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Interview: Ask Bruce Sterling What You Will

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the ask-me-anything dept.

Books 60

One of the founders of the cyberpunk genre, Bruce Sterling needs little introduction to science fiction fans. You can read what "Chairman Bruce" has to say at Beyond the Beyond on Wired and the Sterling tumblr. He has agreed to to sit down and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

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Parallels ... (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#45727377)

Do you feel that a lot of what is happening right now is eerily similar to some of the "what ifs" which cyberpunk has been talking about for decades?

Some days, it seems like everything is unfolding right before our eyes straight out of Orwell and Huxley, and people are embracing it as normal.

Re:Parallels ... (1)

doctor woot (2779597) | about 9 months ago | (#45727607)

Better yet, I'd like to know how modern day has differed from what they were expecting in the 80's.

Re:Parallels ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#45727661)

It's scarier, and no longer fiction. :-P

Re:Parallels ... (1)

znrt (2424692) | about 9 months ago | (#45729997)

Better yet, I'd like to know how modern day has differed from what they were expecting in the 80's.

we didn't expect cyberspace to become one single gigantic and depressing shopping mall. we were naive.

Re:Parallels ... (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | about 9 months ago | (#45728125)

+1, and also with reference to "The Difference Engine", co-authored with William Gibson.

Blade Runner (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#45727423)

Is it your favourite movie?

and equally on-topic (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | about 9 months ago | (#45727697)

or is it Terry Gilliams "Brazil"?

(ignore the rules some more; question two).

Wouldn't you like to see a Studio Ghibli animation of the novel "Snowcrash".

Re:Blade Runner (3, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 9 months ago | (#45728159)

I'd rephrase this a little differently:

What film best represents your vision of a cyberpunk or high-tech dystopian future?

My question (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#45729069)

Was it that bad?

Re:My question (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 9 months ago | (#45729079)

No, your question just builds in an assumption that BR is the best. Open it up for him to pick the one he wants as the standard.

How does it feel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727497)

to be constant credited with creating something that existed before you even wrote your first book?

Who would win in a fight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727503)

The Enterprise, the SDF-1, the Andromeda, or the Galactica?

your books (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727543)

Looking at your bibliography, the books that I know I've read of yours are The Artificial Kid and Holy Fire. I actually think of bits (skull cannons and immaturity from longevity treatments) from these books on occasion, and was wondering what other books you would recommend from your publications that would attract a magpie?

SaberT

LOL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727555)

Do you suck dicks for fun, profit or both?

So.... (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 9 months ago | (#45727561)

What is Alice and Bob's secret?

Re:So.... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 9 months ago | (#45727615)

What is Alice and Bob's secret?

Alice and Bob are actually the same person trying not to be found out by Nelson, Steve, and Adam. ;-)

cyberpunk (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727589)

What's it like to be an older, wiser virgin?

will oilfield workers be able to stop the asteroid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727623)

someone must have an idea? any idea what happened to the monkey's hymens? you still calling this 'weather'? how much to ransom the inoocent stem cells for use at healthcare.love? that's just one big question by the way

Who?? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727625)

I have no idea who Bruce Sterling is and I'm a huge sci-fi fan too. Its quite possible to enjoy sci-fi without knowing who wrote, directed it or who created it's genre. Some introduction would have been nice or even just a link to his Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Sterling)

Re:Who?? (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 9 months ago | (#45728877)

The candle you lit would have been more meaningful if you hadn't spent so much time cursing the darkness.

Re:Who?? (1)

firewrought (36952) | about 9 months ago | (#45728973)

I have no idea who Bruce Sterling is and I'm a huge sci-fi fan too.

Then, hope you don't mind if I interject some recommendations. :-) Set in the near future, Holy Fire is an intimate look at the implication of life-extension and the meaning of youth (but not in a philosophically ponderous way... it's more of a wild chase). Incidentally, it includes a lot of fashion/clothing, which may not sound like a strong selling point, but it definitely broadens the appeal and accessibility of the work outside traditional sci-fi audiences. Technically speaking, I feel it's his most well-executed story, so it's usually what I recommend to people despite it being tamer than...

Schismatrix. This book is set further in the future when first-world humanity has spread thru the solar system. It's my personal favorite for its vast, world-building scope, and unrestrained hacking of the human body (again, much of it in the life-extension vein). I love too that it doesn't revolve around a single gimmicky artifact (e.g., looking at you Stargate) but around a large number of competing technical approaches. Bruce described his work in retrospect as being something like a sea-urchin... ugly and assymetrical, yet pieces break off and embed themselves in you for years.

I'd also recommend Distraction, which is a fun read. All three novels portray a struggling humanity trying to hold life together in the gaping face of limitless technological potential. They are best thought of as biographies of fictional people (Bruce can be weak on plot) that are heroic for their ability to adapt and change.

I feel his other works (the ones I've read anyway) pale in comparison... Heavy Weather is okay. Zenith Angle, while politically insightful, is decidedly mediocre. YMMV.

