Bruce Sterling

  • The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni

    THIS BOOK WAS ASSEMBLED by two determined amateurs, who rescued the dusty archives of Omni magazine from abandoned storage facilities. Brian Aldiss used to say that the core moral tale of science fiction is “Hubris clobbered by Nemesis.” At a cynical glance, that would be much the story told here.

    Omni was a science-fiction magazine from 1978 to 1998, and the glossiest, best-selling one, for a while. Therefore, The Mind’s Eye: The Art of Omni is very much a science-fiction art book. However, it’s science-fiction art as redefined by the capricious mind and capacious pocketbook of Bob Guccione,

  • CLOSE-UP: DATA MINE

    EARLY NET ART was like building ships in a bottle: arcane, difficult, and little appreciated. It was generally best pursued when cooped up in a state-sponsored computer lab in newly liberated Estonia.

    Petra Cortright is a contemporary Californian Net artist, born in 1986. She’s had a computer since she could walk, and was spared the earlier era’s ideological warm-ups and tortured justifications. For Cortright, computers and social networks are as convenient as a watercolor set.

    Cortright’s artwork is commonly all about being Petra, a unique state of contemporary being best explored through YouTube

  • film May 01, 2011

    Shrouded Skies

    THE RATHER WRITERLY GERMAN director Hartmut Bitomsky likes to quote Oulipian writer Raymond Queneau. A work of art, according to Queneau, needs a rules-based structure. If those rules remain invisible, then the unseen and paranoia-inducing regularities will prey on the mind. The audience need not know the creator’s purpose. Neither, then, do the participants in Bitomsky’s new film, who are earnest German housewives, factory workers, construction laborers, scientists, and intellectuals, all of them occupied or preoccupied with dust.

    Bitomsky, who is currently working in grimy Berlin after a long

  • F. T. Marinetti

    FUTURISM, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD this year, arose from a decadent Italian playboy’s near-death experience. The innovative young gentleman in question, F. T. Marinetti, was frittering away his father’s large fortune by publishing Symbolist poetry and racing fine cars. In 1908, Marinetti ran his machine into a ditch and almost drowned. Most dilettantes would have retreated to the polo ponies. Marinetti was instantly born again as an apostle of mechanized speed and violence.

    Contemporary “futurism” is a gentle, serviceable activity. In 2009, futurism coaxes clients to step outside the box of daily

  • “Futurismo 100: Illuminations”

    On the centenary of F. T. Marinetti’s racketing, moon-killing Futurist Manifesto, Italy’s loudest and boldest avant-garde movement will be celebrated this year in three exhibitions, the first of which is in Rovereto.

    On the centenary of F. T. Marinetti’s racketing, moon-killing Futurist Manifesto, Italy’s loudest and boldest avant-garde movement will be celebrated this year in three exhibitions, the first of which is in Rovereto. After most of their brightest lights were snuffed out by the First World War, the Futuristi were co-opted by Mussolini’s Fascists, and to this day remain in bad odor. No doubt seeking to burnish the soiled reputation of the better-known Italian contingent, the show includes French and German contributions to the cause, as well as those frenetic, half-forgotten

  • Hartmut Bitomsky’s Dust

    THE RATHER WRITERLY GERMAN director Hartmut Bitomsky likes to quote Oulipian writer Raymond Queneau. A work of art, according to Queneau, needs a rules-based structure. If those rules remain invisible, then the unseen and paranoia-inducing regularities will prey on the mind. The audience need not know the creator’s purpose. Neither, then, do the participants in Bitomsky’s new film, who are earnest German housewives, factory workers, construction laborers, scientists, and intellectuals, all of them occupied or preoccupied with dust.

    Bitomsky, who is currently working in grimy Berlin after a long

  • “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling”

    The world is littered, according to “Home Delivery's” time line, with nearly two centuries' worth of failed prefab. But will the need for “sustainability” finally blast prefab out of the trailer park and into mass acceptance?

    It makes every kind of sense in the world! Why can't people build homes to the sleek, innovative, high-precision standards of the world's leading industries? Homes like trains, cars, jets! Every architecture critic keenly senses the stinking dishonesty of the “skeuomorph”—limp suburban real-estate fakery aping “Tudor” and “Tuscan.” Imagine the modernist joy of ditching those sentimental relics, defying the terrors of the local homeowner's association, and assembling cheap, steam-cleanable, authentic housing generated by the muscular vigor of the

  • “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe”

    The atomic age is fading on its grainy analog newsreels, so it’s high time for the twenty-first century to place Buckminster Fuller in a romantically tinted retrospective. He’s quite an appealing figure, the space-age Thoreau, puffing like a summer breeze through the cold war.

    The atomic age is fading on its grainy analog newsreels, so it’s high time for the twenty-first century to place Buckminster Fuller in a romantically tinted retrospective. He’s quite an appealing figure, the space-age Thoreau, puffing like a summer breeze through the cold war.

    Until his thirties, Fuller was a gabby, overbright college dropout, a sometime meatpacker and sheet-metal worker with a Yankee tinker’s streak. Then bankruptcy and the death of a child provoked a mystical experience, a Whitmanesque self-reinvention in which “R. Buckminster Fuller”

  • Green Fashion

    CLIMATE CHANGE isn’t a vogue, because vogues go away when they get boring.

    Vanity Fair, along with Vogue and Elle, discovered climate change this season. These are three very trendy magazines, but climate change is no mere trend. Global warming has been two hundred years in the making, much older even than the time-honored survivor of that group—yes, it’s older even than Vogue.

    Climate chaos has been stealthily creeping up on us for two centuries. Now she is here in spades and she won’t go anywhere but worse. Global warming is the dirty little sister of nuclear Armageddon, and she requires no

  • “Safe: Design Takes on Risk”

    Imagine the grim security theater performed by weary airline passengers, stripped of dignity, dropping their shoes into gray dishwashing tubs. Now picture the colorful, sleek, lightweight, high-performance—in a word, sexy—safety equipment donned by skydivers. Aha! Risk, an inherent part of life, can be embraced with joy (helped in no small measure by well-designed protective devices). Gathering some three hundred prototypes, products, and designs—like home CO2 detectors, emergency-response gadgets, and anti-drug ads—“Safe” sets out to

  • THE YEAR OF OIL

    Though we all live on it, most people never glimpse crude oil. But 2004 was when oil’s crudeness became blatant and universal. As long as we depend on this wicked substance—and we do—we will never feel clean. Crude oil is a Lovecraftian substance. It can boil at room temperature, giving off a fizz of propane. Sour crude is sulfurated and reeks like brimstone. Oil’s energy is entirely necrotic. Oil is the long-entombed dreck of extinct sea creatures, baked in primeval sediments sucked down into the crust of the earth. Some oil is older than trilobites.

    Always unpleasant when experienced