Two dozen tales of future shock and twisted history from an undisputed king of cyberpunk science fiction
Time magazine describes Bruce Sterling as “one of America’s best-known science fiction writers and perhaps the sharpest observer of our media-choked culture working today in any genre.” Sterling’s abilities are on full display in Ascendancies, a collection of speculative fiction from a world-class world-building futurist, alternate historian, and mad prophet operating at the peak of his extraordinary powers. Here are twenty-four stories that span the illustrious career of the author who, along with William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, injected the word cyberpunk into the science fiction lexicon. These tales not only traverse galaxies and employ mind-boggling technologies, they also cut back across the centuries into a richly imagined past with style and a sharp satiric edge.
Sterling’s unparalleled imagination and courageous originality carry the reader into the future universe of the warring Shapers and Mechanists, rival sects of exiled humanity with radically opposed views of human augmentation. Several stories feature the questionable adventures of the footloose con man Leggy Starlitz in a somewhat-skewed and still-dangerous post–Cold War world.
Sterling explores the cyberpunk trope of technology gone wild and the resultant decline of civilization with appropriate gravity, while presenting parables of strangers stuck in very strange lands in a more whimsical vein. Whether chronicling an alien’s encounter with Crusaders in disputed Palestine, depicting the discovery of the key to immortality in a nineteenth-century Times Square magic shop, or portraying bicycles and bad guys in a near-future Tennessee, Sterling’s stories are smart, surprising, genre bending, bold, and outstanding, one and all.
“The godfather of cyberpunk demonstrates his full range, from far future to forgotten past, in this well-stocked career-spanning collection of his finest SF pieces. . . . Readers who like a hard-eyed view of the future combined with a wry wink at the past, with a few inventive postmodern narrative kicks mixed in, will be greatly rewarded.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Sterling’s speculative fiction dazzles from the get-go, bombarding the reader with one extraordinary concept after another. . . . This significant retrospective of Sterling’s career reveals a prescience that is bold and astounding.” —Booklist
“Sterling is a writer of excellent fineness. In point of fact, I am somewhat awed by his abilities.” —Harlan Ellison Bruce Sterling is an American author and one of the founders of the cyberpunk science fiction movement. He began writing in the 1970s; his first novel, Involution Ocean, about a whaling ship in an ocean of dust, is a science fictional pastiche of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. His other works, including his series of stories and a novel, Schismatrix, set in the Shaper/Mechanist universe, often deal with computer-based technologies and genetic engineering. His five short story collections and ten novels have earned several honors: a John W. Campbell Award, two Hugo Awards, a Hayakawa’s SF Magazine Reader’s Award, and an Arthur C. Clarke Award. Sterling has also worked as a critic and journalist, writing for Metropolis, Artforum, Icon, MIT Technology Review, Time, and Newsweek, as well as Interzone, Science Fiction Eye, Cheap Truth, and Cool Tools. He edits Beyond the Beyond, a blog hosted by Wired.
Sterling is also involved in the technology and design community. In 2003 his web-only art piece, Embrace the Decay, was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and became the most-visited piece in the museum’s digital gallery. He has taught classes in design at the Gerrit Reitveld Academie in Amsterdam, Centro in Mexico City, Fabrica in Treviso, Italy, and the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Sterling lives in Austin, Texas; Belgrade, Serbia; and Turin, Italy.
Sterling (Visionary in Residence: Stories), the godfather of cyberpunk, demonstrates his full range, from far future to forgotten past, in this well-stocked career-spanning collection of his finest SF pieces. His blend of uncompromising realism and irrepressible optimism shows up wherever his protagonists do, whether working for a stranded alien in Crusader-era Palestine ("The Blemmye's Stratagem"), investigating a mock space journey inside the cavern left from a Chinese H-bomb test ("Taklamakan") or just hanging around (literally) in 2037 Chattanooga, fixing bikes and foiling a black ops agent out to protect her senile senator boss ("Bicycle Repairman"). Sterling is both Cassandra and Scheherazade, always forced to spill the ugly truths about what's to come in spite of our unconcern, but always willing to see if the doom can be held off for another night by one more good story. Readers who like a hard-eyed view of the future combined with a wry wink at the past, with a few inventive postmodern narrative kicks mixed in, will be greatly rewarded.