- VINGE, Vernor (Steffen)
- (1944-)US writer and professor of mathematics at San Diego University; married to Joan D. VINGE 1972-9. He began publishing sf with "Apartness" for NW in 1965, and published fairly regularly in ASF, his best work appearing in True Names and Other Dangers (coll 1987), which contains HARD SF responsive to the thrust of technological progress (the title novellahad earlier appeared as TRUE NAMES [1981 dos]), and Threats . . . and Other Promises (coll 1988), which includes more diverse material. Hisfirst novel, Grimm's World (in Orbit 4 [anth 1966] ed Damon KNIGHT as "Grimm's Story"; fixup 1969; exp vt Tatja Grimm's World 1987), is acolourfully told adventure set on a primitive human planet exploited by interstellar slavers, with intriguingly elaborated detail. It is significantly less anodyne (or RURITANIAN) than its description implies, and the punning title of the book turns out to be not inappropriate. From the first VV combined a feeling for the movement and thrill of humanity's high-tech progress through the Universe, with a sense that individual lives were bleak and often brutish. His second novel, The Witling (1976), repeats a situation basic to the first - intruding humans on a colony planet are confronted by non-humans with heightened PSI POWERS - and confirmed the essential chill of his vision.TRUE NAMES (1981 dos) was the first of his tales to establish his reputation firmly as one of the more interesting writers of the period. It depicts a kind of CYBERSPACE inhabited by hackers intent on creating a VIRTUAL-REALITY environment, but threatened by the incursion of a possibly paranormal (or demented) colleague seeking absolute power over the world. The story is intermittently tangled, but the cyberspace vision was prescient. The Realtime sequence-The Peace War (1984) and Marooned in Realtime (1986),assembled as Across Realtime (omni 1986; with "The Ungoverned" added, exp 1991) - is similarly acute in its presentation of technologies not yetcompetently handled by sf, from COMPUTERS to GENETIC ENGINEERING, though its use once again of protagonists with seemingly paranormal powers tends to reduce any sense of novelty. The intricately plotted progress of various characters from near to far future, via an inventively deployed stasis-field technology, is narratively arousing, as is the murder mystery they find on an Earth which, like an abandoned playground, has long ago been left behind by an evolving humanity. However, the background to these exhilarated tales is depicted with VV's usual coldness. He is a writer who, while risking the worst of genre sillinesses, remains dangerously acute, as his most recent and longest novel, A FIRE UPON THE DEEP (1992), demonstrates. The tale - which involves converging interstellar quests for a MCGUFFIN "Countermeasure" capable of destroying a dread Power that has been reawakened from 5 billion years' sleep and is destroying millions of civilizations - is set in a complexly visualized Galaxy-wide SPACE-OPERA setting, skilfully designed to give room for human-scale action within a vast canvas, though in fact Homo sapiens is a very minor player in this arena; the information webs which convey near-infinities of information among the myriad worlds of the venue amusingly reflect the telephone-linked computer nets of the 1990s. The tale as a whole is cunningly crafted, deftly told, and bracingly chill in its ultimate implications; it shared the 1993 HUGO Award with Connie WILLIS's DOOMSDAY BOOK (1992) .JC
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.