An influential modern Science Fiction writer. Along with several minor works, Vinge has written two Doorstopper novels in the Zones of Thought verse and, more recently, Rainbows End; all three won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has also won the Hugo Award for Best Novella twice, for "Fast Times at Fairmont High" (to which Rainbows End is a Spiritual Successor) and the stand-alone "The Cookie Monster".
Vinge is the principal popularizer of "The Singularity": the idea that the ever-increasing pace of technological progress makes the nature of life beyond Twenty Minutes Into the Future fundamentally unpredictable, even nineteen minutes into the future. That is, over the next thirty years, we could get as much change as in the whole last century, then as much again in the next decade, and the three years after that, and so on, until we hit the limits of the physically possible not that long from now. What happens next is inherently ineffable, but it's a good bet that humanity either becomes as gods, or is dismantled for spare parts.
Whatever the actual plausibility of the idea, Vinge has the concept of The Singularity fertile ground for stories. Ironically, Vinge has yet to write a novel showing an actual depiction of a singularity; his two most well-known series actually sidestep the issue by either contriving circumstances whereby the Singularity doesn't/isn't able to happen, or by having the singularity already having occurred. For example, the Zones of Thought series takes place in a universe where physical laws vary based on location, so The Singularity isn't something that happens at a certain time but rather is a fact of life depending on where you are in the galaxy. Further, in the Across Realtime series, the Singularity is first delayed (via technological stasis) then skipped over by characters (via literal statis).
Rainbows End, comes the closest, examining the beginnings of a Singularity. Taking place Twenty Minutes Into the Future, the protagonist has just been cured of Alzheimers, leaving him with a few years of amnesia and some personality changes. While exploring the strange new world, he gets sucked into a contest between a Diabolical Mastermind chasing after perfect mind control, and a Chessmaster who might not be human.
Also worthy of note are two novels and a novella comprising the Across Realtime sequence. The major initial technology change is the invention of the Bobble, a projected sphere that completely separates the inside from the outside. This is initially believed to be permanent and lead to whoever is inside dying when the oxygen runs out. The discoverers of the Bobble form the "Peace Authority" and take over political power, Bobbling all who oppose them and enforcing an end to war (and any technological progress that might threaten their superiority).
Works by Vernor Vinge with their own trope page include:
Other works by Vernor Vinge provide examples of:
- A God Am I: When Mr. Slippery and Erythrina forcibly multiplex their consciousness in True Names, it gives them the power to take over more machines almost without thinking. Repeat until they (and the Big Bad) have total control over and knowledge of anything connected to any computer ever. The Big Bad detonates several nukes in their silos to make a point in discussion, and it's not a big deal to any of them. At one point, Mr. Slippery is frustrating and rerouting the soldiers sent to kill his real body as a side process while concentrating on something different.
- Anyone Can Die: Named characters fall like flies.
- Awesome McCoolname: Let's face it, "Vernor Vinge" is a fantastic sci-fi name, let alone one for a sci-fi author.
- Bonus points for 'vinge' being an actual (slang) word in Estonian language. It means something like 'awesome' or 'cool'.
- Brain In a Jar: The space-faring slavers in Tatja Grimm's World kidnap people, remove their brains and then fit them to a computer that suppresses their personality without totally trashing their intellect. The result has computer speed and power with some human intuition and intelligence: a Wetware CPU.
- Funny Aneurysm Moment: The protagonist of Rainbows End is an elderly man who was cured of both age and Alzheimer's Disease. One segment of the book deals with fictitious novels written by Terry Pratchett in the intervening 20 years or so between the book's writing and near-future setting. Several years later, Terry Pratchett himself was diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's Disease.
- Futuristic Superhighway: Rainbows End shows cars that are quite futuristic, but there is not much need for superhighways themselves preciously because of how much cars have changed. Most cars are not privately owned but automatically drive themselves to wherever they are needed, acting as a sort of automated, fast, incredibly efficient taxi service. This keeps transit efficient, and roads normal-sized. The biggest indicator of futuristic roads is omnipresent transit loops, roadways where automatic cars briefly stop to drop off and pick up passengers.
- Instant Expert: Very averted.
- I Say What I Say: In "The Cookie Monster"
- Kill Sat: The Fingers of God in True Names.
- Mind Control: Rainbows End
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: "The Cookie Monster" begins with a helpdesk worker trying to track down the author of an abusive email.
- Psychic Powers: The Witling is set on a planet where (nearly) everybody has the ability to teleport themselves and nearby objects.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Rainbows End
- Wetware CPU: The slaved brains in Tatja Grimm's World, see Brain In a Jar above.
- ↑ This is actually consistent with what he believes: any kind of Singularity will not only be inherently unpredictable, but inherently inscrutable (that is to say, not understable)