Vinge To Receive Libertarian Futurist Society Honor on 10/11

Vernor Vinge in 2006.

Vernor Vinge in 2006.

One of science fiction’s most lauded writers, Vernor Vinge, will be recognized with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Libertarian Futurist Society this weekend. 

The LFS will make the presentation on Saturday, October 11 at noon during Conjecture 2014 in San Diego.

This is only the second Lifetime award given by the Society. Poul Anderson received the first in 2001.

A five-time Hugo winner, Vernor Vinge is also one of the writers most frequently recognized by the Libertarian Future Society. He won its Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Marooned in Realtime (1987) and A Deepness in the Sky (2000), and two of his stories have received LFS Hall of Fame Awards, “The Ungoverned” (2004) and “True Names” (2007).

His impact on the genre is outlined in the Society’s press release:

Vinge’s concept of a technological singularity, in which the future is radically  transformed by the attainment of superhuman intelligence, has been a major influence on science fiction, the transhumanist movement, and the high-tech community generally. His novella “True Names” explored many of the themes that soon after became central to the cyberpunk movement. Speculation about libertarian, anarchist, and free-market themes has been a recurring focus of his novels and stories.

Libertarian Futurist Society President William H. Stoddard will make the presentation at Saturday’s award ceremony. All members of the convention are welcome.

Vinge To Get LFS Lifetime Achievement Award

The Libertarian Futurist Society will present Vernor Vinge with a Special Prometheus Award for lifetime achievement in 2014.

Vinge is only the second author ever recognized with a LFS lifetime achievement award, the other being Poul Anderson (2001).

Vinge is a four-time Prometheus Award winner, twice in the Best Novel category, Marooned in Realtime (1987) and A Deepness in the Sky (2000), and for two works inducted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame,”The Ungoverned” (2004) and “True Names” (2007).

The LFS will announce the time and location of the award ceremony in the near future.

In 2015 Vinge will join F. Paul Wilson and L. Neil Smith as guests of honor at the 50th anniversary of Marcon — where the LFS’s second “LFScon” will take place as part of the program — over Mother’s Day weekend May 8-10, at the Hyatt Regency Columbus and Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Clarke Center Lifts Off With Public Events

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will launch this month with a series of free events on the UC San Diego campus. 

May 1 through 31, 2013

“Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke”
Remembering and celebrating the diverse genius and joie de vivre of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Artifacts and items are from the collection of Wayne and Gloria Houser. During the May 21 reception only: Special display of original paintings of Clarke book cover art on loan from Naomi Fisher, and space science posters by Jon Lomberg. Curated by Carol Hobson, and co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library.
Seuss Room Foyer, Geisel Library, UC San Diego

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

1-5 p.m., “Visions of the Future”
An afternoon of conversations and presentations featuring Clarke Center affiliates on their visions of science and culture 33 years into the future (in honor of Clarke’s imagining of 2001 in 1968).
Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego

7 p.m., “The Literary Imagination”
A conversation between authors Jonathan Lethem and Kim Stanley Robinson presented by the Helen Edison Lecture Series, UC San Diego Extension and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination
Price Center West Ballroom, UC San Diego

Tuesday and Wednesday, May 21 and 22, 2013

“Starship Century Symposium”
A two-day event devoted to an ongoing exploration of the development of a starship in the next 100 years. Scientists will address the challenges and opportunities for our long?term future in space, with possibilities envisioned by Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Peter Schwartz, John Cramer and Robert Zubrin. Science fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Allen Steele, Joe Haldeman, Gregory Benford, Geoffrey Landis and David Brin will discuss the implications that these trajectories of exploration might have upon our development as individuals and as a civilization.
Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego
Note: Seating is limited, but the two-day event will be offered via live streaming video at http://imagination.ucsd.edu.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reception 6-8 p.m., “Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke”
Remembering and celebrating the diverse genius and joie de vivre of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Artifacts and items are from the collection of Wayne and Gloria Houser. During the May 21 reception only: Special display of original paintings of Clarke book cover art on loan from Naomi Fisher, and space science posters by Jon Lomberg. Also screening of documentary film, “Arthur C. Clarke: The Man Who Saw the Future,” a BBC/NVC ARTS Co-Production in association with RAI Thematic Channels, 1997. Curated by Carol Hobson, and co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library.
Seuss Room Foyer, Geisel Library, UC San Diego

Created by UCSD and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, the Clarke Center “will honor the late author and innovator through activities that will focus on cultural, scientific and medical transformations that can occur as we increase our understanding of the phenomena of imagination and become more effective at harnessing and incorporating our imaginations in our research and daily lives.”

