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Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling(1954- )
Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, editor, and critic is best known for his science fiction novels but he also writes short stories, book reviews, design criticism, opinion columns, and introductions for books ranging from Ernst Juenger to Jules Verne. He is a contributing editor of WIRED magazine and writes a weblog. During 2005, he was the “Visionary in Residence” at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In 2008 he was the Guest Curator for the Share Festival of Digital Art and Culture in Torino, Italy, and the Visionary in Residence at the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam. In 2011 he returned to Art Center as “Visionary in Residence” to run a special project on Augmented Reality. Bruce Sterling has appeared in ABC’s Nightline, BBC’s The Late Show, CBC’s Morningside, on MTV and TechTV, and in Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Fortune, Nature, I.D., Metropolis, Technology Review, Der Spiegel, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and many other venues.

Islands in the Net: SF political thriller

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Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling

Love him or hate him, Bruce Sterling is one of the most intriguing voices in science fiction. A successful writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a speaker of the most unique and presumptuous nature, his words carry regarding the future of technology and society. At base a humanist, Sterling’s work reflects the potential implications of applying the knowledge humanity acquires to economic, ecological, and socio-political environments. Islands in the Net, a good example of his aims, presents all of these facets in a political drama/thriller that continues to touch upon ideas in today’s world despite the decades that have passed since its publishing.

Islands in the Net opens in the year 2023. The world appears much the same as it does today, but with a few small differences. Multinational megacorporations wield ever-growing clout in ... Read More

Crystal Express: Stories by Sterling

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Crystal Express by Bruce Sterling

Crystal Express is a 1989 collection of short stories by Bruce Sterling, originally published between 1982 and 1987. Five of the stories are set in his Shaper/Mechanist universe made popular in Schismatrix, three are general science fiction, and four lean toward the fantasy genre. The stories are grouped along these thematic lines, and the following is a brief summary of each story.

Shaper/Mechanist:

“Swarm” (1982) — Certainly one of Sterling’s initial forays into the Shaper/Mechanist universe if not the first, “Swarm” is poorly written (it has almost a cartoon presentation), but does a solid (if overt) job of delineating the differences between Shapers and Mechanists. It tells the tale of two people trapped inside an asteroid filled with Investor youth and their plans for ge... Read More

The Difference Engine: Thickly veiled and imperceptible

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The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling

William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, two major SciFi powerhouses, joined forces to produce The Difference Engine, a classic steampunk novel which was nominated for the 1990 British Science Fiction Award, the 1991 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1992 John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Prix Aurora Award. I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version which was produced in 2010 and read by the always-wonderful Simon Vance.

The Difference Engine takes place in a nearly unrecognizable Victorian England. The fundamental “difference” between this alternate history and the real one is that Charles Babbage succeeded in building his Difference Engine — the first analytical computer. Thus, the information age develops (along with the industrial re... Read More

Schismatrix Plus: What a great read

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Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling

What a great read this was. I've never been much of a fan of cyberpunk and I'm not particularly a fan of the authors generally noted to be founders of the genre (William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, etc.), but I really loved Schismatrix Plus and it has put Bruce Sterling near the top of my list for sci-fi writers. Sterling does an excellent job of melding his cyberpunk ethos with a space opera-ish background that is combined with the 'Grand Tour' of the solar system structure (cp. The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley or Vacuum Flowers by Read More

Magazine Monday: Short Fiction Fun

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Many years ago, I cornered John Kessel at a fantasy conference just because I wanted to be able to say that I'd had a conversation with a writer and scholar I admired. Unfortunately for poor Kessel, I ran out of things to say to him right after, "I love your work!" I still have a reverence for writers that renders me tongue-tied in no time at all. Don't they seem like the most magical beings, writers? People who can come up with all that weird stuff right out of their heads?

Anyway, Kessel took pity on me and started talking about how much he loves short fiction. He named authors and stories and magazines, filling my brain with notebooks full of mental jottings. Once I got home, I immediately started pulling out my back issues of the Magaz... Read More

Magazine Monday: Online stories by Sterling and Parker

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Today we're featuring a couple of stories that you can find free online.

“Taklamakan” by Bruce Sterling

Read for free online

Many years ago, Bruce Sterling wrote a short story called “Taklamakan” that won a Hugo award. I’ve been trying to read some past award winners, and since this one was handily available, I decided to start there. So, here’s my problem. “Taklamakan” won the Hugo Award for best short story in 1999 when it was published in the Oct/Nov 1998 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. That means the story is 13 or 14 years old. Do you know how badly near-future science fiction ages in 13 years?

