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||April 14, 1954
Austin, Texas, U.S.
||Vincent Omniaveritas (in fanzine Cheap Truth)
||Writer, speaker, futurist, design instructor
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
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". 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
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
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
From April 2009 through May 2009, he was an editor at Cool Tools.
Since October 2003
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
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
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.
- 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.
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
several years. In September 2007 he moved to Turin, Italy. He
also travels the world extensively giving speeches and attending
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.
- ^ a
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
By by Nisi Shawl (2009-02-19). "Books | "The Caryatids":
four clones need a home | Seattle Times Newspaper".
Seattletimes.nwsource.com. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/books/2008758249_br22sterling.html. Retrieved
"Cool Tools: New Editor, Same
Deal". Kk.org. http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/003672.php. Retrieved
"HELLO WORLD | Beyond The
Beyond". Wired.com. 2003-10-30. http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2003/10/hello_world/. Retrieved
"Viridian Note 00120: Viridian
Disasters (Storms in France)". Viridiandesign.org.
1999-12-27. http://www.viridiandesign.org/notes/101-125/00120.html. Retrieved
Viridiandesign.org. http://www.viridiandesign.org/notes/401-450/00422_the_spime.html. Retrieved
July/August 2005 > Thrown a Curve". Stanfordalumni.org.
2003-07-02. http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2005/julaug/features/curve.html. Retrieved
"Life Doesn't Lack for Variety
| Beyond the Beyond from Wired.com". Blog.wired.com.
2005-11-19. http://blog.wired.com/sterling/2005/11/life_doesnt_lac.html. Retrieved
2 June 2007 (2007-11-19). "Putting people first »
Bruce Sterling moving to Torino, Italy". Experientia.com. http://www.experientia.com/blog/bruce-sterling-moving-to-torino-italy/. Retrieved
- ^ "2000 Award Winners &
Nominees". Worlds Without End.
- ^ "1989 Award Winners &
Nominees". Worlds Without End.
- Lectures and speeches
- Closing talk by Bruce
Sterling South by South West, March 13, 2007, Austin
- Opening keynote speech at
2006 conference, Orange County, California.
Bruce's speech begins at 0:10:20.
- Video Lecture by Bruce
Sterling, European Graduate School, Saas-fee, Switzerland 2006
about technologies such as RFID's.
- Talk at the Innovationsforum
Interactiondesign, Germany 2007
- "Computer Entertainment
Thirty-Five Years From Today", Flurb 6 (Fall-Winter 2008). Speech at the
Austin Game Developers
- Keynote address: "The Wonderful Power of
Storytelling", Speech to Computer Game Developers' Conference,
San Jose, 1991. Standing ovation.
- Opening Keynote at Lift08: "A
look at 2008, the boring year ahead"
- Talk on "Spimes and the future
- Lift Asis 08 talk: "Mobiles
and the urban poor"
- Closing Talk at Reboot 11,
Copenhagen, July 2009: On Favela Chic, Gothic High Tech and where
we are heading.