Bruce Sterling

Updated at: May 21, 2007, 1:55 a.m.

Michael Bruce Sterling was born in Brownsville, Texas on April 14th, 1954. When he was six months old, his parents moved to Austin where his father received a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas. After his father's graduation the family moved to Galveston, where Bruce spent his formative years. He began writing at the age of twelve in what he would later describe as "a frank bid for attention". When he was fifteen, his family moved to India, where his father worked on a fertilizer plant project. He spent two and a half years traveling extensively overseas, and then returned to Austin to attend classes at the University of Texas. There Bruce became involved with a group of other science fiction fans and writers who called themselves the Turkey City Writer's Workshop, and with their encouragement began writing science fiction more seriously. In 1976, he graduated with a degree in journalism and sold his first science fiction story, Man-Made Self. A year later, Harlan Ellison published his first novel, Involution Ocean, as part of his Discovery Series.

In 1980, Sterling published The Artificial Kid. For the next several years, he wrote and sold a number of short stories set in what would eventually be called the "Shaper-Mechanist universe". In 1985, he published a full-length novel in this setting, called Schismatrix. At the same time, he began writing and editing a photocopied "zine" called Cheap Truth in which he (under the pseudonym Vincent Omniveritas) and a number of collaborators mocked the science fiction establishment and called for a new, more vibrant, and more culturally relevant approach to the genre. This viewpoint and the fiction associated with it eventually became known as "cyberpunk". Along with William Gibson, John Shirley, and Rudy Rucker, Sterling became one of the most prominent voices of this growing movement. His eloquence, intensity, and gift for rhetoric combined to make him such a powerful presence on science fiction convention panels that some people referred to him as "Chairman Bruce". In 1986, he edited an anthology of cyberpunk science fiction, Mirrorshades, which is considered to be one of the most important documents of the genre. By 1988, the "cyberpunk" movement had run its course, and Sterling began to move beyond it with his aggressively down-to-earth science fiction novel Islands in the Net and a diverse short story collection, Crystal Express, in 1989. He then collaborated with William Gibson on a "steampunk" novel, The Difference Engine, which was published in 1990.

Also in 1990, the U.S. Secret Service raided the offices of Steve Jackson Games in Austin, Texas as part of a nationwide "hacker crackdown". Sterling was so alarmed by these events that he chronicled them in his first non-fiction novel, The Hacker Crackdown, published in 1992. After publishing the book in a conventional format, Sterling released the work in free electronic form as part of his bid to support a new communications medium known as the Internet. The electronic version of the book was widely disseminated, and can today be found on hundreds of websites around the world. He also gave the book away on disk at speaking engagements, to the considerable horror of his paper publishers. Following the publication of The Hacker Crackdown, Sterling began to write more journalism and non-fiction work, as well as embark upon a notable second career as a much sought-after public speaker. He continued to write science fiction, and in 1994 he published his dark tale of a global-warming future, Heavy Weather.

In 1995, Sterling gave a series of speeches explaining his interest in the life and death of new types of media. This led to the development of The Dead Media Project, an Internet mailing list and discussion group through which Sterling and a number of collaborators catalogued "dead" media of the past and present. Sterling's original aim was to organize a research project that would culminate in a book on dead media written collaboratively by the members of the mailing list. However the project eventually sputtered out and no book has yet been published.

In 1996, Sterling published Holy Fire, and some of his research for this novel led him to a new interest in design, especially industrial design. This interest and a growing concern about global climate change moved him to launch the Viridian Design movement. The movement was developed in a series of speeches given by Sterling in 1998 and 1999, and officially declared by a manifesto of January 3rd, 2000. The goal of the movement is to advance environmental awareness through revolutionary art and design, or as phrased on the Viridians' official website, to "create irrestible demand for a global atmosphere upgrade." Like the Dead Media Project, the movement is organized mostly by Sterling through an Internet mailing list. Unlike the Dead Media Project, the Viridian Design movement has produced considerably more "real world" products, which include two magazines, graphics and fonts, a website, a weblog, and a number of design projects. The Viridian Design movement continues to thrive to this day.

In 1998, Sterling published Distraction, a novel about politics and bioengineering. This was followed by a short story collection, A Good Old-Fashioned Future, in 1999. In 2000, he published Zeitgeist, a postmodern fantasy set at the turn of the millenium. His most recent work, Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years, is a nonfiction work of futurist speculation. Sterling continues to produce a steady stream of media appearances, speeches, Internet posts and email, and short works of fiction and journalism. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Austin, Texas.

Related Books

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier