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Voyage to Uchronia

Paul Delany, 29 August 1991

The Difference Engine 
by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Gollancz, 384 pp., £7.99, July 1991, 9780575050730
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... of an ‘uchronic’ novel: set in ‘no time’, instead of Utopia’s ‘no place’. Gibson and Sterling propose that the Duke of Wellington is killed by a Luddite bomb in 1831. Tired of internecine struggle between Tories and workers, the country turns to the ‘Industrial Radical Party’ for a sweeping transformation of British society, instead of the ...

Oops

Ian Stewart, 4 November 1993

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier 
by Bruce Sterling.
Viking, 328 pp., £16.99, January 1993, 0 670 84900 6
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The New Hacker’s Dictionary 
edited by Eric Raymond.
MIT, 516 pp., £11.75, October 1992, 0 262 68079 3
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Approaching Zero: Data Crime and the Computer Underworld 
by Bryan Clough and Paul Mungo.
Faber, 256 pp., £4.99, March 1993, 0 571 16813 2
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... in which case I suppose the appropriate title would be The Cracker Hackdown. Hackers in the Sterling sense communicate by email (electronic mail) using bulletin boards – individual computers, ‘nodes’ on the global network, which maintain files that anyone with a modem and the right phone numbers can dial up, read or write. They inhabit what the SF ...

Grunge Futurism

Julian Loose, 4 November 1993

Virtual Light 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 670 84081 5
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Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Post-Modern Science Fiction 
by Scott Bukatman.
Duke, 416 pp., £15.95, August 1993, 0 8223 1340 5
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... Neuromancer was the first novel to win all three major science fiction awards, and according to Bruce Sterling, cyberpunk’s main polemicist, it sent the entire genre ‘lurching from its cave into the bright sunlight of the modern zeitgeist’. Although Gibson has collaborated on an alternative Victorian history (‘steampunk’) and published ...

Sterling and Strings

Peter Davies: Harold Wilson and Vietnam, 20 November 2008

... later, he relayed his grave misgivings about American policy to the US ambassador to London, David Bruce. If America continued in its escalation of the conflict, he warned, it could cause the biggest rupture in Anglo-American relations since the Suez crisis. But this threat was never carried through, and Wilson would continue to provide Lyndon Johnson with ...

Sheeped

Julian Loose, 30 January 1992

The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 241 13144 8
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... me. No complex feelings here. He looked at me like I was another fixture. Would that I were. Bruce Sterling has recently celebrated Murakami’s ‘bold willingness to go straight over-the-top’, but Wonderland’s brand of Science Fiction owes more to the winning cartoonism of Kurt Vonnegut (touched perhaps by Raymond Roussel’s delight in ...

Abel the Nomad

Bruce Chatwin, 22 November 1979

Desert, Marsh and Mountain 
by Wilfred Thesiger.
Collins, 304 pp., £9.95
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... sons. It is no accident that such words as ‘stock’, ‘capital’, ‘pecuniary’ and even ‘sterling’ come from the pastoral world. And it is the nomad’s fatal yearning for increase that causes the endless round of raid and feud, and finally tempts him to succumb to settlement. By these standards, Mr Thesiger is not a nomad but a traveller, in whom ...

Crazy America

Edward Said, 19 March 1981

... to ‘fundamentalist screwballs’ by Bob Ingle in the Atlanta Constitution on 23 January; Claire Sterling in the Washington Post of 23 January argued that the Iran story was an aspect of ‘Fright Decade I’, the war against civilisation by terrorists. For Bill Green on the same page of the Post, ‘the Iranian obscenity’ raised the possibility that the ...

Quibbling, Wrangling

Jeremy Waldron: How to draft a constitution, 12 September 2019

Revolutionary Constitutions: Charismatic Leadership and the Rule of Law 
by Bruce Ackerman.
Harvard, 457 pp., £25.95, May 2019, 978 0 674 97068 7
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... even between the main protagonists there was little or no consensus on constitutional principles. Bruce Ackerman says that the events he describes in his new book do ‘not support the now standard view of South Africa as a paradigmatic case of “negotiated transition” in which elites managed the tricky business of change through enlightened ...

