Sci fi Writer Bruce Sterling on the geek party he hosts at sxsw in Austin. I’ve attended sxsw for the last 4 years and have been to his party 4 times. Sterling is a hilarious guy, and recently I’ve been reading stories found in Schismatrix Plus. These stories have been great, clever and funny.
According to my design students, who itch to go there, SXSW Interactive is a distant, impossibly hip imbroglio where the pixelized cr?me de la cr?me is pushing the avant-garde hard enough to dent it. I never knew that before; when I lived in Austin, I naturally assumed that SXSW Interactive was some kind of overgrown geek accident. Sometimes, it even ended up inside my house. I used to throw the closing party for this gig. This year, that closing party will still take place, and, yes, I will be there hosting it, but, no, it’s not at my house anymore. My party is being officially sponsored by the SXSW politburo at an undisclosed location. That’s a wise precaution, for the last time I threw that party in my house, the Austin cops had to show up. They were perfectly nice cops ? far cooler than Pasadena cops, who are real martinets, frankly ? but, well, there were some noise complaints. It wasn’t a boozy, orgiastic party: no nudity, no bongos. It’s just that those digital media mavens from SXSW-I were talking so loudly, even at two in the morning, that they were audible to the innocent two city blocks away.
Things kinda got out of hand. The event’s become too big and sophisticated for the pioneer ethos to last. Back in the Clinton years, the digerati used to merely trickle in, asking, “Uh, is this the cyberpunk’s house?” Nowadays these cats have all got cell phones, Mapquest, and Google. So, last year they showed up on my doorstep in “flash mobs.” A flash mob is a mobile, electronically connected gang, the human equivalent of Brazilian army ants. First, you get this lone scout who shows up, sniffing around and waving his antennae ? “Hey, wait, there’s free beer here!” ? and out comes his phone-cammed cell phone from his ripstop nylon belt-pack: snick … ka-sneee … whizz! Eight minutes later, his entire buddy list comes piling out from every corner of the compass in a fleet of yellow cabs.
You know the way bloggers go ape when they discover a gay prostitute in the White House press corps? It’s just like that, except with beer.