Vernor Vinge, at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference (CFP) 2006
|Born||Vernor Steffen Vinge
October 2, 1944
Waukesha, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
|Notable work(s)||True Names (1981),
A Fire Upon the Deep (1992),
"The Coming Technological Singularity" (1993),
Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002)
|Notable award(s)||Hugo Awards,
Best Novel: 1993, 2000, 2007;
Best Novella: 2003, 2005
1987, 2000, 2004, 2007
|Spouse(s)||Joan D. Vinge (1972–1979, divorced)|
Vernor Steffen Vinge (//; born October 2, 1944) is a retired San Diego State University (SDSU) Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels and novellas A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), Rainbows End (2006), Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002), and The Cookie Monster (2004), as well as for his 1984 novel The Peace War and his 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity", in which he argues that the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence will mark the point at which "the human era will be ended", such that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it.
Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.—"The Coming Technological Singularity" by Vernor Vinge, 1993
Life and work
Vinge published his first short story, "Bookworm, Run!", in the March 1966 issue of Analog Science Fiction, then edited by John W. Campbell. The story explores the theme of artificially augmented intelligence by connecting the brain directly to computerised data sources. He became a moderately prolific contributor to SF magazines in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1969, he expanded the story "Grimm's Story" (Orbit 4, 1968) into his first novel, Grimm's World. His second novel, The Witling, was published in 1975.
Vinge came to prominence in 1981 with his novella True Names, perhaps the first story to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace, which would later be central to cyberpunk stories by William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and others.
His next two novels, The Peace War (1984) and Marooned in Realtime (1986), explore the spread of a future libertarian society, and deal with the impact of a technology which can create impenetrable force fields called 'bobbles'. These books built Vinge's reputation as an author who would explore ideas to their logical conclusions in particularly inventive ways. Both books were nominated for the Hugo Award, but lost to novels by William Gibson and Orson Scott Card.
These two novels and True Names also emphasized Vinge's interest in the technological singularity. True Names takes place in a world on the cusp of the Singularity. The Peace War shows a world in which the Singularity has been postponed by the Bobbles and a global plague, while Marooned in Realtime follows a small group of people who have managed to miss the Singularity which otherwise encompassed Earth.
Vinge won the Hugo Award (tying for Best Novel with Doomsday Book by Connie Willis) with his 1992 novel, A Fire Upon the Deep. In it, he envisions a galaxy that is divided up into 'zones of thought', in which the further one moves away from the center of the galaxy, the higher the level of complexity one can achieve. Nearest the center is 'The Unthinking Depths', where even human-level intelligence is impossible. Earth is in 'The Slow Zone', in which faster-than-light (FTL) travel cannot be achieved. Most of the book, however, takes place in a zone called 'The Beyond', where the computations necessary for FTL travel are possible, but transcendence beyond the Singularity to superhuman intelligence is not. In the last zone, 'The Transcend', there are apparently no limitations at all. The Beyond, therefore, permits a classic space opera, using technology that would push past the Singularity. Fire includes a large number of additional ideas making for an unusually complex and rich universe and story.
A Deepness in the Sky (1999) was a prequel to Fire, following competing groups of humans in The Slow Zone as they struggle over who has the rights to exploit a technologically emerging alien culture. In addition, Deepness explores the themes of technological freedom vs. technology as a tool of enslavement and control, among other deep political issues. Deepness won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2000.
Vinge's 2006 novel, Rainbows End, set in a similar universe to Fast Times at Fairmont High, won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novel. His next novel was released in October 2011. The Children of the Sky is a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, set approximately 10 years later.
Vinge retired in 2000 from teaching at San Diego State University, in order to write full-time. Most years, since its inception in 1999, Vinge has been on the Free Software Foundation's selection committee for their Award for the Advancement of Free Software. Vernor Vinge was Writer Guest of Honor at ConJosé, the 60th World Science Fiction Convention in 2002.
The concepts of artificial intelligence and technological singularity inform much of Vinge's writing, whether his stories embrace them (Bookworm, Run!; True Names; Rainbows End) or construct worlds to specifically explain the non-existence of these phenomena (A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky).
A pro-market/anarcho-capitalist theme can be seen in other works, either explicitly (The Ungoverned, Marooned in Realtime) or more quietly (the confrontation between the Emergents and the Qeng Ho in A Deepness in the Sky).
References in other works
In Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus (published in 1972, before Vinge had written his best-known work), the narrator finds a collection of Vernor Vinge stories on a top shelf of a far-future library on a distant world, though the cover has been so worn down that he thinks a librarian must have mistaken the "V. Vinge" on the spine as "Winge".
In David Brin's Kiln People, there is a reference to the main character experiencing something like "Vingeian focus," a quick reference to A Deepness in the Sky. Vinge's review of the book is featured on the back cover.
In the sleeve notes for Harmonic 313's album When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence, Mark Pritchard refers to his "good friend Vernor Vinge", crediting him for naming the "technological singularity".
In Robert J. Sawyer's WWW:Watch, a novel featuring an emerging artificial intelligence, a character quotes from Vinge's 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity in reference to what is happening. (The listener is surprised to hear that the author's name is pronounced "Vinjee" instead of rhyming with "hinge".)
