Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 12 Jan 00 15:41
Hey, Shell and Bp_Amoco are the *white knights* among oil companies. You want a nasty outfit, try Western Fuels Corp. Iraq doesn't need to torture political activists in order to please oil companies. Oil is black gold. Everybody who's got it wants to profit from it. Chechnya doesn't have much oil but it's got oil pipelines; that alone makes it worth levelling with artillery batallions. When Saddam took Kuwait, it wasn't the oil companies going in with the aircraft carriers, cruise missiles and airstrikes. "The Coalition" was basically everybody with a boat. The problem with oil is, if you gotta have it you *gotta* have it. There will probably be Big Corporations selling Big Wind and Big Solar sometime soon. Shell and BP-Amoco probably in the foremost among them, because they see themselves as energy companies, not oil companies. If there are thousands of wind-derricks offshore in the the North Sea. it'll be big business like other kinds of big business; sweetheart deals, subsidies, dumping, white-collar crime, substandard materials, embezzlement, stock-jobbing, whatever. The advatange is that they won't be selling poison. I'm off to Chattanooga for Chattacon for the weekend, but I'll log in if I get the chance. bruces
John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Wed 12 Jan 00 17:41
I see in a sf conference topic "list your top ten favorite Science fiction novels", Bruce sterling's stuff pops up with some regularity, along with other greats like Aldiss and good ol' Gibson. This is meet. To me, Sterling's novels are a nearly seamless synthesis of all that's good in science fiction as a genre; he's science minded but never loses literary value, character; he's cyberpunk but actually anything the humanists can claim for their own he's got too. He has a grasp of gestalt as a literary form, if it's possible to grasp it; and I think it will pan out that he writes more accurately about the future than any other writer going. People borrow from him a lot--that's a sign. Stephenson, certainly, has borrowed from him. Sterling's the crystalization of the form. (If you haven't read my profile of Sterling, originally written for the Readercon program book, and including even selections from his private correspondence to me...and if you're interested...it's at www.darkecho.com/johnshirley under Two Cyberpunks. The other cyberpunk piece there is about Rucker).
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 14 Jan 00 05:57
John, speaking of cyberpunk... since today is the final day of the official interview and Bruce is outta pocket at the moment, could you give us a bit of cypberpunk history? Specifically, your version of the 1985 NASFIC cyberpunk panel in Austin, during which you, Bruce, and Lew Shiner renounced the panel and left the podium?
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 14 Jan 00 12:58
Now that sounds like an interesting story! Do tell!
John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Sat 15 Jan 00 15:34
I don't remember much about that event. I have a vague sense that we were following Chairman Bruce's lead and that he may have suggested that such would be necessary in advance. I don't think *I* was loaded there. Being loaded or not, on the part of some parties, may or may not be relevant to the way things turned out. All I remember is a general feeling of being ridiculed, even set up to be ridiculed, by some people on the panel, who wanted to lampoon cyberpunk as claptrap or bullshit, I don't remember who it was. Fannish types or old-guard writer types. Or both. And I *think* that one of us overturned the table, or threw a chair--it would have been like me to add that sort of touch, a la Hendrix smashing his guitar--and maybe busting a water jug, and saying fuck you, this is bullshit, we are unilaterally walking out, a very political "unilateral action" feel. I think it was on some signal (whether pre arranged or not) that Chairman Bruce gave us. You know, sigh-fick cons are so tedious, repetitive, so boring so often, that it doesn't take much to create a big buzz. I mean, I was from the punk scene, I was used to having bottles smashed on my head onstage, and fistfights backstage. (I shouldnt have put that garbage can over the head of that singer that was pissing me off).
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 15 Jan 00 19:32
"Old guard" = Greg Bear, specifically. Bear and Rudy were the Guys Who Stayed.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 15 Jan 00 22:19
I wrote off cons in the early 70's.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 16 Jan 00 06:05
The only con I ever attended was Armadillocon, and I continued going for years. It was weird, having hard sf authors and fans in the same room with the fantasy crowd. I never understood how the two worked together. That brings to mind a question for both John and Bruce... what is the real character of science fiction as a genre, and what are its borders? To what extent is it a business, a marketplace; and to what extent is it an art form? Is it truly predictive of the future, or is its real value as allegory reflecting on the present?
