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Visionary in Residence: Stories Paperback – March 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 13 entries in this welcome fourth collection from postcyberpunk Sterling (Distraction) run the gamut from SF to ghost stories, but all deal with the impact of the strange, be it supernatural or scientific, on the individual. "Junk DNA" (with Rudy Rucker) deftly captures the fast-paced ethos of the 1990s, with its dot-com startups and meltdowns, as does "Code," in which a male computer geek, faced with that most troubling of all creatures, a woman, reduces our patriarchic civilization to a system he can hack. "User-Centric," told as a series of corporate e-mails among a team launching a new product, spins into something far odder as we learn what that product is. In an intriguing time-travel tale, "The Blemmye's Stratagem," an abbess and an assassin work for a man who can only be an alien. Sterling is that rare author who writes witty, humorous thought-experiments centered on great ideas. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sterling's short stories run the gamut of sf's potential suggested by the diverse headings of this collection's sections, which include "fiction for scientists" and "the past is a future that already happened." An example of fiction for scientists is a story about talking bugs that was inspired by an entomologist's paper on firefly biology. Stories of the past as future that has happened include the ghost story "The Denial" and a semihistorical piece about the Crusades and encountering aliens, "The Blemmye's Stratagem." Sterling's work resists those oversimplified descriptions. His stories run deeper than can be accurately suggested by a phrase, into the realm of decisions yet to be made and currents of political thought that resonate with the contemporary reader. "User-Centric" is a further example; stemming from the fascination Sterling contracted, while serving as "visionary in residence" at a design school in California, for the way designers work and think, it demonstrates thinking outside the box taken about as far as it can go. Sterling is a perceptive and far-seeing storyteller, whose work features both entertaining surfaces and penetrating commentary. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (March 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560258411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560258414
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce Sterling, author, journalist, editor, and critic,
was born in 1954. Best known for his ten science fiction
novels, he also writes short stories, book reviews,
design criticism, opinion columns, and introductions
for books ranging from Ernst Juenger to Jules Verne.
His nonfiction works include THE HACKER CRACKDOWN:
and SHAPING THINGS (2005).

He is a contributing editor of WIRED magazine
and writes a weblog. During 2005,
he was the "Visionary in Residence" at Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena. In 2008 he
was the Guest Curator for the Share Festival
of Digital Art and Culture in Torino, Italy,
and the Visionary in Residence at the Sandberg
Instituut in Amsterdam. In 2011 he returned to
Art Center as "Visionary in Residence" to run
a special project on Augmented Reality.

He has appeared in ABC's Nightline, BBC's The Late Show,
CBC's Morningside, on MTV and TechTV, and in Time,
Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times,
Fortune, Nature, I.D., Metropolis, Technology Review,
Der Spiegel, La Stampa, La Repubblica, and many other venues.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sfarmer76 on March 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Visionary in Residence is a collection that unites thirteen stories (published circa 1999-2005) by Bruce Sterling under one cover; two of these yarns also happen to be collaborations with his close friends Paul and Rudy. Audiences generally regard Sterling to be an author of science fiction, but his writing (continuing to transition into more alien forms of that genre) lately seems to congeal around disparate fields such as architecture, biology, design, environmentalism, and security.

"In Paradise," the lead story, is Sterling's strongest effort. Set amid a concourse of duty free shops, this narrative details the chance meeting of a nineteen year old Iranian beauty (Batool) and a twenty-six year old Texan plumber (Felix), and their subsequent love affair. Of course they can't converse with each other, without the help of two expensive Finnish cell phones that perform real-time translation on the fly, but that's the charm of the piece.

Second to "In Paradise," I think "The Growthing" is remarkable in terms of its overall texture. Set in a deserted Texas energy refinery that would be unrecognizable to today's industry vets, we get to share a tender vignette between biodome caretaker Milton and his teenage daughter Gretel before she's whisked away by a passing dirigible after her latest custody visit. Seems pretty tame on first read, but there are strange legal undercurrents coursing through the tale and an odd tacked on coda that offers redemption.