UCSD’s Sheldon Brown, professor of computing in the arts in the department of visual arts, is the director of the center. The center’s associate director is David Kirsh, professor and former chair of the department of cognitive science.

In addition to drawing upon a wide range of disciplines and collaborations, the Clarke Center will engage the creative worlds of media, the arts and literature to help with discovery. UC San Diego’s unique relationship with speculative fiction and science fiction authors, including Kim Stanley Robinson, David Brin, Nancy Holder, Greg Benford, Vernor Vinge, Greg Bear and Aimee Bender, will allow the center to dismantle traditional boundaries and forge new ways of thinking about the future.

Clarke Center Created at UCSD

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is being created at UC San Diego (UCSD) by the University of California, San Diego and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.

The Clarke Center will develop, catalyze and be a global resource for innovative research and education “drawing upon the under-utilized resources of human imagination.” It will span a wide range of disciplines and fields such as technology, education, engineering, health, science, industry, environment, entertainment and the arts. 

The center will work with academia and industry and also draw upon the creative worlds of media and the arts. Contemporary science fiction authors such as UC San Diego alumni David Brin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Vernor Vinge, Greg Benford and Greg Bear are involved.

Sheldon Brown, named the center’s director, is a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at UCSD and the former director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts at UCSD’s California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies. 

Brown said:

As we harness more and more technology, we must also nurture our human resources – including our unique gifts of imagination to create, innovate and sustain constructive advances. By making human imagination itself the subject of study, we can develop ways to make more effective use of it.  We believe the center can become a unique global resource near term and long term.

The Clarke Foundation chose UCSD from among several universities that responded to its request for proposals to create the new center.

[Thanks to Gregory Benford for the story.]

Results of NPR Top 100 SF&F Survey

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien finished atop of NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey. Over 60,000 voters participated. Coming in second and third were Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

The three highest-ranking works by women were Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, #20, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, #22, and Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, #33.

Ray Bradbury had four books make the list, the most popular being Fahrenheit 451, #7. The leading Heinlein novel among his three on the list was Stranger in a Strange Land at #17.

And oh, yes, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, #93, ran ahead of Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, #97. I’ll have to ask if Jo Walton is willing to go two falls out of three…

The Dog Days of SF

Children of the Sky , sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, the Vernor Vinge novel debated here not long ago, will be released October 11 by Tor Books. Fans can click here to read an excerpt:

There were posters every few feet, but these were not the advertisements they had seen elsewhere. These were demands and announcements: WASH ALL PAWS BEFORE WORK, NO ADVANCE WAGES, EMPLOYMENT APPLICATIONS AHEAD. This last sign pointed toward a wide pair of doors at the end of the alley. It was all marvelously pompous and silly. And yet . . . as he walked along, Vendacious took a long look at the crenellations above him. Surely that was plaster over wood. But if it was real stone, then this was a fortified castle hidden right in the middle of East Home commercialism….

Expectations are running high because Vinge’s two other novels in the series won the Hugo. A Deepness in the Sky, a prequel set 20,000 years before A Fire Upon the Deep, was voted Best Novel in 2000.

[Via Locus Online.]

Ties for the Best Novel Hugo

That China Miéville’s The City and the City tied Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl for the 2010 Best Novel Hugo surprised me. Maybe, like many fans, I’m prone to underestimate fantasy novels as Hugo contenders.  

Bacigalupi’s SF novel had taken home every prize from the Nebula to the Compton Crook Award. It made Time magazine’s list of the Top 10 of Everything 2009. I expected it to win the Hugo by a landslide.

Now I’ve learned that hindsight is the only sight when it comes to Hugo handicapping. Other major awards may be poor predictors of Hugo success (see “The Unpredictable Best Novel Hugo”), still , they occasionally line up in the rear view mirror to make it seem as if picking against the favorite should have been the easiest thing in the world.

While The Windup Girl won the 2010 Locus Award for First Novel it finished far behind Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker in the SF Novel category. Meanwhile, Miéville’s The City and the City landed on top of the Fantasy Novel category. It was pretty clear that The Windup Girl would have serious competition for the Hugo.

The voters found these two novels indistinguishable in quality on Hugo night. Will they still seem so twenty years from now?

This is the third tie for the Best Novel Hugo in its history. Hindsight tells me it shouldn’t have happened the first two times.

In 1993 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis tied with A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.

