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Bruce Sterling and the tragedy of Indian Airlines Flight 440

Bruce Sterling is a Hugo-winning science fiction author best known for being one of the founders of the cyberpunk movement in the genre. He is also noted as a futurist and is renowned as an insightful blogger and speaker. He is credited with inventing several neologisms such as slipstream, spime, and others.

Sterling's connection with India came about through his father, Marion Bruce Sterling, who was an engineer tasked with supervising an ammonia plant in Madras. As a result, Bruce Sterling spent a few years in India as a teenager, an experience which has had a notable impact on his life if you consider his interest in Indian mythology and … Bollywood!

However, this story is tinged with tragedy. In 1973, when Bruce had returned to the United States to attend the University of Texas, the rest of his family was still in India. On May 31, his parents and three siblings boarded Indian Airlines Flight 440 from Madras to New Delhi en route back to the States. The Boeing 737 - named Saranga - never made it to the Delhi airport as it collided with high tension wires and crashed 6 km short of its destination. 43 of the 58 passengers were killed along with 5 crew members. The fatalities included Sterling's mother and both his sisters. But his father and younger brother managed to escape.