Vernor Vinge, 1944—2024

Vernor Vinge, the highly influential and award-winning author and professor, died this month at the age of 79. Vinge was one of the first writers to depict “cyberspace,” and to explore the concept of the tech singularity, which he discussed in a 1983 Omni op-ed which, amazingly, you can still read online.

As John Scalzi wrote in a tribute:

Not for nothing, he was among the first to write and talk about the idea of a technological singularity, a concept so common in science fiction and tech industry circles (and of course the overlap there is an almost perfect circle) that it doesn’t feel like it has a progenitor, and that it just existed ambiently. That’s a hell of a thing to have contributed to the world.

Vinge’s first publication was the short story “Apartness,” in 1965. In 1993, A Fire Upon the Deep won the Hugo Award for Best novel (tying with Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book). He won several more Hugos, including Best Novel awards for Rainbows End and A Deepness in the Sky. His most recent novel, 2011’s The Children of the Sky, was the third in the Zones of Thought series.

Author David Brin, a close friend of Vinge’s, wrote:

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.

Brin noted that Vinge was under care for progressive Parkinson’s disease and had been in a decline since November.

Vinge is the rare writer for whom there is an obituary in the SFF press, and also in Popular Science—a testament to the power of his ideas. Many writers shared their own tributes to Vinge and his work online, including Harry Turtledove, Scott Lynch, and Janny Wurts:

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