Joan (Carol) D(ennison) Vinge Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Joan (Carol) D(ennison) Vinge 1948–

American short story writer and novelist.

Vinge is the recipient of Hugo Awards for her novelette "Eyes of Amber" (1977) and her novel The Snow Queen (1980). She writes both adult and young adult fiction and has adapted as a children's book the popular "Star Wars" movie, Return of the Jedi (1983). Her characters are usually outcasts from society. Like her adult works, Vinge's first young adult novel, Psion (1982), places as much emphasis on the psychological turmoil of the protagonist as on the suspense generated by external action. Cat, the protagonist of Psion, is a teenage loner whose telepathic powers alienate him from his planet Ardattee. Caught in a power struggle between two interplanetary civilizations, Cat must battle with his own isolation and loneliness as well as with enemy forces.

The redeeming virtue of love and communication is a recurrent theme in Vinge's work. Carl Yoke observes that the alienation of her characters is not an end in itself, but rather a necessary step in their movement toward transcendence. Through love and communication, Vinge's characters overcome their estrangement and may achieve the power to change society. Yoke further comments: "Their common enemy is often the values of the society in which they find themselves. From the exertion of their mutual struggle, they forge new value systems and come to a more complete realization of their own potentials." Thus, Vinge's long fantasy The Snow Queen (1980) is both a traditional science fiction battle of evil against good and a story of the love between two individuals alienated from society. Eventually, the force of their love results in the successful overthrow of the corrupt Winter Queen.

Vinge's stories are characteristically set in a fully realized, minutely detailed world. Critics often praise the skill with which Vinge creates the believable and complex social structures of her futuristic world. The Outcasts of Heaven Belt (1978) exemplifies Vinge's close attention to societal values. This novel concerns the war between a fallen democracy and a socialist military society, both of which are contrasted to the protagonist's idealized society founded on complex kinship and marriage ties. Although some critics feel that the multiple levels in Vinge's stories are not always successful, most find her work thematically rich, tightly constructed, and psychologically and sociologically complex.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 93-96.)