The Sterling FAQ 

The Sterling FAQ

Questions Frequently Asked of Bruce Sterling

Your name sounds vaguely familiar. Didn't you write some book called "Hamper Clampdown" or something?

Yes, I wrote "The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier" (Bantam Books 1993). It's a nonfiction work about computer crime, electronic networks, cops, hackers, and civil liberties. The book's become pretty well-known on the Net.

Did you really give away HACKER CRACKDOWN on the Internet so that people could copy it and read it for nothing? And, if so, where do I get my copy?

HACKER CRACKDOWN was released to the Net on New Years Day 1994. It has an introduction explaining the legal and commercial aspects of distributing the text online, and an afterword that follows some of the major issues and characters in HACKER CRACKDOWN up to 1994. Dozens of Internet sites have this full-text available. You might websearch it on or Keep in mind that the text is about 80,000 words long. It might be considerably cheaper (and far more legible) to get the book as a secondhand paperback.

There's also a Spanish translation which has been widely circulated, judging by all the Spanish hacker email I get.

Are you going to update this computer-crime book and give it away again?

No. I don't think the world requires science fiction writers to write about computer crime any more. There's nothing futuristic about this problem nowadays.

Don't you think you lost a lot of money by "giving away" a whole book on the Internet? Aren't your publishers going to kill you?

No, and no.

What is "cyberpunk?"

"If you don't know by now, don't mess with it."

How come there's no Bruce Sterling movies? I bet a guy with your intense pop culture and media interests would be real eager to work for Hollywood, right? Wow! I know I would!

I know this would seem plausible, but I really don't have the time or much interest in this area. The only kind of cinema I really enjoy is Hong Kong commercial product. And raw computer graphic demo reels. And, okay, I was a big fan of Federico Fellini, but he's dead.

If you're a producer or director or screenwriter and you want to buy rights to one of my properties, contact my agent (Merrilee Heifetz, WRITERS HOUSE Inc, 21 West 26th Street, New York NY 10010 fax 212-685-1781, We'll cheerfully sell you an option. Just don't expect me to write any screenplays.

I have a brief cameo appearance in an independent film called DELICATE ART OF THE RIFLE. I play a demented TV weatherman.

Hello Mr Bruce "Cyberpunk Guru" Sterling, I am a journalist from some (fanzine) (radio station) (local American newspaper) (weird Euro fashion rag) (inexplicable Nipponese technomedia magabook). Do you think we might elicit some snappy oneliners or soundbites by (voicephone) (fax) (letter) (email)?

Probably. Being a journalist myself, I try to make it a point of principle to always talk to journalists. If I'm around I'll probably talk to you.

Email is your best bet for reaching me.

What are you working on now?

I finished my second nonfiction book, called TOMORROW NOW. I'm also spending a lot of time running a mailing list and website about the Greenhouse Effect and postindustrial design. Plus, I write science fiction.

Do you actually read all your own email?

So far, yeah.

How come you know so many industrial designers? You always seem to be hanging out with them, yet I never saw you make a lamp or ship a stackable chair.

I'm a design groupie. They're a whole lot like really good science fiction writers, only with much better shoes.

What is William Gibson's (home phone number) (street address) (email address) (fax number) (credit card number)?

Leave the poor guy alone; he gets a big great green garbage bag full of mail every day.

Are you still William Gibson's friend after writing that weird DIFFERENCE ENGINE thing together? By the way, I didn't get the ending.

Yes I am still on quite good terms with William "Gomi-no-Sensei" Gibson, and if you didn't comprehend that book you should continue reading it over and over until you do.

You wrote SNOW CRASH, right? Or that CRYPTO thing. Those were great!

That was Neal Stephenson, another science fiction writer whose books always get shelved next to mine. It didn't help that I blurbed his books lavishly. Which he deserved.

I don't really have a question for you, but I'm a really k-k00l, k-rad hacker dood. I'm into systems all over the place, universities, hospitals, my high school, and many other such threatening centers of oppressive authority. Just last week I got Back Orifice installed in a chain of florists shops. Nobody can catch me and nobody even knows who I am!!!

Well, since I am a computer crime journalist, go right ahead and tell me all about it ( I'm sure that a full confession will make you feel much, much better.

What's your PGP key?

Don't use 'em. If you get in trouble, it won't be because you were tapped and cracked by the NSA. It'll be because somebody you trusted ratted on you (or because you bragged). Trust me on this. If you're really worried about your privacy, stop using credit cards and shred your trash.

Who's your agent?

Merrilee Heifetz, Writers House Inc, 21 West 26th Street, New York NY 10010, FAX 212-685-1471, phone 212-685-2400.

What books have you written?

In order of production (starting in 1977), Involution Ocean, The Artificial Kid, Schismatrix, Islands in the Net, The Difference Engine (with William Gibson), Heavy Weather, Holy Fire, Distraction, and Zeitgeist (2000). I also edited the anthology Mirrorshades. I have three collections of short stories: Crystal Express, Globalhead and A Good Old-Fashioned Future.

I wrote the nonfiction book The Hacker Crackdown, and a lot of incidental journalism of various kinds: reviews, travel pieces, art criticism, speeches and so on. I've been keeping pretty busy for over 20 years now.

What kinda box ya got?

Three iMacs, and a big Dell Windows machine.

Why do you live in Austin Texas instead of (London) (Amsterdam) (San Francisco) (Silicon Valley) (Vancouver) (Raleigh) (Manhattan) (Prague) (Milan) (in an offshore data haven built on an abandoned oil-rig and guarded by heavily armed corporate ninjas)?

Austin was cheap once upon a time, and the libraries are still good. I like all those other places, and I'll go there in a heartbeat, but I belong here, and I need my taco chips.