True Names eBook Ò Paperback

  • Paperback
  • 153 pages
  • True Names
  • Vernor Vinge
  • English
  • 09 October 2015
  • 9780312944445

10 thoughts on “True Names

  1. Jason Pettus Jason Pettus says:

    I picked up this obscure 1981 novella by the insider loved science fiction author Vernor Vinge because of recently learning that it's demonstrably the very first story to define the trope we now know as cyberspace and that the authors who eventually created the cyberpunk genre in the late '80s and early '90s William Gibson Bruce Sterling Neal Stephenson etc were all passionate fans of this book and basically used it as a starting place for their own stories And after reading it I can attest that all this is very much true and that you can see the seeds of all the cyberpunk novels that came after fully formed here in this one the internet as a 3D virtual reality space connecting to it via biomech headgear that taps directly into your neurons within a physical US that has become an endless sprawl of crappy exurban spaces hooking together all the major cities which has led some people to enjoy the virtual version so much that they're happy to let their physical bodies entropy into immovable objects and where the most talented hackers of this system achieve virtual godlike powers and battle entities that may or may not be self sentient AI programs run amokBut there's something really interesting going on here from a historical perspective too which you can directly compare to another transitional period in literary history namely the years in the early 1800s when the Enlightenment was falling out of favor as the main cultural force in the arts and Romanticism was just beginning its ascendency For those who don't know Mary Shelley published Frankenstein just three years after Jane Austen published Emma 1818 versus 1815; and while both are great novels one is definitely the last gasp of the previous age while the other is the explosive beginning of the next And so too was True Names published in 1981 while just three years later Gibson published his debut novel Neuromancer with both of them sharing many details but hugely different in tone and spirit; for in what was perhaps the most interesting thing of all about reading this Vinge's story is very much steeped in the murky countercultural s of such '70s authors as Philip K Dick and Roger Zelazny with his hacker protagonist being a frazzled ex hippie living in the woods of northern California the means to connect online relying on EEG manipulation aided by meditation than computer graphics zapped straight into one's neural cortex the virtual world he inhabits being a pretty faithful reproduction of a backwoods castle from JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth and with the hackers calling themselves warlocks instead of cyberpunk's cowboys and the cabal of troublemakers he belongs to who refer to themselves as a coven having much the playful chaotic spirit of old '60s phone phreakers and merry pranksters there mostly to have fun and to gently Stick It To The Man and all of them shocked and disconcerted when one of the people in their circle decides that it's time for them to seize some real power since after all the world's banks and military arsenals are on the same information web that they areGibson Stephenson et al take this jockeying for power and control as an act one given in their novels their own protagonists being skittish rail thin speed addicts living in the grimy back corners of rainy London or a neon lit New York their virtual reality not a fairyland of castles and elves but the sleek black glass of a Brutalist fever dream So even though True Names undeniably lays the groundwork for the cyberpunk novels that came immediately after it's not even close to being a book you could categorize in the same genre instead being of a bridge that helped science fiction move from the hippie weirdness of the '70s to the slick grittiness of the '80s exactly like how Joy Division the Cure and the Smiths were doing so in the world of music in these exact same years That's why it's not getting a full five stars from me today because you can't rightly call it a lost cyberpunk classic and it simply can't stand as an eual in uality to those now beloved titles; but if you're an aging cyberpunk fan like me or simply someone who enjoys doing a deep and wide look at the genre's entire history certainly this is a must read anyway fascinating from a historical perspective even if the story itself contains flaws that were then corrected by the books right after it It comes with a limited recommendation in this spirit

  2. Thom Thom says:

    Originally published as a novella in 1981 this version of True Names contains illustrations by Bob Walters and an afterword by Marvin Minsky I read this back in 1984 and really enjoyed re reading it on a plane flight across the country RecommendedWhile some of the tech is a little dated Vinge keeps it mostly in the background At one point the protagonist utilizes other computers to increase his power online and this is not so different from networked computers participating in a DDOS attack today For a story written in 1981 the author was remarkably prescientOther aspects of the plot are also well done and I found the female protagonist Erythrina well written Using fantasy metaphors for the imagined cyberspace works well The conclusion provides a satisfying and believable resolution to the storyThis novella was republished a few years after that in a collection titled True Names and Other Dangers which I need to read next I plan to hand this publication to a friend who absolutely hated Neuromancer in an attempt to show that not all cyberspace is bad

