Chat with Bruce Sterling. November 24, 1998

DarthSidious: hey BurceSterling Silver-eyes: greetings fair people of the small town of auditorium * taylor makes it rain over Darth * * * LOST is cofused at Taylor's behavor * taylor: LOL * LOST lights taylor aflame * I-Robot: it cannot be THE sterling Moderator: So we are waiting for Gardner Dozois and then we will start tonight's cyberchat with THE Bruce Sterling. * taylor thackles LOST * * Moderator twiddles thumbs * * I-Robot slaps GardnerD around a bit with a large trout * * DarthSidious moves the rain over taylor after changing it to gasoline * * taylor makes it rain over herself * * GardnerD: Ah, that's good trout! Silver-eyes: so who is THE Bruce Sterling anyway? BruceSterling: Hey man, even THE Sterling occupies space and has mass like other physical beings GardnerD: Hi, I'm here! taylor: lol WarpTen: Hi, Gardner. Moderator: Okay everyone - showtime grows nigh. A leetle Moderator magic... * LOST makes taylor burn * * taylor turns it back to rain * * I-Robot: havent made the big leap into cyberspace yet eh? LOST: cool Silver-eyes: ok thanx for the answer * DarthSidious changes it back into gasoline * * taylor turns in to water * Moderator: We're going silent now - hold on to your chairs... taylor: lol GardnerD: Surely THE Sterling can transcend all natural laws, though! Moderator: THE Bruce Sterling should be able to type now - and so should THE Gardner Dozois! Moderator: Can you?? Moderator: Tommy - can you hear me??? GardnerD: If I can't, it's too late to learn NOW. Moderator: Hmmmm... Moderator: Bruce??? BruceSterling: Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow -- yes my alphabet seems functional here *8-) Moderator: Coolness. GardnerD: Good. American Sign Language doesn't work well online. Moderator: Bruce Sterling's previous novels include the bestselling HEAVY WEATHER and HOLY FIRE. He also wrote THE HACKER CRACKDOWN and edited the cyberpunk anthology MIRRORSHADES. Depending on whether you prefer Thomas Jefferson or James Brown, you can call Bruce either the founding father or godfather of cyberpunk. Moderator: I know you have questions - so let me have them. GardnerD: Which would he prefer? BruceSterling: Thomas Jefferson preferred James Brown, according to the DNA evidence GardnerD: Did he have his children, though? BruceSterling: We're all Jefferson's children, bubba Moderator: Especially B Jefferson Clinton! GardnerD: They had better uses for cigars in Jefferson's day, though. BruceSterling: To hell with sci-fi -- the world needs more about Monica GardnerD: You mean Monica ISN'T sci-fi? This plotline is REAL? Moderator: I understand you were approached to ghost the Lewinsky momoir, Bruce... BruceSterling: Approached hell -- we're gonna run her for office Moderator: We have a question from an audience member: Moderator: Armungus> : Is Sci Fi dead? BruceSterling: Why do people always ask me this? *i* didn't kill it! Moderator: That's not what Monica sez. GardnerD: They saw you burying it in the back yard... BruceSterling: *Beatnik* is dead. They've all been shovelled under now, the powers-that-be can stop worrying. GardnerD: Why don't you tell them how you got started writing, Bruce? That's always inspirational. BruceSterling: Should I be writing little "next" signs to show I've stopped typing?? GardnerD: Just say GA or next. Moderator: Yes, you should, Bruce! Moderator: And we have tons of audience questions - BruceSterling: okey-doke... Well, I kinda doubt that my checkered literary career is all that inspirational -- I sold my first novel BruceSterling: when I was in college BruceSterling: When I tell people this they get this very unhappy look BruceSterling: It's like "Gee, I was dead drunk during *my* sophomore year, now I'll *never* catch up *8-/ Moderator: I'm sitting here crying myself... Moderator: Teeps29> to : Your thoughts on the continued impact of media SF on 'real' SF? BruceSterling: It's like watching a bear eat a chicken BruceSterling: there really isn't any detectable difference now BruceSterling: it's all about intellectual property and ancillary rights, basically GardnerD: Is there a vice versa? BruceSterling: I don't think they can be distinguished any more BruceSterling: movie tie-ins are just like the old pulps were BruceSterling: Sf started as a spinoff from a radio mail-order catalog BruceSterling: we always do very well in anomolous areas that aren't respectable literature BruceSterling: I worry more about MOVIES than I worry about the *effect* of movies BruceSterling: Movies really don't