A Fire Upon the Deep author Vernor Vinge has passed away


news Science fiction author Vernor Vinge has passed away, according to fellow science fiction writer David Brin, from illness associated with Parkinson’s disease.

“It is with sadness – and deep appreciation of my friend and colleague – that I must report the passing of Vernor Vinge,” wrote Brin in a Facebook posting today.

“Vernor had been – for years – under care for progressive Parkinsons, at a very nice place overlooking the Pacific in La Jolla. As reported by his friend and fellow San Diego State professor John Carroll, his decline had steepened since November, but was relatively comfortable.”

Vinge is best known for his Zones of Thought series, incorporating the books A Fire Upon the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky and The Children of the Sky. The first two books both won the peak science fiction award, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, in the years for which they were published, 1992 and 1999 respectively.

The books are space operas involving a variety of alien intelligences and set in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy in which Earth is situated.

Vinge’s conceit in the books is that there are various ‘zones’ within the galaxy which experience fundamentally different physical laws related to their distance from the galactic core and the cluster of black holes which make it up.

Interstaller travel, interstellar communication and even the nature of life it self, according to Vinge, is likely to be quite different within these different physical zones, ranging from the ‘Unthinking Depths’ at the core where little life can survive to the outer layers, where faster than light travel and communication is possible, and advanced intelligences.

Vinge achieved significant praise from the international reader community for the books, due both to the quality of his prose and the depth with which he thought through the scientific concepts involved. In addition, he also achieved attention for other novels such as Rainbows End, set in a 2025-era California suffused with augmented reality.

I’ve been a fan of Vernor Vinge for a long time. His books A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky were quite mindblowing to me. I enjoyed Rainbows End but didn’t quite rate it as highly.

This is what the entry for Vernor Vinge says on my list of the best science fiction authors of all time:

“A mathematics and computer science professor, Vinge is one of the few science fiction writers to have taken a solid look at the real dynamics of the gigantic universe around us and how its structure might influence the evolution of living beings. One example might be the concept that the laws of physics might see some variation depending on how close you are to the centre of humanity’s own Milky Way galaxy. This deep thinking and his storytelling ability make Vinge a must-read science fiction master.”

Vale, Vernor Vinge — and thank you for all your incredible writing. Rest in Peace.
I’m planning to re-read A Fire Upon the Deep in the wake of Vinge’s passing; I’ll be posting my thoughts about what I love about this book soon.

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