Crystal Express Critical Essays

Bruce Sterling


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Bruce Sterling is one of the leading proponents of the cyberpunk movement in science fiction. He is not comfortable being identified with that movement, however, particularly as it has become associated with computer crime. The technological background of his stories is solid, and he is comfortable employing in his fiction such devices as personal computers, fax machines, and modems. In this way, he is similar to the writers of the Golden Age of science fiction, who wrote comfortably about devices such as rockets, radios, and nuclear reactors that were, at the time of writing, relatively new and developing forms of technology.

Sterling is the author of the nonfiction The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992). He has pointed out that the writers of the cyberpunk movement are as fascinated by information technology as earlier science-fiction writers were by space travel. Most of Sterling’s stories reveal a concern about the social consequences of computers and other devices of high technology.

In several stories, characters state the case for anti-technology philosophies. An alien in “Swarm” argues that intelligence is not a prosurvival trait for life-forms. The alien’s position is that the urge to expand, explore, and understand ultimately results in extinction. It goes on to predict that the human race will be extinct within approximately a millennium after the time of the story. Thus, science...

(The entire section is 443 words.)