no absolute future: Bruce Sterling interviewed by Rachel Haywire

Left: The Hacker Crackdown by Bruce Sterling, Right: Rachel Haywire

I’ve found an interesting new internet presence.  Trigger Warning is a California LLC that was started in 2015 by Rachel Haywire of INSTED. It is a new media entity that houses a unique network of writers, artists, journalists, and cultural innovators; offering a provocative alternative to the liberal paradigm of our current media narrative. It is a platform for controversial and thought-provoking material, expanding into the physical space for private parties and intellectual salons.

Here’s an interview with cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling, conducted by Rachel Haywire. It begins:

Bruce Sterling, one of the first cyberpunk authors to receive mainstream attention, is no stranger to radical tech. With titles ranging from The Hacker Crackdown to The Difference Engine to Schismatrix to Distraction, his pertinent social commentary and visionary ideas have remained influential to this day. His critically acclaimed work has won several Hugo Awards. When I saw that he was following us on Twitter, I knew that I had to ask him for an interview.

Rachel Haywire: Throughout your various writings, you have made some predictions that have turned out to be true, both on the Internet and in the flesh. Do you think you are able to foresee the future, or do you have more of a knack for predicting trends based on present experiences? Maybe a combination of both?

Bruce Sterling: It’s simpler than that.  There is no absolute “future.”  There isn’t any boss in charge with a stopwatch who can keep accurate track of the so-called future and the so-called past.

If I’m already sick of Facebook, and I “predict” to you that “some day you’ll get sick of Facebook,” and later you do get sick of Facebook, then I have told you your “future.”  That is it.  If you didn’t know about it now, and it hits you later, then that is your “future.” When you finally catch on, that’s when I become the futurist who predicted that you would get sick of Facebook.

Read the complete interview










30 Years of Future: Essential Cyberpunk


Via iO9, Diana Biller writes:

It’s now been over three decades since cyberpunk first exploded, and in that time we’ve seen gorgeous movies, read fascinating books, and seen dozens of offshoots like steampunk (and my new favorite, deco punk) develop. Here are the 21 cyberpunk books you absolutely must read.

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Slipstream: Feeling Very Strange

Coming soon: More of my notes on Thomas Pynchon, Steve Aylett, and Charles Wadsworth Camp, but check this out! From Science Fiction Studies, a fantastic Special Issue on Slipstream, edited by Rob Latham, who begins by saying:

In July 1989, in his “Catscan” column in the fanzine SF Eye, Bruce Sterling published an essay entitled “Slipstream.” This brief piece combined a polemic against the moribund state of the sf genre with an analysis of an emerging literary mode that engaged the contemporary world with the ideational boldness sf had allegedly abandoned. This mode Sterling dubbed “slipstream,” rather nebulously defined as “a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility” . . .

. . . James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel’s 2006 collection Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology showed the range and diversity of this new mode of writing, which at times seems like sf, at times like magic realism, at times like postmodern metafiction, but mostly a compound form all its own. Meanwhile, claims have been advanced for crossbreedings between the literary mainstream and other popular genres, but also for interminglings among the genres themselves, with terms such as New Wave Fabulism, the New Weird, and Interstitial Fiction generating their own sets of debates and semi-canonical anthologies . . .

 There’s a Slipstream Symposium, an update by Bruce Sterling, and lots of other goodies.

Time’s Arrow and the End of Certainty

Ilya Prigogine book The End of Certainty and a postage stamp in his honor.

I recently finished reading Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix Plus. This is a novel that starts out pretty good, gets better, coasts briefly, then gets better and better and then, unexpectedly,  oustandingly better still!  It peeks profoundly and ties up loose ends satisfyingly.

Here’s a example of smart writing:  Descendants of the human race have branched into many factions, or races, including the Shapers, the Mechanists, and the SuperBrights. The reader gradually acquires knowledge about each faction as Sterling describes their appearance, actions, and thought processes. As the book progressed, I felt like I understood the origin and nature of each faction, but what really made me smile was, near the end, one of the book’s characters gives a straightforward history of each of those three factions. This is much more effective than telling it all at the beginning. As the reader, I got a satisfying feeling of affirmation that things were, indeed, as I thought. That’s the smart part.

Then there are the different “Prigoginics levels” that are frequently mentioned in the story. I got a vague idea as to the meaning of this terminology from the context in which it was used. Then I came to the phrase “ancient Terran philosopher Ilya Prigogine” in which “Terran” means “from Earth” and I discovered that Ilya Prigogine was a real person, and a very interesting person, indeed! I found this essay  by David Porush on Science Fiction Studies:

“In this essay I briefly sketch the shape of the new paradigm of deterministic chaos and self-organizing systems as it has been developed by Ilya Prigogine. I will trace its emergence as a theme in SF, particularly in works by A.A. Attanasio, Lewis Shiner, Bruce Sterling, and William Gibson. Along the way I show how Chaos Theory illuminates the potential for narrative, and particularly SF, as epistemologically potent.

“Evolution and entropy seem to contradict each other not only in the cosmological moods they invite us to hold, but in the irreconcilable versions they present of how the universal machine actually operates. If Rudolf Clausius and Clerk Maxwell were right, then any machine will grind to a halt inexorably when left to its own devices. The combination of ever-present forces—like friction—will degrade mechanical operation as part wears against part, leaking valuable energy and organization out into the universal soup where it joins the larger tide towards randomness and absolute cold. Furthermore, once molecules have vibrated themselves into an effete state of equilibrium—analogous to hot and cold water mixing into one lukewarm volume—no natural force can retrieve that leaked heat or lost differentiation. The process of degradation towards entropy is irreversible: nature will not reheat the water again.

“But if Darwin’s version of nature was correct, then somehow the biosphere drives itself to evolve ever more complex and organized structures, biological organisms, and systems (autopoeisis). One-celled critters gave rise to multicellular organisms, which diverged, differentiated, grew more complex, more organized, and more needy of energy and information to sustain them (phylogenesis). Even individual organisms rehearse this flagrant disobedience of the Second Law. Trees begin as unicellular seeds to sprout into cascades of complex interactions and branching growths, spreading their organized system for the transfer of matter and energy through the soil and sky (ontogenesis). The biosphere and each part of the biosphere individually are islands in the entropic stream, or better, a raft swimming autonomously, inexplicably upstream, gathering flotsam and organizing it into its flotilla, against the intractable laws of physics. Finally, the biosphere has evolved intelligence.”     Read entire article