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Ask Bruce Sterling 111

This week's interview subject is author Bruce Sterling. If you've never heard of him (shame on you!) learn a little about him here or type his name into any search engine. He's an interesting dude and one of my personal favorite contemporary writers, and I feel privileged to have him with us this week. Post your questions below, as usual, and, as usual, Slashdot moderators and editors will select 10 - 15 of them, and (again as usual) Bruce's answers will appear Friday and, if he has time, he might jump into the discussion that follows the posting of his answers.
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Ask Bruce Sterling

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  • by dmorin ( 25609 ) <dmorin@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:11AM (#1640070) Homepage Journal
    We're hearing lots about Neal Stephenson in the geek set these days. What's your opinion of the man, his writing style, and his choice of topics upon which to write?
  • With all the contacts of the VG list, has anyone ever done an analysis of the energy and COx breakeven for refining Si into solar cells?

    When do you think biological processes, that strip Hydrogen from water and bond it to Carbon , then use fuel cell tech to produce electricity will be available.
  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:17AM (#1640072) Homepage
    A lot of your work recently has been on the Viridian project - a movement dedica
    ted to innovative, practical, and far-reaching responses to environmental crisis
    . You've focused on the use of design and engineering to create a less destructi
    ve way of living on this planet.

    You're doing so in a way that seeks to avoid politics - you'll name names, but s
    eem unwilling to pitch battles. Is this fatalism, or an attempt to preserve cons
    ensus in a movement that includes both libertarians and communitarians? Do you b
    elieve that conscientious consumerism is going to be sufficient to avert continu
    ed environmental destruction? Do you believe that "local minima" of the immediat
    e benefits of good design will always win in the market? Do you think lasting ch
    ange will be possible without global regulation? And what do you think the most promising recent Viridian-positive developments have been?
  • Where do you stand?
    Who do you consider to be your peers?
    Which writers (SF and non-SF) do you like?


    which is stranger; fact or fiction?
  • by Robert.Franklin ( 88714 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:23AM (#1640074)
    I thought that The Difference Engine was one of the most offbeat and interesting takes on the cyberpunk (steampunk?) genre. Are you still in contact with William Gibson? Do you have plans to collaborate with him again?
  • What was working with William Gibson like?
  • What are your feelings on the 'flying cow' scene in the movie Twister? Since my first experience of airborne bovines came from your book Heavy Weather, I would like to know if you were approached by Spielberg et al. about using that piece of I.P.

    While on the subject of Heavy Weather, IMHO it would make a great movie itself. Any plans?
  • by tilly ( 7530 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:30AM (#1640077)
    It is customary to ask people who their influences were. But I would like to turn that around. and ask a harder question...

    Which new authors do you feel that you have most strongly influenced? What specifically makes you select them?

  • One of the things i enjoy most about your Viridian movement is the idea of designing products that haven't been invented yet, but should be. This is an interesting contrast to a basic principle of Open Source, where a projects' value is measured by its living code, not its high ideals. Although there are many ways to contrast the two movements, i would like to hear what you feel they have in common. Is Open Source a Viridian approach to software?
    Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.
  • by seesik ( 45318 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:43AM (#1640079)

    First off, did Marianne Dyson get any NASA funding to help get your T1 trunk to Siberia?

    Secondly, in your most recent book titled Distraction, you base a large part of the economic demise of America on the scenario of the Chinese government making all U.S. commercial software freely available on the net. While I am not deluded about the role and importance of many commercial products, how do you think the recent rise in availability and quality of free software would affect this scenario? How much consideration, if any, did you lend to the free software movement when writing Distraction?

    Keep aiming to please.
  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:48AM (#1640080) Homepage Journal
    I read, some time back, a Manifesto [] of yours dealing with dead (ie doomed or archaic or obsolete) media; it was a very interesting read.

    If I'm not mistaken, the thrust of your manifesto was that a research tome on such media should be created, but since you were too swamped with projects, you hoped that people out there on the Internet who read it would come together and help to create the book themselves.

