Vernor Vinge (1944-2024)

Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge, author of many influential hard science fiction works, died March 20 at the age of 79.

Vinge sold his first science-fiction story in 1964, “Apartness”, which appeared in the June 1965 issue of New Worlds.

In 1971, he received a PhD (Math) from UCSD, and the next year began teaching at San Diego State University. It wasn’t until almost thirty years later, in August 2000, that he retired from teaching to write science-fiction full time.

His 1981 novella True Names is often credited as the first story to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace. 

He won Hugo Awards for his novels A Fire Upon the Deep (1993 — tie), A Deepness in the Sky (2000), Rainbows End (2007), and novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002), and The Cookie Monster (2004). A Deepness in the Sky also won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and in translation won Spain’s Ignotus Award, Germany’s Kurd Lasswitz Preis, and Italy’s Italia Award.

Vinge was the guest of honor at ConJosé, the 2002 Worldcon. He won the Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2014. He won the Heinlein Award presented by The Heinlein Society in 2020.

He was married to Joan D. Vinge from 1972 to 1979.

David Brin has posted a heartfelt tribute on Facebook which says in part:

It is with sadness – and deep appreciation of my friend and colleague – that I must report the passing of Vernor Vinge. 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.

Accused by some of a grievous sin – that of ‘optimism’ – Vernor gave us peerless legends that often depicted human success at overcoming problems… those right in front of us… while posing new ones! New dilemmas that may lie just ahead of our myopic gaze. He would often ask: “What if we succeed? Do you think that will be the end of it?”…

…We spanned a pretty wide spectrum – politically! Yet, we KBs [Killer B’s] (Vernor was a full member! And Octavia Butler once guffawed happily when we inducted her) always shared a deep love of our high art – that of gedankenexperimentation, extrapolation into the undiscovered country ahead.

Right to Left: Vernor Vinge, David Brin, Gregory Benford, Greg Bear.

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29 thoughts on “Vernor Vinge (1944-2024)

  1. Oh, no.

    Always enjoyed Vernor Vinge’s fiction. I remember a TusCon where I shared a dinner table with Vinge and a few others. Interesting conversation, and he also struck me as a really nice person overall.

  2. Author of some of my favorite books. I liked very much the Tines. And today, looking at the grim realities of the world, the very idea that the humanity may have a pan-galactic future, or even a future at all, seems very brave. Also to be noted – the idea of successful collaboration with aliens, especially by kids… Not to mention the singularity stuff…

  3. Ah crap. I hadn’t seen him in a few years and didn’t know he was ill. But he was a really nice guy, and fun to hang out with. I still remember a night on a boat going round San Diego harbour with him and the chap who wrote the original dark web paper coming up with new ways to destroy the world. He will be missed.

    We had him as GoH at the 1996 Eastercon, Evolution, too. His talk about Norway and the ideas behind Fire was excellent.

  4. Fire Upon the Deep remains one of the most memorable sf novels I’ve ever read. Absolutely brilliant.

  5. Before A Fire Upon the Deep Vernor did a singularity talk at UC Santa Cruz I went down for, and surprised me by knowing who I was.

    In 1993 at ConFrancisco, he complained he’d never met Henry Spencer who Sandor at the Zoo was based on. Henry was 10 feet away.

    Goodbye, Vernor.

  6. Very sorry to hear this; I met him once at a Matlab conference (I took a chance that the V. Vinge giving a talk about simulation of asteroid near-collisions was the same guy), and had a brief post-talk chat. Loved all his books.

  7. I am Thunderstruck. Requiescat in pace

    I started reading Vinge because FIRE showed up as a Hugo finalist….and got hooked from there forward and backwards

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  9. I feel sad over this.
    I read The Peace War and Marooned In Real Time to pieces back in the day. Same for Fire Upon the Deep and Rainbows End.

  10. I took assembly language from him at SDSU. Great guy, great teacher, great author.

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  12. His stuff was absolutely “hard” sci-fi, but I think that undersells how central the character work was to the actual stories. His macguffins never overshadowed the personal motivations, which is saying something because his macguffins were very, very good.

    I think my TBR pile has just been put on hold for some rereads

  13. “Dreams die in every life. Everyone gets old. There is promise in the beginning when life seems so bright. The promise fades when the years get short.” — Vernor Vinge

  14. When I lived in San Diego, I saw him once or twice a year at conventions, and often was on panels with him. He was not only always interesting to listen to; I think he may have been one of the most civilized human beings I have ever met. I’m very glad in retrospect to have known him.

  15. Very sad news indeed! He’s been one of my very favorites for quite some time!

    Despite its Hugo win, I think Rainbows End is underrated! 🙂

    I believe, though I’d have to double-check, that he was the first person to have three novels in a row win the Hugo. (Though this achievement was soon overshadowed by N K Jemisin, who combined that feat with an even more astonishing three Best Novel Hugo wins in a row.)

  16. I believe, though I’d have to double-check, that he was the first person to have three novels in a row win the Hugo. (Though this achievement was soon overshadowed by N K Jemisin, who combined that feat with an even more astonishing three Best Novel Hugo wins in a row.)

    Lois did it (intermixed with Vernor’s Hugos) also for 3 in the same series.

  17. He set my life on the course it took. Maybe I’d have ended up in the same place eventually, but as a matter of causality in our own timeline, it was reading “True Names and Other Dangers” that did it.

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  19. Dammit.

    the first novel for which I had to arrange transactions with people online to obtain was A Deepness in the Sky in hardcover, because I couldn’t find it locally and didn’t want to wait for it to come out in paperback.

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