Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling, Professor of New Media and Science Fiction at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Bruce Sterling (b. 1954) is a science fiction writer, net critic, and internationally recognized cyberspace theorist who was born in Texas. However, as a child he also spent a lot of time in India, which partly explains why Sterling is still fond of Bollywood movies. Sterling graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1976. A year later, his first book, Involution Ocean, was published. However, he first started becoming famous by organizing an annual Christmas party in Austin where he would present digital art. In the 1980s, Sterling published Cheap Truth, a series of fanzines, which are magazines for fans of a particular performer, group, or form of entertainment. He did so under the surprising but revealing pen name of Vincent Omniaveritas. In Latin, “vincit omnia veritas” means “truth conquers all things.” Sterling’s writings have been very influential in the cyberpunk movement in literature, specifically the novels Heavy Weather (1994), Islands in the Net (1988), Schismatrix (1985), and The Artificial Kid (1980).

In 2003, Bruce Sterling became a professor of internet studies and science fiction at The European Graduate School / EGS where he teaches intensive Summer seminars. In 2005, he became "visionary in residence" at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Sterling lived for several years in Serbia with Jasmina Tesanovic his second wife, a Serbian author and film-maker. In September 2007, he moved to Italy where he found a peaceful place to live in Turin. Sterling has travelled the world giving many speeches and collecting awards. His list of accolades include the Campbell Award in 1989 for his novel Islands in the Net; the Hugo Award in 1997 and 1999 for his novelettes Bicycle Repairman and Taklamakan, respectively; the Hayakawa Award in 1999 also for Taklamakan; and the Clarke Award in 2000 for his novel Distraction.

Along with William Gibson, another one of the major figures of cyberpunk, Bruce Sterling co-authored the novel The Difference Engine (1990), a novel which is part of the steampunk sub-genre. The novel forms an alternate—or speculative—history set in 1855 London, which is anachronistically advanced. Bruce Sterling is the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Sterling published Black Swan in 2010, which has received critical acclaim. In an interview by Rhys Hughes, Sterling is asked about the philosophical depth of the book, to which he answers in an insightful manner:

Rhys: "A title with deep philosophical resonances, ‘Black Swan’ partly involves the exploitation and trade of secrets. Are secrets the ultimate capitalist commodity?"

Bruce: "I'm inclined to think that the ultimate capitalist commodity is money. Some minor things are true secrets, yet there are many hugely important things that are obvious, and yet no one publicly admits to them. People methodically shelter themselves under hypocrisies, delusions, faiths, ideologies. Those are much more important than any mere secrets. Evolution is a blatant fact of life, but Darwin kept his idea of "natural selection" secret for 20 years. Then he published his secret in 1858, fearing that Wallace, is rival, might reveal it. Today, people still attack evolution. They attack it with more vigor when it becomes more obviously true."

As well as being a leading science fiction writer, Bruce Sterling has been involved with numerous projects and written several books of futurist theory. He was the founder of the Dead Media Project, an on-line reliquary, or archive, to forgotten, or dead, media technologies. In this way, he looked to the past through the future, anticipating, almost, in the shininess of new media, its utter destruction for the advent of something else:

"I don't think there's much distinction between surveillance and media in general. Better media means better surveillance. Cams are everywhere.

"Once I got my head around this idea that 'the future' was bogus, I was able to mess around with a lot of invisible assumptions."

Bruce Sterling also founded the Viridian Design Movement, an environmental aesthetic movement founded on the ideas of global citizenship, environmental design, and techno-progressiveness. Bruce Sterling's numerous book-length essays both question and promote how the future is shaping our concepts of self, time, and space. In Shaping Things (2005), he offers a history of shaped objects, moving from the most rudimentary hand-made artifacts through to the complex machinery which defines our current existence. In Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years (2002), Bruce Sterling examines how today’s technologies will affect our future lives.

Written in a wry, intelligent style, Bruce Sterling’s books make bold claims about the future, examining scientists’ use of medicine to extend our lives while at the same time examining our seemingly bottomless thirst for oil. Bruce Sterling’s most acclaimed book, The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Order on the Electronic Frontier (1993) is a deep history of the birth of cyberspace, following the periphery of the development of technology from the first telephone hackers to the government’s attack on several prominent hackers in 1990.

Bruce Sterling’s novels include: Intuition Ocean (1977), The Artifical Kid (1980), Heavy Weather (1994), Holy Fire (1996), Distraction (1998), Zeitgeist (2000), The Zenith Angle (2004), Kiosk (2007), and most recently The Caryatids (2009). His essay collection and non-fiction books include: The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Order on the Electronic Frontier (1993), Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years (2002), and Shaping Things (2005).

Bruce Sterling has blogged extensively in Beyond the Beyond published by Wired Magazine and has written many articles, including: “Beyond The Beyond Just another WordPress weblog” in Wired (2009); “Fiction: In the Future, Doing Science Is Like Blogging” in Discover (2009); “SoCal DigiCult” inConvergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies (2009); “Design Fiction” in Interactions (2009); “Hartmut Bitomsky's Dust” in Art Forum (2008); “Do-Bad Architecture - Assessing the influence of socially responsible architecture” in Architectural record (2008); “Self-Reliance 2008 - Like your Leatherman? Love your iPhone? Still to come: The ultimate open-source ultragadget” in The Atlantic monthly (2008); “Dispatches from the Hyperlocal Future - That's hyperas in linked and local as in location. It's a new kind of city in which you're never out of touch and never out of options” in Wired (2007); “Two Short Stories – ‘The Interoperation’” in Technology review: MIT's magazine of innovation (2007); “Mechanization Spurns Command” in Parkett (2007); “MEDIA Green Fashion” in Art Forum (2006); “Petrol Society - As it All Melts Away - Rising prices could erode the oil base of our consumer society, from plastics to textiles. Some scenarios” in Newsweek (2006); “Design Fiction - Der Science Fiction-Autor hat uber die Zukunft des Design nachgedacht. Ein Auszug aus seinem neuen Buch” in Form (2006); and “Ivory Tower” in Nature (2005).

Finally, Sterling has also released a number of anthologies: Visionary in Residence: Stories (2006), A Good Old-Fashioned Future (1999), Globalhead (1992), Crystal Express (1989), and Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986).