look much like movies any more BruceSterling: they're all about selling the Cd and the running shoes BruceSterling: over to you GardnerD: Did you read it when you were a kid? Or did you come to it late? Moderator: : Where do you think sf is going to head towards since alot of the standard sf stuff is starting to come true, like cloning and such. BruceSterling: Yes I read SF omnivorously from age 12 onward, and the next trend in SF will be all about hot goo BruceSterling: the computer revolution is over BruceSterling: it's all about the computer provisional government now GardnerD: By "hot goo," do you mean biotech? BruceSterling: the next wave of weirdness is biological BruceSterling: the cloning isn't the half of it GardnerD: Rather than hacking computers, we'll be hacking ourselves? BruceSterling: "biotech" sort of, but I don't think that's the term we'll end up using BruceSterling: It's the Viagra Age BruceSterling: mostly we'll be hacking microorganisms and *functional pieces* of organisms BruceSterling: membranes, hormones, that sort of thing BruceSterling: next Moderator: Station Identification time: our guest tonight is science fiction writer Bruce Sterling and yes, you can ask him ANYTHING. Just shoot the question to me, Moderator, as a private message. GardnerD: You must have done a lot of interesting research for HOLY FIRE, which has an advanced medical technology theme. GardnerD: How deep did you get into this? BruceSterling: How deep do you want it, fella? Moderator: Full Impact. BruceSterling: you oughta check out BruceSterling: they got banner ads for desktop genetic sequencers in that site BruceSterling: and they're trying to get people to write science fiction for them BruceSterling: next Moderator: are we going to have circuits so we can "Page" each other? BruceSterling: I can page you right now, Spooky GardnerD: We already do--we call them "voices." BruceSterling: next! Moderator: : best tip for a "wannabe fulltime scifi writer" with a couple of published stories?? (sweden) BruceSterling: Write novels. BruceSterling: Get a spouse who works GardnerD: Genetically CREATE a spouse who works, if all else fails! BruceSterling: Keep at it because the big rewards don't show up till you've been at it quite a while Moderator: This spouse that works seems to be a theme in these ASIMOV cyberchats, Gardner! BruceSterling: it *is* doable, even out of Sweden GardnerD: Yeah, the spouse that works is a vital part of modern literature, unless you like living in cardboard boxes. GardnerD: How long did it take you to start selling regularly, Bruce? BruceSterling: Well, the stuff I wrote has always sold almost immediately, but I've had trouble producing stuff in the past Moderator: And when was your wife able to quit that day-job??? * Moderator smiles * BruceSterling: It took me a long time to figure out how to write proper short stories, for instance GardnerD: You were part of a local "author's scene," in Austin, weren't you? Did that help? BruceSterling: My wife quite her job about ten years ago BruceSterling: No question that a local writers workshop can be hugely useful and helpful. BruceSterling: We're still running ours -- we had a "Turkey City" meeting about two months ago. BruceSterling: It went surprisingly well, I thought. next Moderator: to : Who are some of his favorite sf authors? BruceSterling: Wells, Stapledon, Jules Verne BruceSterling: I'm very interested in the work of Lovecraft and Dunsany BruceSterling: They're not SF people but I seem to learn a lot from them somehow BruceSterling: next GardnerD: You stopped writing SF for awhile, to become a technojournalist. Was that deliberate? Moderator: Hello to Mr. Sterling. In Involution Ocean, does the word "Syncophine" has any special meaning? (umm yeah silly, but it bugged me once:) GardnerD: Answer him first. BruceSterling: Syncophine just sounds like a cool name for an addictive drug, especially if you are 20 years old when BruceSterling: you make it up BruceSterling: I can do small-scale journalism and continue to write SF but if I have a nonfiction book contract I really do BruceSterling: have to knuckle down and pay attention to getting the facts straight and conducting the interviews BruceSterling: I take my work as a journalist pretty seriously BruceSterling: I have a journalism degree, even BruceSterling: It turns out to be very useful to me as a creative artist BruceSterling: I like to get out in the real world and mix it up with people who have something to lose BruceSterling: next GardnerD: How did you get into journalism