Re:Who?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45732571)

Agreed. Holy Fire is not only a great work of speculative fiction for its own sake, it's a tour-de-force of what advances in biotechnology could mean to societies on various points in the political spectrum.

In the youth communes of Europe, biotechnology has essentially 'solved' the tragedy of the commons by creating symbiotic lichen castles which will literally eat your shit and reprocess it. It's a comfortable enough life, if you can deal with perpetual subsistence.

Meanwhile, America is caught in a self-enforcing gerontocracy as life-extension technology develops at a rate just fast enough to bleed the ruling class dry while keeping them in power. The protagonist is the recipient of an experimental revolutionary treatment which actually grants her not just extended life, but a second youth. Achieving this youth, she is alienated from her peers and struggles to assimilate in an almost-equally alienating Europe.

Even though Bruce Sterling is, imho, a legit communist, the speculation is suitably grim on both sides. Neither approach can really satisfy the human spirit.

Re:Who?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45752259)

>I have no idea who Bruce Sterling is and I'm a huge sci-fi fan too

Silly, he's the guy who used to introduce Twilight Zone episodes. I had no idea he was still alive.

Undies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727629)

Do pink underwear really chafe in a more satisfying way?

Writing method (4, Interesting)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 9 months ago | (#45727637)

Do you use any formal method to writing, such as the snowflake method? Also, do you recommend any software tools for writing?

Where you more pessimistic before, or now? (3, Interesting)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about 9 months ago | (#45727707)

I get a bit of pessimism from almost all near future sci-fi, but I'm wondering if you feel more pessimistic about where humanity is, and is headed, now.. or back when you started writing?

Re:Where you more pessimistic before, or now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45728171)

"Where you more pessimistic before, or now"
As an author, he's probably pretty pessimistic about humanity now.

Modern Law Enforcement (4, Interesting)

puddingebola (2036796) | about 9 months ago | (#45727747)

Back when you were wrote the Hacker Crackdown, you described a world where ham-handed and overly zealous law enforcement and hacker culture collided, and predicted more of the same in the future. How has modern day law enforcement evolved in terms of its approach since that time, in what ways is it more savvy, and in what ways does it still strike you as draconian or clumsy in its approach.

Are you still anti-Military? (3, Interesting)

pillageplunder (183475) | about 9 months ago | (#45727769)

When you went on your little tirade back around 1984 regarding Jerry Pournelle & David Drake's writings and comparing them to Pornography, (I believe you used the term war-porn) we as a country were but 9 years past the Vietnam Debacle. Your intense dislike...one might use the word Hatred of these two authors in particular and anything having to do with the Military in general was something I never understood. Flash-forward to 2013...With over 2.5 Million Americans having been deployed to Afghanistan and/or Iraq (over 400,000 deployed three or more times and 37,000 of those deploying 5 times or more), are you still of the belief that Science Fiction stories written by veterans depicting combat are nothing more than "war porn?" For someone who has never served in the military, why do you believe you are an expert on what constitutes "war Porn" vs Military Science Fiction?

David Drakes commentary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45729863)

Is in this link near the bottom:

http://david-drake.com/2008/newsletter-45/

Re:David Drakes commentary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45730595)

Seems to me David Drake would have done better to assert where he differs, rather than attack with a non-contextual quote.

Re:Are you still anti-Military? (1)

doom (14564) | about 9 months ago | (#45767971)

With over 2.5 Million Americans having been deployed to Afghanistan and/or Iraq (over 400,000 deployed three or more times and 37,000 of those deploying 5 times or more), are you still of the belief that Science Fiction stories written by veterans depicting combat are nothing more than "war porn?"

That wars happen has never been in question, the question was whether a David Drake make war more likely-- did this kind of stuff encourage fantasies like "I am a tough-minded realist, willing to face squarely the horrible necessity of engaging in this profoundly nasty endeavor (that I secretly think is Really Cool)."

Can you draw a line between Pournelle & Drake and maybe guys like Taleb and end up at Donald Rumsfeld?

In any case, I think you're taking the younger Sterlings posturing too seriously. He was copping a pose of young upstart, leader of The Movement, and now he's copping a pose of responsible Design School Visionary, and if you think any of these poses are The Real Sterling, maybe you need to re-read some of his books, like "Schismatrix" and "Zeitgeist".

In a fight between... (5, Funny)

RDW (41497) | about 9 months ago | (#45727851)

In his Slashdot interview back in 2004, Neal Stephenson told us about the epic battles that he, William Gibson and you were fighting:

http://slashdot.org/story/04/10/20/1518217/neal-stephenson-responds-with-wit-and-humor [slashdot.org]

One of my psi blasts kicked up a large divot of earth and rubble, uncovering a silver metallic object, hitherto buried, that seemed to have been crafted by an industrial designer. It was a nitro-veridian device that had been buried there by Sterling. We were able to fly clear before it detonated. The blast caused a seismic rupture that split off a sizable part of Canada and created what we now know as Vancouver Island. This was the last fight between me and Gibson. For both of us, by studying certain ancient prophecies, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, namely that Sterling's professed interest in industrial design was a mere cover for work in superweapons. Gibson and I formed a pact to fight Sterling. So far we have made little headway in seeking out his lair of brushed steel and white LEDs, because I had a dentist appointment and Gibson had to attend a writers' conference, but keep an eye on Slashdot for any further developments.