John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 17 Jan 00 12:13
That's a good question for Bruce, Jon, he's so much more in it than I am. He's made a success of it, for a variety of reasons, but also because he's such a fine synthesis of good progressive-sf qualities and, like Gibson, has a genius for the cultural timing of his work. But most sf writers enter the field for awhile and then find that it's no longer really rewarding to pulp type writers, unless they write Kevin Anderson stuff (KA once tried to tell Tim Powers to write crappy novelizations like he does so Tim could make big money and be successful like him!) about Trek or Star Wars or Dune or something; and the field can only sustain a few progressive, literary writers...Won't sustain them, really, unless they have that timing, like Sterling and that cunning Snow Crash cat...who I'm sure is a very talented guy...I havent read him but I've heard from reliable people he's very good...Anyway it's ever more a marketplace, run by Big Corporate Mentality and bean counters. Ive had books accepted by editors but then rejected by the Marketing Dept who now make the final decisions I'm told...I have a book called Mindclone that's a collaboration with a young feller named Dedman that may well be published, and it's pure cyberpunk with a lot of suspense-action feel, which I hope to sell to the movies...but that'll be my last science fiction effort and only happened by chance...I haven't written sf in years. I consider the newly revised updated version Eclipse books my definitive statement and am glad they're now available from Babbage Press...but that's it for me and why? Because with a few exceptions the field cannot sustain writers who don't write within the tropes of triteness. Bruce is an exception, he's made his own niche. I never belonged in the field anyway. Rudy barely hangs in there. Robinson seems to do okay, and Aldiss - are those heliconia books selling? I think the field destroyed some great writers, like Davidson and Bester...and was not rewarding for Disch who's switched to 'dark literary' stuff like me...You have to have just the right mentality (I don't mean that as a put down, I mean it as a compliment) to thrive there as a *good* writer--and only a few do. It can't sustain as many good writers as detective/mystery for example ...SF predicts accurately sometimes but I personally think of it as mostly allegory. But Bruce is more classic science fiction and more a cellular-SF guy--being prescient is in his DNA I think...I wasn't going to say much but as per usual I go yapping on like an excited terrier...
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 17 Jan 00 13:15
Thanks for the fount of ideas and possibilites, Bruce. And everybody who emailed or posted, including Jon Lebkowsky, Mister Back-to-the-topic. Good stuff. Oh, and how is it again that folks can find the Mirrorshades conference or join the Viridian list and design movement ??
Fuzzy Logic (phred) Mon 17 Jan 00 21:07
I'm enjoying reading along on this. Maybe we ought to have another topic and let johnp-shirley stand on the soapbox for a bit. I'm curious in particular about how he got started in punk and ended up in sf. As for jonl's comments on environmentalism, frankly, I'm a little surprised you see it that way, Jon. Or else maybe I missed some kind of ironic distancing there. The environmental movement has a lot of problems, but the notion that it cares too much about people and not enough about nature turns the usual criticism upside down. There are wings of enviro thought and followership that cling too much to the human/nature dichotomy (both the "charismatic megafauna" crowd and a lot of the "deep ecology" types), and much of environmental organizing is distancing itself too much from its roots in ecology and biology, overall I think enviros do a pretty good job balancing the various factors. As for myself, going into my 22nd year of energy conservation and solar energy propagandizing, I've long realized the essence of truth in bruces' observation. In fact, the wacky history of the wind industry already has had an exceptional amount of thickheadedness, skulduggery, back-stabbing, high finance and low laughs. Just ask <rmt> or wait for my friend Peter Asmus' new book which should be out soon detailing the whole rollicking story. Business as usual in energy is something I am not happy about; I think energy is important enough to us to be worth doing as a public service, but I'm not gonna win that one for the forseeable future. But business as usual in energy which poisons the air and water, leaves landscapes in ruins, causes international tensions to rise and military budgets with it, all the way up to and including nuclear threats s and, capping it all off, quite possibly changing our climate irrevocably -- no, that's not acceptable.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 17 Jan 00 21:17
(I guess I should admit that my little rant was an attempt to stir the pot. People who know me, including our guest, probly spotted that a mile away.)
Thomas Armagost (silly) Mon 17 Jan 00 22:51
<scribbled by silly Mon 9 Jul 12 16:10>
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 18 Jan 00 09:29
In the mean time, we can enjoy Ben Fong-Torres!