and non-fiction? Moderator: What did you think of John Glen's last flight? BruceSterling: The John Glenn thing was hugely interesting to me, I'm very intrigued bu new social roles for old people BruceSterling: The idea of geezer heros is really something unusual BruceSterling: I see this as a hot social trend, really BruceSterling: next Moderator: : What does the AOL/Netscape merger hold in store for the future of the net? GardnerD: Stephen Baxter keeps predicting that "geezers" will be important in space exploration. BruceSterling: God knows we're gonna have plenty of spare geezers BruceSterling: More geezers than any civilization has ever had, ever, ever BruceSterling: better get used to the idea BruceSterling: try to play to its strengths Moderator: I am Boomer - hear me Geeze. GardnerD: Baxter's argument is that we'll use them because they're expendible- but, I dunno. There are always plenty of young expendible people around, too. BruceSterling: especially since you are very likely to become a geezer yourself BruceSterling: next GardnerD: I already passed that threshold some time back! Moderator: The underground setup in 'Taklamakan' struck me as weirdness for the sake of weirdness. Is there some meaning I'm missing? BruceSterling: Yeah. You're missing the point because you're a square BruceSterling: next Moderator: : Have you setteled in on a regular research vs. writing ratio or do you just wing it? BruceSterling: I wing it GardnerD: ("Taklamkan" is Bruce's novella in the Oct/Nov issue of ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION, by the way.) BruceSterling: next GardnerD: How did you get into doing technojournalism? BruceSterling: Well, I like to write journalism about things I happen to know something about BruceSterling: there was a big market opportunity there BruceSterling: no one knew anything about anything BruceSterling: it was natural to turn to a science fiction writer under those circumstances BruceSterling: next GardnerD: How did you forge your connection with WIRED magazine? Moderator: Station Identification time: our guest tonight is science fiction writer Bruce Sterling and yes, you can ask him ANYTHING. Just shoot the question to me, Moderator, as a private message. BruceSterling: I happened to know some of the founders through other situations -- they came looking for me, basically BruceSterling: They made me a pitch BruceSterling: they sounded so crazy it was impossible to turn down BruceSterling: They're always coming up with weird schemes for me BruceSterling: You'd be surprised how many of them I manage NOT to do BruceSterling: next GardnerD: What's some of the more interesting things you've investigated as a journalist? BruceSterling: Oh, the giant dams in China were pretty interesting BruceSterling: CERN in Geneva is a very remarkable place BruceSterling: Burning Man was well worth my time BruceSterling: I still have friends in Saint Petersburg BruceSterling: next GardnerD: Your piece on the new Russia was fascinating, I thought. Moderator: : What is coming after cyberpunk? BruceSterling: It really leaves a mark if you go there and keep your eyes open BruceSterling: The thing after cyberpunk is tie-in product, basically BruceSterling: the structure of publishing and distribution are radically changing BruceSterling:, barnesandnoble online, that's what came after cyberpunk BruceSterling: next GardnerD: How conscious was the creation of cyberpunk? Or did it just sort of evolve on the fly? BruceSterling: hard to say really... there were several different things going on there simultaneously BruceSterling: people learning how to write -- people learning how to respond to the writers BruceSterling: individuals and groups BruceSterling: actual accomplishments and hype BruceSterling: ideology and PR BruceSterling: and time doesn't stop passing BruceSterling: It was well worth doing, I can tell you that much BruceSterling: I wouldn't do it again in the world of SF, but I would definitely do it again in some other field of endeavour BruceSterling: next GardnerD: I've heard critics talk about "post-cyberpunk" work. Do you believe there is such a thing? Moderator: George-Kennedy>: Ever run into anything in your research that blew your mind about how far some of our tech has advanced? BruceSterling: My mind doesn't blow as easily as it once did now that I'm in my mid 40s BruceSterling: But I saw some stuff in SCIENCE magazine a couple of weeks ago that yes, blew my mind BruceSterling: new applications for silicon, basically BruceSterling: not computational