Monday, August 10, 2009

Looking 4ward....

Along w/ William Gibson, Bruce Sterling was 1 of the firebrands of the mid-'80s "Cyberpunk" movement in science fiction. Sterling helped create a manifesto 4 "The Movement" in the intro 2 his at-times Xcellent MIRRORSHADES short-story anthology, & published the "house organ" of Cyberpunk w/ the outrageous mimeographed limited-edition fanzine CHEAP TRUTH.
In the pages of CHEAP TRUTH, Cyberpunk writers like Sterling, Lewis Shiner & Rudy Rucker published hilarious, scathing reviews of what they felt was boring, backward-looking SF -- while hiding Bhind terrible pen-names like "Sue Denim."
(U can find a complete run of CHEAP TRUTH posted on the 'Net, just look-up the title -- & it's worth it 4 the screamingly funny, at-times vicious reviews, & 4 the climax of the series, in which Sterling -- writing under the pen-name Vincent Omniaveritas -- is apparently killed in a cream-pie-&-water-pistol attack by the '80s cadre of traditional SF writers (("The Humanists")) upon the Austin, Texas, treehouse where CHEAP TRUTH was supposedly published....)
But all that was a long time ago. Since then, Sterling has Bcome a world traveler & won a coupla Hugo Awards 4 his short fiction, & his huge novel ISLANDS IN THE NET won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His most recent novel was issued earlier this yr. But back in the days when he was a visionary revolutionary....
HEAVY WEATHER (1994) is the only 1 of Sterling's novels I've bn able 2 get all the way thru. (Also tried HOLY FIRE & ZEITGEIST, & bogged-down within 50 pgs of the start on each; I can't read summa his short fiction either.) After a rough start, HEAVY WEATHER is almost crystal clear & nearly perfect. The story follows a group of storm-chasers (the film TWISTER was a dinner-time-TV-watching Classic at my house B4 I ever read this book, but the book coulda partly inspired the movie) as they use cutting-edge high-tech 2 track & study stronger-growing tornadoes roaming across an American Southwest heavily-damaged by Nature's revenge on Mankind.
1 scene early in the book shows Sterling's writing at its very best as R protagonist "borrows" a 1-man 'copter from the Storm Chasers & flies it over the group's camp -- the whole scene is beautifully written & U will C the camp & the surrounding landscape clearly in yr head: the movie's already right there waiting 2 get on-film.
The resta the book follows the Storm Chasers in their preparation 4 the coming of the Ultimate Storm -- & it does arrive. But, 4 me fatally, after Sterling spends the whole book building up 2 this Ultimate Scene, he strands all his characters off-stage where they can't C the Ultimate Destructive Spectacle that's going on outside. This Cms a fatal flaw 2 me, 2 build a book up 2 a big scene that Sterling either couldn't write or chose not 2.
& yet the book's worth the trip 4 the clarity of Sterling's writing & the sharp, direct way his mind works....
THE HACKER CRACKDOWN is non-fiction, about the federal govt's fight against computer hackers -- who seriously got the Feds' attn when they brot AT&T's long-distance svc crashing down back around 1990.
The book is outdated, but again Sterling's writing is crystal clear, & in addition 2 following a major national-security-related story, Sterling intro's U 2 a ton of intresting people: The bragging computer hackers, who never saw a flashy system they didn't wanna break-in2; & the fed investigators, many of whom come from a computer-geek background & R barely much more than hackers themselves. Sterling points out that 4 the hackers, even worse than the criminal charges is the Mbarrassment & their loss in status when the feds catch them & take away their bragging rights.
Sterling also includes a LONG history of the telephone bizness, the 1st "high-tech" system 2 unite the country & the world, & shows that there have bn telephone pranksters 4 almost as long as there's bn more than 2 phones in Xistence. Dated, but Xcellent.
Summa Sterling's short fiction is pretty great 2. His short-story "Dori Bangs" was 1 of the greatest short pieces of the '80s -- the life story of a person who never Xisted, the fictional daughter of legendary rock critic Lester Bangs -- & Sterling's incandescent writing makes 4 an amazing, positive, life-affirming piece of fiction. I remember his long story "Green Days in Brunei" as Bing pretty amazing 2 -- but I can't remember what the story's actually ABOUT....

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