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Bruce Sterling

Born April 14, 1954 (1954-04-14) (age 55)
Austin, Texas, U.S.
Pen name Vincent Omniaveritas (in fanzine Cheap Truth)
Occupation Writer, speaker, futurist, design instructor
Nationality American
Writing period 1970s-present
Genres Science fiction
Subjects Cyberpunk
Literary movement Cyberpunk/postcyberpunk
Official website

Michael Bruce Sterling (born April 14, 1954) is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.



Sterling is, along with William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, Lewis Shiner, 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".[2] 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 his novelettes "Bicycle Repairman" and "Taklamakan".

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.

From the late 1970s onwards, Sterling wrote a series of stories set in the Shaper/Mechanist universe: the solar system is colonised, 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.[1]

Bruce Sterling at the Open Cultures conference (June 5, 2003)

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

He recently contributed a chapter to Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008) edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky.

From April 2009 through May 2009, he was an editor at Cool Tools.[3]

Since October 2003[4] Sterling has blogged at "Beyond the Beyond", which is hosted by Wired.



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
  • The Viridian Design Movement - his attempt to create a "green" design movement focused on high-tech, stylish, and ecologically sound design.[5] The Viridian Design home page, including Sterling's Viridian Manifesto and all of his Viridian Notes, is managed by Jon Lebkowsky at 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.[6] 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 and co-author of several books on advanced Flash programming, and Monty Zukowski, creator of the winning 'decay algorithm' sponsored by Bruce.


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 July 1989, in SF Eye #5, he was the first to use the word "slipstream" to refer to a type of speculative fiction between traditional science fiction and fantasy and mainstream literature.
  • 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.[7]
  • 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.[8]
  • 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.[9]


Sterling at Robofest '94.

In childhood, Sterling spent several years in India, and today has a notable fondness for Bollywood films. In 2003 he was appointed Professor at the European Graduate School where he is teaching Summer Intensive Courses on media and design. In 2005, he became "visionary in residence" at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He lived in Belgrade with his second wife, Serbian author and film-maker Jasmina Tesanovic[10] for several years. In September 2007 he moved to Turin, Italy.[11] He also travels the world extensively giving speeches and attending conferences.

In his hometown of Austin, Texas, the author was known for throwing large South By Southwest parties up through 2005, and for participating in his block's annual Christmas lights display, to which Sterling added digital art.




  1. ^ a b Alastair Reynolds, Essay: "Future Histories", Locus, Vol. 57, No. 5, Issue 550, November 2006, p. 39; also included as afterword to Galactic North; "...I owe an equally obvious debt to Bruce Sterling, whose Shaper/Mechanist sequence blew my mind on several levels... Read Schismatrix if you haven't already done so: it will melt your face."
  2. ^ By by Nisi Shawl (2009-02-19). "Books | "The Caryatids": four clones need a home | Seattle Times Newspaper". Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  3. ^ "Cool Tools: New Editor, Same Deal". Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  4. ^ "HELLO WORLD | Beyond The Beyond". 2003-10-30. Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Viridian Note 00120: Viridian Disasters (Storms in France)". 1999-12-27. Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  8. ^ "Viridian Note". Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  9. ^ "STANFORD Magazine: July/August 2005 > Thrown a Curve". 2003-07-02. Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  10. ^ "Life Doesn't Lack for Variety | Beyond the Beyond from". 2005-11-19. Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  11. ^ 2 June 2007 (2007-11-19). "Putting people first » Bruce Sterling moving to Torino, Italy". Retrieved 2010-01-01.  
  12. ^ "2000 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-12.  
  13. ^ "1989 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-05-12.  

External links

Lectures and speeches


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Bruce Sterling (born April 14, 1954) is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology.


  • Obsolescence and death, the reign of the archaic, the abandoned, and the corny: Really, if you saw Windows 3.0 on the sidewalk outside the building, would you bend over and pick it up?!?
    • in the Long Now talk "The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole" (2004)
  • As a philosophical problem, it comes down to a better way to engage with the passage of time; and I think we're getting close to one, because the imaginative loss of the future is becoming acute.
    The most effective political actors on the planet now are people who want to blow themselves up.
    These are people who really don't want to get out of the bed in the morning and face another unpredictable day.
    • in the Long Now talk "The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole" (2004)
  • Tomorrow composts today.
    • in Shaping Things (2005)
  • "Mashups [...] "nobody's going to listen to mashup's -- in another ten years. Mashups are novelty music. They're like the monster mash.They have no musical staying power. You know -- you're pursuing a phantom there. It's bad music. I mean it's not bad -- it's you know a pastiche, it's like magazine collage; you know which can be good for what it is. But to pretend that that's like tremendous creative work -- no! It's a tremendous creative power -- and it can have a tremendous audience, but it's not tremendously good. You know and we need a little bit of aesetic honesty in confronting things like this. Just because it's new and people with laptops can do it and get away with it and find an audience for it does not make it a real cultural advance. It's an epiphenomenon."
    • in SXSW 2007 Bruce Sterling Rant (2007)

External links

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