A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought #1)

By Vernor Vinge; Published In 1993
Genres: Science Fiction, Fiction, Space Opera
All evil and good is petty before Nature. Personally, we take comfort from this, that there is a universe to admire that cannot be twisted to villainy or good, but which simply is.

At the Docks’ altitude, gravity was still about three-quarters of a gee. Air fountains hung a breathable atmosphere over the middle part of the platform. The day before, she had taken a sailboat across the clear-bottomed sea. That was a strange experience indeed: planetary clouds below your keel, stars and indigo sky above.

Five seconds, ten seconds, more change than ten thousand years of a human
civilization. A billion trillion constructions, mold curling out from every wall,
rebuilding what had been merely superhuman.

For where there is heaven, there can also be hell.

Half-assed programming was a time-filler that, like knitting, must date to the beginning of the human experience.

Half-assed programming was a time-filler that, like knitting, must date to the beginning of the human experience. Of

He claimed that nearby gun thunder cleared the mind - but most everybody else agreed it made you daft.

Here and there amidst the wreckage, she found advanced devices that more or less still functioned. With one exception, she’d revealed these to Johanna and then to Woodcarver, and—after it was founded—to the Executive Council. Ravna had kept her mouth shut about the surveillance suite; she and the Children were trapped on a world of medieval strangers.

...

So at the beginning Ravna had kept some secrets. It was now years too late to reveal this one. In the Beyond, “cameras” were more than what early tech civilizations imagined. Cameras could be a coat of paint, or critters that looked like insects, or even a bacterial infection. Delivery of the information to the observer could be even stranger, a diffuse cloud of perturbations—acoustic, visual, thermal—that took enormous processing to reconstruct.

Here we begin frank speculation. And since we are speculating, we'll use those powerful pseudo-laws, the Principles of Mediocrity and Minimal Assumption.

Hexapodia as the key insight

How long must a fish study to understand human motivation?

I never guessed I could cry so hard my face hurt.

Intelligence is the handmaiden of flexibility and change.

Its agents -- not even
human equivalent on this primitive hardware -- raced through the ship's
automation

Little fish risking everything for a piece of godhood...and not knowing heaven from hell, even when they find it.

Once upon a time I was such a good liar; I could talk the fish right into my mouths.

One of his greatest talents was empathy; no sadist can aspire to perfection without that diagnostic ability.

Over the last few weeks, some newsgroups have been full of tales of war and battle fleets, of billions dying in the clash of species. To all such — and those living more peaceably around them — we say look out on the universe. It does not care, and even with all our science there are some disasters that we can not avert. All evil and good is petty before Nature. Personally, we take comfort from this, that there is a universe to admire that cannot be twisted to villainy or good, but which simply is.

Pham Nuwen plunked himself down, stretching indolently.

Ra

Ravna became a librarian. "The ultimate dilettante!" Lynne had teased.

Sometimes terror and pain are not the best levers; deception, when it works, is the most elegant and the least expensive manipulation of all.

Sometimes the biggest disasters aren't noticed at all - no one's around to write horror stories.

The hours came to minutes, the minutes to seconds. And now each second was as
long as all the time before

The illusion of self-awareness. Happy automatons, running on trivial programs. I'll bet you never guess. From the inside, how can you?

[The Universe] does not care, and even with all our science there are some disasters that we can not avert. All evil and good is petty before nature. Personally, we take comfort from this, that there is a universe to admire that can not be twisted to villainy or good, but which simply is.

This was a commercial situation, not some exercise in an Applied Theology course.

Ty or Ra or Thect

We're endangered by our own success.

Where the surf meets the shore – lots of neat things can happen there.