The 'Tine' race, introduced in A Fire Upon the Deep, is an example of a gestalt-sentient species: a race that is only sentient in a grouping of individually non-sentient members (distinct from the more common group consciousness in that individual members of such are still themselves sentient or a hive mind in that there is no single sentient entity controlling large groups of non-sentients). Anvil of Stars, by Greg Bear, also makes use of this type of alien with its 'Cord' race, although as both books were released in 1992, it is unlikely that one references the other.
- Grimm's World (1969), expanded as Tatja Grimm's World (1987)
- The Witling (1976)
- Rainbows End ISBN 0-312-85684-9 (2006) — Hugo and Locus SF Awards winner, 2007; Campbell Award nominee, 2007
- The Peace War (1984) — Hugo Award nominee, 1985
- The Ungoverned (1985)
- Marooned in Realtime (1986) — Prometheus Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, 1987
Zones of Thought series
- A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) — Nebula Award nominee, 1992; Hugo Award winner, 1993; Campbell and Locus SF Awards nominee, 1993
- A Deepness in the Sky (1999) — Nebula Award nominee, 1999; Hugo, Campbell, and Prometheus Awards winner, 2000; Clarke and Locus SF Awards nominee, 2000
- The Children of the Sky (October 2011)
- Across Realtime (1986) ISBN 0-671-72098-8
- True Names ... and Other Dangers (1987) ISBN 0-671-65363-6
- Threats... and Other Promises (1988) ISBN 0-671-69790-0 (These two volumes collect Vinge's short fiction through the early 1990s.)
- "Conquest by Default" (occurs in the same milieu as "Apartness")
- "The Whirligig of Time"
- "Just Peace" (with William Rupp)
- "Original Sin"
- "The Blabber" (occurs in the same milieu as A Fire Upon the Deep)
- True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (2001) ISBN 0-312-86207-5 (contains "True Names" plus essays by others)
- The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge (2001) ISBN 0-312-87373-5 (hardcover) or ISBN 0-312-87584-3 (paperback) (This volume collects Vinge's short fiction through 2001 (except "True Names"), including Vinge's comments from the earlier two volumes.)
- "Bookworm, Run!"
- "The Accomplice"
- "The Peddler's Apprentice" (with Joan D. Vinge)
- "The Ungoverned"
- "Long Shot"
- "Conquest by Default"
- "The Whirligig of Time"
- "Bomb Scare"
- "The Science Fair"
- "Just Peace" (with William Rupp)
- "Original Sin"
- "The Blabber"
- "Win a Nobel Prize!" (originally published in Nature, Vol 407 No 6805 "Futures")
- "The Barbarian Princess" (this is also the first section of "Tatja Grimm's World")
- "Fast Times at Fairmont High" (occurs in the same milieu as Rainbows End) (winner 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novella)
Uncollected short fiction
- "A Dry Martini" (The 60th World Science Fiction Convention ConJosé Restaurant Guide, page 60)
- "The Cookie Monster" (Analog Science Fiction, October 2003) (winner 2004 Hugo Award for Best Novella)
- "Synthetic Serendipity", IEEE Spectrum Online, 30 June 2004
- "A Preliminary Assessment of the Drake Equation, Being an Excerpt from the Memoirs of Star Captain Y.-T. Lee" (2010) (Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl, 2010)
- "1985 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "1987 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "1993 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "2000 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "2004 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "2007 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- Interview with Vernor Vinge, 12 October 2009, Norwescon website. (Vinge was the Writer Guest of Honor for Norwescon 33.)
- "Vernor Vinge's sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep coming in October!".
- "Guests of Honor". ConJosé (the 2002 Worldcon).
- Vinge, Vernor. Introduction to "The Peddler's Apprentice", a story by Vernor Vinge and Joan D. Vinge, in True Names ... and Other Dangers. Baen books, New York, 1987. ISBN 0-671-65363-6.
- UN Hearing On AI Rights. jephjacques (2012-08-30). Retrieved on 2013-09-19.
- "1992 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "1999 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- Vinge, Vernor (12 October 2000). "Win a Nobel Prize!". Nature 407 (6805): 679. doi:10.1038/35037684. (Paid subscription required.)
- Vernor Vinge reading "A Dry Martini", recorded live at Penguicon 6.0 on April 20th, 2008
- Vinge, Vernor (June 30, 2004). "Synthetic Serendipity". IEEE Spectrum.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Vernor Vinge|
- Vernor Vinge at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Vernor Vinge at DMOZ
- Vernor Vinge, at Worlds Without End
- A website owned by Vinge (small and outdated)
- Hafner, Katie (August 2, 2001). "A Scientist's Art: Computer Fiction". The New York Times. p. G1.
Essays and speeches
- The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era, 1993
- Accelerating Change 2005: Vernor Vinge Keynote Address (64 kbit/s MP3 audio recording, 40 minutes long)
- Seminars About Long-term Thinking: Vernor Vinge (Summary and MP3 audio recording of a 2007 speech, 91 minutes long)
- "2020 Computing: The creativity machine", from Nature magazine, 23 March 2006.
- Vernor Vinge's keynote address at the 2006 Austin Games Conference.
- Reason Interview of Vernor Vinge
- A podcast interview with Vinge by Glenn Reynolds and Helen Smith.
- Vinge's audio interviews on the podcast series The Future and You
- A podcast interview with Vinge for the singularity symposium