I've been re-reading A Fire Upon the Deep again, and browsing some of the content under the Zones of Thought tag here led me to an answer under this question.

The answer asserts that Vinge specifically mentions that

  • Powers do not operate in the intergalactic void
  • There are things even greater than the Powers there

I checked for these on my last re-read as well, but did not find any related references. These are very plausible and sensible conclusions, given the themes of the series. Our ability to conceive of beings in the intergalactic void may be critically limited (we can barely get our heads around the Powers in the Transcend).

I've read A Deepness in the Sky (which wouldn't contain much information like that), but not yet The Children of the Sky, so I may simply not have checked the right source yet. I've also proven uneven in interpreting information in the plot-dense Net logs, but these references seem too pointed and Transcendental to be given much coverage there at all. I haven't searched through author statements too closely, and my Google searches have not provided such references either.

What material exists which describes areas beyond the Transcend (whether truly in the intergalactic void or not), and the operations, behaviors, and outlooks of Powers regarding those areas?

  • I do not remember the source. However, besides the 3 books there are several short stories (including one with a young man whose pet resembles a Tine singleton). Or I might have read it in one of Vinge's interviews. I'd be shocked if it wasn't in the first book though, because I swear there is something about the Blight staying away from the void because there were things there that scared even something such as it.
    – John O
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 18:13
  • @Mithoron If you have citations, that would make a great answer.
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 19:31
  • Unfortunately it's just some stuff I remember from reading :(
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 19:54
  • Gah, I wrote this comment terribly, it should be "Meh, you didn't check Fire carefully - the friendly Power talked about it - there are guys there who really don't like the Blight."
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 19:55
  • @Mithoron I have just finished re-reading every portion of Fire in which Old One (whom I assume you are referring to as "the friendly Power") both exists and interacts with any characters in the story; the segment you describe does not appear to be there. Remaining options are Countermeasure (I do not believe Countermeasure "speaks" at any point after the prologue), Old One's Godshatter via Pham, or the Blight itself. I will continue reading the novel to verify (1) and (2), while (3) is fundamentally unreliable. It will take me some time to complete, though I will update here either way.
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


There are hints, but no more, that there might be something beyond the Powers that exist in the Transcend. (Note: it's a bit odd to be speaking of "beyond the transcend" when "Beyond" is below the Transcend...)

I found the following quotes from A Fire Upon the Deep; being situated in the Slow Zone, there's really nothing relevant in A Deepness in the Sky or "The Blabber" and while there is some movement in the Zones noted in The Children of the Sky it doesn't touch on the Transcend.

The artifact's twisting evolution slowed. The light hung at the pale edge of blue. Pham's eyes opened. His head turned toward her. "The Riders' Myth is real, Ravna." His voice was distant. She heard the whisper of a laugh. "The Riders should know, I guess. They learned the last time. There are Things that don't like the Blight. Things my Old One only guessed at...."

Powers beyond the Powers? Ravna sank to the floor. The display on her wrist glowed up at here. Less than forty-five hours left.

A Fire Upon the Deep, chapter 41

The man's face went blank, Pham Nuwen almost disappearing behind the other programs at work in his mind. Then, "I'm... focusing Countermeasure. I see now, Countermeasure, what it is.... It was designed by something beyond the Powers. Maybe there are Cloud People, maybe this is signaling them. Or maybe what it's just done is like an insect bite, something that will cause a much greater reaction. The Bottom of the Beyond has just receded, like the waterline before a tsunami." The Countermeasure glared red-orange, its arcs and barbs embracing Pham more tightly than before. "A-and now that we've bootstrapped to a decent Zone... things can really happen. Oh, the ghost of Old One is amused. Seeing beyond the Powers was almost worth dying for."


So there may be something, and it's possible that the Old One knew something but that information wasn't given to Pham.

The "Riders' Myth" referred to by Pham doesn't provide any more concrete information:

"Not many have. Not that it's a secret; it's just we don't make much of it. It comes close to being religion, but one we don't proselytize. Four or five billion years ago, Someone built the first skrodes and raised the first Riders to sentience. That much is verified fact. The Myth is that something destroyed our Creator and all its works.... A catastrophe so great that from this distance it is not even understood as an act of mind."

A Fire Upon the Deep, chapter 25

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer! I tried editing the title, as it was confusing to refer to "beyond the Transcend" in a setting where "the Beyond" is an omnipresent thing. I suppose it fits the mystery and unknowability of ZoT for it not to be clear... Countermeasure might well have been made by Cloud People or it might just have been a contemporary of the Blight when it first arose, but either way it's going to be beyond human minds in ways we can't even conceive. In any case, I wouldn't bet against Pham!
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 21:22
  • You did the hard work, I upvoted. You deserve it. However my other answer in another question is being downvoted to shit though it says the same.
    – John O
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 21:16

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