon Masters" making a great movie for someone who has a budget, but I could also see The Five Gold Bands/The Rapparee made on a relative shoestring (thanks to justified rubber forehead aliens) and still working well. Even many of of his more obscure novellas like "Crusade to Maxus" and "To Love Forever/Clarges" seem like they'd make compelling films.

Some of his series works, such as The Dying Earth, The Demon Princes, and Lyonesse are too convoluted for a film, but seem like they'd do well as television series. Particularly considering the success of Game of Thrones, and the fact that George R. R. Martin himself described Vance as the greatest living SF writer (back, obviously, when Vance was still alive).

So does anyone have any idea why Jack Vance's work has never been adapted? Has he just not been discovered? Did he refuse to sell screen rights? Or is there something I'm missing that would make his work unsuitable for the screen?
 

Emphyricist

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So Vance's mysteries have been adapted, but not his SF. Also, that summary of the plot of Bad Ronald is so different from the book it completely missed the point. It looks like Ronald is a sympathetic character rather than just a pathetic one, and it has a happy ending. (Interesting that they took one of the few Vance stories without a happy ending and gave it one.) I'm not sure why they didn't just call it something else and save on the royalties.
 

hitmouse

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but Phillip K. Dick was a second-tier writer until studios...
I dont want to digress too much from a good Vance discussion, but respectfully I disagree with this assertion. Dick was very highly esteemed long before the studios caught on and it is hard to sustain the idea that he was ever really second string. His following might have been a bit cult but there was widespread critical appreciation. Robert Crumb also notably drew a biographical strip in the 80s.
 

Stephen Palmer

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If somebody of the stature of Terry Gilliam could be persuaded, I think The Dying Earth would be possible, perhaps with Eyes Of The Overworld to add a bit of meat. And, thinking about it, what about Cugel's Saga? He's a great character.
 

tinkerdan

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One thing with Vance was that he was one of several authors I often struggled to completely read the novels. I might compare him more to Brian Aldis in some ways(maybe because of the struggle). But I had trouble with John Brunner and Philip K. Dick, so they were in good company. Probably of all of these my favorite would be P.K. Dick though I tried reading a fair sample of all four of these author's work. I should read some over again and try to pinpoint why I struggled so much.

Still perhaps it's something similar to my struggle that prevents these stories from gaining attention of film industry.
 

Emphyricist

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I dont want to digress too much from a good Vance discussion, but respectfully I disagree with this assertion. Dick was very highly esteemed long before the studios caught on and it is hard to sustain the idea that he was ever really second string. His following might have been a bit cult but there was widespread critical appreciation. Robert Crumb also notably drew a biographical strip in the 80s.
When I say "second-tier," I mean he wasn't as well-known as the "Big Three"—Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein—nor as well known as the two titans of literarily acceptable science fiction—Bradbury and Vonnegut. He was undoubtedly well-known in the science fiction community, but so was Jack Vance, so was so was Ted Sturgeon, so were a host of other writers. Outside the community, he would have been obscure. Even today, I've found that most people who don't know SF know at most six names: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, Heinlein, and Vonnegut; Dick is a recent addition to that list, thanks to his movies.

Google N-Grams largely bears me out, though oddly Heinlein is in the second-tier with pretty much everybody else, possibly because of the split between the "Robert Heinlein" and "Robert A. Heinlein" spellings, which get about equal results. Still, you can see that Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, and Vonnegut are miles ahead of everybody else, then starting in the eighties Dick climbs to join them.

One thing with Vance was that he was one of several authors I often struggled to completely read the novels. I might compare him more to Brian Aldis in some ways(maybe because of the struggle). But I had trouble with John Brunner and Philip K. Dick, so they were in good company. Probably of all of these my favorite would be P.K. Dick though I tried reading a fair sample of all four of these author's work. I should read some over again and try to pinpoint why I struggled so much.
That's interesting. I've never struggled with Vance or Brunner, and my experience with Dick has been mixed. I struggled a bit with Man in the High Castle when I first read it, but I've found his short stories and Clans of the Alphane Moon (the only other Dick novel I've read) to be readable. However one thing Dick, Brunner, and Vance all have in common is that they back a lot of action into very little space. Dick and Brunner tend to shift viewpoint characters, while Vance usually sticks with a single protagonist, but Vance moves so fast that the minor characters shift frequently. Perhaps this is the issue?
 

tinkerdan

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It could be POV and how it's handled::
hat's interesting. I've never struggled with Vance or Brunner, and my experience with Dick has been mixed. I struggled a bit with Man in the High Castle when I first read it, but I've found his short stories and Clans of the Alphane Moon (the only other Dick novel I've read) to be readable. However one thing Dick, Brunner, and Vance all have in common is that they back a lot of action into very little space. Dick and Brunner tend to shift viewpoint characters, while Vance usually sticks with a single protagonist, but Vance moves so fast that the minor characters shift frequently. Perhaps this is the issue?
:: Back when Dune first came out and somewhere in the late 60's I read it through twice and struggled both times. Recently I re-read it and discovered that what annoys me largely is that throughout the book the reader gets character thought via italicized text. This alone would probably be passable; however there are some scenes where as many as 4 character's inner thoughts are tossed out there much the same as head-hopping and it's enough to make the head spin. In most scenes there are at least two character's thoughts thrown out there. This works in that it's some of the magic of that book in that there are few surprises because the reader always know what the characters are really thinking even if they never quite let anyone else know what they are thinking.

