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Vernor Vinge
File:Vernor Vinge.jpg
Vernor Vinge, at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference (CFP) 2006
Born October 2, 1944 (1944-10-02) (age 77)
Waukesha, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Occupation Computer scientist
Nationality American
Writing period 1966—
Genres Science fiction
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
Prometheus Awards:
  1987, 2000, 2004, 2007
Spouse(s) Joan D. Vinge (divorced)
Official website

Vernor Steffen Vinge (pronounced /ˈvɪndʒi/) (born October 2, 1944 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, U.S.) is a retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels 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 1993 essay "The Coming Technological Singularity", in which he argues that exponential growth in technology will reach a point beyond which we cannot even speculate about the consequences.

Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.

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, adapting one of his stories into a short novel, Grimm's World (1969), and publishing a second novel, The Witling (1975).

Vinge came to prominence in 1981 with his novella True Names, which is one of the earliest stories 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 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 from the center of the galaxy, the higher the level of technology 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. This novel transcends the polarities of a liberal vs. conservative-type struggle. Deepness also won a Hugo Award in 2000.

Vinge's novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster also won Hugo Awards in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Vinge's 2006 novel, Rainbows End is set in a similar universe to Fast Times at Fairmont High and is a Hugo Award winner for Best Novel. He intends his next novel to be a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, set approximately 10 years after the events of that book.

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.

Vinge was formerly married to Joan D. Vinge, also an accomplished science fiction author.


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/anarchocapitalist 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.




  • True Names and Other Dangers ISBN 0-671-65363-6
    • "Bookworm, Run!"
    • "True Names" (1981, winner 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award)
    • "The Peddler's Apprentice" (with Joan D. Vinge)
    • "The Ungoverned" (occurs in the same milieu as The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime)
    • "Long Shot"
  • Threats... and Other Promises ISBN 0-671-69790-0 (These two volumes collect Vinge's short fiction through the early 1990s.)
    • "Apartness"
    • "Conquest by Default" (occurs in the same milieu as "Apartness")
    • "The Whirligig of Time"
    • "Gemstone"
    • "Just Peace" (with William Rupp)
    • "Original Sin"
    • "The Blabber" (occurs in the same milieu as A Fire Upon the Deep)
  • Across Realtime ISBN 0-671-72098-8
  • True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier ISBN 0-312-86207-5 (contains "True Names" plus essays by others)
  • The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge ISBN 0-312-87373-5 (hardcover) or ISBN 0-312-87584-3 (paperback) (This volume collects Vinge's short fiction through 2001, 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"
    • "Apartness"
    • "Conquest by Default"
    • "The Whirligig of Time"
    • "Bomb Scare"
    • "The Science Fair"
    • "Gemstone"
    • "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)

Uncollected Short Fiction[]

  • "Grimm's Story" (Orbit (anthology series) 4, 1968)
  • "A Dry Martini" (The 60th World Science Fiction Convention ConJosé Restaurant Guide, page 60)
  • "The Cookie Monster" (Analog Science Fiction, October 2003)
  • "Synthetic Serendipity", IEEE Spectrum Online, 30 June 2004 (Excerpt from Rainbows End)[1]

Listen to[]

External links[]

NAME Vinge, Vernor Steffen
SHORT DESCRIPTION Mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction author
DATE OF BIRTH 1944-10-02
PLACE OF BIRTH Waukesha, Wisconsin, U.S.

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