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William Gibson

William Gibson

Gary Westfahl
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    William Gibson
    Book Description:

    The leading figure in the development of cyberpunk, William Gibson (born in 1948) crafted works in which isolated humans explored near-future worlds of ubiquitous and intrusive computer technology and cybernetics. This volume is the first comprehensive examination of the award-winning author of the seminal novel Neuromancer (and the other books in the Sprawl trilogy, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive), as well as other acclaimed novels including recent bestsellers Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. Renowned scholar Gary Westfahl draws upon extensive research to provide a compelling account of Gibson's writing career and his lasting influence in the science fiction world. Delving into numerous science fiction fanzines that the young Gibson contributed to and edited, Westfahl delivers new information about his childhood and adolescence. He describes for the first time more than eighty virtually unknown Gibson publications from his early years, including articles, reviews, poems, cartoons, letters, and a collaborative story. The book also documents the poems, articles, and introductions that Gibson has written for various books, and its discussions are enriched by illuminating comments from various print and online interviews. The works that made Gibson famous are also featured, as Westfahl performs extended analyses of Gibson's ten novels and nineteen short stories. Lastly, the book presents a new interview with Gibson in which the author discusses his correspondence with author Fritz Leiber, his relationship with the late scholar Susan Wood, his attitudes toward critics, his overall impact on the field of science fiction, and his recently completed screenplay and forthcoming novel.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09508-5
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    It is easy to envision William Gibson as a typical character from his novels: a streetwise outsider, determined to be his own boss, who takes to writing as an ideal alternative to a steady job because he knows precisely what his marks want and how to handsomely profit by providing it. Certainly, no other science fiction writer of his generation so strongly displays both a dogged commitment to following his own path in storytelling and keen attentiveness to the demands of the marketplace. Critics may contribute valuable insights into some genuine issues embedded in Gibson’s fiction (the impact of cutting-edge...

  5. CHaPTeR 1 JOURNEY TO THE FUTURE: A Biographical Sketch
    (pp. 9-20)

    William Gibson has never expressed an interest in writing an autobiography; as he reported while introducing Distrust That Particular Flavor, “The idea of direct, unfiltered autobiography made me even more uncomfortable” than a journal (5). But in another sense, Gibson has spent much of his life sporadically writing an autobiography that dribbles out in bits and pieces within articles, reviews, introductions, interviews, and even works of fiction. An energetic editor, then, might compile a Gibson autobiography from those fragments, just as a Beatles autobiography, The Beatles Anthology (2000), was compiled from old and recent interviews.

    The editor crafting such a...

  6. CHaPTeR 2 A DANGEROUS AMATEUR: Contributions to Science Fiction Fanzines
    (pp. 21-32)

    The cartoons and writings Gibson contributed to fanzines in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s merit attention for these reasons: they provide valuable data about Gibson’s life, attitudes, and literary apprenticeship; they confirm that he was long and deeply connected to science fiction, as he repeatedly acknowledges; they anticipate themes and techniques that became central to his fiction; and even if many drawings and texts are inconsequential, Gibson’s stature demands that someone document and examine these works. However, since even extensive fanzine collections, like that in the Eaton Collection of the University of California, Riverside, are incomplete, I probably have missed...

    (pp. 33-59)

    One is tempted to interpret Gibson’s early stories as an extended process of discovering and experimenting with elements that became central to his novels. His first official story, “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” (1977), introduces the theme of virtual reality—here, “Apparent Sensory Perception” or ASP, a system for vicariously experiencing other people’s recorded activities—as well as an interest in the brief, easily shattered relationships of rootless drifters. “The Gernsback Continuum” (1981) is Gibson’s first metafictional consideration of science fiction and its effects, also involving a globalized world of multinational corporations and peripatetic characters navigating its subcultures, as later...

  8. CHaPTeR 4 LEGENDS OF THE SPRAWL: Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive
    (pp. 60-85)

    Since numerous scholars have analyzed Neuromancer at length, anyone discussing the novel faces the daunting task of Making It New. To achieve that goal, one might momentarily ignore the after-the-fact commentaries on the novel and envision Neuromancer as Gibson first saw it: an enormous challenge undertaken solely due to Terry Carr’s substantial advance, a piece of writing much longer than his previous stories, and a task he did not feel ready for (as he has repeatedly testified). Indeed, just as one sees through the protagonist Case’s aura of bravado to sense an insecure person beneath, one discerns within the seemingly...

  9. CHaPTeR 5 DIFFERENT ENGINES: The Difference Engine, Screenplays, Poetry, Song Lyrics, and Nonfiction
    (pp. 86-111)

    Since he “didn’t want to do a Cyberspace volume 4,” as he told Kev McVeigh in 1991 (7), Gibson temporarily resolved to rely upon others to provide him with a sense of direction: he agreed to collaborate with Bruce Sterling on a novel, The Difference Engine, undoubtedly inspired more by Sterling’s interests than his own; worked on screenplays for major Hollywood studios; wrote a few poems and two song lyrics; and, after “Skinner’s Room” finally provided an idea for another novel, increasingly accepted commissions to write nonfiction, harkening back to his days as a fanzine writer. All of these sometimes-overlooked...

  10. CHaPTeR 6 A BRIDGE TO THE PRESENT: Virtual Light, Idoru, and All Tomorrow’s Parties
    (pp. 112-134)

    By writing Virtual Light, Gibson confirmed what he had already signaled: a desire to break with the past and move in new directions. He pointedly declined in 1987 to write a chapter for a Science Fiction Writers of America handbook on “Writing Cyberpunk SF,” as noted by David Langford (Ansible No. 50), and turned down, as he told Mark Shainblum and Matthew Friedman in a 1993 interview published in 2006, a large amount of money to sanction a proposed anthology of stories by other authors set in the world of Neuromancer (45). While recognizing that Neuromancer would forever define his...

  11. CHaPTeR 7 ALL TODAY’S PARTIES: Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History
    (pp. 135-161)

    Gibson had planned Pattern Recognition for a long time: in 1986, he predicted to Mikel Gilmore that he would “eventually try something else,” and “in twenty years” he would probably be “writing about human relationships” (108). After telling Robert K. J. Killheffer in 1993 that he strived in Virtual Light to “use as much real stuff—existing today—as possible,” he concluded, “Maybe the challenge for me is to write a William Gibson novel that does all the things that a William Gibson novel is purported to do, but set it in 1993, in the real world” (71). By 2003,...

    (pp. 162-166)

    Entering his sixty-fifth year, Gibson will likely remain an active writer for at least another decade or two, and he has already produced enough nonfiction in the forms of articles, reviews, and introductions to fill two additional volumes like Distrust That Particular Flavor. If he chose, he could also publish slender volumes of uncollected stories and poems and a compilation of unpublished screenplays. But his most significant future works will surely be novels; in 2012, he told Mike Doherty that he has “worked [his] way around to the future again” with a forthcoming novel about “the future of social media”;...

    (pp. 167-174)
    (pp. 175-194)
    (pp. 195-202)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 203-210)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-212)