1. Dude was scary smart.
2. Dude was scary rebellious.
3. Dude looked way too young to know what he knew.
If I had finished up at USC as I planned, there was no question that I would have eventually fallen in with the dudes at the Swamp, the fairly well known geek hangout. I would have met a dungeonmaster. I would have been deeply into D&D. As it stood, I failed to make the connection. But since I had the audacity to write games in FORTRAN and found something fundamentally fascinating about bi-directional printing, then I would have been a lot more likely to trade the privilege of running USC's data centers for the sort of rebellious pose characterizing the name Bruce Sterling evokes. I liked him and I agreed with everything he said, but I think he had a lot of nerve to be poking his finger at those he did. Rich white boy.
I didn't have time for that. I was working very hard for respectability in a society I didn't comprehend. I saw him as somebody throwing vases against the walls of his parents estate. Of course it didn't matter whether or not his parents had an estate, or how precise his aim. Destruction is destruction. I was a black man living every day life as a symbolic threat. He looked like Spritle Racer with acne. All he had to do was shut his mouth and he disappeared. I did not have that luxury in 1989.
Today I saw a picture of a box about the size of a carom table. Inside was a game called Ogre from a company named Steve Jackson Games. I read The Hacker Crackdown when I lived in Brooklyn two or three years after meeting Sterling. I thought of most cyber stuff about the way I thought of 'Lawnmower Man', severly lacking in aesthetic value with very little appeal outside of that which is given by a good crossword puzzle. I was one of those people who at once desired the distinction of belonging to Mensa or the Triple Nine and yet found the distinction worthless if not annoyingly alienating. I dug those like Feynman from a distance. I never had my own personal college professor.
My friend Bryan Alexander digs ghosts and, well horror and scary stories. He's a college professor who lives in close proximity to nature and the understanding that what humans build, nature takes apart. He understands the moral dimension of destruction and failure and while he doesn't get all post-modern about it, he gets the deconstructional narrative of grand guinol. There's probably no better person on the planet to talk about the implications of the rise of Zombie Apocalypse stories in America. Bryan knows the literature, backwards and forwards.
I've begun to purposefully pay more attention to Bryan and he has been very kind in mentioning me by name over the past few weeks on Facebook. This is fortuitous because I have come around to the side of destruction, in the necessity of it. I've been knowing about Cthulhu for a long time, but I only recently decided to read what that fiction was all about. Somewhere between the fictional Mountains of Madness and the actual endurance of Shackleton is everything that human beings need to know at this moment in history.
It was Bryan who took the picture of Ogre. As soon as I saw the logo of Steve Jackson Games, it took me back to the days in which the existential dilemma of being a young black urban sophisticate wrestling daily with call of cyber geekdom. I have been neither as both simultaneously, half-tracking through the woods of identity. Enough to be in it and called of it, distrusting both and unable to escape either. And in all that, no compelling need to *be* a rebel. Even now. Steve Jackson Games was persecuted by the US Secret Service. It said something profound about the imagination of the cyber and the warfare and secrets deeply implied in the strategic and tactical thinking of gamers, coders, warriors and spies.
I am a console gamer. Skyrim is everything Dungeons and Dragons wanted to be, and in the imagination of those at the USC Swamp, I'm sure they inhabited the mind of the Dragonborn so many years ago. I can't say I feel jealous - I have had the ultimate dungeonmaster expressed as the world created by Bethesda for my XBox 360. And I stand in awesome anticipation of the next journey called Destiny, which is coming next September from the acknowledged master masters, the crafters of Master Chief, Bungie. There is the possibility that I will live in that world. There is the likelihood that in my dotage, I will remain in such worlds at nearly infinite stretches of imaginary time. I will experience all the destruction I might be able to handle and having it all realized, I will be ready to die.
I have raised a family. It's difficult for me to imagine Bruce Sterling married with children, but that may be so. Nevertheless, I don't entertain dreams of purpose dedicated to attacking the System, but of living in better worlds. Like Professor Farnsworth, I'm much more likely to become sick of the planet and go find a new one. I think of destruction as the thing that compels people to know reality, as the noose focuses the mind. But I am by nature a defender. I am the big brother without whose dependents I lack purpose. If nobody read Cobb, I wouldn't write it, much. I'd keep to myself, I imagine.
Adventure games are literature puzzles. Chess. Risk. D&D. I see these as things for people who don't actually know karate. Karate is stochastic and involves real risk. When you have to think about getting actually punched in the face, it's not so much fun to be a rebel.
No conclusion. Just observations kicked off from a picture from a friend.