BruceSterling: manufacturing apps BruceSterling: micro electronic mechanical systems BruceSterling: tiny little gears, tiny little chemical reaction chambers BruceSterling: if that stuff is for real it could make the 20th century look like the 14th century BruceSterling: next GardnerD: After a few years, you started writing SF novels again. Why? BruceSterling: I had enough time free to do it BruceSterling: next Moderator: : Would this marketing evolution happen to include Bruce Sterling and William Gibson action figures? BruceSterling: I saw a guy once in a "Sterling and Gibson" t-shirt that he had made himself out of a photocopy BruceSterling: of the back of DIFFERENCE ENGINE BruceSterling: the basic problem there is about retail distribution and inventory BruceSterling: you can't manufacture and sell just 3000 action figures BruceSterling: you need abour 30,000 to keep your profit margins up BruceSterling: next Moderator: The Playmobil Cyberpunk line...I like it. Moderator: : Your opinion, if any, of Kevin Mitnick and his present situation BruceSterling: Kevin ought to have his day in court. You can't keep people locked up indefinitely without a trial. BruceSterling: next Moderator: : Oppinion of Gibson's X-Files episode, if you saw it BruceSterling: Yeah I saw it, and I enjoyed it, but I don't watch that much dramatic-series TV BruceSterling: "Behold the Anteater" on the History Channel, that's more my speed *8-) BruceSterling: next GardnerD: How did THE HACKER CRACKDOWN come about? BruceSterling: Well, there's nothing like having the Secret Service blow into town and bust a bunch of people you know BruceSterling: tends to concentrate your attention wonderfully BruceSterling: you should try it -- ha ha ha BruceSterling: next Moderator: Station identification time - we're chatting with science fiction writer Bruce Sterling & ASIMOV SF MAGAZINE editor Gardner Dozois Moderator: If you want to ask Bruce a question, Moderator: shoot it to me as a private message. Moderator: : Any movies or tv on the horizon? BruceSterling: not from *me,* bubba BruceSterling: next Moderator: How come??? Moderator: Serious question. BruceSterling: they don't pay enough BruceSterling: next GardnerD: Are you working on a new non-fiction book? About what? BruceSterling: I'm not working on one, but I have plans for two or possibly three nonfiction books BruceSterling: they'll be about media studies and environmental design studies BruceSterling: a little difficult to describe but they'll be about how the world works BruceSterling: rather HG Wellsian, I suppose BruceSterling: next Moderator: : Internet and the new ways of communicating is basically something for the wealthy countries. How can we solve this?? Any ideas?? BruceSterling: Well, I always get a little nervous when somebody implies that every semiliterate rugmaking Kurdish BruceSterling: housewife in southwest turkey needs a T-1 trunk in order to go on living BruceSterling: I think the Internet is an extremely powerful technology BruceSterling: its downsides have not been properly recognized BruceSterling: Whenever advanced-nation people go to Third World villages and say "look at all this cool BruceSterling: free tech we're giving you" that is a danger sign BruceSterling: I'd like to see some research done on getting people in the G-7 countries *off* the Internet BruceSterling: For instance, do *You* think you could give up your modem without a very serious pang and BruceSterling: some rearrangement of your personality and your commercial activities? BruceSterling: Did you ever *vote* on whether you were supposed to need this thing? BruceSterling: think about it BruceSterling: next Moderator: Cybermall trumps medina - story at eleven. Moderator: Will you be engaging in any more co-authorship with William Gibson? BruceSterling: Maybe; Bill and I are still on good terms, but it'll have to be one hell of a good concept BruceSterling: We've both got a lot on our plates these days BruceSterling: next GardnerD: You have a new novel out, don't you? What's it about? BruceSterling: It's a political novel about a campaign advisor in America in the 2040s BruceSterling: I wanted to do a novel in which a politician is the hero BruceSterling: Now I'll never have to do such a perverse thing again *8-) GardnerD: What's the title? BruceSterling: nexgt BruceSterling: DISTRACTION GardnerD: Is there another novel in the pipeline after that? BruceSterling: yeah, I'm working on a novel now called ZEITGEIST BruceSterling: it's my "Leggy Starlitz" novel BruceSterling: this