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Conversations with William Gibson

Conversations with William Gibson

Edited by Patrick A. Smith
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Conversations with William Gibson
    Book Description:

    "After reading Neuromancer for the first time," literary scholar Larry McCaffery wrote, "I knew I had seen the future of [science fiction] (and maybe of literature in general), and its name was William Gibson." McCaffery was right. Gibson's 1984 debut is one of the most celebrated SF novels of the last half century, and in a career spanning more than three decades, the American Canadian science fiction writer and reluctant futurist responsible for introducing "cyberspace" into the lexicon has published nine other novels.

    Editor Patrick A. Smith draws the twenty-three interviews in this collection from a variety of media and sources--print and online journals and fanzines, academic journals, newspapers, blogs, and podcasts. Myriad topics include Gibson's childhood in the American South and his early adulthood in Canada, with travel in Europe; his chafing against the traditional SF mold, the origins of "cyberspace," and the unintended consequences (for both the author and society) of changing the way we think about technology; the writing process and the reader's role in a new kind of fiction. Gibson (b. 1948) takes on branding and fashion, celebrity culture, social networking, the post-9/11 world, future uses of technology, and the isolation and alienation engendered by new ways of solving old problems. The conversations also provide overviews of his novels, short fiction, and nonfiction.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-039-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    “Cyberpunk is a sort of saprophyte that piggy-backs on the main stem of SF,” William Gibson tells Andy Diggle in a 1993 interview, nearly a decade after the stunning success of Gibson’s debut novel,Neuromancer(1984), transformed both the author and a lexical lightning strike—his notion of “cyberspace”—into a mainstream phenomenon. “But every fifth interviewer comes in and says, ‘Well, how does it feel to have changed the face of science fiction?’ And unfortunately if you look at its face, it’s pretty much the same old face: bland and rather reactionary for the most part.”¹ Gibson’s work is...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xxv-2)
  5. Eye to Eye: An Interview with William Gibson
    (pp. 3-23)
    Takayuki Tatsumi and William Gibson

    Takayuki Tatsumi: I am impressed by seeing you here, in Washington, DC, even though you live in Vancouver. Partly because I have just finished reading your second novel,Count Zero, in Chapter 27 of which you describe Turner and Angela taking the subway from Washington to New York City. I think it’s a kind of coincidence.

    William Gibson: No, I lived here. I lived in the Washington area ten years ago. So that bit’s written from memory. I lived near Dupont Circle, where they go to get the subway. In a way, that’s a vision of a 1969 Washington. It’s...

  6. An Interview with William Gibson
    (pp. 24-46)
    Larry McCaffery and William Gibson

    In 1984 William Gibson’s first novel,Neuromancer, burst onto the science-fiction scene like a supernova. The shock waves from that explosion had an immediate impact on the relatively insular SF field.Neuromancerbecame the first novel to win the triple crown—Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards—and, in the process, virtually singlehandedly launched the cyberpunk movement.Neuromancer, with its stunning techno-poetic prose surface and its super-specific evocation of life in a sleazed-out global village of the near future, has rapidly gained unprecedented critical and popular attention outside SF.

    Prior to the publication ofNeuromancer, Gibson had published only...

  7. Conversation with William Gibson
    (pp. 47-56)
    Timothy Leary and William Gibson

    Timothy Leary: If you could putNeuromancerinto one sentence, how would you describe it?

    William Gibson: What’s most important to me is that it’s about the present. It’s not really about an imagined future. It’s a way of trying to come to terms with the awe and terror inspired in me by the world in which we live. I’m anxious to know what they’ll make of it in Japan. Oh, God—I’m starting to feel like Edgar Rice Burroughs or something. I mean, how did Edgar Rice Burroughs finally come to feel about Tarzan in his own heart, you...

  8. Queen Victoria’s Personal Spook, Psychic Legbreakers, Snakes, and Catfood: An Interview with William Gibson and Tom Maddox
    (pp. 57-71)
    Darren Wershler-Henry, William Gibson and Tom Maddox

    A conversation with William Gibson is kind of like a full-immersion baptism in all of the weird and disturbinggomi¹ that comprises late twentiethcentury culture (Arthur Kroker would call it “excremental” culture, but then again, he’s also capable of calling “the post-Einsteinian individual” a “hyper- Hobbesian energy pack.” Screw that noise). Japanese Nazi geneticists in white bathrobes and terrycloth tennis hats, Luddite death squads, cat- fish farms, high rollers drawing voodoo designs in lines of cocaine, guinea pig–driven flamethrowers, unlicensed denturists . . . these are a few of his favorite things.

    Gibson’s writing is, on the most basic...