    I was wondering if this has been very successful, and if so (or if not) what you have learned from the Manifesto and its consequences.
  • I deeply love the Dead Media Page, [] However, I've never received any mail after signing up for the Dead Media Mailing List. Is this a problem with my mailer, or is the list currently dormant?
  • by Switch ( 96316 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @07:56AM (#1640083)
    It seems that many modern science fiction authors see the future as a time when society gives up on "physical" community in favor of technology. (i.e ruined govt, city states, corporate martial powers, etc..) Do you see this as an amplification of the state of community in today's world, or is it simply convenient literary device?
  • The late 80's pre-mass-internet early 90's saw a lot of interesting fiction being written on the Cyberpunk culture. Mid-90's saw that movement transition somewhat into more of a Gothic Punk culture, less machine more soul.

    Where do you see the mirrorshades literary movement heading in the year 2000?
  • What operating system do you use at home?
    With what word processor/text editor do you use to write your books?
    If you need assistance installing Linux, let me know. I work in Round Rock.
  • by yoshi ( 38533 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @08:12AM (#1640087)
    Some authors consider collaborative writing projects to be rather painful and counterproductive. The Difference Engine , however, was a wonderful piece of writing and seemed to truly be a product of both your and Gibson's styles. My questions:
    • Did you enjoy the challenge of working with another author, especially one with such a distinct style?
    • Do you think that sci-fi is, as a genre, particularly conducive to collaborative projects? If so, why, and if not, any opinion on why they are so common?
    • Do you have any advice for aspiring collaborative writers (other than the key "don't kill your partner")?
  • What has happened to Postmodern Science Fiction?! I read an essay/article that you wrote saying that the cyberpunks were going to die, but that a new (counter)culture would rise from its ashes. So where are the brave souls pushing the envelope of Science Fiction like the cyberpunks? If they exist, who are they; and if they don't exist, was cyberpunk a failed philosophy because of its inability to create a succeeding generation?
  • What are you currently working on?

  • I really get a kick out of B.S.'s essays. The above list links to all the ones I know about, plus speeches and interviews.
  • in his into, Roblimo says you are on of his 'personal favorite contemporary writers'.

    I'd always figured you fit more closely in a 'speculative fiction' category.

    What do you think of the recent technological changes? Where do you think we're likely to go from here?

  • Much of the framework seems to be in place for a world such as you described in your excellent short story "Maneki Neko". PDAs with wireless Internet connectivity, data mining AIs (although I hope none of them go rogue anytime soon), the acceptance of gift economy in the form of the Free Software/Open Source movement.

    Do you think that people would allow their lives to be ruled by AIs speaking to them through their PDAs? Is it inevitable? Is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, or does it matter?

    Geoffrey Wossum
    Project AKO []

  • by chromatic ( 9471 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @08:41AM (#1640096) Homepage

    Rereading Islands in the Net recently, I was struck by the observation that the humble DVD rendered some of the early scenes almost obsolete (only in a speculative sense).

    With that in mind, are there any technological or cultural developments in the past few years that have caused you to rethink your speculations/predictions/opinions about the near future? If so, what are they?

    Thanks for your time!

    QDMerge [] 0.21!
  • Let's propose that the category "Cyberpunk" was a real one, and that it was an 80s-early 90s trend.

    Where do you see the cutting edge in the next decade? What young writers do you think are really evolving the form?
  • He uses a Mac. Up until recently, it was an old IIsi. I think he's upgraded to a G3 of some sort more recently... --jamais
  • He uses a Mac. Up until recently, it was an old IIsi. I think he's upgraded to a G3 of some sort more recently...


  • Will you be doing any more stories set in the Shaper/Mechanist universe? If not, then why? Has it been mined out, made insignificant, is no longer fun or has it been copied by other's too much?


  • by G-Man ( 79561 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @09:01AM (#1640101)

    I still remember early Cyberpunk, and then the early years of Wired, as times of being exposed to one "mind blowing" idea after another. The future, though far from Utopian, was going to be very interesting. Anymore, though, I see few ideas that make me sit back and say " *that* is cool."

    Now, in a mundane world of spam and banner ads, the coming future doesn't seem nearly so thrilling. In trying to pinpoint the source of my apathy about new ideas, I can't quite decide if it's me, us, or you. That is, I can't decide if: (a) My personal perspective has changed, and I've learned enough that little suprises me anymore, (b) We've all gotten better at predicting the future, so little surprises any of us, or (c) You folks (the SF writers and Futurists) blew out all the great ideas in the 80s and early 90s, and we'll just have to wait awhile for the next Big Thing.