It’s Doomsday Book Diana and I have given to friends we wanted to interest in science fiction. Connie Willis’ time travel adventure builds to a transcendent ending in which the efforts of an individual make a great deal of difference – not measured by how many lives are saved (a typical yardstick of stfnal heroism) but by the compassion shown to characters we care about in their hour of death, proving we do not all die alone.

Credit A Fire Upon the Deep with impressive ingredients: a richly inventive collection of aliens with unique psychologies, a new cosmology, a freshly imagined doom hanging over sentient life everywhere in the galaxy, and a set of mysterious histories that must be unraveled if anyone is to survive.

Three critical shortcomings hold it back.  

First, Vinge never made me really care whether his characters won out, he merely made me curious about the final choices that he’d craft into the ending. When a story of children in jeopardy fails to jump-start a reader’s emotional connection to its characters, that’s a bad sign.

Second, Vinge initiated a romance between the two main adult human characters, then allowed it to fizzle for reasons that were valid in terms of their personalties and circumstances, facts that didn’t keep me from losing interest in their fates.

Third, the author uses a narrative scaffolding that turns this into SF’s only “e-mail punk” novel. Really, even in the early days of the internet when Vinge wrote this novel, were readers expected to believe the myriad alien races filling the galaxy in times to come would communicate with messages that look exactly as e-mail did in 1991? The small amount of intentional humor provided by strange sentient creatures writing like regulars on rec.arts.sf-lovers is swallowed by the vaster, unintentional humor of a future supposedly as limited as the primitive Internet.

At least in my view, history has broken the tie between Willis’s and Vinge’s novels.

Then, in 1966, Roger Zelazny was an author of one of the novels that tied for the Hugo, a story serialized as “…and Call Me Conrad” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1965. That it won an award under the circumstances is remarkable, having been substantially trimmed from the version later published in hardcover as This Immortal.

When Ted White was an assistant editor at F&SF it became his job to pare Zelazny’s manuscript to fit in the magazine. He spoke in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech about his painstaking efforts, the guilt he felt every time he trimmed a word of Zelazny’s prose – and that after he turned in the manuscript editor Ed Ferman summarily cut another 5,000 words. 

Even the full-length This Immortal feels slight compared with the best of Zelazny’s other award-winning novels such as Lord of Light, Jack of Shadows, and Isle of the Dead. Though it’s a good read This Immortal can’t withstand comparison with the novel it tied for the Hugo – Frank Herbert’s Dune, a canonical great work of science fiction.  

Three times there has been a tie for the Best Novel Hugo. Hindsight tells me it shouldn’t have happened the first two times. What will the verdict be when another generation judges the Miéville and Bacigalupi novels?

The Humanitarian Arms Race

David Klaus spotted a fascinating video on the IEEE site, “A Manhattan Project for the Prosthetic Arms Race,” and sent this note with the link:

Dean Kamen’s company demonstrates what he calls ‘the Luke Arm,’ an artificial arm modeled after the prosthetic given to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a shame Martin Caidin isn’t still alive to see this — shades of Steve Austin, too.

A whole range of techniques are being worked on, from the non-invasive, like electrodes placed on the surface of the skin, to gaggingly invasive ideas, like something resembling a miniature fakir’s bed of nails, meant to be connected to the brain.

While checking out David’s link I also found IEEE’s series of videos about the Singularity, which I may be possibly the last person in the blogosphere to notice (seeing as they were posted in June.) Leading off is Vernor Vinge speaking “on the run-up to the singularity and what technologists can do to engineer the best outcome for humans.” In the series’ other videos:

Christof Koch explains how we can use visual illusions and scenes to explore the difference between our conscious and unconscious perception, Rodney Brooks on why the evolution of superhuman intelligence will be a slow process, and Neuroscientist Paul Sajda, of Columbia University, uses the human vision system for computerized image sorting.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Vinge Interviewed by NYT

Vernor Vinge

The New York Times has interviewed Vernor Vinge about the coming world of post-human intelligence foreshadowed in his fiction and nonfiction:

[A group of characters in Rainbow's End], [c]alling themselves the Elder Cabal… conspire to save the paper library while they’re trying to figure out what, if anything, their skills are good for anymore.

Dr. Vinge, who is 63, can feel the elders’ pain, if only because his books are in that building. He took me up to the Elder Cabal’s meeting room in the library and talked about his own concerns about 2025 — like whether anyone will still be reading books, and whether networked knowledge will do to intellectuals what the Industrial Revolution did to the Luddite textile artisans.