A classic series of LowFantasy novels by Creator/JackVance. Several other authors have written novels in the setting, which has become something of a SharedUniverse. It is considered one of the seminal works of fantasy and has had a huge influence on the genre.
Welcome to Earth, a few million years in the future. [[TheMagicComesBack Magic is back]], mostly displacing science, and it is both AfterTheEnd and JustBeforeTheEnd: Civilization has pretty much collapsed, and the Sun is close to going out. Earth's remaining inhabitants are generally aware of this but have no means to escape their increasingly hot and barren CrapsackWorld. Those that haven't become religious zealots are largely [[StrawNihilist nihilistic fatalists]], engaging in what debauchery they can in the time left.
The first book, ''The Dying Earth,'' consists of short stories about different characters (most notably Turjan of Miir and Rhialto the Marvellous). The second two books, ''The Eyes of the Overworld'' and ''Cugel's Saga,'' center on a contest of wills between [[TheTrickster Cugel the Clever]] and Iucounu [[ForTheEvulz the Laughing Magician.]] Thief, charlatan, con man, and whatever else he needs to be to get the most benefit with the least work, Cugel teeters on the border between AntiHero and VillainProtagonist. When he botches a robbery of Iucounu's mansion, the wizard teleports him across the world with a command to bring back an artifact he wants... and includes a small demon attached to his liver and equipped with various sharp implements to encourage his compliance. The series relates his various adventures attempting to return and revenge himself on Iucounu, while conning as many people as possible out of their valuables and/or virginity along the way. The fourth book, ''Rhialto the Marvelous,'' chronicles a mystery that concerns Earth's last great conclave of magicians, who turn out to be just as self-serving and underhanded as their inferiors.
* AffablyEvil: A characteristic of many villains in the Dying Earth. You may intend to devour, enslave or zombify your opponent, but there's no call to be ''rude'' or ''dishonest'' about it.
* AnAesop: One of the stories with T'sais is definitely one, some of the other ''Dying Earth'' stories could be said to be one also. Arguably, Cugel the Clever learns that backstabbing is bad and trust is good by the end of his second book.
* AntiHero: Liane the Wayfarer. Also Cugel. Also Magnus Ridolph. In fact many of Vance's characters are [[AntiHero antiheroes]].
* ArtificialHuman: T'sais and T'sain
* ArtisticLicensePhysics: Earth's sun is not of a sort that will slowly fade to red and then die. It will first expand large enough to kill everything on the face of the Earth, and then shrink and stop giving enough light and heat to keep the remaining cinder from freezing.
* AxCrazy: T'sais starts out like this.
* BadassBookworm: The Curator; Guyal of Sfere.
* BlackAndGrayMorality: Altruistic actions are quite rare, and a character who provides such is either about to get fleeced or is a scoundrel preparing a double-cross. That's leaving aside the various cannibals, mad scientists and religious zealots who don't even pretend to be nice to strangers.
* BlackComedyRape: Cugel is a repeat offender, though more notably in ''Eyes of the Overworld'' (1960) than in its sequel ''Cugel's Saga'' (1984).
* BrainInAJar: Rogol Domedonfors, ruler of Ampridatvir
* TheCasanova: Rhialto the Marvellous. Liane the Wayfarer and Cugel the Clever both consider themselves such but are not.
* CatchPhrase: Chun's is also his MyNameIsInigoMontoya and his PreMortemOneLiner.
* [[ClarkesThirdLaw Clarke's Third Law]]: Ampridatvir
* CharacterDevelopment: Cugel the Clever behaves quite differently towards the end of the second book, capable of making friends who he does ''not'' plan to backstab later.
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Cugel the Clever goes through one and a half books before he is finally cured of this disease
* ContemptibleCover: The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dying_earth.jpg cover]] of the very first edition of ''The Dying Earth''.
* EldritchAbomination: Pandelume looks like one, to the point that anyone who looks upon him will instantly go insane, but he behaves like a pretty nice guy. Magnatz is a more straightforward example, since he is unambiguously evil.
* EveryThingsBetterWithRainbows: The Excellent Prismatic Spray, a widely used instant-kill spell that inspired the many "Prismatic Whatevers" in ''Dungeons and Dragons'' and beyond.