That’s democracy

Theo Tait: Dalton Trumbo, 2 March 2000

Johnny Got His Gun 
by Dalton Trumbo.
Prion, 222 pp., £5.99, May 1999, 1 85375 324 6
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... paid off his debts by working on big-budget projects like Papillon (1973). Dalton Trumbo (1977), Bruce Cook’s genial and thorough biography, suggests that the life he designed for himself ‘rivals, and really surpasses any literary work he has undertaken’. He was born in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1905. His father was a gentle, bookish, bee-keeping ...

Scotland’s Dreaming

Rory Scothorne, 21 May 2020

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: The Great Mistake of Scottish Independence 
by John Lloyd.
Polity, 224 pp., £20, April, 978 1 5095 4266 6
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The Literary Politics of Scottish Devolution: Voice, Class, Nation 
by Scott Hames.
Edinburgh, 352 pp., £24.99, November 2019, 978 1 4744 1814 0
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... forced opium on China in the 1820s. Their work was continued by Scottish bureaucrats like James Bruce, the 8th earl of Elgin, whose father stole the Parthenon Marbles from Greece. ‘I never felt so ashamed of myself in my life,’ Bruce wrote of his time as high commissioner in China, during which he waged the Second ...

I want to love it

Susan Pedersen: What on earth was he doing?, 18 April 2019

Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Little, Brown, 800 pp., £35, February 2019, 978 1 4087 0741 8
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... they moved to Vienna, where Eric’s sister, Nancy, was born in 1920. Family connections and the sterling Percy brought from Egypt allowed a comfortable existence for a time, but the move was a disaster. How was an English clerk to find work in inflation-ridden Vienna? Eric was never clear quite what his father did (Evans isn’t clear either), and the ...

The Party in Government

Conor Gearty, 9 March 1995

... to the Tories and £100,000 to the Centre for Policy Studies in 1981-90); Sir Jeffrey Sterling (head of P & O, which gave £370,000 during the Thatcher years); Peter Palumbo (Chairman of the Arts Council but also owner of Rugarth Investment Trust, which gave £268,099 to the Tories in 1986-8); and Sir Eric Porter (chief executive of Trafalgar ...

Under the Sign of the Interim

Perry Anderson, 4 January 1996

The European Rescue of the Nation-State 
by Alan Milward.
Routledge, 506 pp., £17.99, May 1994, 0 415 11133 1
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The Frontier of National Sovereignty: History and Theory 1945-1992 
by Alan Milward.
Routledge, 248 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 415 11784 4
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Jean Monnet: The First Statesman of Interdependence 
by François Duchêne.
Norton, 278 pp., $35, January 1995, 0 393 03497 6
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... formed with the US political élite – not only the Dulles brothers, but Harriman, McCloy, Ball, Bruce, Acheson and others – during his years in New York and Washington. Monnet’s intimacy with the highest levels of power in the hegemonic state of the hour was unique. He was to become widely distrusted in his own country because of it. How much of his ...

Iraq, 2 May 2005

Andrew O’Hagan: Two Soldiers, 6 March 2008

... there a danger in the American system,’ I said, ‘in creating such a platform for sterling brilliance at school that the rest of life is a struggle to maintain it?’ ‘Absolutely,’ Bill Lamb said. ‘That’s our greatest challenge. We have a lot of kids who never leave high school. They’re 30 years old and they’re still operating as ...

The Uninvited

Jeremy Harding: At The Rich Man’s Gate, 3 February 2000

... Some people believe the Convention is obsolete in any case. ‘The present arangements,’ Bruce Anderson wrote in the Spectator last year, ‘commit us to obligations which we can never meet, so they ought to be repudiated.’ He argued that 50 asylum seekers a year in Britain was a manageable number – in a year when 60,000 or so fetched up – plus ...

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