The Dying Earth is a series of fantasy fixups (novels created from older short stories) by American author Jack Vance.
The series consists of the following works:
Michael Shea's novel A Quest for Simbilis, set in the same fictional world published in 1974, is an authorized sequel to Eyes of the Overworld. This book was published nine years before Vance's own sequel. In 2010 Shea wrote another authorized story belonging to the Dying Earth series and featuring Cugel as one of characters: "Hew the Tintmaster", published in the anthology Swords & Dark Magic. Shea's novel Nifft the Lean also owes much debt to Vance's creation, since the protagonist of the story is a petty thief (not unlike Cugel the Clever), who travels and struggles in an exotic world.
Songs of the Dying Earth is a tribute anthology to Jack Vance's Dying Earth series edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois and published in 2009 by Subterranean Press.
Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is set in a slightly similar world, and was written under Vance's influence. Wolfe suggested in The Castle of the Otter, a collection of essays, that he inserted the book The Dying Earth into his fictional world under the title The Book of Gold.
In the Vance Integral Edition of Vance's complete œuvre, three of these books have had Vance's original titles restored:
- The Dying Earth was retitled Mazirian the Magician.
- The Eyes of the Overworld was retitled Cugel the Clever.
- Cugel's Saga was retitled Cugel: the Skybreak Spatterlight.
The stories of the Dying Earth series are set in the distant future, at a point when the sun is almost exhausted and magic has reasserted itself as a dominant force. The various civilizations of Earth have collapsed for the most part into decadence. The Earth is mostly barren and cold, and has become infested with various predatory monsters (possibly created by a magician in a former age).
The Moon has disappeared and the Sun is in danger of burning out at any time. A certain fatalism characterizes many of the inhabitants as a consequence.
Almery, where most of the series characters originate, is a city in the center of the region. Although the city is just a pale shadow of its former self, suffering from desolation, it plays a determinative role in the life of the southern areas.
The series shows the influence of the picaresque tale, applied to a science fiction/fantasy setting.
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