Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling books and biography


Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling at the Ars Electronica Festival
Born: April 14, 1954
Nationality: American
Writing period: 1970s-present
Genre(s): Science fiction
Literary movement: Cyberpunk

Michael 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. 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, Bruce Bethke 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 is 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 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.

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

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 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" design movement focused on high-tech, stylish, and ecologically sound design.[1] 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".

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).


  • 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 England 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 rejuvinated 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
    • The Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson
    • Snake-Eyes by Tom Maddox
    • Rock On by Pat Cadigan
    • Tales of Houdini by Rudy Rucker
    • 400 Boys by Marc Laidlaw
    • Solstice by James Patrick Kelly
    • Petra by Greg Bear
    • Till Human Voices Wake Us by Lewis Shiner
    • Freezone by John Shirley
    • Stone Lives by Paul Di Filippo
    • Red Star, Winter Orbit by Bruce Sterling, William Gibson
    • 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
    • Swarm
    • Spider Rose
    • Cicada Queen
    • Sunken Gardens
    • Twenty Evocations
    • Green Days in Brunei
    • Spook
    • The Beautiful and the Sublime
    • Telliamed
    • The Little Magic Shop
    • Flowers of Edo
    • Dinner in Audoghast
  • Globalhead (1992, paperback 1994); ISBN 0-553-56281-9
    • Non-fiction

      • 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


      In childhood, Sterling spent several years in India, and today has a notable fondness for Bollywood films.

      As of January 2006, he was living in Belgrade with his second wife, Serbian author and film-maker Jasmina Tesanovic.[2] However, he still travels the world extensively giving speeches and attending conferences.

      In his hometown of Austin, Texas, the author was known for throwing a large South By Southwest party (though he did not have one in 2006), and for participating in his block's annual Christmas Lights display, to which Sterling added digital art.

      This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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