Blurred Visionaries

Ye Olde Cyber Prophets Age by the Nanosecond

Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling wrote the defining cyberpunk "manifesto" in the preface to Mirrorshades, a sci-fi collection he edited in 1987: "An unholy alliance of the technical world of pop culture, visionary fluidity, and street-level anarchy . . . paralleled throughout '80s pop culture, in rock video; in the hacker underground; in the jarring street tech of hip-hop and scratch music." Sterling is now a successful novelist and nonfiction writer.

The queen of high-tech porn: former Future Sex editor Lisa Palac
photo: Aldo Mauro
The queen of high-tech porn: former Future Sex editor Lisa Palac

Still, Sterling doesn't take himself too seriously. When I told him I was trying hard not to make this a "Where are they now" sort of thing, he said, "Too bad." (In contrast, Barlow said, "Oh, God. I hope not.") "I always figured myself for a tangential figure. As a science fiction writer, I'm an anomaly no matter where I go. It's true that I'm considerably better-known and better-heeled now than I was in 1990, but I never expected to rule the Internet as some kind of sci-fi philosopher-king. Now that the Internet is becoming the new General Motors, I'm losing interest in it."

So everybody's doing great. If you're a digiman, you're still on the move. You're making money, you're giving lectures and being quoted in magazines, and it doesn't feel like your 15 minutes are up—not at all. So you may not notice that Steve Case and Bill Gates won.

Maybe it was just me, feeling buried beneath the e-commerce avalanche. Maybe I'm just pathetically waiting for my Where Are They Now? moment, to be remembered for those glory moments, like Dexy's Midnight Runners and Gary Numan. Or maybe I'm just an old geezer who wants to tell the recent arrivals on the shores of cyberspace about those wild frontier days, one more time, before I join the hoi polloi on NASDAQ.

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