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Michael Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which defined the cyberpunk genre. 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.
Sterling is, along with William Gibson, Tom Maddox, 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 the novelette "Bicycle Repairman" and the novella "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.
In 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.
In the 1980s, Sterling edited a series of science fiction newsletters called 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 has been the instigator of two 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 http://www.deadmedia.org
- The Viridian Design Movement - his attempt to create a "green" design movement focused on high-tech, stylish, and ecologically sound design. The 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".
Sterling has a habit of coining and popularizing 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 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 coined the term Spime, for a type of technological device 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.
- Involution Ocean (1977) - A science fiction version of Moby-Dick, set in a deep crater filled with dust instead of water, featuring an impossible romance between the protagonist and an alien woman.
- The Artificial Kid (1980) - A novel about a young street fighter who continuously films himself using remote controlled cameras.
- Schismatrix (1985) - The 23rd century solar system is divided among two human factions: the "Shapers" who are employing genetics and psychology, and the "Mechanists" who use computers and body prosthetics. The novel is narrated from the viewpoint of Abelard Lindsay, a brilliant diplomat who makes history many times throughout the story.
- Islands in the Net (1988) - a view of an early 21st century world apparently peaceful with delocalised, networking corporations. The protagonist, swept up in events beyond her control, finds herself in the places off the net, from a datahaven in Grenada, to a Singapore under terrorist attack, and the poorest and most disaster-struck part of Africa.
- The Difference Engine (1990) (with William Gibson) - A steampunk alternate history novel set in a Victorian Great Britain in the throes of a steam-driven computer revolution.
- Heavy Weather (1994) - Follows a high-tech storm chasers in a midwest where greenhouse warming has made tornadoes far more energetic that the present day.
- Holy Fire (1996) - Set in a world of steadily increasing longevity (gerontocracy), a newly rejuvenated American woman drifts through the marginalised subculture European young artists while dealing with the implications of posthumanism.
- Distraction (1998) - A master political strategist and a genius genetic researcher find love as they fight an insane Louisiana governor for control of a high-tech scientific facility in a post-collapse United States. Winner of the 2000 Arthur C. Clarke Award. US editions: ISBN 0-553-10484-5 (hardcover), ISBN 0-553-57639-9 (paperback).
- Zeitgeist (2000) - A girl group ala the Spice Girls tours the Middle East under the direction of trickster Leggy Starlitz. Explores a world in which postmodernism and deconstructionism were actually true in their postulation of reality as a malleable Major consensus narrative.
- The Zenith Angle (2004) - A techno-thriller (or very near-future SF, looking at some of the gimmicks) about a cyber-security expert who goes to work for the US government fighting terrorism after 9/11.
Short story collections
- Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology (1986) - defining cyberpunk short story collection, edited by Bruce Sterling; ISBN 0-441-53382-5
o The Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson o Snake-Eyes by Tom Maddox o Rock On by Pat Cadigan o Tales of Houdini by Rudy Rucker o 400 Boys by Marc Laidlaw o Solstice by James Patrick Kelly o Petra by Greg Bear o Till Human Voices Wake Us by Lewis Shiner o Freezone by John Shirley o Stone Lives by Paul Di Filippo o Red Star, Winter Orbit by Bruce Sterling, William Gibson o Mozart in Mirrorshades by Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner
- Crystal Express (1989) - a collection of short stories, including several set in the Shaper/Mechanist universe; ISBN 0-87054-158-7
o Swarm o Spider Rose o Cicada Queen o Sunken Gardens o Twenty Evocations o Green Days in Brunei o Spook o The Beautiful and the Sublime o Telliamed o The Little Magic Shop o Flowers of Edo o Dinner in Audoghast
- Globalhead (1992, paperback 1994); ISBN 0-553-56281-9
o Our Neural Chernobyl o Storming the Cosmos o The Compassionate, the Digital o Jim and Irene o The Sword of Damocles o The Gulf Wars o The Shores of Bohemia o The Moral Bullet o The Unthinkable o We See Things Differently o Hollywood Kremlin o Are You for 86? o Dori Bangs
- A Good Old-fashioned Future (1999); ISBN 1-85798-710-1
o Maneki Neko o Big Jelly (with Rudy Rucker) o The Littlest Jackal o Sacred Cow o Deep Eddy o Bicycle Repairman o Taklamakan
- Visionary in Residence (2006); ISBN 1-56025-841-1
o In Paradise o Luciferase o Homo Sapiens Declared Extinct o Ivory Tower o Message Found in a Bottle o The Growthing o User-Centric o Code o The Scab's Progress o Junk DNA o The Necropolis of Thebes o The Blemmye's Stratagem o The Denial
- The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992) - about the panic of law enforcers in the late 1980s about 'hackers' and the raid on Steve Jackson Games as part of Operation Sun Devil. Spectra Books, ISBN 0-553-56370-X. Reasoning that the book had a naturally time-limited commercial life, he has made the text of the book freely available via Project Gutenberg (HTML version).
- Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the next fifty years (2002) - a popular science approach on futurology, reflecting technology, politics and culture of the next 50 years. Readers of Sterling will recognize many issues from books like Zeitgeist, Distraction or Holy Fire.
- Shaping Things (2005) is a "book about created objects", i.e. a lengthy essay about design, things and how we will move from the age of products and gizmos to the age of spimes (a Sterling neologism). The 150-pages book covers issues like "intelligent things" (spiked with RFID-tags), sustainability and fabbing. MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-69326-7.
- Introduction to The Glass Bees, English translation of Gläserne Bienen by Ernst Jünger (2000)
- The Agitprop Disk
- introduction to Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, a book by the team that runs Worldchanging.
- 'Hot Change: Climate Change in the Glossies' Artforum, and reprinted in Max Andrews (Ed.): Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook. London, Royal Society of Arts, 2006 ISBN 978-0-901469-57-1