So, can the story now be told? Who was the eventual winner?

mod up (2)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 9 months ago | (#45727981)

please mod up, would love to hear a response.

Oh, wow, dood, ..... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 9 months ago | (#45730903)

....the three great submediocrities of SF, Sterling, Stephenson and Gibson.

oort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45727853)

What have you?

How many older works are still sold per year? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45728009)

Started following you with Islands in the Net, and loved The Difference Engine.
Do your older works still sell and how many copies?

Sources of author's income? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45728031)

Do you basically make a living from residuals at this point, such that your new work is for fun, or do you still have to write to put food on the table?

Zenith Angle (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 9 months ago | (#45728131)

Looking back with a little bit of perspective (after the NSA revelations), what do you think of 'The Zenith Angle' now.

When will you do a Mirrorshades 2? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45728139)

Your Mirrorshades anthology introduced me to so many great authors, and really just got me addicted to the entire cyberpunk sub-genre. Any chance you'll collect another great set of authors for a sequel?

Bro... (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 9 months ago | (#45728249)

Do you even lift?

Er ok, if u incist. (0)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 9 months ago | (#45728367)

Bruce, What you will?

Do we need a new Internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45728737)

now that the internet is long over a decade old and all data is tracked and most companies are federalized except for publicly traded companies, do we need a new network? How do we start it again?

Long time no see - have we gone away from hard SF? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 9 months ago | (#45728975)

Hey, Bruce.

What is your current feeling on the current trends in fiction - in book form, manga, anime, TV, and film - have we gone away from hard SF towards science fiction focused on relationships and societies, or is this just a surface trend as we deal with the actual implications of reality and the near future?

And, in terms of that, do you think 2020 will be the way many writers thought it would be, or is it vastly different?

Artificial Kid (2)

ninjagin (631183) | about 9 months ago | (#45729081)

Have you had (or received) any interest in bringing the Artificial Kid to film? Thanks.

Shaper/Machinist (1)

painandgreed (692585) | about 9 months ago | (#45729305)

Some of my favorite stories were set in the world of the shapers and machinists. Stories such as 20 Evocations and ideas like the super brights. Do you plan to write any more stories dealing with that universe?

Seriously Bruce, . . . . (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 9 months ago | (#45730889)

...why are you such a coporate stooge, and why can't you write any decent SF?

Just asking . . . .

Re:Seriously Bruce, . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731393)

I always got the impression that Sterling was a fairly serious communist, at least as serious as you can be, post-USSR.

Which corporation is he a stooge for?

Favorite Novel and Short Story (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 9 months ago | (#45731543)

What is your favorite novel that you have ever read? Favorite short story?

How much influence has The Well had on your life? (1)

caferace (442) | about 9 months ago | (#45731729)

n/t

Turin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45731935)

Why did you choose Turin, Italy? Just for food and wine, or some reason related to your interests?

Where Are Your Books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45733067)

I hope this isn't a sore subject, but I recommend your books frequently as examples of "hard" predicitive sci-fi, and I find they're getting harder to find in big bookstores. Some of your fellow "cyberpunks" seem to have complete back catalogs on display, while you often have none. Do you know why, and what we can do to help?

Did someone pay you to write The Zenith Angle (1)

marcelmouse (74690) | about 9 months ago | (#45733133)

It stands out in your body of work as a steaming pile of used hay. It was written after your "retirement." I am quite pleased that y's theou've continued to write fiction - Zeitgeist would have been a fine last book, but I've enjoyed almost everything you've written since then. Zenith Angle, however, was a true stinker. After my friends and I read it, we would often smoke and speculate that Someone In Government paid you more than your usual per-word rate to come out of retirement to write some recruiting materials. Which were crap. What's the deal, yo?

emacs or vi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45733211)

Do you use emacs or vi?

De-sucking the TSA (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | about 9 months ago | (#45733403)

I keep saying that if I were President, I'd appoint you head of the TSA. Would you accept? If not, who would you recommend for the job?

Re:De-sucking the TSA (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | about 9 months ago | (#45733409)

Duh, Bruce *Sterling*, not Bruce *Schneier*. Still, this Bruce's perspective might get interesting...

Can you tell us a bedtime story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45734103)

Uncle Sterling, can you tell us the story about when we got to ask questions from James Gosling but never got the answers? Also, if you could make the story really dark and gloomy, that would be great.

PC is dead. Michael Dell is back. What next? (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | about 9 months ago | (#45736369)

The PC is dead, as you gloriously noted at SXSWi this year. Michael Dell is now officially back at the helm.

What is your advice to Michael Dell?

-l

Living in Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45738147)

As a Czech guy living with an American girl in Prague I'd be interested to know what made you leave USA and what do you like about living in Serbia and Italy?

What books do you like ? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 9 months ago | (#45772119)

Assuming that you do read books, the dead-tree type, what genre of books do you like ?

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