Thursday, March 21, 2024

Vernor Vinge Has Left The Galaxy


This winter of discontent has claimed yet another giant of science fiction, Vernor Vinge.

I didn't really know Vinge personally... a conversation now and then, but nothing significant... but as a reader, his loss comes as a body blow. At his best, he was the very beau ideal of the science fiction writer, embodying new ideas in engaging plots.

Vinge was one of the best idea people in the field. His inventions ranged from the outrageously big (the speed of light and magnitude of possible intelligence growing larger with distance from the galactic core)  to the convincingly small (city buses being routinely equipped with sensors for early detection of emerging diseases). He'll probably be best remembered for taking John von Neumann's then-obscure idea of the singularity and making it a household word. And, to a lesser degree, for presenting the first fully convincing portray of cyberspace, years before William Gibson gave it the name cyberspace.

These are not small accomplishments. But I think he should be chiefly celebrated for his novels. For A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky, Marooned in Realtime, and all the others. Just a few days ago, I came back from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts with a copy of Rainbows End, which I had bought there, and gave it to my son, Sean. He was delighted.

Which is how, I think, Vinge should be remembered. With delight.

Above: I swiped this photo Vinge's author page at Macmillan Publishers, which published Vernor's books. The photographer was Gloria Price.


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