* EvilTwin: Inverted. T'sain is deliberately made as a ''good'' twin to T'sais.
* ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: [[ImplacableMan Chun the Unavoidable]].
* ExpandedUniverse: ''Songs of the Dying Earth'', edited by no less than [[Creator/GeorgeRRMartin George R. R. Martin]]
* EyeScream: The prey of Chun the Unavoidable get to contribute to his [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin cloak of eyes.]]
* GeekyTurnOn: When Guyal makes an impassioned declaration of his desire for knowledge, Shierl's reaction is "Guyal of Sfere, I am yours, I melt for you..."
* GoMadFromTheRevelation: Again inverted with T'sais. While we don't know for certain the fallout of having her eyes opened to seeing the world-as-it-is, she no longer perceives it as a place full of hideous monstrosity best served by killing, and likely finally found the beauty she was looking for.
* GoodIsDumb: Morreion was at least much ''nicer'' when he was an eccentric old hermit with most of his memories stored in Ioun Stones.
* GoodIsNotNice: Cugel the Clever, who was downright evil for the first book he was in.
* HalfHumanHybrid: A variety of them appear. A surprising number are man-eaters.
* HappyPlace: The Overworld.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: A recurring motif of the series.
* JerkassGenie: The sandestins in the ''Dying Earth'' stories, especially the ones that serve Rhialto the Marvellous. Justified: they are a race with much more potent powers than Earth's wizards, and despise the fact that they can be compelled to obey.
* JerkassVictim: Quite often, the GoodIsNotNice hero preys on fellow rogues.
* JustBeforeTheEnd: The ''Dying Earth'', of course.
* LaughablyEvil: Iucounu. Whether he counts as "evil" in this BlackAndGrayMorality setting is debatable, but if you cross him your punishment will involve some sort of humorous irony... and pain.
* LostTechnology: Exists hand in hand with Forgotten Lore: the great magicians of Earth's final age know a tenth of the magical lore of previous ages, and nobody bothers to invent - or even maintain any really advanced technology. Various [[RagnarokProofing surprisingly functional]] remnants of magic and technology turn up throughout the series.
* LotusEaterMachine: The Eyes of the Overworld.
* LoveRedeems: T'sain to T'sais.
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Several examples among creatures and monsters, but the spells deserve special mention for combining black comedy with YouDoNotWantToKnow: the Spell of Forlorn Encystment, Lugwiler's Dismal Itch, the Spell of the Macroid Digit (in which one toe of the target swells to the size of a house), and many more.
* OnlySaneMan: Rhialto the Marvellous seems like this compared to the rest of the magicians he deals with.
* PunishedWithUgly: Javanne's punishment, inflicted by a god who specialises in LaserGuidedKarma.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: Guess which side it's on. Go ahead, guess.
* SmallNameBigEgo: Cugel thinks of himself as a ManOfWealthAndTaste and LovableRogue. In reality he's basically a JerkAss DirtyCoward who regularly gets OutGambitted and HoistByHisOwnPetard.
* StayOnThePath: Enforced for one character in a short story whose father's blessing protects him while on the road.
* TheyKilledKenny: Liane the Wayfarer is stabbed and left for dead in one story, and goes on to a more final doom in another.
* TimeTravel: Rhialto the Marvellous does this often in one of his stories, and Cugel also spends some time in the distant past. (Even these jaunts are in the far, far future of Earth.)
* VancianMagic: The original example, from which DungeonsAndDragons' magic system was lifted pretty much whole-cloth.
* VillainProtagonist: Mazirian the Magician, Liane the Wayfarer and Cugel the Clever.
* WeirdnessMagnet: Cugel has a startling tendency to stumble upon [[MacGuffin items that are desperately sought]] by others - in some cases, items that have been lost for centuries. The bracelet of the lords of Castle Cil, the representation of totality, and the central node of the being Sadlark are all found by Cugel by sheer dumb luck.
* WickedCultured: Many things and people in the ''Dying Earth'' could be described this way, especially the Deodands and Pelgranes, man-eating monsters who enjoy conversing in the eloquent Creator/JackVance style.
* WorldHalfEmpty: Civilization's gone, monsters infest the wilderness, and the sun's gonna go out any day now. Let's have another bacchanal while we wait...