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Vernor Vinge

Vernor VingeAKA Vernor Steffen Vinge

Born: 10-Feb-1944
Birthplace: Waukesha, WI

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: A Fire Upon The Deep

Science fiction author Vernor Vinge is a retired math and computer science professor, formerly of San Diego State University. His former wife, Joan D. Vinge is also a science fiction writer. Vernor Vinge is best known for his Hugo Award winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) and for his related essay "The Technological Singularity" (1993). Both works propose that within the very near future computer technology will arrive at a point at which computers can check and rewrite their own programming. This development will lead almost immediately to the emergence of superhuman sentient beings, leading in turn to a megatransformation of all technology and culture so vast that its ramifications cannot be predicted or described from this point in time as they are beyond ordinary human powers of conception.

Vinge, who expects the singularity to occur by 2030, also predicts that this singularity, and its resultant superintelligences, will put an end, one way or another, to the human race as we know it -- the new superbeings will eliminate humans, transform humans, or possibly merely enslave them. Other works of note include his breakthrough cyberspace novella True Names (1981), The Peace War (1984), and Marooned in Realtime (1986), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), and the novellas, "The Cookie Monster" (2004), and "Fast Times at Fairmont High" (2002). The latter tale depicts a super high tech future in which everyone, including its eighth-grade protagonists, are networked in a wireless-direct-mind-link.

Vinge first broke into print with "Apartness" a short story that appeared in Analog Science Fiction in 1965. But it was the following year with the publication of "Bookworm, Run!", in which a chimpanzee receives a high-speed mental link to a huge computer database, that he introduced the concept of intelligence amplification and the potential for singularity. Like most science fiction writers breaking into the businesss, Vinge subsequently continued to focus on short fiction. His first novel, Grimmís World, didn't appear until 1969.

By 1981 however Vinge had captured attention with his novella "True Names", a startling new vision of what William Gibson would later dub "cyberspace" -- and a reality that turned out to be only a few years down the road for computer users. In fact, Vinge likes to joke about the fact that when the story was first published, a friend told him the story was "too far out". However, when the same friend reread the story just four years later she described it as "really too conventional".

But while his computer-oriented tales of the future have gained him the most attention, Vinge is certainly no one-note wonder. His short fiction is broad ranging, and he is remarkable for his startling inventiveness and range of imagination. In The Peace War (1984), and Marooned in Realtime he introduces the concept of the "bobbles", strange silvery forcefields with varied practical applications, including time travel. And in A Fire Upon the Deep and other tales he employs the device of "Zones of Thought" in which technology and sentience reach higher levels of development the further you move from the center of the galaxy.

Vinge also has a knack for building on his ideas. Thus A Fire Upon the Deep incorporated many of the above concepts into a grand magnum opus that took these concepts, and their repercussions to a new level -- all while peppering them with ideas that any lesser writer would have built an entire book around. But Vinge notes that unlike the writers during science fiction's Golden Age or NewWave periods, he and other contemporary writers who dabble with futurism and hard science are fiercely challenged in their bid to come up with such new ideas: actual scientific developments are outstripping the pace at which writers can imagine new ones. Thus while A Fire Upon the Deep drew kudos for depicting a UseNet system of interstellar communication; Vinge found himself faced with a problem when trying to write a sequel to the Hugo winning novel -- how can you write a sequel about "future technology" that has already been rendered obsolete?

Father: Clarence Lloyd Vinge (geography professor)
Mother: Ada Grace Rowlands (geographer)
Wife: Joan D. Vinge (m. 17-Jan-1972, div. 1979)

    High School: Okemos, MI
    University: BS, Michigan State University (1966)
    University: MA, University of California at San Diego (1968)
    University: PhD Mathematics, University of California at San Diego (1971)
    Professor: San Diego State University, San Diego, CA (1972-2000)

    American Mathematical Society
    Science Fiction Writers of America
    Hugo 1992 for A Fire Upon the Deep
    Hugo 2000 for A Deepness in the Sky
    Hugo 2007 for Rainbows End

Author of books:
Grimm's World (1969, novel)
The Witling (1976, novel)
True Names (1985, novel)
Tatja Grimm's World (1987, novel)
True Names... and Other Dangers (1987, collection)
Threats ... and Other Promises (1988, collection)
A Fire Upon the Deep (1992, novel)
A Deepness in the Sky (1999, novel)
The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge (2001, collection)
Marooned In Realtime (2004, novel)
Rainbows End (2006, novel)

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