    So what I'm wondering is: Have you become at all jaded about technology and its effect on society? What do you think about our current state of predicting the future? Are there any ideas, authors, etc., that you've seen recently that make you say "Whoa..."?
  • If you had the power to change ONE thing in the computer world to the way you thought it SHOULD be (be it coding, politics, business), what would you change? Why?
  • About twelve/thirteen years ago I heard a speach you gave at a technology conference in Olympia Washington. A major point of that speach had to do with the Japanese economic structure (zaibatsus and the like) and its pontential in a future of networked international corporations. You also made some predictions as to the future power of the Japanese and general Asian economy.

    Would you say those predictions have been proved out? Would you say they missed the mark? Or would you say they are still operational given enough time?


  • by sugarman ( 33437 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @09:06AM (#1640104)
    We are starting to see parts of the future that you, Mr. Gibson, and others in the cyberpunk genre have predicted come true. Items such as the Mirrorshades are closer than ever to being a reality (the recent work by IBM on body portables being an example).

    Are you surprised by how much what you forecasted has or has not come true? Is there anything you thought for sure was going to happen but didn't?

    And thought hindsight is often useless, in what ways would the current situation (cultural/political/technological) change the stories that you have written? Part of the trap with writing speculative fiction set in the near-future is that as the future date approaches, unless you are dead on with the predictions, the story will move into the realm of wild fantasy. John Carpenter's 'Escape from New York' serves as an example. In the end, it all comes down to the story. How well do you think your stories (and cyberpunk in general) will stand up in 20 years time?
  • Slashdot timed out when I submitted the parent to this comment, but proceeded to post it anonymously! Kind of ironic, considering the subject matter.
  • if you use a G3 how do u feel about apple preventing you from upgrading your CPU?
  • Neal Stephenson wrote THE DIAMOND AGE.

  • I recently read Heavy Weather and I was disturbed by similarities to the weather and the environment described in the book and the weather and the environment that's happening now.

    Weather appears to be getting worse. Global warming is predicted to raise the temperature of the Earth up to 4 degrees and the recent New York outbreak of encephalitis is being blamed on the rising temperatures. []

    In Heavy Weather, the characters were asked at just what point did the Earth become unsavable due to human caused pollution. So, my question to you is: Do you believe the Earth is unsavable and Heavy Weather was a prediction of what is to come, or was it a wake-up call?

    Monica Gaudio
  • how do you feel about the net becoming a tool of greedy mba's? looking back what would you say we as an online bbs community should have done around 89-93 to prevent or coopt this process? or do you feel that its ok and that the net is all about choice i.e. if you want to participate in the selling of the net you can if you don't you don't have to?
  • Dear Bruce,
    in "The Difference Engine" you postulate an America divided by North and South with the South having won it's independence. In what way do you see the South would have been helped by difference engines? Also, with the North's greater industrial capacity wouldn't the Union be more able to employ bigger and better difference engines much like it did with ironclads? I think it would be fascinating to have a book length treatment on how Difference Engines made a, er, difference!
  • Your books seem to follow a trend where you pick one facet of our culture and imagine it into the future. (Weather, Medicine, Politcs, etc.)
    How do you choose these topics? Is there any one event or news story that gets you thinking? If this is the case, can you share some of the things that led you to create the worlds in your novels?
  • The general sense I get from the CyberPunk genre (and also from SlashDot) is that even as our technological prowess increases and mankind merges its genetics with silicon, we are still at heart brutal confused animals blindly chasing after meaning and purpose in an indifferent universe.

    In your view, are we just groping our way blindly, trying through our technology to get past our perceived shortcomings, or is mankind actually doing something to enhance life on earth, and our future life in the cosmos?

    Or to put it succinctly: Do you believe there really is such a thing as progress?
    Yeah, I'm a Mac programmer. You got a problem with that?
  • Bruce-

    First off I loved _Schismatrix_ (all the crazy people like that one, right?:)

    Second, in _Heavy Weather_, you described a global economy where the national currencies were weak in relation to private currencies backed by corporations and private banks. This idea struck me, and has stuck with me. I'm most facinated by the fact that I can see the beginning of that senario blossoming in reality with the introduction of the digital currencies. Where did you come up with this senario? I've heard from reliable sources that a certain cypherpunk inspired this back story.

    Thirdly, I went to a birthday party of one of your cousins in Aug, and lemme tell you, your family is a hell of a lot of fun.

