Bruce Sterling at CCA

Bruce Sterling gave a talk at CCA last Tuesday. Part of the talk came from Shaping Things (although he didn’t mention SPIMES directly), but much of it was fresh, presumably influenced by his visit that same afternoon to the scenario planners and futurists at the Global Business Network.

I’ve since finished reading Shaping Things and hope to write up something about it before too long, but meanwhile my notes from the talk are posted at Core77.

The day of the talk I was at MarCamp and had to rush to get to CCA in time to hopefully eat and get a seat (after getting lost on Stanford campus and ending up in the back of a crowded and hot room for the Antonelli talk the day before, I was trying to plan). I walked into the school’s cafe thinking I’d grab something and wolf it down and then go to the auditorium. And there’s Bruce Sterling sitting quietly at a table working on his laptop. He looks up and sees me and as I walk over to re-introduce myself (we met once at an IDSA West event where I had recommended him as the keynote) he seems to know who I am and invites me to sit down. And then another man joins us, and Sterling introduces me to Rudy Rucker, telling him how great my blog is. Rucker gets out a pen and paper to write the details down, Sterling tells him to Google me, and I just hand him a business card.

I then start saying really stupid things to Rudy Rucker; remembering that I read one of his books many years ago but I can’t remember what it is (since figuring out that it was probably Wetware). I don’t know why I did that; it’s not like anyone ever wants to hear that sort of thing even when it’s expressed non-moronically. It’s funny now, I guess. They showed me pictures from some crazy vault in the basement of the building that the Global Business Network is in, discussed Web 2.0, asked me to save seats and so on. I see someone else had a slightly similar experience.

Eventually I went in to get seats (though being early meant I had plenty of choice) and looked up Rudy Rucker online, only to realize that I had purchased a few of his books recently! I gave up on one; and am currently about 10% through another, on my bedside table at home. Moron-forehead slap number 2. When Rucker showed up he asked if I could drive him to the train station afterwards, and mentioned he was going to write a story about giant ants with Bruce Sterling (who was sitting and writing away on his laptop, wordsmithing, I presume, the talk he was about to give). Sitting behind us was Brenda Laurel, newly at CCA, but of course I didn’t realize that until afterwards. What a big evening of famous people that I can act like a clueless goofball in front of…it’s all blog fodder, I guess.

Sterling’s talk was entertaining and provocative. His ability to craft phrases for a verbal presentation is unique, and he manages this semi-sarcastic riffing drawl that brings his written prose back into the realm of the spoken. This lets him rant about some techno-groovy possibility and use geeky phrases about “bluetooth-enabled devices crawling through our skin” (not an actual phrase he used) that don’t thunder demandingly but almost mock the idea while still wildly considering the possibility real and even necessary. It’s engaging as hell, sneaking ideas past your defenses with a dry cloaking device.

And maybe that’s why he’s been a Visionary-in-Residence at Art Center – it’s not that his ideas are entirely clear or convincing or that his logic follows simply and persuasively, but he takes on you and a ride and you may notice that you are off the road sometimes, but you’re still along for the ride. [I hope someone is counting the fallen metaphors here].

Rucker ended up sticking around and not riding in the new RX8, and I finally got to eat my dinner sandwhich when I got home later that evening!


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