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Sterling's World 2008
January 3, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Bruce Sterling's State of the World: an interactive discussion on the Well with the noted sci-fi author and futurist. "The political and economic landscape in 2008 is full of spinning, tottering Chinese plates poised on tall pool-cues." [An MP3 of his State of the World 2006 from SXSW was previously linked here.]
posted by digaman (26 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting stuff on how Al Queda is actually declining with the Pakistan thing, which is a way of thinking about it that hadn't occured to me before. He's a smart guy that Bruce Sterling, and a very keen observer of street level international politics.

It's odd how in the grand old days of Cyberppunk he always seemed second tring to William Gibosn, and now Gibsons just plunking away at nice but not earth shattering novels and Sterlings doing all this stuff.

Zenith Angle was fairly crappy though, when are we going to get a decent novel?
posted by Artw at 8:49 AM on January 3, 2008


I dunno...I like Bruce Sterling and all, but most of what's here seems fairly tossed-off and even trite, true or not. America is losing prominence? No one believes what we say anymore? Our lifestyles are not sustainable? You don't say.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:06 AM on January 3, 2008


Thus the virtue of it being a discussion that is just beginning. Feel free to ask him tough questions, kittens -- send them to inkwell@well.com.
posted by digaman at 9:11 AM on January 3, 2008


Lots of activity since I first clicked the link... I'm going to be checking back on this at regular intervals throughout the day to see if there any responses now, attention deficited fool that I am.
posted by Artw at 9:14 AM on January 3, 2008


America is losing prominence? No one believes what we say anymore? Our lifestyles are not sustainable? You don't say.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:06 PM on January 3


This was my same reaction. America reached its height with the surrender of Japan in 1945. But the moment Germany and Japan started rebuilding, America declined in comparison. The equilibrium state is for America to matter just as much as everyone else.

However, 2008 would be a very interesting case study if we didn't actually have to live through it. How is a U.S. in recession going to affect the rest of the world? If we suffer a slowdown and no one else does, that will be the real story. That will mean that the U.S. matters less than Europe or China, and that will be the real sea change.

And not for the better.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:19 AM on January 3, 2008


spinning, tottering Chinese plates

Made with lead-based glazing, no doubt.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:19 AM on January 3, 2008


Ahem.

"*New York has a future. Chicago has a future. San Francisco is
dynamic. Any place called a 'creative class city" is very attractive.
Life in American heartland Red States is cheerless and imperilled
and getting worse... I've been to places where nations lose their
primary loyalties... in a globalized world, they just... leach out.
"

I think he has something to say.
posted by tkchrist at 9:23 AM on January 3, 2008


And not for the better.

Not better for whom?

It certainly might be better fro 80% of the planet.
posted by tkchrist at 9:24 AM on January 3, 2008


America is losing prominence? No one believes what we say anymore? Our lifestyles are not sustainable? You don't say.

What do people want? The schematics for flying cars that run on water?

The fact is those things you mentioned are THE story for the next 50 to 100 years. The fact that guys like Bruce have been telling that story for the last 20 years shouldn't mean the reality is trite or boring. It means they were right.

It's not trite to me. In fact my wife and I are saving to move to the EU as well. As soon as frigg'n possible (scouting Paris on the 20th). I only wish I'd abandoned my sentimental nationalistic hard on for the US sooner and started making plans to boogie earlier.
posted by tkchrist at 9:31 AM on January 3, 2008


mp3 link?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:38 AM on January 3, 2008


It certainly might be better fro 80% of the planet.

It may be better for Americans too, or at least not suck so much. Sure, you won't be able to say you're part of a big imperial power anymore, but you might be better off without it. Certainly Britain is a more interesting and vibrant place now than when it was still clinging to empire.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on January 3, 2008


Blue Beetle, not sure what you mean there. This is a live ASCII conversation goin' on over there, not a recorded presentation. If you meant the SWSX presentation from two years ago, it's linked on the MeFi page I linked.
posted by digaman at 9:45 AM on January 3, 2008


Sorry, I thought it was a transcript of a discussion, not the actual discussion itself. d'oh!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:46 AM on January 3, 2008


Any place called a 'creative class city" is very attractive.