    Fourth (and last), your article on Burning Man was great. I've met alot of people out there that attended after reading that. I think that you are one of the few writers that have actually been able to write a fair account, and almost relay the spirit of what happens out there. You should come out to the Austin regional event [] next spring.

  • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @10:29AM (#1640115) Homepage Journal
    In case anyone's interested, there's a Sterling FAQ [].

    My question? Would you reconsider revisting the world of systems crackers and the like? The Hacker Crackdown was a damn good book.
  • In the late 70s and early 80s, it was said that the next big Age would be the one we're currently living in: The Information Age, where data became the coin of the realm and everone scurries about attempting to make it more interoperable and universally usable. Much of the cyberpunk literature delved into the later throes of the Age and plumbed its potential depths. It is said that the coming Age is likely the Age of Genetics where DNA itself is pulled apart and hacked to our liking--think "Gattaca" and Dolly here.

    Is this indeed the coming Age and where do you see it going? And if not, where are we headed after data and electronics are as much a part of culture as the machines of the Industrial Age are now?
  • Having read Holy Fire, I have to ask, how much does it reflect your own views or fears? Is there a point to being a dramatically avant-garde and iconoclastic bourgeois starving artist/hacker/philosopher when you're twenty? Where do you come down on the whole safety vs. freedom issue? Is the future going to be just god-awful boring, or am I missing the point?
  • What do you forsee as the future to the huge issues surrounding the battle between software pirates and developers? Will cryptography play a role in this? Of course I'm excluding GNU and OSS software from this:)
  • One of the things that I found most intrigueing about Islands In The Net was the corporate structure and culture of the Rizome corporation.

    Recently we've seen companies with radical new business models (such as Redhat and VA Linux) hiring developers to work on whatever they want, and corporate HR departments focusing on 'recruiting from within' to minimize employee turnover. Both these trends may be extrapolated to lead to Rizome type corporations.

    So here's the question: What do you currently think future business entities will look like, and what can we do to make those future entities as human-friendly as possible?

  • I'm not sure if it was you or another cyberpunk author who coined the phrase "the street finds its own use for technology."

    I'm wondering, though, if the principle is starting to work in reverse. "Street" technology (well, at least technology born not of high-tech R&D labs, but rather by individuals for their own needs), like Linux and the WWW seem to be eaten up wholesale by big corporations these days.

    Do you think that, in focusing on Big Corporate technology, that the pushing of this home-grown tech into the corporate sector has been overlooked in the cyberpunk genre?

    Speaking of which, is there even such a genre anymore?
  • Bruce's novel "Islands in the Net" was one of the first not-so-punk cyberpunk novels I encountered. Although the conflict casts a shadow on the setting, and that future has its own social and technological problems, it did not strike me as the "dark and scary place" that CNET Central host Richard Hart recently complained about. [] I especially liked the concept of the democratically/meritocratically organized corporation, although it now seems implausible given the plutocracy [] we currently appear to live in.

    My question for Bruce is:

    Beyond the obvious overworked subjects like global warming and nuclear winter, what social, political and/or technological hurdles must we overcome in order to avoid the "dark and scary" future? Or, alternately, which hurdles are unavoidable, and how will they darken our future?

  • Bruce-

    In June of 1992 you gave a speach to the Library Information Technology Association in San Francisco. In the speach you said, "The nature of our society strongly affects the nature of our technology." You brought up some very interesting points about commodities, the profusion of information, and controlling human attention. This led to to some intriguing commentary about the "Singularity" and the "human condition," and finally your idea on "Deep Archiving" for future civilizations.

    Since that time we have seen technological explosions affecting human communications and the further dissemination of data. Also, such phenomenon as the Open Source movement are taking hold, perhaps bringing back a little of the old "Free as Air, Free As Water, Free As Knowledge" ideal.

    Now, more than ever, we are experiencing a global interconnectedness, particularly at the Cyberpunk subculture level.

    Given these developments, what now have you to say about the complete transfomation of the human condition? Any further insight or predictions?
  • Hi Bruce. I really enjoyed your novel The Difference Engine. I hadn't realized that the history of computing (notwithstanding math) reached back so far.

