Want a new free Bruce Sterling short story? ‘course you do!

18 April, 2009

Via Boing Boing, who said this:

In White Fungus, an “architecture fiction” published in the first issue of Beyond magazine, Bruce Sterlng marries the sardonic and the hopeful in a gripping, hilarious story about how every aspect of civic life from schools to tomato-farming will be reformed after ecotastrophe and econopocalypse destroy our present way of life.

Sample:

Logically, industrial farmers should move into places like White Fungus and industrially farm the lawns. Derelict buildings should be gutted and trans formed into hydroponic racks. White Fungus was, in fact, an old agricultural region: it was ancient farmland with tarmac on top of it. So: rip up the parking lots. Plant them. Naturally, no one in White Fungus wanted this logical solution. Farming was harsh, dull, boring, patient work, and no one was going to pay the locals to farm. So, by the standards of the past, our survival was impossible. The solution was making the defeat of our hunger look like fun. People gardened in five-minute intervals, by meshing webcams with handsets. A tomato vine ready to pick sent someone an SMS. Game-playing gardeners cashed in their points at local market stalls and restaurants. This scheme was an ‘architecture of participation’. Since the local restaurants were devoid of health and employee regulations, they were easy to start and maintain.Every thing was visible on the Net. We used ingenious rating systems.

Enjoy a small glimpse at a very possible near-future, but one where survival, and even creativity, thrive.


Tomorrow – two sides

30 January, 2009

So it seems to be Pimp Bruce Sterling Week here… but seriously, if you’re not reading Sterling you’ve a major gap in your worldview.

Here in Seed Magazine, he offers two contrasting views of the modern calamity – one written as himself, the other by his fictional Italian twin Bruno Argento.

The Chairman:

As 2009 opens, our financial institutions are deep in massive, irrational panic. That’s bad, but it gets worse: Many other respected institutions have rational underpinnings at least as frail as derivatives or bundled real-estate loans. Like finance, these institutions are social constructions. They are games of confidence, underpinned by people’s solemn willingness to believe, to conform, to contribute. So why not panic over them, too?

Il Capo:

I will venture to predict something that seems to me obvious: Eight years late, the 20th century has finally departed us this year. It will never return.

The “true” 20th century — the Communist century — began in 1914 and ended in 1989. We are now in the true 21st century.

After 1989 we enjoyed a strange interregnum where “history ended.” Everyone ran up a credit-card bill at the global supermarket. The adventure ended badly, in crisis. Still, let us be of good heart. In cold fact, a financial crisis is one of the kindest and mildest sorts of crisis a civilization can have. Compared to typical Italian catastrophes like wars, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanoes, endemic political collapse — a financial crisis is a problem for schoolchildren.

As ever, I suspect the truth falls somewhere between these – but for all our sakes, hopefully more on Bruno’s side of things.