True Names

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For the fantasy trope, see true name.
True Names
Author Vernor Vinge
Language English
Publication date
1981
Media type Novella

True Names is a 1981 science fiction novella by Vernor Vinge, considered a seminal work of the cyberpunk genre. It is one of the earliest stories to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace, which would later be central to cyberpunk. The story also contains elements of transhumanism, anarchism, and even hints about The Singularity.

True Names first brought Vinge to prominence as a science fiction writer. It also inspired many real-life hackers and computer scientists; a 2001 book about the novella, True Names: And the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier, included essays by Danny Hillis, Marvin Minsky, Mark Pesce, Richard Stallman and others.[1] It was awarded the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2007.

Plot summary[edit]

The story follows the progress of a group of disaffected computer wizards (called "warlocks" in the story) who are early adopters of a new full-immersion virtual reality technology, called the "Other Plane". Forming a cabal, they must keep their true identities – their "True Names" – secret even to each other and to avoid prosecution by their "Great Adversary" – the government of the United States.

The protagonist is one of these warlocks. Known as "Mr. Slippery" in the Other Plane, his True Name is Roger Pollack. When a new warlock arrives in the Other Plane and begins to recruit other warlocks for a scheme in which the domination of cyberspace can be used to exert power in the real world, Mr. Slippery is forced to ally himself with the Great Adversary.

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