In my short list of all-time favorites, Vernor Vinge has become my second-most-favorite SciFi author. As his writing career gets into its 45th year, he continues to write stories of space, time and aliens that probe our humanness and our understanding of reality more keenly than anyone else alive. The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, edited by himself, brings together stories from throughout his career, from 1965 to 2001, the date of publication.
Vinge's ideas range wide, and he seems to have a unique new idea for each story:
- "Bookworm, Run!" – At a super-secret installation, a chimpanzee is coupled with computer hardware and a massive database, and becomes nearly superhuman. What will a human become, given the same treatment?
- The Accomplice – Vinge correctly extrapolated Moore's Law for three decades into the future, leading to computer animation techniques much as we have them today, though a little different socially. Also anticipated that we'd all have the power of a supercomputer at our fingertips after ten or so more years…and we do.
- The Peddler's Apprentice – Written with his wife Joan, this story partakes a bit of the "Highlander" theme, or "Brigadoon" writ small: a man skipping through time, experiencing a month or so in one millennium, then on to the next. But this time he has a huge, unexpected shift in the social system to cope with.
- The Ungoverned – Can actual social anarchy work? A possible way to an affirmative answer.
- Long Shot – To get to Alpha Centauri in 100,000 years, an average velocity of about 6 miles per second is required. Keeping a computing device operating over that time is a significant problem; keeping a biological payload viable even more so.
- Apartness – Several of Vinge's stories are set in a post-Northern-apocalypse world. Here old hatreds take an interesting turn.
- Conquest by Default – Aliens have arrived in this same world. The "assimilation" of the Cherokee provides the model, and an attempt to do things differently illuminates the "American ethnic cleansing" that took place. Told from the point of view of an alien anthropologist.