And that is what is annoying enough to have to set the book down and rest a moment while your inner brain keeps suggesting how differently things would go if they could just talk to each other.

So yes, there might be some style issues.
 
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Vance has been one of my favorites for a while, and his writing is specifically probably why few adaptations. Some of his shorts could work as plots or subplots of some space adventures as "homages" but that does nothing for viewership, which is of course what producers want.

Clever word choice and construction of mood-evoking images are very hard to translate to film. Even one of his first that I read, maybe forty years ago or more - "The Dragon Masters" - would be hard. At first it might seem easy, but describing the way the aliens were adapted into semi-intelligent fighting and ridden warrior animals, and that the aliens on their next invasion generations later had clearly bred humans into giant and other misshapen ridden, semi-intelligent warrior animals as well is a detail very hard to do justice to in film without time wasting explanation.

Without the explanation, it's just more dragons and monsters. But still, as with any fave author, one to keep going back to and resampling.
 

clovis-man

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The Blue World might be a good film vehicle. But sixty years after the fact, there may not be much interest.
 

clovis-man

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Back when Dune first came out and somewhere in the late 60's I read it through twice and struggled both times. Recently I re-read it and discovered that what annoys me largely is that throughout the book the reader gets character thought via italicized text. This alone would probably be passable; however there are some scenes where as many as 4 character's inner thoughts are tossed out there much the same as head-hopping and it's enough to make the head spin. In most scenes there are at least two character's thoughts thrown out there.
Oddly I never had a problem with this in the book. But in the film by David Lynch, it quickly became highly annoying. He'd have been better off not trying to copy that literary device. But I don't think anything could have really saved the movie.
 
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The Blue World might be a good film vehicle. But sixty years after the fact, there may not be much interest.
Clovis, my man,

You have a good idea. That could make a movie, a series, or a trilogy. You made a good call in my opinion because Jack fills it with action like so many "travelling hero" plots. I think it was his first or at least one of his earliest novels, so less full of his great descriptions and clever conversations.

But like anything made from one of Jack's stories, it would have to be radically changed. His schtick was the clever wordplay and descriptions, which when you directly transpose to film only please the original fans. To others it always falls flat. As for appeal for such an old book, right. Thats another nail in that particular coffin.
 

hitmouse

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Clovis, my man,

I think it was his first or at least one of his earliest novels, so less full of his great descriptions and clever conversations.
Blue World was published in the mid 60s. Vance had published at least a dozen novels and novellas prior to that, starting in the early 1950s.
 

Emphyricist

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Most of Jack Vance's work is set so far in the future that it's essentially timeless. Blue World is a good example of this.
 
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Hitmouse notes: "Blue World was published in the mid 60s. Vance had published at least a dozen novels and novellas prior to that, starting in the early 1950s."

Hit, I see that I am in a thread with fans who know much more of one of my favorites than I. So far I have read all of Vance that I could find over the years. Find at zero or very low cost, mind you. Never ordered any, or I could have had it all.

So thanks for this info. My enjoyable reading future has now expanded!
'
 

hitmouse

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Hitmouse notes: "Blue World was published in the mid 60s. Vance had published at least a dozen novels and novellas prior to that, starting in the early 1950s."

Hit, I see that I am in a thread with fans who know much more of one of my favorites than I. So far I have read all of Vance that I could find over the years. Find at zero or very low cost, mind you. Never ordered any, or I could have had it all.

So thanks for this info. My enjoyable reading future has now expanded!
'
I picked up most of my Vance inexpensively in Canadian 2nd hand bookshops and in bundles on ebay
 

BAYLOR

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If somebody of the stature of Terry Gilliam could be persuaded, I think The Dying Earth would be possible, perhaps with Eyes Of The Overworld to add a bit of meat. And, thinking about it, what about Cugel's Saga? He's a great character.
Terry Gilliam would get it right. :cool:

I would love to see what Alex Alex Proyas could do with The Dying Earth. :)
 

Stephen Palmer

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I've always thought The Face is the best of the Star Kings novels, that could make a stand-alone film I reckon, with a bit of plot-tweaking.
 
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Steve,

You posted (more formally, as Stephen Palmer):"I've always thought The Face is the best of the Star Kings novels, that could make a stand-alone film I reckon, with a bit of plot-tweaking."

I also thought of that series, and that particular one of the "Adam Reith" books while the talk about making a Vance movie was going on. One problem I thought of is how the current Islamophobia would be tied in by many as the "Brit aristo analog guy" insists that he will never tolerate that "great Darsh face leering across the hedge."

Now, my feeling is 100% in agreement with you about using that book. I would support someone using that or Big Planet or Lyonesse or almost any of his stories. My personal enjoyment and support for a Vance project would be total.

But dealing with the real world, we have to account for the pan-world PC-ness we have. This would be a real issue with pitching "The Face" in Hollywood or New York. The Darsh "sand people" with the specific description of the way their women get mostly young men? Yeah, stand by for all kinds of helpful correction at our many shades of "hate."

The same PC risk issue can be seen in what was his last, or at least close to his last big series about a distant planet governed by an environmentalist "Green" group. It started by colonists who prioritised the planetary ecology over any but essential "preserve manager" immigration. And the way Jack names the vaguely Asiatic Yips who are being held off from contaminating the preserve lands. The Yips! How un-PC!

One thing of many I like about my man Jack is that he is real in his concepts and descriptions, he is so accurate about life, and PC is not to be found in his stories. To me that means an indie effort will be needed to bring more of him to the screen.
 

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