“Taklamakan” is set in the Takla... Read More

Magazine Monday: Subterranean Magazine, Winter 2014

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The Winter 2014 issue of Subterranean Magazine was edited by guest editor Jonathan Strahan, the editor of a popular year’s best anthology and a number of other anthologies. He has good taste, as the stories chosen for this issue demonstrate — with the exception of the longest and last piece, a snarky bit of irreligious, virtually plotless prose by Bruce Sterling (about which more below).

“The Scrivener” by Eleanor Arnason is structured as a fairy tale often is, with three daughters each setting out on an errand prescribed by their father. This father wants his daughters to be writers of stories, a goal of his own he has never achieved because, he thinks, he lacks the divine spark necessary to such an endeavor. When his daughters are grown, he takes them to a famous critic, who reads their stories, wh... Read More

SFM: Jones, Resnick, Yap, Loenen-Ruiz, Rucker and Sterling

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. Intriguing and entirely coincidental themes of the week: the role of women in society, and Filipina authors.


"The Night Bazaar for Women Becoming Reptiles” by Rachael K. Jones (July 2016, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

About half of the stories I review, I have listened to while I'm at the gym, sweating away on the elliptical or lifting weights to the sweet sound of a narrator telling me ab... Read More

Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology: An examination of what defines the genre

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Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology edited by Bruce Sterling

There are a handful of people who have/had their finger on the pulse of cyberpunk. Love him or hate him, Bruce Sterling has perhaps two. In 1986 he decided to pull together a collection of stories he felt were representative of the sub-genre. Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology is both broad in scope yet largely encompasses the idea of what the average sci-fi fan's expectations are for the form. Though Sterling’s agenda is his own, some stories will be immediately recognizable for their mood and voice, while others will require more thought toward determining just how they fit into the sub-genre, if at all. The following is a brief introduction to each.

"The Gernsback Continuum" by Read More

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey's other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of "fabril" literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the "smith" is central. Certainly, a great deal of early science fiction in particular involves a clever engineer solving some sort of problem, and I'm sure many careers in engineering and the sciences have been launched in this way. I'd say that there is some tendency, though, as the genre matures, for technology to beco... Read More

Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology

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Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology  edited by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel

Is there really any difference between post-modernism, interstitial fiction, slipstream and New Weird? Does anyone know? James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel try to outline the boundaries of slipstream with their anthology, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, particularly by including a learned introduction and excerpts from a discussion that took place on the subject on a blog a few years ago. Ultimately, like so many things literary, from science fiction to erotica, it comes down to this: slipstream is what I’m pointing to when I say “slipstream.” Yes, ... Read More

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure

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The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure edited by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure is, as its name implies, the second of Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan’s themed anthologies attempting to put a modern spin on space opera, a subgenre of science fiction which causes many of us to think of big metal spaceships crewed by handsome blaster-wielding men who protect us from evil aliens that want to destroy the Earth, or at least steal it’s shrieking scantily clad women. We laugh at these old stories now — the way they ignore the vacuum of space and the effects of relativity, the way their aliens seem a lot less alien than they should, and the way that... Read More

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2

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Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 edited by William Schafer

EDITOR INFORMATION: William K. Schafer is the head editor at Subterranean Press, which was founded in 1995. Schafer’s bibliography includes Embrace the Mutation: Fiction Inspired by the Art of J.K. Potter and the first Tales of Dark Fantasy anthology.

ABOUT SUBTERRANEAN: TALES OF DARK FANTASY 2: Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy — published in 2008 to widespread critical and popular acclaim — provided a unique showcase for some of our finest practitioners of dark, disturbing fiction. This much anticipated second volume more than meets the standards set by its predecessor, offering a diverse assortment of stories guaranteed to delight, unsettle, and enthrall. Volume two proper i... Read More

More speculative fiction by Bruce Sterling

Involution OceanInvolution Ocean — (1977) Publisher: The only habitable portion of Nullaqua is a handful of islands at the bottom of an immense crater. Surrounding the islands is a sea of finest dust. And in that sea live the dustwhales whose bodies yield Flare, a potent, exhilarating drug. When Flare is outlawed, John Newhouse, drifter and addict, joins the dustwhaler Lunglance to obtain his own supplies. His trip is uncomfortable and dangerous, for he has reckoned without the rigours of the job, the deadly sharks and anemones, and without falling for Dalusa, the winged alien woman for whom human touch is agony…  And the last thing he has foreseen is what lies at the bottom of that unfathomed, silent sea…fantasy and science fiction book reviews


