Bruce Sterling

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Don't become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish.

Bruce Sterling (born April 14, 1954) is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology.


  • Obsolescence and death, the reign of the archaic, the abandoned, and the corny: Really, if you saw Windows 3.0 on the sidewalk outside the building, would you bend over and pick it up?!?
    • in the Long Now talk "The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole" (2004).
  • As a philosophical problem, it comes down to a better way to engage with the passage of time; and I think we're getting close to one, because the imaginative loss of the future is becoming acute.
    The most effective political actors on the planet now are people who want to blow themselves up.
    These are people who really don't want to get out of the bed in the morning and face another unpredictable day.
    • in the Long Now talk "The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole" (2004).
  • Tomorrow composts today.
    • in Shaping Things (2005).
  • "Mashups [...] nobody's going to listen to mashups in another ten years. Mashups are novelty music. They're like "The Monster Mash." They have no musical staying power. You're pursuing a phantom there. It's bad music, I mean, it's not bad— it's a pastiche, it's like magazine collage— which can be good for what it is. But to pretend that that's like tremendous creative work— No! It's a tremendous creative power— and it can have a tremendous audience, but it's not tremendously good. And we need a little bit of aesthetic honesty in confronting things like this. Just because it's new, and people with laptops can do it, and get away with it, and find an audience for it, does not make it a real cultural advance. It's an epiphenomenon."
    • in SXSW 2007 Bruce Sterling Rant (2007).

Islands in the Net (1988)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 0-441-37423-9, 9th printing
Won the 1989 John W. Campbell Memorial Award and was nominated for the 1989 Hugo Award.
  • The autumn sun shone brightly. It was still the same sun and the same clouds. The sun didn’t care about the landscape inside people’s heads.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 16)
  • The Net was a lot like television, another former wonder of the age. The Net was a vast glass mirror. It reflected what it was shown. Mostly human banality.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 17)
  • Centralized bureaucracies always protect the status quo. They don’t innovate. And it’s innovation that’s the real threat.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 47)
  • Real life was where the baby was.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 97)
  • Laura listened to their crude P. R. with sour amusement. They wouldn’t crank out this level of rhetoric unless they were trying to hide a real weakness, she thought.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 107)
  • When the People march in one direction, it only hurts to ask awkward questions.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 109)
  • Revolutions. New Orders. For Laura the words had the cobwebby taste of twentieth-century thinking. Visionary mass movements were all over the 1900s, and whenever they broke through, blood followed in buckets.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 109)
  • You know what that is? That’s peasant technology, brother. It’s slash-and-burn agriculture. You know what that might do to what’s left of the planet’s tropical forests? It’ll make every straw-hat Brazilian into Paul Bunyan, that’s what. The most dangerous bio-tech in the world is a guy with a goat and an axe.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 121)
  • Where there’s war, there’s whores.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 168)
  • She’d read somewhere once that 90 percent of the world’s havoc was committed by men between fifteen and twenty-five.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 228)
  • The world doesn’t give a shit how noble your motives are—it’ll roll right over you. That’s how it works.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 356)
  • I’ll grant you good intentions, but intentions don’t count for much. Corruption—that’s what counts.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 365)
  • You know when it really got bad here? When they tried to help. With medicine. And irrigation. They sank deep wells, with sweet, flowing water, and of course the nomads settled there. So instead of moving their herds on, leaving the pastures a chance to recover, they ate everything down to bare rock, for miles around every well. And the eight, nine children that African women have born from time immemorial—they all lived. It wasn’t that the world didn’t care. They struggled heroically, for generations, selflessly and nobly. To achieve an atrocity.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 365)
  • Agriculture is the oldest and most vicious of humanity’s bio-technologies.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 389)

"The Wonderful Power of Storytelling", a talk by Sterling at the Computer Game Developers Conference, March 1991[edit]