    Apparently, the Science Museum in London completed a replica of Babbage's Difference Engine on his 200th birthday (URL below). How do you feel about that? Have you seen it? Neat, eh? 862-89.html
  • You've said that the cyberpunk movement ended sometime in the mid-eighties, around when it got its name. Lately, one sees the word "postcyberpunk" applied to the work of Neal Stephenson and Jeff Noon, amoungst others. And when I think about it, I find that the newer work is sometimes dealing with slightly different themes, things about language and the nature of our stories that didn't show up in earlier cyberpunk, and showing more direct, conscious influence from postmodernism. So what do you think? Is this newer work deserving of its own name and catagory? Is "postcyberpunk" the right name? Or is cyberpunk still somehow alive and well and expanding its themes naturally in newer work? Or are books like _Snowcrash_ and _Vurt_ just a sort of post-movement fall-out, plumbing out the last few things that no one got around to saying?
  • Seriously, it seems as if the same old authors are all we see on the shelves.

    So, my question to you is, What are you, as a person and as a writer, doing to foster the next generation of writers who will throw the old fogies of the 80s and 90s into the dustbin of history? Have you been pushing the boundaries of literate SF for other writers, or are you just raking in the bucks like the rest of the IPOs that society is gaga over?

    Or are you growing comfortable with your role in the old paradigm and unwilling to take the lead into the new age, in which, possibly, you may have a lesser place in the grand scheme of things.

    By the by: love most of your writing - it's been great running into you at Cons, back when I did those, in the days when I had a double-hyphenated name. Say hi to Bill for me.

  • Dead Media [] is still active.
  • The Viridian Mailing List Archive []

    Bruce, so far I've been _very_ impressed with Viridian, both as a concept, as a social experiment, and as a peice of social engineering.

    I'd like to ask you four questions:

    0> Is this more fun than writing science fiction? Why?

    1> In your opinion, has Viridian so far been a success?

    2> How many people does it take before Viridian becomes a household word?

    3> Apart from buying green power, what can an individual nerd with viridian leanings _do_?

    PS: I'm vinay(at), posting as an AC.

  • by boojumsnark ( 75347 ) on Monday October 04, 1999 @12:57PM (#1640135)
    Bruce: I remember reading an essay by you about Burning Man a while back; you hauled your daughter along. I thought this move, besides indicating that you were an incredibly cool dad, pretty much marked the end of Burning Man as a "dangerous" underground phenomenom. Similarly, a number of different forces are transfroming the web-centric Internet into something increasingly bland. I know you're a long-time user of the Well, which is now owned by Salon, the Newsweek of the web.

    Which leads me to my question. Do you think it's possible nowadays to create a sustained, independent, and transgressive community (a TAZ, if you will) without it being co-opted by society at large? Some of your old Catscan essays (particularly the one on Jules Verne []) hint at what your response to this question would have been in the past, but I'm curious to hear what you have to say now.

  • In The Happy Mutant Handbook you mentioned some odd anecdotes about the real alternate history we never knew existed. Do you have anymore oddities of history that you have found? Perhaps ones to weird to list in Mutant Handbook (:
  • I've heard it said that most futurists (and science-fiction writers) are like blind men trying to feel the shape of a distant elephant with a stick. The "elephant", in the original comment, being the year 2000 as a convenient date for "when the future begins".

    Now that the year 2000 is upon us, most people's sticks have shrunk - the "future" is much nearer now and has become more opaque.

    My question is, do you feel that having constant access to all these ideas and short-term futures - a consequence of the Internet, I suppose - is blinding most people to genuinely new and farseeing ideas? Not that there aren't people succeeding; besides yourself, David Brin and Greg Benford come to mind.

  • Bruce,

    The Hacker Crackdown.
    Was the OSS of that novel worth it? What hassle did you go through with the publishers? Did it convince them to change their opinions - I myself grabbed it from a friend, but now keep a copy of the freeware version on my desktop.

    How do you feel about being a /.ed focal point? Is that a good or bad thing? How good is it to have MUD's based on your work? Do you play them?

    Is there a sequel for heavy weather coming? Did the world get trashed?

    answer what you like...
  • Your book, '
    Heavy Weather', inspired a web technology system called InterRAD.

    Follow-up to this may interest those seeing in part, your near term story line rendered into reality. Are you thinking of writing up more fact or fiction along these lines? What do you think of Net Heads using your books to develop new stuff? More than a few storm chasers use the above mentioned radar system with cell phones, laptops and assorted mobile gear to seek storms. Dan

  • How do you think the press should be handled?

