At Boskone, I was on several panels, a couple of which had topics to which I could actually make a contribution. One was The City and Science Fiction. My fellow panelists were the charming S. C. Butler (I had enjoyed listening to him on a panel about Revenge at last Boskone), my buddy James Patrick Kelly, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Steven H. Silver, who lives near where I grew up, in the Chicago area.
What was interesting about the discussion was that we were either talking about SF cities from long long ago (like Asimov's Trantor), or more recent fantasy cities (New Crobuzon, Ambergris). SF cities seem sterile planned Brazilias and Canberras, while fantasy cities manifest history, diversity, and conflict.
But the world is rapidly urbanizing. We spoke in Boston, a cute, tiny, obsolete town, hedged with development restrictions and out of the main flow of global capital (and a place I love). What could our experience there tell us about gigantic new Chinese cities springing up seemingly overnight, or giant slum of Kibera, near Nairobi, which has a population of over a million? Those are crucial urban experiences of the 21st century, and will influence events.
We can't leave thinking and writing about these sorts of things to Bruce Sterling. He can't do everything, and lately has prefered the Balkans. I'm not Bruce, but I think it's time I gave it a try.