We regret to report the death of Dr. Vernor Vinge, mathematician, educator, and Hugo-winning science fiction author. Dr. Vinge had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and confined to a nursing home for some time due to his illness. He was 79.

Dr. Vinge had a Ph.D in mathematics. He taught math and computer science from 1972 to 2000 at San Diego State University. He was born October 2, 1944, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He died March 20, 2024 in La Jolla, California. He retired from teaching in 2000, in order to concentrate on his writing. He was married to fellow author Joan Vinge from 1972 to 1979. She is best known for writing the novelization of Ladyhawke. She also wrote The Snow Queen and other books.

As a professor of Computer Science, many of Dr. Vinge’s books dealt with cyberspace and artificial intelligence. He invented a new science fiction trope: the technological singularity.

As Mike Glyer’s File 770 blog notes, Vinge’s novella True Names (1981) is frequently cited as the first presentation of an in-depth look at the concept of “cyberspace.

Vinge first coined the term “singularity” as related to technology in 1983, borrowed from the concept of a singularity in spacetime in physics. When discussing the creation of intelligences far greater than our own in an 1983 op-ed in OMNI magazine, Vinge wrote,

“When this happens, human history will have reached a kind of singularity, an intellectual transition as impenetrable as the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole, and the world will pass far beyond our understanding.”

In 1993, he expanded on the idea in an essay titled The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.

The singularity concept postulates that AI will soon become superintelligent, far surpassing humans in capability and bringing the human-dominated era to a close. While the concept of a tech singularity sometimes inspires negativity and fear, Vinge remained optimistic about humanity’s technological future, as Brin notes in his tribute:

“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?'” “

Two of his colleagues, Dr. Harry Turtledove and Dr. David Brin both mentioned in their eulogies how he grew as a writer, that his writing style showed visible improvement over the years. Dr. Brin recommended reading his short stories to witness this progression. It’s one thing for a writer to earn the admiration of his fans, but to earn the respect and admiration of your peers is another matter altogether.

Dr. Vinge published his first short story, “Apartness”, in the British magazine New Worlds in 1965.

In 1984 and 1986, Vinge’s novels, The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime, were each nominated for Hugo Awards. In 1992, he won the Hugo Award for Best Novel with A Fire Upon the Deep and its prequel, A Deepness in the Sky, won the award in 2000. He earned a third Hugo Award in 2007 for his novel, Rainbow’s End and his short works Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster won the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

Dr. Vinge has passed away, but Professor Vinge will live in the hearts of his students. His words will survive him by decades, possibly by centuries.

Which of his books or stories were your favorites? Which did you grab off the bookshelf to reread when you first heard of his death? If you haven’t read his books yet, you have a treat in store.

Ave atque vale, Vernor Steffen Vinge.



Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.