Jack Vance, sorted by year written
show ‘1956’ (clear filter)
Comment: short horror story.
I’ve had all I can stand. I’ve got to get out, away from the walls, the glass, the white stone, the black asphalt. All of a sudden I see the city for the terrible place that it is. Lights burn my eyes, voices crawl on my skin like sticky insects, and I notice that the people look like insects too. Burly brown beetles, wispy mosquito-men in tight black trousers, sour sow-bug women, mantids and scorpions, fat little dung-beetles, wasp-girls gliding with poisonous nicety, children like loathsome little flies...This isn’t a pleasant thought; I must not think of people so; the picture could linger to bother me. I think I’m a hundred times more sensitive than anyone else in the world, and I’m given to very strange fancies. I could list some that would startle you, and it’s just as well that I don’t. But I do have this frantic urge to flee the city; it’s settled. I’m going.
My name is Henry Revere. My appearance is not remarkable, my intelligence is hardly noteworthy, and my emotions run evenly. I live in a house of synthetic shell, decorated with wood and jade, and surrounded by a pleasant garden. The view to one side is the ocean, the other, a valley sprinkled with houses similar to my own. I am by no means a prisoner, although my servants supervise me with the most minute care. Their first concern is to prevent my suicide, just as mine is to achieve it. (more)
Republished in The World-Thinker and Other Stories, Spatterlight, 2012
Introduction to the novel from Wikipedia:
The city of Clarges in the future is a near-utopia, surrounded by barbarism throughout the rest of the world. Abundant resources and the absence of political conflict lead to a pleasant life that should be stress-free. However, nearly everyone is obsessed with a perpetual scramble for longer life, as measured by slope.
Medical technology has led to a great lengthening of the human lifespan, but, in order to prevent the Malthusian horrors of over-population, it is awarded only to those citizens who have made notable contributions. Five categories have been created for those playing the life-extension game, the first four each offering an additional twenty years of life. One’s progress can be shown as a graph, whose upward direction indicates a greater likelihood of achieving the next level. Therefore, the slope of one’s “lifeline” is a measure of success. A person whose lifeline reaches the vertical terminator is not merely deprived of life-lengthening treatment, they are deliberately eliminated by government operatives, known as “Assassins”.
The ultimate prize is the top category, called Amaranth, which offers true immortality to the fortunate few. People who achieve this distinction are accorded the honorific “The” in front of their name.
The Grayven Warlock was one of those few, but he has become a fugitive after a feud with another Amaranth resulted in the latter’s death. Masquerading as his own “relict” (clone) using the name Gavin Waylock, he lives in obscurity, looking for the accomplishment that will reinstate him among the immortals. However, Waylock’s dramatic stratagems result in changes to society far beyond anything he had intended.
Republished as Clarges, Spatterlight, 2012