John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Tue 18 Jan 00 12:29
Well I'd like it if bruce came and straightened me out on that cyberpunk panel 'riot'--I'm probably not remembering it very well.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Tue 18 Jan 00 14:52
I came back from Chattanooga, which I rather enjoyed. I mean, the convention was okay, but Chattanooga the town is really something. Then my pet anklebiter hacker attacked my WELL account for the third time. Apparently he likes to show up, read my mail, and then cruise onto IRC and brag boast and strut that he's hacked my account. He never hurts anything, but it's getting tiresome. Note that this is not the WELL's fault. It's my ISP. Probably soon to be my former ISP. I think John's account of the Armadillocon panel walkout was decently obscured by the mists of time. As I recall, we panelists were sincerely trying to discuss our new approach to SF while our panel moderator, who had never heard of us nor us of him, wanted to cop a "punk" attitude and seemed to be a couple of sheets to the wind. He was about as severely out of his league as a panel moderator could get, poor guy. He'd been expecting some ranbunctious dismissive fun and found himself amid the heaviest and most passionate ideologues that the genre had seen in a generation. It wasn't like we broke a chair over the guy; we just got up and left. I can't think of a cheaper and more effective gesture in the way of garnering attention. It was absolutely the right thing to do at the time. We could have had a perfectly civil and informative panel, and everyone would have forgotten everything we said ten minutes later. But the walkout started a cause celebre, and the attention has never quite died down since. I have to agree with John that the sheer crass humiliation of the SF Baloney Factory kills a lot of people, but all art forms do that. If we'd been rock stars instead of scribblers we'd have all had new livers by now. I'm proud that not a single contributor to MIRRORSHADES is dead or even really sick, fourteen long years later. While if you ask around in the genre, you'll find that pretty much everybody has at least heard of every one of the contributors. No worldly success comes without some kind of downside and price tag, but on the whole, we got away with it. I'd do it again in a minute. In fact, I am doing it again. It's just that I'm doing it in industrial design instead of science fiction.
John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Tue 18 Jan 00 17:55
Bruce, industrial design aside: you were *born to write scifi*-- that should be a tattoo on your thigh.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 18 Jan 00 20:34
Re. the exploding panel, I should add that while Bruce and John totally quit the scene, Lew Shiner seemed conflicted about bailing, and was in fact lured back to the podium, evidently feeling a sense of duty to the form. Lew's another guy who doesn't write science fiction anymore. I was blissfully drunk and enjoying the show. Gail has gamely signaled the end of the interview, knowing full well that none of us is destined to shut up anytime soon. Feel free to carry on. Meanwhile I'm gonna wander outside and look at the mountains.....
Ron Hogan (grifter) Tue 18 Jan 00 21:08
Shiner's new book, which uses a Citizen Kane structure to look at the career of a female singer/songwriter, is a real treat. SAY GOODBYE. Buy it now.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 18 Jan 00 21:46
Before we wander too far afield, let me say thank you to Bruce and Jon and everyone who participated in this interview - Bruce especially, I know how busy you've been, and how inconveniently hacked, so I thank you for beating your way through the underbrush and sharing your insights with us in spite of the obstacles. Jonl, too, I appreciate your questions, from the seamless way you conducted the interview, I don't think anyone could tell that you were actually many hundreds of miles away from home, househunting and preparing to move. Maybe we should make it an annual occurrence that the year can't start officially without a bruces manifesto.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 20 Jan 00 09:53
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Sun 6 Feb 00 07:18
Speaking as another person who was in the room at the now-infamous NASFiC panel, I have to say that a) I don't recall any chairs or tables being thrown, overturned, etc. b) I don't recall the reaction being against Greg Bear (who was as blandly pleasant as his fiction is weird and mindbending) so much as against the moderator. JADP.
John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 7 Feb 00 13:44
If I didn't knock some shit over...it's been too long, I can't remember for sure, but...if I didn't, I shouldve! Yeah it was the moderator. Who was that?
Harry Claude Ca (silly) Thu 7 Dec 00 20:27
<scribbled by silly Fri 8 Dec 00 12:57>
Thomas Armagost (silly) Fri 8 Dec 00 12:57
Bruce Sterling's _Zeitgeist_ is in bookstores. He'll be interviewed by (jonl) in this conference starting 01/01/01. Sterling is the guest editor of TIME Digital's special "year 2026" issue. <http://www.time.com/time/digital/reports/future/about.html>
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