    Do you think video cameras remove the operator from the immediate experience? If so, how can one avoid that? What can we do about BM porn ending up on eBay, or should we care?

    What do you think about it now vs., say, 1994?

    Did you see JC Superstar by Mark Pesce, Toni Parisi (of VRML fame), and Paul Godwin?

    What were your favorite parties/events/art pieces? Who were the coolest camps? Were you with HAmlet (Austinites)?

    Fiyaaaaaaaa on da playa!

  • I go "Whoa" when a cool idea that's been around a while, actually becomes physical reality. It's one thing to see a possible future, but when it's actually in front of your face it's pretty wild. From Sci-Fi to theory to experimental lab to reality.

    Like hand transplants. Or head transplants. Or enough bandwidth to download images on a page without waiting minutes or hours on a 2400 baud modem. Now *that* is cool.

  • The more or less official Viridian source is
  • I still love that collection. My favorite of your works. Consideirng that genetic engineering is steadily advancing, and mechanical prosthesis is already considered acceptable (for repair anyway), do you forsee the Shaper vs. Machinist becoming a reality? And please please write more in that universes (even though you promised you never would) as it blew my mind when I first read them...
  • With the promise of very small and very dense storage technologies in the near future, what do you think will happen to our current notion of intellectual property?

    I mean, within a decade or two it will 'seem' to be simpler and less time consuming to purchase the encrypted, static equivalent of a large size library and keep it with you in a wearable PC or somesuch. Reading material on it would require a microtransaction to unencrypt it via the PKI. Just cram a good chunk of the world's most desirable static data (Homer in XML, etc.) in a crystalline microstructure and copy it a few billion times. No need to cache most documents in webservers/webclients anymore as they are local. It is the links between the documents that are dynamic.

    The network would only be used for new or dynamic data, such as unlocking a book out of the library chunk or finding out the current UV levels at the North Pole.

    Ok, I'm rambling. Caffeinated and I really enjoy yr stuff.

    Do you think the powers that be will try to stop this from happening? Or do you think they will bless it? Or do you think that hackers will eventually break the encryption anyway? Don't you think the powers that be would want to put together their ideas of the world's most 'useful/needed' data?

  • I mean after 20+ years of saying how bad things are and telling us we're F**KED, what's your accuracy? I've heard you since '87 (Austin/EFF/DilloCon gotta love it) and still gotta wonder after all the rants (cypherpunks, global warming, Islam, e-currency, etc.). Has anybody been tracking your "doom and gloom" vs. what has happened?

    Austin, Texas

    Personally I've read BS's writings and treat them all (fiction and non-fiction) as worst case scenarios.

  • it was from a speach he gave as part of the "new minds" series in san francisco. i was lucky enough to be in sf for apachecon in 1998 and got to see it. very cool.

    i put up the speach at:
  • Bruce, do you think of the term Cyberpunk as an apt description for the 'cyberpunk' genre of books? Heck, is there really such a thing as a Cyberpunk genre (the books typically considered Cyberpunk are so different).

    I ask because among the main three authors (well, to my opinion: yourself, William Gibson and Neal Stephenson), there is little common ground except for technology, and that's not even always true. What defines a book of the 'cyberpunk' genre (if there is such a thing)?

    Sam Jooky alad []

  • What is the newest gadget you bought and couldn't wait to play with?
  • Stephenson is excellent. He makes Bruce Sterling's books look like 3rd grade writing. I couldn't even get through Islands In the Net not to mention how lame Difference Engine was.

    On Stephenson's novels:

    Snow Crash was everything that William Gibson wish he'd written, and I imagine Gibson is feeling pretty threatend right about now, especially since he hasn't written a good book since Neuromancer. Virtual Light was the last Gibson book I purchased, and I won't be spending any more money on Mr. Gibson.

    Diamond Age pretty much sucked in my opinion. The book's whole paradigm (ick, hate this word, but it's apt here) is centered around a "Victorian" future, mostly based in China (gag). Needless to say suspension of disbelief wasn't acheived in this novel.