The Artificial Kid — (1980) Publisher: The ultra-rich satellite-dwellers orbiting the planet Reverie love to tune in to the televised exploits of the world’s best professional combat artist, The Artificial Kid. But when an enemy discovers a secret from The Kid’s murky past, The Kid must face the fiercest battle of his life, placing the fate of the entire planet in his hands. First published in 1980.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsHeavy Weather — (1991) Publisher: Bruce Sterling, one of the founding fathers of the cyberpunk genre, now presents a novel of vivid imagination and invention that proves his talent for creating brilliant speculative fiction is sharper than ever. Forty years from now, Earth’s climate has been drastically changed by the greenhouse effect.  Tornadoes of almost unimaginable force roam the open spaces of Texas.  And on their trail are the Storm Troupers: a ragtag band of computer experts and atmospheric scientists who live to hack heavy weather — to document it and spread the information as far as the digital networks will stretch, using virtual reality to explore the eye of the storm.  Although it’s incredibly addictive, this is no game.  The Troupers’ computer models suggest that soon an “F-6” will strike — a tornado of an intensity that exceeds any existing scale; a storm so devastating that it may never stop.  And they’re going to be there when all hell breaks loose.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsHoly Fire — (1996) Publisher: The 21st century is coming to a close, and the medical industrial complex dominates the world economy. It is a world of synthetic memory drugs, benevolent government surveillance, underground anarchists, and talking canine companions. Power is in the hands of conservative senior citizens who have watched their health and capital investments with equal care, gaining access to the latest advancements in life-extension technology. Meanwhile, the young live on the fringes of society, ekeing out a meagre survival on free, government-issued rations and a black market in stolen technological gadgetry from an earlier, less sophisticated age. Mia Ziemann is a 94-year-old medical economist who enjoys all the benefits of her position. But a deathbed visit with a long-ago ex-lover and a chance meeting with a young bohemian dress-designer brings Mia to an awful revelation. She has lived her life with such caution that it has been totally bereft of pleasure and adventure. She has one chance to do it all over. But first she must submit herself to a radical — and painful — experimental procedure which promises to make her young again. The procedure is not without risk and her second chance at life will not come without a price. But first she will have to
escape her team of medical keepers. Hitching a ride on a plane to Europe, Mia sets out on a wild intercontinental quest in search of spiritual gratification, erotic revelation, and the thing she missed most of all: the holy fire of the creative experience. She joins a group of outlaw anarchists whose leader may be the man of her dreams… or her undoing. Worst of all, Mia will have to undergo one last radical procedure that could cost her a second life. In Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling once again creates a unique and provocative future that deals with such timeless topics of the human condition as love, memory, science, politics, and the meaning of death. Poginant, lyrical, humorous, and often shocking, Holy Fire offers a hard unsparing look into a world that could become our own.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsDistraction — (1998) Publisher: It’s November 2044, an election year, and the state of the Union is a farce. The government is broke, the cities are privately owned, and the military is shaking down citizens in the streets. Washington has become a circus and no one knows that better than Oscar Valparaiso. A political spin doctor, Oscar has always made things look good. Now he wants to make a difference. But Oscar has a skeleton in his closet. His only ally: Dr. Greta Penninger, a gifted neurologist at the bleeding edge of the neural revolution. Together they’re out to spread a very dangerous idea whose time has come. And so have their enemies: every technofanatic, government goon, and laptop assassin in America. Oscar and Greta might not survive to change the world, but they’ll put a new spin on it.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsZeitgeist — (2000) Publisher: It’s 1999, and in the Turkish half of Cyprus, the ever-enterprising Leggy Starlitz has alighted — pausing on his mission to storm the Third World with the G-7 girls, the cheapest, phoniest all-girl rock group ever to wear Wonderbras and spandex. His market is staring him in the face: millions of teenagers trapped in a world of mullahs and mosques, all ready to blow their pocket change on G-7’s massive merchandising campaign — and to wildly anticipate music the band will never release. Leggy’s brilliant plan means doing business with some of the world’s most dangerous people. Among these thieves, schemers, and killers, he must act quickly and decisively. Y2K is just around the corner — and the only rule to live by is that the whole scheme stops before the year 2000. But Leggy’s G-7 Zeitgeist is in serious jeopardy, for in Istanbul his former partners are getting restless — and the G-7 girls are beginning to die….