The cities to where the industry required by "creative class cities" gets displaced? Not so much.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2008


The fact is those things you mentioned are THE story for the next 50 to 100 years. The fact that guys like Bruce have been telling that story for the last 20 years shouldn't mean the reality is trite or boring. It means they were right.

Oh, they absolutely were. It's just that I can't imagine that there's anyone (at least not anyone who would be following that conversation) to whom any of this is news. It's mainstream thought, conventional wisdom. That doesn't make it wrong, it just means it's not any particular revelation to read.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:57 AM on January 3, 2008


That doesn't make it wrong, it just means it's not any particular revelation to read.

Yeah. True.

But I'm tired of revelation. We've had too many revelations lately.

I think of it like this: You don't get good at piano, writing, boxing or anything else worthwhile by having revelations. You get good by repetition.
posted by tkchrist at 11:00 AM on January 3, 2008


That's repetition.



Repetition.




Okay I'm done.
posted by tkchrist at 11:00 AM on January 3, 2008


Heres the 2007 one.
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on January 3, 2008


I think right now is the moment when I realize it's really 2008. Didn't Sterling do one of these just a short while ago? Oh yeah, at the beginning of 2007.
posted by mikeh at 1:06 PM on January 3, 2008


Zenith Angle was fairly crappy though,

It really was, wasn't it? I enjoyed the first half or so a lot, so much so that before I finished it, I promised to lend it to a co-worker. I was kind of sad when I was done, that I had to hand it over; like his opinion of me would be based on the sub-par quality of the second half.

So I redeemed myself, and Sterling, by giving him Heavy Weather, which is just about perfect.
posted by quin at 2:50 PM on January 3, 2008


Heavy Weather is probably the one I'd give to someone if I was going to sell them on Sterling. I'm pretty big on Holy Fire as well, though that's a tougher sell.

It's a pity that Zietgeist, the novel before Zenith Angle, didn't quite capture the spirit of the Leggy Starlitz short stories, becuase those were awesome. I'd totally try getting someone into Sterling via those. Also who's interested in the year 1999 these days?

I'm still very fond of his full on space-opera stuff as well, especially the short stories that preceeded Shismatrix. Though he's not doing that kind of thing anymore I think they hold up quite well against the more modern "New" Space Opera that seems to have been in part inspired by it - Reynolds and Stross coming to mind in particular here, so that;s where I'd start with fans of those guys.
posted by Artw at 3:11 PM on January 3, 2008


Blue Beetle, not sure what you mean there. This is a live ASCII conversation goin' on over there, not a recorded presentation.

Bummer. I love listening to Bruce talk; reading him on the web has thus far been painful for me (what's up with that, er, creative text formatting on his Wired blog?), though I do enjoy his books.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:18 PM on January 3, 2008


Was there just one really weird browser that it rendered really well in, and they just didn't bother testing it in anything else? It's gotten a bit better lately but for a while that blog just didn't render well in anything.
posted by Artw at 7:34 PM on January 3, 2008


I'm a little confused by his take on AQ. Aren't they largely killing Shiites these days?
posted by pompomtom at 8:30 PM on January 3, 2008


I kind of like theScience Fiction writer lightbulb jokes:

Science fiction writers like amazing and wonderful and freaky and dreadful stuff. They get bored with the dull stuff, like making sure your kids have shoes and plumbing and your population has civil rights. Quite commonly their OWN kids don't have shoes and plumbing. Like in the lightbulb joke:

Q. How many science fiction writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None; their wives do it for them.

Actually there's a whole series of those.

Q. How many feminist science fiction writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. That's not funny.

Q. How many literary science fiction writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Never mind the technical details; I want to know how he feels about it...

I could go on.


Yes, a bit nerdy.
posted by Artw at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2008


Bump : )

It's up to Page 5 now.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on January 8, 2008


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