Bruce Sterling would no doubt hate the idea of being a hero of any kind — sung, unsung, whistled or hummed. But Sterling deserves recognition for his career as a journalist, futurist and malcontent. Its a career that has paralleled the Internet explosion.
In 1992, he published his investigative book, The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier, which detailed the underground world of hackers and the often futile efforts of law enforcement officers to stop them. In one passage, he lampooned the underpowered laptop computer being used by one female prosecutor in Arizona. Giving her an old 286 laptop was, Sterling wrote, "like sending the sheriff in to clean up Dodge City and arming her with a slingshot cut from an old rubber tire."
Why else should Sterling, the author of 14 books and dozens of articles, be on this list?
Because he invented the concept of "literary freeware": While recording companies, software makers and others work to stifle the free flow of information on the Internet, Sterling published The Hacker Crackdown on the Net, effectively giving away his content and his ideas.
Because in a time of overinflated hyperbole about the Net, Sterling is funny, irreverent and just a little ticked off about the way things are.
Because his Web site, www.viridiandesign.org, is one of the best sources on the Web for sharp analysis on industrial design, global warming and historical analysis.
Because hes not afraid. Covering everything from political division in Cyprus to privacy on the Internet, Sterling will tackle any subject and expound it — whether you want him to or not. During a recent tech conference in Austin, Texas, he advised the staid audience members to lighten up, go to the clothing boutique owned by Susan Dell — wife of computer zillionaire Michael Dell — and "buy the weirdest thing on the rack."
Because he wrote the line, "When in doubt, wear more feathers, eat more peyote and pierce your tongue."