    Cryptonomicon was litterally the best sci-fi book I've ever read. And that's putting it in the company of Sturgeon, Heinlein, and Niven. Nobody today in any genre can touch this book. And that includes Orson Scott Card, who in my opinion peaked with Ender's Game, by the way, I'm already yawning a couple pages into Ender's Shadow. Card lost me when he ruined the ender series with Speaker for the Dead, I mean come on, it should have been called Ender the Pussy Goes to the Planet of the Pigs. Subsequent books in this series were equally lame.

    If you have not purchased Cryptonomicon you are definately missing out. For you Linux geeks, Stephenson has done a nice job of selling the OS in this book, granted he calls it Finux for legal reasons (not sure why, not like Torvalds gives a crap about free publicity).

    1. What takes the COBOL (insert Java 10 years from now) programmer of yesteryear and places them at the top or bottom of the food chain?
    2. Will society require that those of technical skills hone their arts and increase their own longevity?
    3. Do you feel that the mankinds own revolutions have taken place revolved around central technologies which shapes those that also helped to shaped it?
    4. If society continues to embrace its systems and technology pervasively, will it affect the manner in which power systems are allocated by imposed generational stratification or merely based on then present technological revolutions? []
  • The roving bands of technology freaks in Distraction used reputation servers to ascertain there status in their society. Are you familiar with the moderation system on Slashdot? Do you see parallels? Any suggestion on improvements/changes to the moderation system here. Is the whole open source/gift culture/Linux community an inspiration for these bands or a parallel developement?
  • :Do you believe the Earth is unsavable:

    Do you mean life on earth, or human life when you say unsavable? Nothing is going to happen that Earth itself wont survive, at least not that humanity is likely to be around to see. Or are you thinking like a typical human in that no humanity == no earth?

  • I read The Hacker Crackdown when I was in 8th grade, and it sparked my interest in the internet and in programming. You presented the stories of the people in such a great way, that made me want to learn what was going on in the world of computers.

    Do you have any plans for a new edition, detailing some of the newer cases that have cropped up since you wrote the book in 1992?

  • :Or are you thinking like a typical human in that no humanity == no earth?

    It's typical of most biological life forms to be interested in their own survival more than the survival of others. See the Selfish Gene theory.

    However, you got me. I should have been more specific and asked, "Is the Earth going to be able to support human life?"

  • Mr. Sterling,

    Many volunteers have referenced your name in connection with the ompages project, not that you endorse the project but that the ideas expressed in the project's website evoke memories of ideas expressed in your works and/or the works in your annotated bibliography.

    Please consider this proposal [] and tell me, is this what you meant by "Islands on the Net"? What are the social and/or political ramifications of this kind of volunteerism? Thank you.


  • Hmm, I dont think Bruce was at BM99, at least not anywhere near HAmlet..
    "Been there, done that, what's next" was the attitude I got from him when someone asked about BMxx

    Damn... I didnt get to see the JCS show...

    EyeZone/EyeBot @ 2:55 Mercury
    (be sure and make the TikiBus benefit 10/16 and Helloween on 10/30 if you're in CenTex)
  • Hello, I would like to ask : 1.) Do you support drugs ? You submitted the name of betaphenetylamin (I hope I write it good) to William Gibson for his book. Is this just your interest, or you use or support them (or at least some soft drugs)? 2.) What do you think about Tim Leary ? 3.) Do you think, that things like everybody will be able to surf the cyberspace will happen soon ? 4.) What about medial revolution ? Do you think, that the Internet (slashdot :) will be more important than TV and papernews ? A wish you everything fine and please continue with writing those genial books !
  • I'd say that Greg Egan [] would be among the best slashdot interview candidates. He's extremely on the ball as far as technology goes (his day job is contract programming), and has some of the most lucid and innovative ideas in speculative fiction.

    Neal Stephenson would also be a good choice.

  • Ah, well. Typical spectator.

    Nope, I'm in SF, but transplanted from Houston, and accumulated a year or two in Austin. Have a great coupla parties!