  3. Tim Tim says:

    My first Vinge even if A Fire Upon the Deep is still waiting to be read as well 'True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier' is a re release of Vinge's same titled novella caught between introductions essays and an afterword The introduction of this edition is by Hari Kunzru whom I've never heard of to be honest He gives a bit of background on the novella and the period in which is was written Editor James Frenkel reminisces about his time as Vinge's editor at Tor Books and of course about the novella obviously Then comes Vinge's own introduction He tells about how the novella came to be what influenced him what it's about and so on The afterword is by Marvin Minsky another unknown name to me Neatly put after the novella itself he uses the events as basis for his view on the matter on how the future might have lookedThe essays are by various experts in the field of information technology The themes range from cryptography encryption big data sort of artificial intelligence security software In other words lots of programming to use one general term Not every essay is as accessible as the other of course One must in my opinion have some knowledge on or be interested in the matter or computers in general to follow along Yes the explanations and visions may be dated but you have to keep in mind that these essays were written in the early to mid 1990s A lot has happened a lot has changed since then Especially with regards to the internet and how we utilise it That said it is interesting to read these guys experiences and insights of that periodThe novella itself then It's a good 80 pages long and is about a hacking community with mainly one guy Mr Slippery aka Roger Pollack having been tracked down Gone privacy indeed The Feds want a huge favour from him Considering his skills he's the perfect man for the job ie tracking down a certain Mailman who seems to take control over the various networks The Feds apparently don't have the means or people to catch him hence appealing to the dark side Both Roger and the Feds lead by one Virginia are in a luxury position Roger is the only one capable enough but Virginia can keep his ass out of prison since he's broken several laws so far as a hackerAnd so they reach an agreement under strict conditions and Roger sets to work His computer euipment is first uality allows him to go farther than any regular computer user He meets up with his friends a sort of coven in a virtual world Based on the descriptions it reminded me of Second Life in a way Each having hisher avatar codes to access locations with different rooms and so on If I'm not mistaken hackers used some kind of electrodes to go into the world and live there As Mr Slippery Roger executes his task which is for the sake of all humanity else the world will go down Mr Vinge describes what's going on The story is fairly accessible but of course you get your obligatory technical vocabulary I have to admit that some elements went over my head but not in a way that I couldn't follow the story As you can imagine all's well that ends well but Roger still isn't a free man afterwards And the Mailman? view spoilerA programma invented by the Feds back in the day set up to run its own course to develop on its own Goal Secure the system no matter what Someone had let a copy of the programme loose It was actually doing it job but was destroyed by Roger and co because the Feds couldn't or didn't know how to clean up their own mess hide spoiler

  4. Eva Eva says:

    Before Neuromancer and Snow Crash there was Vinge's True Names written in 1981 Hackers meet in cyberspace a virtual representation of data space they call the Other Plane Metaphors and symbols of magic are applied to this world they are warlocks and wizards they cast spells modern day sorcery in a completely networked world There are battles in cyberspace amassing computation power that goes to your head and makes you Gods encryption schemes to trick those who control you because they know your true name there's the NSA conflicts over good and bad and governing authorities a dormant yet evolving AI even upload of consciousness There's a lot in there and it's a rather slim book ideas that Vinge doesn't nearly get enough credit for I am glad I got here finally

  5. Peter Garrett Peter Garrett says:

    The cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction was rooted in the work of New Wave SF authors such as Philip K Dick Roger Zelazny and JG Ballard Its themes began to emerge in the late 1970s in SF comics such as Judge Dredd and crystallized around the 1982 Riddley Scott movie Blade Runner the Japanese manga series Akira and in particular William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer 1984Gibson consolidated four elements that came to define the subgenre technology especially the internet cybernetics and artificial intelligence society a dystopic near future extension of neo liberalism an unending desolate urban landscape and a hard bitten noir style building on authors such as Raymond Chandler and William Burroughs and the gonzo journalism of Hunter S ThompsonThe most striking aspect of Neuromancer was its prediction of the internet which didn’t exist when the novel was published Gibson who knew very little about computers called it cyberspace Placed in the novel’s dystopic social and urban milieu and described in Gibson’s attenuated language the invention provides a disturbing and powerful fictional presenceNeuromancer wasn’t the first novel though to predict the internet Versions were also described in The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner 1975 and in Vernon Vinge’s 1982 novella True NamesDespite its billing though True Names isn’t genuinely a work of cyberpunk Only one of the four core themes is addressed in detail Vinge’s cyberspace known as The Other Plane is reached through EEG readings and a little bit of transcendental meditation Full of magical tropes castles dungeons warlocks and spells its atmosphere is evoked in a detailed and reasonably convincing mannerVinge touches on two of cyberpunk’s core themes State security is pitted against subversive hackers who in a clever extension of the use of magical tropes must keep their True Names secret for fear of being identified and penalised in the real world The natty teenage security agents who appear late in the book slightly reminiscent of the John Travolta character in Pulp Fiction are also a nice touch There’s little though to transmit the feeling of menace that comes across in Neuromancer and indeed in earlier works such as Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the inspiration for Blade Runner In addition a short descriptive passage about the urban landscape in Providence is slightly suggestive of scenes in Blade Runner It’s said that Vinge was unable to sit through the movie because it reminded him so clearly of the landscape he had been attempting to realise in the novella If so it’s a pity that he didn’t make effort to bring it to lifeThe element that is completely lacking however is style In Neuromancer Gibson captures the reader immediately with an iconic first sentenceThe sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channelIt’s ironic that the image he intended to convey the black and white static of an untuned cathode ray tube would not have existed in the post modern world intended to evoke but the power of the language is still undeniableGibson then continues in a noir style with short sentences that disdain nouns and even pronouns as subjects The effect if this was a first person narrative would be something like a hastily scribbled diary; but in the context of a third person account the attenuated writing works to draw the reader into the perceptual framework of the protagonist Case so as to appreciate his experiences as if they were first handIn some of Gibson’s later work – such as The Peripheral published in 2014 the techniue becomes so attenuated as to become little than an irritating and confusing mannerismIn True Names Vinge achieves nothing like this The narrative style detached third person is flat The tricks considered an essential part of modern creative fiction are largely absent; the narrative point of view sometimes wanders from the protagonist Mr Slippery to other characters in particular Erythrina and there are large blocks of expostulatory dialogue unbroken by stage direction so the reader finds it difficult to picture the speaker during these bouts of mansplaining The objective authorial account of Mr Slippery’s experiences is a hindrance to empathy His motivations and responses lack complexity and we never really get to know him as an individual personThe same goes for the other characters despite their obvious physical differences whether they’re human or mechanical or on The Other Plane representations of people robots or fax machines they’re all pretty much indistinguishable The individual described in the most detail Erythrina lacks depth; the revelation of the contrast between her virtual and real physical habitus seems banal rather than shocking and the associated explanation for her brief uncharacteristic hiatus during an action scene apparently a key moment in the plot turns out to be an anticlimax The only character who strikes the reader as interesting is the tough tender cop Virginia A few nice touches hint at depth to her character that we would like to hear about but frustratingly this isn’t exploredTrue Names certainly deserves credit as a predictor of the internet It isn’t however either a fully rounded work of fiction or a genuine example of the cyberpunk subgenre