Link goes to a downloadable file in .article format hosted by EFF; it can be opened with a text editor.
  • My art, science fiction writing, is pretty new as literary arts go, but it labors under the curse of three thousand years of literacy. In some weird sense I'm in direct competition with Homer and Euripides.
  • The real advantage of CDs is that they allow you to forget all your vinyl records. You think you love this record collection that you've amassed over the years. But really the sheer choice, the volume, the load of memory there is secretly weighing you down. You're never going to play those Alice Cooper albums again, but you can't just throw them away, because you're a culture nut.
  • Emily Dickinson didn't even publish books, she just wrote these demented little poems with a quill pen and hid them in her desk, but they still fought their way into the world, and lasted on and on and on. It's damned hard to get rid of Emily Dickinson, she hangs on like a tick in a dog's ear.
  • I'm sure you could play some kind of computer game with very intelligent, very small, invisible computers...You could have some entertaining way to play with them, or more likely they would have some entertaining way to play with you.
  • I don't think that as a culture today we're very interested in tradition or continuity. No, we're a lot more interested in being a New Age and a revolutionary epoch, we long to reinvent ourselves every morning before breakfast and never grow old.
  • When you're deconstructing a book it's like you're psychoanalyzing it, you're not studying it for what it says, you're studying it for the assumptions it makes and the cultural reasons for its assemblage.... What this essentially means is that you're not letting it touch you, you're very careful not to let it get its message through or affect you deeply or emotionally in any way.
  • This [deconstruction] is a way for modern literateurs to handle this vast legacy of the past without actually getting any of the sticky stuff on you. It's like it's dead. It's like the next best thing to not having literature at all.
  • For God's sake don't put my books into the Thomas Edison kinetoscope... don't tie my words and my thoughts to the fate of a piece of hardware, because hardware is even more mortal than I am, and I'm a hell of a lot more mortal than I care to be.
  • Mortality is one good reason why I'm writing books in the first place. For God's sake don't make me keep pace with the hardware, because I'm not really in the business of keeping pace, I'm really in the business of marking place.
  • Believe me there are few things deader or more obsolescent than a science fiction novel that predicts the future when the future has passed it by.
  • Science fiction is a pop medium and a very obsolescent fiction has a hard time wrapping itself in the traditional mantle of literary excellence... we try to do this sometimes, but generally we have to be really drunk first.
  • Ladies and gentlemen to hell with the marvellous power of storytelling. If the audience for science fiction wanted storytelling, they wouldn't read goddamned science fiction, they'd read Harpers and Redbook and Argosy... We're not into science fiction because it's "good literature," we're into it because it's weird.
  • Follow your weird, ladies and gentlemen. Forget trying to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace your nerditude.
  • Don't aim to be civilized. Don't hope that straight people will keep you on as some kind of pet. To hell with them...Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird and don't do it halfway, put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it.
  • Don't become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish.
  • You can get a hell of a lot done in a popular medium just by knocking it off with the bullshit.
  • Working seriously, improving your taste and perception and understanding, knowing what you are and where you came from, not only improves your work in the present, but gives you a chance of influencing the future and links you to the best work of the past. It gives you a place to take a solid stand.

The Peak of Eternal Light (2012)[edit]

Quotes from the e-book edition of Edge of Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan, and published by Solaris ISBN 978-1-84997-460-8
  • Clearly, Mother de Gupta dearly loved motherhood – mostly, for the chance that it offered her to boss around small, helpless people.
  • Maybe we were forced to conform to that tradition, for the sake of futurity. But the truth is, fatherhood was good to me. Today, there’s a boy, eight years old, who depends on me for guidance in this world. So now I realise: life can’t be all about me. Me, and my own favourite things: interaction design, aesthetics, robotics, metaphysics... When you and I built a child, that forced me to realise how much this life matters!
  • “But Dad... what if I just beat people up with my baton? Wouldn’t they have to do whatever I say?”
    Pitar laughed. “That’s been tried. It never works out well.”
  • As tempers rose, a compromise was urged by certain moderates, whom everyone ignored.

Pictures from the Resurrection (2015)[edit]

Quote from the e-book edition of Meeting Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan, and published by Solaris ISBN 978-1-84997-922-1
  • The Dark Age world had all kinds of potential issues that might bother Anita Atkinson: climate crisis, state collapse, financial ruin, mass extinction, catastrophic population dieback. None of those things bothered Anita, though, because she didn’t understand long words.

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