INTERVIEWS

 

Bruce SterlingBruce Sterling is a founder of the cyberpunk movement, has written nine science fiction novels, the most recent being Tomorrow Now. He is the SIGGRAPH 2004 Keynote speaker.

Had you heard of SIGGRAPH before they asked you to be the keynote speaker? Certainly. The ACM's been around since the 1940s. I've been to SIGCHI a couple of times.
What are you looking forward to at SIGGRAPH? Oh, I'll just swan around and take the moral temperature of the community. It's an industry gig.
Are you really writing about the future, the present, or the past in your work? The longer I live, the more I realize that there are few genuine distinctions there.

What problem facing the current generation troubles you the most?

Climate change.
Where do you see the most hope for the future?

I don't concern myself much with "hope" per se, like a vague anticipation that things will turn out well. It's more interesting and useful to get engaged in activities that make sense in a historical context. Even if they don't look particularly "hopeful" and are even kind of geeky, obscure, crooked or squalid.

Calling something "hopeful" is to make a value judgment that can change with the passage of time. For instance, the "war on terror" is an awful business. But it's kind of promising to see a vicious armed struggle between fossil fuel companies and religious fanatics eager to blow themselves up. With any kind of luck they'll both be so discredited that they vanish off the radar.

How would you define "cyberpunk"? Technological people with serious countercultural interests. Alternatively, freaks who get it about the scientific method.
What does the term mean to you now, years after it's been coined and gradually defined/redefined by others?

Cyberpunk is basically the same term as "science fiction." They're both oxymorons. Neither one has ever been easy to define. That's where they derive their vitality, in that contradiction-in-terms.

How have you seen technology-culture/ counter-culture evolving through the 90's up through today?

I've been an interested participant and observer. I dunno if I'd use the term "evolve," though. The aspect that really intrigues me now is how genuinely global and multicultural technoculture is becoming. Everybody is becoming somebody else's "offshore."
How do you see the 2000's being culturally defined? Cranks and Luddites seized the stage, but they had nothing to offer except their own hate and bewilderment.
Do you write with the thought in mind that you're influencing technology? I write to influence readers, not "technology." I've been known to buy stuff or boycott stuff in order to influence technology. For instance, I haven't bought an Exxon product since the Alaska oil spill.

If not, does the thought concern you?

You bet it does! Lee Raymond of Exxon Mobil and his board of directors are climate-wrecking goons. Their evil empire has got to go. The Hague, that would be a good destination for them. I can just imagine the guys at Royal Dutch Shell, chuckling.
Do you mine popular culture for ideas for your own work? Sure, why not? I especially like other people's popular culture, like, say, Mexican comics, Turkish pop music and Bollywood movies.
What are your observations as an outsider about the computer graphics community? They used to be Hollywood's ace in the hole. Now they're globalizing.
Are you impressed by the art?By the technology?By the culture? I think "engaged" is a better word than "impressed." My jaw still drops every once in a while, but there's been a professionalization there a lot like the one in computer gaming. The earlier games were technically primitive but innovative; the later stuff is better financed and really gorgeous on screen, but conceptually same-old same-old. You could say a lot of the same things about science fiction writing.

If you could wish yourself some piece of technology to have at your fingertips (which may or may not exist), what would it be? Why?

Yeah, I want a box with a single big dial on the front, and when I twist it, my IQ goes up to 800.
Do you play computer games? I watch them. Everyone in my family is a victim. I don't play much, too busy websurfing and blogging.
Do mind-altering substances?

Coffee, I drink alcohol. Aspirin is the best drug for writing, it lets you sit still a long time.

Yoga? I lift weights. And I'm a big walker in foreign cities, I can tramp for kilometers on end.

 

 

 

 

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Last updated 8/2/04.

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