An American writer of mystery, fantasy, and science fiction, he is famous for his Dying Earth series, as well as for award-winning works such as The Dragon Masters and The Last Castle. In 1984, he won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
He worked as a rigger at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California. He published his first science fiction novella, Son of the Tree, in 1951.
He was legally blind after 1980, but continued to write with the help of BigEd software.
He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He married Norma Genevieve Ingold in 1946.
Author Neil Gaiman delivered a tribute to Vance following his 2013 death.