Monday, August 30, 2010

Author profile: Bruce Sterling

If you follow me on Twitter (and you do, don't you?  Don't you??), then you know I've been tweeting about perhaps writing blog posts on all the books I've yet to read.  Sort of a premature review, talking in the future tense about what I expect a book to be like rather than the staleness of reflections on something past.  There would be an accounting for what motivated me to pick up the book in the first place, even if the rationale is flimsy ("just wanted to.")  I have also decided to post profiles from time to time on authors that I enjoy.  You've heard so much about William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac as of late, that I thought it was about time to bring the discussion back closer to Strange Horizons.  For that purpose, my first profile will be of Bruce Sterling.

Bruce Sterling is a multiple Hugo award-winning writer and futurist who lives in Austin, Texas.  Along with William Gibson and Rudy Rucker, Sterling is considered to be one of the seminal, founding authors of the "cyberpunk" sub-genre of science fiction.  He is uncannily prescient about technology, not simply in what new forms it will take but also in how it will alter society.  I have always been a wide-eyed optimist when it comes to technological advancement and I don't see that changing.  But Sterling's novels and short stories have forced me to at least consider the possibility that things might turn out so cool on the tech front after all.  Just read the descriptions of a few of his books.
Islands in the Net--I enjoyed this one.  In a world of global corporations, cybernetics, and de-localized power, one woman gets swept along on a wild ride through the poorest nations of Africa and Southeast Asia.  One reviewer called it a "modern day Candide."

Heavy Weather--a cadre of high-tech storm chasers pursue megatornadoes in the Midwest.  Such storms are far more plentiful in the region due to global warming.

The Caryatids--three female clones of a Balkan war criminal escape to a space station.  It is from there that they must find a way to save the world from environmental collapse.

In addition to being an accomplished novel and short story writer, Sterling has been a regular contributor for Wired and authored the nonfiction book, The Hacker Crackdown, detailing the story of hackers in America and the Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson's role playing game factory, Cyberpunk.  The full text of this book is available for free here via the efforts of Project Guttenberg.

Sterling is also a noted coiner of "neologisms," such as "blobject" and "slipstream fiction."  I rather like that last one as it refers to a certain stasis zone between traditional science fiction and the genuinely frustrating and pretentious world of so-called literary writing.  
So you won't be reading truly deep and philosophical characters in Sterling's books, at least not to my finding.  But just because it isn't "literary" is no grounds to dismiss the work.  Instead, you'll be given a glimpse at a world that as Max Headroom said, is truly 15 seconds into the future.   I'm confident to have Bruce along as my guide in the new age ahead.  I'm sure that there will be lots to be excited about...and terrified of.

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