  • I spent my teenage years in Papua New Guniea (the 2nd largest island in the world, right above Oz (If you're from there send me a message, love to talk)). One day I was browsing thru a rare bookstore that soon when out of business. I'd only heard a little bit about cyberpunk (mostly thru the infamous Time article) and when I saw a book with Bruce Sterling on the cover I knew it was important for some reason. Unfortually I didn't have the $$ to buy it right then, but when I got home and thought about it I was kicking myself. The name of the book? _Involution Ocean_, Bruce's first book (I think). I'm sure the fact that a rare copy of his first book being found in a 3rd world country right next to 4th class romance novels, and with guys selling newpaper cigarettes, wooden artifacts, and live chickens would bring a smile to his face. I think I'll go kick myself somemore...
  • I think you mean FIJAGH, or Fandom Is Just A Goshdarn Hobby ;^)

  • I recently read your speech to the Austin Software Council on the Greenhouse Effect, and the virtues of clean energy. You tell 'em! The brave new world economy crowd (Wired ...) don't seem to want to hear about any potential flies in the ointment of their glorious future of growth.

    But I fear that conservation measures will not be enough if the underlying problem of population growth isn't addressed. And in the U.S. that means immigration. What better place to take a stand than against the unprincipled ripoff of American programmers & engineers - the H1-B program. Foreign programmers are imported by the hundreds of thousands for a feigned shortage, driving down wages and forcing programmers out of the field. e.g. shtml

    This so some super rich can indulge their obsession with chasing Bill Gates, himself the number one supporter of H1-B.

    Taking on immigration will make you unpopular in some circles (e.g., conservatives & liberals.) But while some people of conscience will use clean energy, you may have noticed that our SUVs are not getting any smaller, as the remaining oil is pumped from the ground to the air. (Coming next year, the Ford Exterminator, built on an authentic surplus Russian tank chassis! Safety Feature: in the event of an unfortunate collision with your neighbor, you are guaranteed to squash him like a bug!)

    Are you ready to lead us from bondage, o cybersage, to the promised land ... or what?

    Doc Bones

  • This in the year that saw human cell cloning and direct brain-machine interfaces become a reality? At a time when wearable technology is becoming commonplace and voice recognition has gotten good enough to pick out accents? A hundred fifty years from now the things you describe will be archaic... provided we haven't all steam-broiled ourselves by then, of course. -E
  • Hi

    All the good questions have been asked e.g. about movies, technology, Shaper/Mechanist stories etc.

    Schismatrix was superb, rich with ideas.I doubt if many directors would be able to make a good movie out of it, but Heavy Weather would be great as a film, IMO.

    Any opinions about graphic novels, or plans to put any of your stories in that form?

  • One of my favorite Bruce Sterling moments was a skit performed at CFP several years ago called "Speaking for the unspeakable" One of the characters in this keynote was called the "truly malicious hacker". You noted that while he doesn't exist, he will soon. Do you think we've encountered him/her yet? If you had to revisit this character, what might he say to today?
  • Hope I'm not too late to get in on this... My 3 questions for perhaps the best SF author of the decade (that Gibson guy is pretty good too ;) ) 1: Genetic engineering (or re-engineering) is a pervasive bit of tech in a number of your works. I'm sure we're all familiar with 'sticky' from Islands in the Net, but I'm kind of curious about your own views on the ethical|legal issues surrounding human experimentation, particularly cloning, since it seems to be all the rage right now. 2: Having just had a discussion with my wife about the value of televised football as a culturally-sanctioned outlet for supressed aggressive tendancies, it occured to me that the only mention of sport I could think of in your work is the football match in "Deep Eddy". Assuming that advancing technology continues to dis-empower those in the middle of the food chain (anyone who enjoys being 'on call' with a beeper and a cell phone is a sick, sick individual), how do you see these tendancies manifesting themselves in the future? Other authors use street gangs and urban decay, but your societies continue to be rather well put together. Why? 3: How was Cypress? I know it must have been fascinating from a political/theoretical point of view... but did you enjoy the trip? :)
  • Doh!

    Got so wrapped up in what I was thinking that I forgot that these are HTML-formatted.

    Please don't flame the newbies.


  • Is the US economy currently in a "bubble", similar to Japan a decade ago?

  • There is no question the earth is getting warmer. There is no question that carbon in the atmosphere retains heat. These are scientific facts. The system is complex enough, especially with respect to cloud albedo, that there is no demonstrable causal relationship between humans burning carbon and the global warming. Do you agree or disagree? By the way, this is my first slashdot post. I have been lurking for almost a year. I think the spin put on the facts by publications such as Scientific American does not help the cause, although I totally agree that we should be burning much less fuel. Can anybody post to the veridian list?
  • What have you read in, say, the last five years that felt like slipstream fiction to you?

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly