Vinge, Vernor 1944- (Vernor Steffen Vinge)

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Vinge, Vernor 1944- (Vernor Steffen Vinge)


Surname is pronounced Vin-jee; born October 2, 1944, in Waukesha, WI; son of Clarence Lloyd (a professor of geography) and Ada Grace (a geographer) Vinge; married Joan D. (a writer; marriage ended). Education: Michigan State University, B.S., 1966; University of California, San Diego, M.A., 1968, Ph.D., 1971. Hobbies and other interests: Astronomy, computers.


Office—San Diego State University, Department of Mathematics, San Diego, CA 92182. Agent—Sharon Jarvis, Toad Hall, Inc., RR2 Box 2090, Laceyville, PA 18623. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, novelist, short-story writer, computer scientist, mathematician, consultant, futurist, and educator. San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, assistant professor, 1972-1978, associate professor of mathematics, 1978-2000. Global Business Network, business consultant and forecaster.


Science Fiction Writers of America, American Mathematical Society.


Finalist for Nebula and Hugo Awards, for "True Names"; nominations for Hugo Award, for The Peace War, and for Marooned in Realtime; Hugo Award, 1993, for A Fire Upon the Deep, and 2002, for novella "Fast Times at Fairmont High;" Hugo Award for Best Novella, 2004, Nebula Award nomination for best novella, both for "The Cookie Monster."



Grimm's World, Berkley (New York, NY), 1969, published as Tatja Grimm's World, Tor (New York, NY), 2006.

The Witling, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1976, reprinted, Tor (New York, NY), 2006.

The Peace War, Bluejay Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Marooned in Realtime, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Threats … and Other Promises, Baen (New York, NY), 1988.

A Fire Upon the Deep, Tor (New York, NY), 1992.

A Deepness in the Sky, Tor (New York, NY), 1999.

Rainbows End, Tor (New York, NY), 2006.


(With others) True Names and the Opening of Cyberspace Frontier, edited by James Frenkel, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.

The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.

Also author of the novella "The Cookie Monster," published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, 2003.

Contributor to anthologies, including Binary Star #5, Dell (New York, NY). Contributor to magazines, including New Worlds and Analog.


Vernor Vinge is a science fiction writer who won the genre's prestigious Hugo Award for his 1992 novel, A Fire Upon the Deep. Vinge was born in 1944 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and he received his undergraduate education at Michigan State University in the mid-1960s. He later attended the University of California, San Diego, where he earned a master's degree in 1968 and a doctorate three years later. Vinge joined the faculty of San Diego State University in 1972, and he became an associate professor of mathematics in 1978. He retired from San Diego State University in 2000 in order to write science fiction full time.

Vinge published his first science-fiction novel, Grimm's World, while he was still a student in the late 1960s. In addition, he had contributed several short stories to Analog. Both Grimm's World, which depicted life on another planet, and the various tales served to establish Vinge as a promising storyteller. But after producing a second novel, The Witling, in 1976, Vinge withdrew from writing to concentrate on his career in mathematics and his interest in the developing field of computer science. He resumed writing in 1980 with the short story "True Names," which readily revived interest in his work. This story develops the concept of cyberspace, "three years before William Gibson's Neuromancer was credited as doing so," observed John Hind in the Manchester Guardian. The story proved extremely influential, and it received nominations for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Vinge followed "True Names" with The Peace War, a novel about post-collapse southern California. For this work, he received another Hugo nomination. In 1986 he published a sequel, Marooned in Realtime, which earned still another Hugo nomination, and in 1992 he produced a galactic adventure, A Fire Upon the Deep, which secured the Hugo. Vinge followed that work with A Deepness in the Sky, a prequel set millennia before events in the preceding novel. In A Deepness in the Sky, protagonist Pham Nuwen travels with traders whose plan to develop a planet is interrupted by a band of rogues. Booklist reviewer Roland Green proclaimed A Deepness in the Sky "a treat, especially for fans of the intelligent space epic," and Library Journal reviewer Jackie Cassada noted the novel's "grand-scale … drama." In Publishers Weekly, meanwhile, a reviewer hailed the novel as "fast-paced and intellectually challenging." In an earlier issue of the same publication, A Deepness in the Sky was described as "packed with action."

A dedicated futurist, Vinge consistently looks forward in search of trends and signs of impending change in human society. Among his predictions is an anticipated "technological singularity" in which artificial intelligence thrives and takes on a life of its own, and when "computers become intelligent enough to upgrade themselves," noted Hind. When this event occurs, sometime between the year 2020 and 2040, computers will have quickly "re-modelled society and subverted laws in ways utterly bewildering to us," Hind stated. The technology singularity, as Vinge envisions it, will happen extremely quickly; in less than forty hours from its beginning, computers will turn into something not yet fully understood, but far superior to their human creators.

Rainbows End envisions a technologically advanced society in the year 2025, in which people carry computers in their clothing and instant messaging has become so advanced and ingrained that it is not far removed from telepathy. Protagonist Robert Gu, a Chinese-American poet, has long suffered from Alzheimer's disease and has not been able to enjoy the benefits of society's dramatic technological advances. When new medical treatments emerge that can cure his neurological disease, Gu reawakens in a world that he does not recognize. He takes remedial classes at the local high school to relearn much about himself and to acquaint himself with the new marvels that surround him. Unwittingly, Gu becomes involved in a conspiracy to control a deadly virus secreted in one of the University of California-San Diego laboratories. During a campus protest against the destruction of the university library, rendered redundant by online databases, Gu becomes a pawn of a group whose goal is to find and perfect the virus. The near-future world imagined by the author "is less alien here than in some of Vinge's other work, but no less fascinating and well constructed," commented Booklist reviewer Regina Schroeder.

Vinge's pivotal story "True Names" was presented again in True Names and the Opening of Cyberspace Frontier, along with eleven essays by other writers and scientists exploring the story's effect on science fiction as a genre and on the larger worlds of fiction, science, cryptography, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "a testament to SF's power to shape the future and give us advance warning of the rocky issues ahead."

The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge offers works with "brilliant what-if plots and on-the-mark technological imaginings," commented Roberta Johnson in Booklist. In "Apartness," a devastating nuclear war has concen- trated humanity in the Earth's southern hemisphere, where forgotten technology is slowly re-emerging. "The Ungoverned" considers the consequences when security and public safety become a matter of private industry rather than government mission. The fate of an escaped experimental subject has far-reaching consequences in "Bookworm, Run!" In "Fast Times at Fairmont High," a story original to the collection, two technologically savvy eighth-graders scramble to pass an important test without the aid of outside sources such as databases and the Internet. "This collection is a bonanza for hard SF fans, particularly those who prize challenging extrapolation," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews critic named the collection a "satisfying back-of-the-house tour of a career of mostly well-thought-out meditations on technological innovation and political experimentation." Johnson concluded: "Whether amusing, chilling, or poignant, each of Vinge's stories is a winner."



Booklist, February 15, 1999, Roland Green, review of A Deepness in the Sky, p. 1048; December 15, 2001, Roberta Johnson, review of The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, p. 710; April 15, 2002, Ray Olson, review of The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, p. 1387; April 1, 2006, Regina Schroeder, review of Rainbows End, p. 30.

Guardian (Manchester, England), December 29, 2002, John Hind, profile of Vernor Vinge.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2001, review of True Names and the Opening of Cyberspace Frontier, p. 1542; December 1, 2001, review of The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, p. 1654.

Library Journal, March 15, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of A Deepness in the Sky, p. 112; January, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, p. 159.

New York Times, August 2, 2001, Katie Hafner, "A Scientist's Art," profile of Vernor Vinge.

Publishers Weekly, January 25, 1999, review of A Deepness in the Sky; November 1, 1999, review of A Deepness in the Sky; December 17, 2001, review of The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, p. 69; December 24, 2001, review of True Names and the Opening of Cyberspace Frontier, p. 48; February 27, 2006, review of Rainbows End, p. 38.

Technology Review, July-August, 2006, Stewart Brand, "Vinge's Singular Vision," review of Rainbows End, p. 86.


Far Sector, (May 16, 2007), Shaun Farrell, interview with Vernor Vinge.

Long Now Foundation, (February 15, 2007), Stewart Brand, "Vernor Vinge: What If the Singularity Does NOT Happen?," profile of Vernor Vinge.