  6. Prasanna Prasanna says:

    I was inspired to read this after reading Finn Brunton's Digital Cash and how it inspired the early Crypto anarchists eventually leading to the creation of bitcoin and the vision for anonymous identities Some of the names seem archaic now but given that this was written in 1981 about 38 years from when I'm reading I think it holds up pretty wellThe story follows a group of early adopters of a new full immersion virtual reality technology called the Other Plane they call themselves warlocks in the story They resemble the curious hacker stereotypes that penetrate computer systems around the world for personal profit or curiosity They call their cabal a coven and must keep their true identities their True Names secret even to each other and especially the Great Adversary the US Government Those who know a warlock's true name can force him or her to work on their behalf or cause a True Death by killing the warlock in real lifeThe protagonist is a warlock known as Mr Slippery in the Other Plane The government learns Mr Slippery's True Name and forces him to investigate the Mailman a mysterious new warlock which it suspects of conducting a large scale subversion of databases and networks The Mailman has been recruiting others such as the warlock DONMAC by promising great power in the real world and claims to be responsible for a recent revolution in Venezuela Because he never appears in the Other Plane preferring non real time communication Mr Slippery and fellow warlock Erythrina begin to suspect that the Mailman may be an extraterrestrial invader subverting global databases to gradually conuer the Earth while causing True Deaths of the warlocks he recruits Turns out that Mailman was a NSA AI that was left running and grew in power over time It hid its inability to emulate true human interaction by responding slowly to communications ie non realtime Over time Erythrina and Mr Slippery manage to contain Mailman and certain attributes of Erythrina are imbued to Mailman to stabilize it The author hints at some beginning of global order because of this and that some part of Erythrina will live even after she's dead This is an interesting book not just in its foresight in a lot of things that have happened with technology Virtual reality but also the value of privacy and anonymity and how losing that in certain lines of work can mean true death

  7. Jacquet Jacquet says:

    I wasn't expecting to start reading the novel at page 190 Until then there are a series of articles to introduce the theme a set up the mood I honestly can't tell if I enjoyed the articles than the novel The article on remailers was amazingHaving been in contact the works such as The Matrix Strange Days eXistenZ Tron etc the universe presented by True Names doesn't have the wow effect it must have had in 1981 Overall the novel is enjoyableI might read another novel by Vernor Vinge But right now my next cyberspace book is Neuromancer

  8. Brad Brad says:

    A uick read and a little dated but hey the book is as old as I am but very interesting to see Vinge's ideas of the potential future of tech back in the 80's A lot of the concepts here have been used by other authors since this was written and have been well updated That being said I enjoyed this novella short story? and its discussion of AI and augmented human capabilitiesRating PG

  9. Pete Pete says:

    True Names 1981 by Vernor Vinge is a very early work that depicts cyberspace It's an excellent novella that was visionary Before Neuromancer and all the other cyberpunk fiction this was first The story is also impressively good as well The characters are good enough for their purpose and the writing is decent I'd been meaning to read it for years and it lived up to high expectations

  10. Ramesh Ramesh says:

    While noticeably dated this story is still excellent

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True Names Disaffected computer wizard Mr Slippery True Name Roger Pollack is an early adopter of a new full immersion virtual reality technology called the Other Plane He and the other wizards form a cabal to keep their true identities — their True Names — secret to avoid prosecution by their Great Adversary — the government of the United States The lines that define us are not always black and white though There's a new wizard in the Other Plan and they're recruiting for a scheme to translate cyberspace domination into real world power