Vernor Steffen Vinge
"The story is a marvelous mixture of hard-science SF and sword-and-sorcery imagery. Vinge posits that in a direct neurocybernetic interface, the information would be analogized by the brain into symbols it is comfortable with. The "place" in which the Coven "meets," for example, is or seems to be a castle, guarded by a program which manifests itself as a firebreathing dragon, sitting in a magma moat, wearing an asbestos T-shirt. Fail to satisfy it, and it will "kill" you, dumping you back into the real world — a fate most Wizards seem to regard as very little better than death. "Vinge set himself about fifteen challenges in this story, any one of which might have wrecked a lesser writer, and pulled them all off with appalling ease. No point in listing them all — but the most important one to my mind is this: he succeeded in making me
Other books by Vernor Vinge:
* GRIMM'S WORLD
* THE WITLING
* THE PEACE WAR (available from Bluejay Books)
Bluejay Books Inc.
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
A Bluejay Book, published by arrangement with the Author.
Copyright by Vernor Vinge
Cover and interior art © 1984 by Robert Walters
Afterword © 1984 by Marvin Minsky
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. For information, contact Bluejay Books Inc., 130 West Forty-second Street, New York, New York 10036.
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Bluejay printing: November 1984
To my sister, Patricia Vinge, with Love.
In the once upon a time days of the First Age of Magic, the prudent sorcerer regarded his own true name as his most valued possession but also the greatest threat to his continued good health, for — the stories go — once an enemy, even a weak unskilled enemy, learned the sorcerer's true name, then routine and widely known spells could destroy or enslave even the most powerful. As times passed, and we graduated to the Age of Reason and thence to the first and second industrial revolutions, such notions were discredited. Now it seems that the Wheel has turned full circle (even if there never really was a First Age) and we are back to worrying about true names again:
The first hint Mr. Slippery had that his own True Name might be known — and, for that matter, known to the Great Enemy — came with the appearance of two black Lincolns humming up the long dirt driveway that stretched through the dripping pine forest down to Road 29. Roger Pollack was in his garden weeding, had been there nearly the whole morning, enjoying the barely perceptible drizzle and the overcast, and trying to find the initiative to go inside and do work that actually makes money. He looked up the moment the intruders turned, wheels squealing, into his driveway. Thirty seconds passed, and the cars came out of the third-generation forest to pull up beside and behind Pollack's Honda. Four heavy-set men and a hard-looking female piled out, started purposefully across his well-tended cabbage patch, crushing tender young plants with a disregard which told Roger that this was no social call.
Pollack looked wildly around, considered making a break for the woods, but the others had spread out and he was grabbed and frog-marched back to his house. (Fortunately the door had been left unlocked. Roger had the feeling that they might have knocked it down rather than ask him for the key.) He was shoved abruptly into a chair. Two of the heaviest and least collegiate-looking of his visitors stood on either side of him. Pollack's protests — now just being voiced — brought no response. The woman and an older man poked around among his sets. "Hey, I remember this, Al: It's the script for
She sounded like something out of one of those asinine scripts he occasionally had to work on for government contracts. Only now there was nothing to laugh about, and the cold between his shoulder-blades spread. Outside the drizzle had become a misty rain sweeping across the Northern California forests. Normally he found that rain a comfort, but now it just added to the gloom. Still, if there was any chance he could wriggle out of this, it would be worth the effort. "Okay, so you have license to hassle innocents, but sooner or later you're going to discover that I
"You're no innocent, Pollack. An
honest citizen would settle for a standard processor and a few thousand megabytes of fast storage." With some superior intuition she pulled open the center drawer-right under the marijuana plants to reveal at least five hundred cubic centimeters of optical memory, neatly racked and threaded through to the next drawer which held correspondingly powerful CPUs. Even so, it was nothing compared to the gear he had buried under the house.