Vernor Vinge

So, I just saw that Vernor Vinge has passed away. I’m a little behind on that. Here’s an obituary.

On Wednesday, author David Brin announced that Vernor Vinge, sci-fi author, former professor, and father of the technological singularity concept, died from Parkinson’s disease at age 79 on March 20, 2024, in La Jolla, California. The announcement came in a Facebook tribute where Brin wrote about Vinge’s deep love for science and writing.

“A titan in the literary genre that explores a limitless range of potential destinies, Vernor enthralled millions with tales of plausible tomorrows, made all the more vivid by his polymath masteries of language, drama, characters, and the implications of science,” wrote Brin in his post.

I didn’t read everything of his … I actually have A Deepness in the Sky on my TBR shelves, where it has been sitting, obviously, for a good while. Possibly 24 years, since it came out in 2000. My main interest in the prequel, the excellent A Fire Upon the Deep, was the Tines, not the universe. I’m a fan of great alien species and the Tines are among the best. They are also the sole example of a plausible telepathic species, because their telepathy isn’t magic, but explicable … telepathy by radio waves, I think? I don’t remember for sure. But this one-individual-in-four-to-eight-bodies thing was fascinating and also led to the really grim ability to edit an individual by pulling a body out of the collective and forcing a merger with a different body. Which is really, really awful, but would obviously be possible in this situation.

The only other similar situation in SFF are the ships with their ancillaries in the Ancillary Justice series. I wonder what Ann Leckie thought of A Fire Upon the Deep, if she read it? I wonder if she, too, found her primary interest engaged by the Tines, not the world, interesting though the world might be?

Anyway, Vernor Vinge didn’t write a lot of books, but they were influential and thought-provoking. I’m sorry to hear he had Parkinson’s, and sorry to hear that he’s passed away.

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4 thoughts on “Vernor Vinge”

  1. The Tines use ordinary sound — well, ultrasonics through high-bandwidth tympani — to communicate between their fragments. That’s why communication problems starts to break them up over fairly short distances.

  2. Thanks, Craig! I knew it was short distances, but couldn’t remember the actual mechanism.

  3. Deepness in the Sky is an astonishing book, with two separate thrillers running in parallel, along with one speculative idea after another.

  4. Radio does come into it, as a technological innovation from the humans’ database that lets the Tines vastly expand the distance packs can spread out while still functioning.

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