guy has been a continuing character in a series of shot stories I wrote BruceSterling: I figured it was time for him to have his own book BruceSterling: next Moderator: Speaking of short stories... Moderator: I have heard that the short story is the heart of sf. Your reaction. BruceSterling: I agree BruceSterling: next GardnerD: What SF writers do you still read? Any new people you like? BruceSterling: Well, I'm kind of taken with this new Ken MacLeod book BruceSterling: I'm trying to see whether I can finish it BruceSterling: It's all about space=travelling Communist commandoes who orbit the rings of Jupiter GardnerD: What's not to like? BruceSterling: it reads like the Scottish Trotskyite SCHISMATRIX BruceSterling: it is truly super-weird BruceSterling: I admire that in a guy BruceSterling: next Moderator: When do you know a thought is going to germinate into a short story as opposed to, say, a novel? BruceSterling: When I have a plot for it, basically BruceSterling: if you can get it all over with in a hurry, good for you BruceSterling: just push the concept right through the reader's head like a painless jolt of electricity BruceSterling: that's the heart of SF, all right BruceSterling: elaborate SF plotting tends to boil down to action-adventure stuff BruceSterling: lots of raygun melodrama and palace intrigue BruceSterling: it really doesn't work as well as the short material BruceSterling: good for big-screen worldbuilding though, if you're into that sort of thing, which I am BruceSterling: next GardnerD: Do you think SCHISMATRIX had a big effect on the new British Space Opera school? (I think it did...) Moderator: : On your recent world jaunt for Wired, did you run across a city that is replacing Prague as the new 'place to be'? BruceSterling: There's no question that SCHISMATRIX had a major effect on this Ken MacLeod book BruceSterling: It's full of SCHISMATRIX in-jokes BruceSterling: As for what's hip after Prague costs too much GardnerD: Ditto Paul McAuley, and even Iain Banks. BruceSterling: people tell me Ljubljana's not bad BruceSterling: Slovenia BruceSterling: if you're a carpetbagger you can go to Russia and live like a king BruceSterling: if you don't mind the risk of getting shot BruceSterling: and bad sanitation BruceSterling: and massive alcoholism BruceSterling: and hookers all over the place BruceSterling: and scary excesses of all kinds BruceSterling: really cool architecture though BruceSterling: ha ha ha Moderator: You say them as though they were BAD things. BruceSterling: next Moderator: : So then, do you see the short story as a kind of instant philosophy? BruceSterling: Well, its what Stanislaw Lem calls "The Spearhead of Cognition" BruceSterling: the point being to make people THINK differently BruceSterling: not be entertained or thrilled, but to have their thought processes altered BruceSterling: not so much philosophy as a kind of hands-on psychotherapy BruceSterling: it's why Sf writers tend to swerve very easily into a cult guru status BruceSterling: it's about head-tripping the readership BruceSterling: messing with their minds BruceSterling: it can be done BruceSterling: easily BruceSterling: and it's a very attractive thing to a certain kind of person BruceSterling: next Moderator: When you were young, was there a specific piece that you read that made up your mind to get into the writting biz? BruceSterling: No not really; when I was young I was reading all the time BruceSterling: I would read milk cartons, classified ads, straight through encyclopedias BruceSterling: starting with the "A"s BruceSterling: I was a fanatic BruceSterling: i still am BruceSterling: next GardnerD: Would you be pleased or dismayed to run across a Bruce Sterling cult? BruceSterling: I pretty much have one already, actually BruceSterling: but I'll be okay as long as I can avoid the temptation to build an armed compound somewhere in Guyana BruceSterling: As long as you don't actually have acolytes in your immediate physical vicinity BruceSterling: as long as you're just a voice on paper GardnerD: Don't serve Cool-Aid, is my advice... BruceSterling: I think you can manage wel enough BruceSterling: it is most definitely an occupational hazard BruceSterling: next Moderator: 'm obsessive about work habits. How do you write? First thing in the morning on a computer or late at night on yellow legal pads? Special baseball hats worn backwards? Any rituals? BruceSterling: i tend to work rather spasmodically BruceSterling: I have to have the Muse with me BruceSterling: I'm getting a