"Ivory Tower," is a funny squib first published in the British science weekly 'Nature.' The story revolves around ten thousand physicists self-educated by Internet, the manner in which they've leveraged their knowledge, and their formation of an academy in the Great Indian Desert.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Colin P. Lindsey VINE VOICE on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories from Bruce Sterling. Thematically the stories range all over the place from post-human to ancient history and ancient alternate history. The thing that ties all these stories together and made the book so great for me was that these tales reflect many of the futurist ideas posited in his non-fiction work Tomorrow Now. If you haven't read Tomorrow Now I highly recommend it, it's a five star read all the way. Frankly, even though I tend to read more fiction than non-fiction, his Tomorrow Now was one of the better reads I've undertaken this year and the quality of the prose was shockingly good. For a non-fiction work on ideas and what the future may hold it couldn't have been more engaging, easy to read, and mind-expanding.

I read this collection shortly after Tomorrow Now and it felt to me as if they were almost complementary books. The non-fiction work describes many of things we may see in the future and the way society may change with new technologies, including fascinating ideas about the future of biotechnology and the changing nature of employment and what people may wind up doing on a day-to-day basis for work. His concept of work in the future is almost hard to grasp it is so alien, yet extrapolating from the changes over the past twenty years his ideas are entirely plausible too. The short stories take these ideas and wrap them up in engaging tales exploring how these changes affect discrete individuals; the fictional accounts cover the world changes from individual perspective rather than a general societal overview. Some of the stories are better than others naturally but there are some real gems in here, including a colloboration with Rudy Rucker and two stories set in the Middle East roughly 1200 and 1400 A.D.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Bruce is one of those authors I always approach hesitantly. When he's good, he's very good, but when he's not, he's . . . well, not terrible, but certainly uninteresting. That goes for both his novels and his short stories. As I've noted elsewhere, he's a kick to listen to in person at a con, but his ideas and enthusiasms and social concerns don't always translate well into print. This collection of thirteen stories which first appeared in the past five or six years is divided thematically -- "Fiction for Scientists," "Design Fiction," "Architecture Fiction," etc. And there are several here that are great fun: "In Paradise" (love by means of real-time language translation in your cell phone), "Code" (boy-nerd meets girl-nerd), "The Necropolis of Thebes" (a very thoughtful look at "the old days" -- really old), and "The Denial" (actually a ghost story set in Ottoman times). One of the best, under the heading of "Ribofunk," is "Junk DNA," written with Rudy Rucker, which is about a high-tech start-up built around genomics instead of software; it's damaged, though, by the rather silly ending which makes me think Bruce simply got tired of writing it. The least-readable story, as it happens, is also about biotech -- "The Scab's Progress," with Paul Di Filippo, which made almost no sense at all to me. Also, if the author would just learn to write endings for his stories instead of just stopping his typing, I wouldn't have to keep turning the page, wondering if the rest of the story had been omitted.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on January 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
Bruce Sterling is a brilliant futurist whose novels have defined cyberpunk, and have propelled science fiction into new ultra-scientific realms. However, his short stories are more varied but less groundbreaking, as can be seen in this rather uneven collection. The main problem is that several of the short stories herein were created for very specific niche publications, and some show signs of being subjected to space constraints or heavy-handed editing. For example, "Homo Sapiens Declared Extinct," "Ivory Tower," and "Message Found in a Bottle" are just too short to provide anything other than simplistic attempts at big statements on social problems. A couple of other stories here, "In Paradise" and "Code," offer up much more interesting stories and settings, only to end very abruptly with absolutely no conclusions for the characters or thematic ideas. Fortunately, the longer submissions here will be real treats to Sterling fans, and save the collection from oblivion. "The Blemmye's Strategem" is a winning piece of supernatural historical fiction that is quite outside Sterling's usual subject matter. Meanwhile, Sterling continues his futurist innovations in the adventurous "The Scab's Progress," co-written by Paul Di Filippo; and especially "Junk DNA," co-written by the bodaciously creative Rudy Rucker. Those longer and better-constructed stories save this collection and make it a worthy addition to Sterling's body of work. But most of the briefer submissions are barely memorable. [~doomsdayer520~]
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