It was night in white-walled Kaiin, and festival time. Orange lanterns floated in the air, moving as the breeze took them. From the balconies dangled flower chains and cages of blue fire-flies. The streets surged with the wine-flushed populace, costumed in a multitude of bizarre modes. Here was a Melantine bargeman, here a warrior of Valdaran’s Green Legion, here another of ancient times wearing one of the old helmets. In a little cleared space a garlanded courtesan of the Kauchique littoral danced the Dance of the Fourteen Silken Movements to the music of flutes. In the shadow of a balcony a girl barbarian of East Almery embraced a man blackened and in leather harness as a Deodand of the forest. They were gay, these people of waning Earth, feverishly merry, for infinite night was close at hand, when the red sun should finally flicker and go black.
In The Dying Earth, Jack Vance captures the wider societal climate of the late 1950s in a borderline surreal work of sci-fi/fantasy. Taking pace in a future Earth that is on the brink of natural destruction, Vance portrays a world gripped with the fear of science gone haywire and lacking any moral compass, where wizards grow people in vats, and where the entire human race is in constant fear of destruction due to forces they can barely begin to comprehend, let alone try to stop. While the magic users of the world seem content to play God, and to contend in petty rivalries, the general populace of Earth seem to have grimly accepted the reality of the situation. After all, when you know the world is going to end at any moment, what else is there to do but to grab that special someone and party, enjoying the life you have until the sun finally stops burning.