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Zenith Angle — (2004) Publisher: Like his peers William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, bestselling author Bruce Sterling writes cutting-edge speculative fiction firmly rooted in today’s reality. Now in The Zenith Angle, he has created a timely thriller about an information-age security expert caught up in America’s escalating war on terror. Infowar. Cybercombat. Digital security and techno-terror. It’s how nations and networks secretly battle, now and into the future. And for Derek “Van” Vandeveer, pioneering computer wizard, a new cyberwarrior career begins on the fateful date of September 11, 2001. Happily married with a new baby, pulling down mind-blowing money as a VP of research and development for a booming Internet company, Van has been living extralarge. Then the devastating attacks on America change everything. And Van must decide if he’s willing to use the talents that built his perfect world in order to defend it. “It’s our networks versus their death cult,” says the government operative who recruits Van as the key member of an ultraelite federal computer-security team. In a matter of days, Van has traded his cushy life inside the dot-com bubble for the labyrinthine trenches of the Washington intelligence community — where rival agencies must grudgingly abandon decades of distrust and infighting to join forces against chilling new threats. Van’s special genius is needed to make the country’s defense systems hacker-proof. And if he makes headway there, he’ll find himself troubleshooting ultrasecret spy satellites. America’s most powerful and crucial “eye in the sky,” the KH-13 satellite — capable of detecting terrorist hotbeds worldwide with pinpoint accuracy — is perilously close to becoming an orbiting billion-dollar boondoggle, unless Van can debug the glitch that’s knocked it out of commission. Little does he suspect that the problem has nothing at all to do with software… and that what’s really wrong with the KH-13 will force Van to make the unlikely leap from scientist to spy, team up with a ruthlessly resourceful ex–Special Forces commando, and root out an unknown enemy… one with access to an undreamed of weapon of untold destructive power.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Caryatids — (2009) Publisher: Alongside William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling stands at the forefront of a select group of writers whose pitch-perfect grasp of the cultural and scientific zeitgeist endows their works of speculative near-future fiction with uncanny verisimilitude. To read a novel by Sterling is to receive a dispatch from a time traveler. Now, with The Caryatids, Sterling has written a stunning testament of faith in the power of human intellect, creativity, and spirit to overcome any obstacle – even the obstacles we carry inside ourselves. The world of 2060 is divided into three spheres of influence, each fighting with the others over the resources of fallen nations and an environment degraded almost to the point of no return. There is the Dispensation, centered in Los Angeles, where entertainment and capitalism have fused with the highest of high-tech. There is the Acquis, a Green-centered collective that uses invasive neurological technology to create a networked utopia. And there is China, the sole surviving nation-state, a dinosaur that has prospered only by pitilessly pruning its own population. Products of this monstrous world, the daughters of a monstrous mother, and – according to some – monsters themselves, are the Caryatids: the four surviving female clones of a mad Balkan genius and wanted war criminal now ensconced, safely beyond extradition, on an orbiting space station. Radmila is a Dispensation star determined to forget her past by building a glittering, impregnable future. Vera is an Acquis functionary dedicated to reclaiming their home, the Croatian island of Mljet, from catastrophic pollution. Sonja is a medical specialist in China renowned for selflessly risking herself to help others. And Biserka is a one-woman terrorist network. The four “sisters” are united only by their hatred for their “mother” – and for one another. When evidence surfaces of a coming environmental cataclysm, the Dispensation sends its greatest statesman – or salesman – John Montgomery Montalban, husband of Radmila, and lover of Vera and Sonja, to gather the Caryatids together in an audacious plan to save the world.fantasy and science fiction book reviews


Good Night, Moon — (2011) With Rudy Rucker. Publisher: Carlo Morse and Jimmy Ganzer pioneered dream-fabbing, but these days people only want to close their eyes to trashy stuff — not the mention the kids and their fancy imported tech. It’s a good thing Schwartz’s Deli is still the same.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsLove Is Strange — (2012) Publisher: They’re futurists in love. They don’t believe in romantic happy endings. Farfalla Corrado is a globetrotting Italian witch, trained in Brazilian voodoo. Farfalla can tell real fortunes, see real ghosts and speak real curses. Farfalla doesn’t just know the future – she can feel in in the dark, twisted depths of her heart. Gavin Tremaine is a high-tech Seattle venture capitalist. He can forecast the future, spot its trends, and invest in its business models. Gavin has a big future ahead of him – unfortunately, Gavin knows what that big future holds for the little people. When their worlds collide, history itself begins to crumble. They already know how this love story is bound to end – and it’s not what the other expects.fantasy and science fiction book reviews


Loco — (2012) With Rudy Rucker. Publisher: “The feds aren’t going to fund you anymore. Not when your boss is a self-flattening radioactive pancake.” Desperate times call for desperate inventions.

 


Story collections:

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