N’existe Pas
July 8, 2014 5:55 AM   Subscribe

For many years Bruce Sterling has been writing about the battle for freedom on the internet, a subject he first wrote about in the highly acclaimed book The Hacker Crackdown in 1992. In this book, Sterling predicts that the term “privacy” may already be obsolete, along with those who once thrived on violating the integrity of others. Like spies, the paparazzi, rumour mongers—who actually has the most to lose in this transparent world?
posted by infini (7 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Read this short story a while back. A blank, baleful view of present-day events in only barely a science fiction mode. Recent fiction from Sterling feels frustrated, chafing against what it's possible for short stories to convey. I always get the sense that he'd like the stories to do more, to hold more, give us as readers more, but they can't, partly because of his own limits as a storyteller, technically, and partly because fictional techniques themselves can't get across whole, integral versions of the world as it exists.
posted by cgc373 at 6:02 AM on July 8, 2014

His plots and characters tend to be a bit flat... the world he sticks them in is usually the real star. So it's no wonder a contemporary story is a bit more work for him.
posted by Coventry at 6:39 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I liked this bit.
“So, how’s it going between you and that Arab girl?” the paparazzo prompted at last.


“She’s not coming across for you?”

“That wasn’t the hard part,” the American admitted. “Of course you can ‘conquer’ them, but then what are you supposed to do with them? You take all that trouble to conquer her, and the real trouble starts right there.”

“Don’t feel too badly about that,” said the paparazzo kindly. “My brother here and I, we’re both older than you. That’s just how it was for us.”
posted by straight at 7:29 AM on July 8, 2014

Johanna hesitated. “Is your poem in French?”
“It’s in Arabic. You could Google-translate it straight to Swedish. Google Translator works lots better than people say.”

What's this post about again...?
posted by sammyo at 7:43 AM on July 8, 2014

“Half a million euros, world rights and residuals,” said the paparazzo promptly. “But don’t ask me to front that scheme for you. I don’t want to spend the rest of my brief life checking my teacups for polonium poison.”

Well, that was a freebie.
posted by valkane at 8:20 AM on July 8, 2014

At a Philcon back in 1998, Bruce spoke of the difficulty he and other "cyberpunk" authors were having in predicting, even in the short term, how society would look like in the future. It was around this time he stopped writing so much in the softer science fiction arena (Schismatrix and related shorts, Holy Fire, Heavy Weather, and Distraction) and changed his focus to what really has turned out to be the modern world with a light SF shell (Zeitgeist, The Zenith Angle, The Caryatids). While I honestly prefer his earlier, more fantastic works, I can respect his change of course, choosing the more difficult but more informative path. Other authors have also had similar issues -- Charlie Stross comes to mind, to the extent he is currently postponing some novels until it's clear how certain events will turn out (iirc, the Scottish independence vote). If he's chafing against anything, I don't think it's the medium or the stories he's chosen, but that the world as it exists today, which has many elements that he and the other Cyberpunk authors predicted, is also a restrictive, chafing environment, and becoming more so over time.
posted by Blackanvil at 9:20 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's worth remembering that the term "Technological Singularity" was first popularized by someone who meant, "The point where technology changes human culture so much that it's impossible to write good science fiction set afterwards."
posted by straight at 9:31 AM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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