Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Bruce Sterling, Visionary In Residence

by Jerry Wright

Visionary In Residence
Editor: Bruce Sterling
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press
Trade Paper: 320 pages
Price: $15.95
Some people are appalled by the title of this book, and by the title being applied to Mr. Sterling. Guess what? It is his actual job title. He is "Visionary In Residence" at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Bruce says in an article in an Austin, TX newspaper, "Basically, I've become a designer futurist."

So, is Visionary In Residence any good? Well, hey, if you enjoy the variety and flavor of stories found here at Bewildering Stories, you will thoroughly enjoy Visionary In Residence. "I'm a science fiction writer. This is a golden opportunity to get up to most any mischief imaginable. With this fourth collection of my stories, I'm going to prove this to you."

And prove it he does. Bruce Sterling is the author of three New York Times Notable Books of the Year and and famous for cyberpunk and "steampunk" novels. This is his latest collection with thirteen tales. The stories are divided into such sections as "Science Fiction", "Fiction about Science", "Fiction for Scientists, "Architecture Fiction", "Cyberpunk to Ribofunk", etc. Some of the stories are brilliant, some are just kind of there, but they are all worth your time.

For example, the story in the subsection "Science Fiction" called "In Paradise"... Ever thought of what would happen if there were automatic translation software in your cell phone? Felix, a young American plumber, falls madly in love with Batool, a 19 year old Iranian girl. And vice versa. Thanks to the magic of the latest cell phones from Finland, they can communicate. The story is funny, and sad, and twisted, and just hits the right note.

Bruce also collaborates with Paul De Fillipo in "Scab's Progress" and with Rudy Rucker in "Junk DNA". Both fascinating stories, but honestly I preferred the stories Bruce wrote on his own. For example, we have such stories as "User-Centric" which starts out as series of e-mails from a design team searching for just the right offering for an imagined "just right user" and then flips to the reality of that (so we thought) imagined user. Or "Code" a non-SF story which uses the tropes and sensibilities of SF for a very warm, funny story.

All-in-all, I was pleased with Visionary In Residence and I could go on about the 800 word flash fiction pieces, or the Alternate History story, or the ghost story, but I won't. I'll just say, "Get it. Read it."

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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