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DaVinci Coders
April 16th, 2008 at 8:15 am

The World According to Bruce Sterling

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Bruce Sterling on the future

Bruce Sterling is a brilliant futurist and science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre. More photos and videos after the jump.

 

 

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Bruce Sterling Rant at SXSW in 2007

Sterling is, along with William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and Pat Cadigan, one of the founders of the cyberpunk movement in science fiction, as well as its chief ideological promulgator, and one whose polemics on the topic earned him the nickname “Chairman Bruce”. He was also one of the first organizers of the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop, and is a frequent attendee at the Sycamore Hill Writer’s Workshop. He won Hugo Awards for the novelette “Bicycle Repairman” and the novella “Taklamakan”.

Bruce Sterling in a pensive moment

Bruce Sterling in a pensive moment

His first novel, Involution Ocean, published in 1977, features the world Nullaqua where all the atmosphere is contained in a single, miles-deep crater; the story concerns a ship sailing on the ocean of dust at the bottom, which hunts creatures called dustwhales that live beneath the surface. It is partially a science-fictional pastiche of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

 

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Bruce Sterling talks about what technologies he thinks could most benefit mankind

From the late 1970s onwards, Sterling wrote a series of stories set in the Shaper/Mechanist universe: the solar system is colonized, with two major warring factions. The Mechanists use a great deal of computer-based mechanical technologies; the Shapers do genetic engineering on a massive scale. The situation is complicated by the eventual contact with alien civilizations; humanity eventually splits into many subspecies, with the implication that many of these effectively vanish from the galaxy, reminiscent of The Singularity in the works of Vernor Vinge. The Shaper/Mechanist stories can be found in the collection Crystal Express and the collection Schismatrix Plus, which contains the original novel Schismatrix and all of the stories set in the Shaper/Mechanist universe. Alastair Reynolds identified Schismatrix and the other Shaper/Mechanist stories as one of the greatest influences on his own work.

In the 1980s, Sterling edited a series of science fiction newsletters called Cheap Truth, under the alias of Vincent Omniaveritas. He wrote a column called Catscan, for the now-defunct science fiction critical magazine, SF Eye.

Bruce Sterling & Xeni Jardin

Bruce Sterling & Xeni Jardin

Projects

He has been the instigator of three projects which can be found on the Web -

  • The Dead Media Project – A collection of “research notes” on dead media technologies, from Incan quipus, through Victorian phenakistoscopes, to the departed video game and home computers of the 1980s. The Project’s homepage, including Sterling’s original Dead Media Manifesto can be found at http://www.deadmedia.org
  • The Viridian Design Movement – his attempt to create a “green” design movement focused on high-tech, stylish, and ecologically sound design. The Viridian Design home page, including Sterling’s Viridian Manifesto and all of his Viridian Notes, is managed by Jon Lebkowsky at http://www.viridiandesign.org. The Viridian Movement helped to spawn the popular “bright green” environmental weblog Worldchanging. WorldChanging contributors include many of the original members of the Viridian “curia”.
  • Embrace the Decay – a web-only art piece commissioned by the LA Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003. Incorporating contributions solicited through The Viridian Design ‘movement’, Embrace the Decay was the most visited piece/page at LA MOCA’s Digital Gallery, and included contributions from Jared Tarbell of levitated.net and co-author of several books on advanced Flash programming, and Monty Zukowski, creator of the winning ‘decay algorithm’ sponsored by Bruce.

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Teemu Arina interviews Bruce Sterling

Neologisms

Sterling has a habit of coining neologisms to describe things which he believes will be common in the future, especially items which already exist in limited numbers.

  • In the December 2005 issue of Wired magazine, Sterling coined the term buckyjunk. Buckyjunk refers to future, difficult-to-recycle consumer waste made of carbon nanotubes (aka buckytubes, based on buckyballs or buckminsterfullerene).
  • In December 1999 he coined the term “Wexelblat disaster”, for a disaster caused when a natural disaster triggers a secondary, and more damaging, failure of human technology.
  • In August 2004 he suggested a type of technological device (he called it “spime”) that, through pervasive RFID and GPS tracking, can track its history of use and interact with the world.
  • In the speech where he offered “spime”, he noted that the term “blobject”, with which he is sometimes credited, was passed on to him by industrial designer Karim Rashid. The term may originally have been coined by Steven Skov Holt.

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Bruce Sterling at a lecture in Amsterdam

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