little better at that as time goes on BruceSterling: I'm actually becoming more productive in mid-life BruceSterling: I'm very patient now, I'm willing to sit still and keep typing until I know it's working out properly BruceSterling: In my younger days I was more imaginative but also much more frenetic and frazzled BruceSterling: next GardnerD: Gibson told me once he got visited by fanatical NEUROMANCER fans, intense 14-year-old girls in black Spandex. Run into any Sterling fans of a similarly intense sort? Moderator: : Does your family ever read what you write?? BruceSterling: i get quite a lot of e-fanmail from Sterling devotees BruceSterling: many of them are computer-intrusion kids BruceSterling: some of them are cops, however BruceSterling: it seems to work out, more or less BruceSterling: next Moderator: : Does your family ever read what you write?? BruceSterling: Well, my wife is my foremost critic BruceSterling: she's had a lot of influence on my work BruceSterling: I have a very large family on both maternal and paternal sides BruceSterling: half of Texas seems to be related to me in one way or another BruceSterling: but they're not all eager readers BruceSterling: nor should they be, I suppose BruceSterling: next GardnerD: Nancy writing anything these days/ BruceSterling: Well, yes, my wife Nancy has the proverbial novel-in-the-desk drawer GardnerD: Nag her from me. BruceSterling: You're publishing novels? GardnerD: No, but I'm publishing short stories, and always on the lookout for good ones. GardnerD: And I published one of hers I liked some years back. BruceSterling: I'll let her know, but when you're the Mom of a preschooler your daily life is like trench warfare BruceSterling: next GardnerD: You should send me something new, too, for that matter! Moderator: Preschool life-forms seem like a good place to stop. BruceSterling: I'm working on a short story right now, actually BruceSterling: it's a historical fantasy GardnerD: Good. I want to see it. BruceSterling: and I have an idea for a short SF piece BruceSterling: I'm hoping I can get something done here after Thanksgiving GardnerD: You do one of those every once in awhile (historical fantasies). Any plans to write a novel of that sort? BruceSterling: Then I'm off on the DISTRACTION book tour and so forth Moderator: Bruce Sterling's new novel is called DISTRACTION - and you're watching as Gardner snags first North American rights to Bruce's short story in progress! BruceSterling: I tend to think of history as a form of science fiction Moderator: Gardner as you know is the editor of ASIMOV's SF MAGAZINE - but you might NOT know that ASIMOV's has a website: BruceSterling: this new book I'm working on is set in the present day Moderator: BruceSterling: it's the first book I've ever written that is strictly contemporaneous GardnerD: Before you hit the road, write the story and send it to me. Moderator: Check it out. GardnerD: Do you find that harder than working in the future, or the past? BruceSterling: There's no time, Gardner, I';m on a plane tomorrow morning *8-) GardnerD: Write it on the PLANE... Moderator: Bruce - where on the web can we read yr nonfiction work??? BruceSterling: Two children on the plane, man, it'll never happen GardnerD: If you were Pohl and Kornbluth, you'd turn out a whole novel before you touched down... Moderator: One word, Bruce: benadryl. BruceSterling: try Moderator: I used to be a pediatric nurse and you can trust me. Moderator: So - thanks, Gardner & Bruce. BruceSterling: We live to serve! *8-) Moderator: I'm gonna open this baby up to open chat - GardnerD: After the conference, stop by the ASIMOV'S website and subscribe! We just published Bruce's major new novella... Moderator: Yes, GardnerD: and we'll have more from him in the future if I can talk him into it! BruceSterling: Adios! Don't be a stranger! Moderator: And you're WATCHING live as Gardner talks Bruce into it! Moderator: All we need is the webcam... Moderator: Hold on... GardnerD: BruceSterling: so long everybody --gotta go pack a suitcase now *8-) BruceSterling: . * Moderator taps microphone * catfishmn: When you finish a rough draft of your manuscript, how many rewrites do you personally do before submitting to your editor and how many rewrites does your editor normally have you do afterwards? GardnerD: Night, Bruce! Moderator: This thing on?? catfishmn: oops GardnerD: Have a good flight! gaia: yes I-Robot: bye bye gaia: bye gaia: thanx Moderator: Thanks everyone - there WILL be a transcript up in the chat transcript area very shortly.