Bruce Sterling at Barbara’s

I went to Bruce’s book event last night. I was a little surprised at the turnout – 25 people by my count. On the other hand, it was only a fluke that I even knew about the event in time, so maybe it wasn’t that surprising. Because of the craplousy Chicago traffic I got there a few minutes into it, as I sat down Bruce was explainging why he wrote a “techno-thriller” for his new book Zenith Angle. It was funny how he talked about it, almost deprecating the book even as he talked about it. Eight years ago when I interviewed him for Holy Fire he did exactly the same thing, essentially calling the book inconsequential. I suspect this is just how Bruce is. He talked a little more about various stuff, kind of freewheeling and talking about politics and environmentalism. He then talked about the umpteenth revival of Amazing magazine and how he’ll have a story in the re-re-re-revival. Around that time he put in the funniest plug I’ve ever heard. He said how folks should buy the first issue of Amazing or even subscribe, and while you are at it subscribe to Asimov’s and F&SF because this is where new science fiction writers come from. If these magazines go away, he said, the pipeline we have for getting new sharp visionary SF writers of the future will be cut off. Mind you, he added, I’m not saying to read the magazines, but just buy them.

The story was good and funny, and left one guy in hysterics. It is the tale of a recognizable public figure who is frozen and awakes as the last man on earth. Afterwards, he took a few questions from the audience and riffed for a long time on Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow who he refers to as the successsors to cyberpunk, “overclockers.” He also pointed out that both he and William Gibson’s most recent books are near present day books, and suggested that maybe they are writing “nowpunk”. Just on the train in this morning, I read a story that uses the term “nostalgiapunk” which might be the next step.

Afterwards, he kicked off the signing ironically as always with the cry “Alright, let’s sign some product!” Pretty much everybody stood patiently in line. I was near the back so I heard most of the chit-chat. Two guys ahead of me was one of those guys who kind of dominates these events, the dude who wants to start a heavy conversation and won’t stop. He got his books signed and then kept talking and talking until finally Bruce asked to start signing the next guys books to keep the line moving. Still, the guy didn’t disengage which is kind of uncool because that was just preventing the next guy from getting his 90 seconds of conversation. He was gone by the time I got up, and I mentioned to Bruce how I appreciated his heads up over on Another World is Here (and one of the guys was there too) on how to find a specific Turkish pop CD I had been hunting for years. We talked about Turkish music and then it was over.

I’m glad I went and it was pretty fun but I suspect that Barbara’s Bestseller and their event staff (if one exists) are slackers. There was no publicity for this event, which is evidenced that in a bigass city like Chicago only 25 folks turned up for Bruce Sterling. There was no one from the store keeping things going, enforcing time, telling people what to do, telling folks what the rules were on limits and such. That was left to Bruce himself to do. It turned out alright in the end, but that was just because Bruce is an old pro at this and the people were polite enough to self-organize. I hope that isn’t how they do all their events. Things always go better at these hoedowns when someone is standing there to tell folks where to lineup, when they have too many books and that the author will only sign N of them, etc. Don’t make the author be the bad cop, don’t make the person standing behind the guy with 17 things be the bad cop.

I took a couple pictures, which I didn’t have time to sync to the Mac before leaving for work. I’ll upload them this evening.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.