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Bruce Sterling

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, which defined the cyberpunk genre. He writes Catscan , for the SF Eye . In 2003 he was appointed Professor at the European Graduate School where he is teaching Summer Intensive Courses on media and design.



Sterling is widely considered to be, along with William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, Lewis Shiner , and Pat Cadigan, one of the original founders of the early 1980s creators of the pessimistic and dystopian cyberpunk genre of science fiction. He is also one of the first organizers of Turkey City (critique workshops which happen sporadically in Texas) which started in the early 70s.

His first novel, Involution Ocean, published in 1977, featured the world Nullaqua where all the atmosphere was contained in a single, miles-deep crater; the story concerned a ship sailing on the ocean of dust at the bottom, hunting creatures called dustwhales that lived beneath the surface. It is 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 civilisations; 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 novel Schismatrix Plus.

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

In his hometown of Austin, Texas, the author is known for an annual Christmas yard party that features digital art.

In the 1980s, Sterling edited a series of science fiction newletters called Cheap Truth, under the alias of Vincent Omniaveritas.

He has been the inspiration for 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 games 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 movement without his perceived self-righteousness of the current Green movement. He called his proposed design movement the Viridian movement, to signify its desire for high-tech, stylish, and ecologically sound design. The Viridian Design home page, including Sterling's Viridian Manifesto, is at


  • Involution Ocean (1977)
  • The Artificial Kid (1980) - 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 (with William Gibson) - steampunk
  • Heavy Weather (1994) - about hi-tech storm chasers in a midwest where greenhouse warming has made tornadoes far more energetic that the present day.
  • Holy Fire (1996) - about a world of steadily increasing longevity, and the marginalised subculture of young artists in such a world.
  • 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 0553104845 (hardcover), ISBN 0553576399 (paperback)
  • Zeitgeist (2000) - a synthetical pop group touring the Middle East in front of global crime and commerce. Introduces the concept of Major consensus narrative.
  • The Zenith Angle (2004)

Short Story collections (and stories they contain)

  • Mirrorshades : A Cyberpunk Anthology (1986) - defining cyberpunk short story collection, edited by Bruce Sterling
  • Crystal Express (1989) - a collection of short stories, including several set in the Shaper/Mechanist universe
  • Globalhead (1992, paperback 1994); ISBN 0-553-56281-9.
    • Our Neural Chernobyl
    • Storming the Cosmos
    • The Compassionate, the Digital
    • Jim and Irene
    • The Sword of Damocles
    • The Gulf Wars
    • The Shores of Bohemia
    • The Moral Bullet
    • The Unthinkable
    • We See Things Differently
    • Hollywood Kremlin
    • Are You for 86?
    • Dori Bangs
  • A Good Old-fashioned Future (1999)
    • Maneki Neko
    • Big Jelly (with Rudy Rucker)
    • The Littlest Jackal
    • Sacred Cow
    • Deep Eddy
    • Bicycle Repairman
    • Taklamakan


  • 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. Spectra Books, ISBN 055356370X. Reasoning that the book had a naturally time-limited commercial life, he has made the text of the book freely available via the 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.

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about Bruce Sterling
  • "Beyond the Beyond" Bruce Sterling's current weblog
  • "Schism Matrix" Bruce Sterling's previous weblog (August 2001 to August 2003)
  • Bruce Sterling's unofficial homepage
  • Sterling at the ISFDB
  • Cybergreen ; Sterling interviewed by Mike Godwin; 6 January 2004.
  • "Bruce Sterling's faculty site at EGS"
  • "Sterling Commentary" -- a report from a Bruce Sterling book signing, May 19, 2004
  • Peace Is War Apr 2002 Wired magazine article by Bruce Sterling

Last updated: 02-09-2005 09:41:29
Last updated: 02-24-2005 15:02:15