  9. “The Charisma Leak”: A Conversation with William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
    (pp. 72-95)
    Daniel Fischlin, Veronica Hollinger, Andrew Taylor, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

    The following conversation took place on 5 April 1991, at the Sushi Bar Restaurant on Toronto’s Queen Street. William Gibson and Bruce Sterling were in town as part of the tour organized by Bantam to publicize the North American appearance of their new collaborative novel,The Difference Engine, a work of speculative fiction set in an alternate nineteenth-century England. Our meeting took place at the end of a day which included several interviews for both magazines and television, as well as a three-hour book signing at Bakka, Toronto’s largest SF bookstore.

    Given the wide range of references to cultural phenomena,...

  10. An Interview with William Gibson: Virtual Light Tour
    (pp. 96-107)
    Andy Diggle, Iain Ball and William Gibson

    Andy Diggle: What’s the one question you’re sick of being asked in every interview?

    William Gibson: Something like, how is it that I know what’s going to happen in the future? That’s the one. Because I don’t. Science-fiction writers never do. If you go to science-fiction writers for your hot ticket to the future, you’re going to be in trouble. I almost feel like putting a disclaimer on these books. I guess it’s my own fault for having them published that way. It sort of goes with the territory.

    AD: In a way, are you not writing about the future...

  11. William Gibson Interview
    (pp. 108-113)
    Giuseppe Salza and William Gibson

    CANNES. William Gibson was in Cannes in May 1994 to promote the filming ofJohnny Mnemonic, a $26-million science-fiction movie based on his short story, and starring megastar Keanu Reeves as the main character. Directed by the concept artist (and Gibson’s pal) Robert Longo (with a few music video and TV credits, but for the first time in charge of a feature), the film also stars Ice-T, Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi Kitano (of the cult filmSonatine), Udo Kier, Henry Rollins, and Dina Meyer. William Gibson also wrote the screenplay of his original story, which was published in the anthologyBurning...

  12. The Man Who Named Cyberspace: An Interview with William Gibson
    (pp. 114-116)
    Scott Rosenberg and William Gibson

    A decade ago—long before people began talking about infobahns and information superhighways—science-fiction writer William Gibson dreamed of cyberspace.

    He coined the word in his 1984 novelNeuromancer, the prototypical cyberpunk text. In that disorienting fever-dream of a twenty-first-century future, “interface cowboys” could “jack in” to a virtual dimension via decks that plugged right into their nervous systems.

    Cyberspace as we now know it, the rapidly evolving and mutating digital communications web, is both more tangible and more mundane than the quasi-psychedelic matrix Gibson imagined inNeuromancer—a 3-D space filled with polygons representing nexuses of corporate, governmental, and...

  13. William Gibson, Webmaster
    (pp. 117-126)
    Scott Rosenberg and William Gibson

    Reality has been catching up with William Gibson’s science fiction for a long time now—as “cyberspace,” the term he invented in his 1984 novelNeuromancer, entered everyday parlance, and cyberpunk passed with alarming speed from literary movement to buzzword to fleeting Hollywood fashion.

    Now, Gibson—who has long professed his technological illiteracy and Net virginity—is catching up with reality, too. He has a Web connection in his home and has launched a Web site of his own. And his latest novel,Idoru, features his most detailed picture yet of what people might be and do in an online...

  14. William Gibson Interview
    (pp. 127-133)
    Andy Diggle and William Gibson

    William Gibson’s first novelNeuromancer, a dense fusion of hard-boiled thriller and data-overload prose, hit the science-fiction scene in 1984 about as unobtrusively as a major star system going supernova. With the exponential growth of the Internet in the decade since Gibson’s coinage of the termcyberspace, his skewed premonitions have never seemed more relevant. After all, cyberspace is where you are reading this interview, right now.

    Andy Diggle: Every month seems to see some weird riff from a Gibson novel make the transition from science fiction into reality. Whilst hailed as a visionary both by techno-nerds and sci-fi geeks...

  15. William Gibson Interview
    (pp. 134-143)
    Edo van Belkom and William Gibson

    Although it might be difficult to prove, a strong case could be made positing that the bestselling Canadian novel of all-time is not a work of CanLit, but a work of science fiction.

    The novel,Neuromancer, was written by American expatriate William Gibson and first published in 1984, winning the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards. It has been continuously in print ever since with its tenth anniversary commemorated by a hardcover reprinting.

    Neuromancerand some of Gibson’s early stories published inOmnimagazine (“Johnny Mnemonic,” 1981; “Burning Chrome,” 1982; “New Rose Hotel,” 1984), laid the groundwork for the...

  16. An Interview with William Gibson
    (pp. 144-146)
    Jon Courtenay Grimwood and William Gibson

    The way William Gibson tells it, journalists’ original expectation when he turned up for an interview was that he’d be this mohawked, leather-clad guy with pins through his cheeks. You know, the kind of punk hacker . . . “Who used some sort of computer that looked like a stealth bomber with the serial numbers filed off.”

    But it’s not like that, and it never was. What you got then, as now, was a very tall (6'4''), very thin, very unassuming man who just happens to write the best science-fiction novels in the world, bar none. He’s not, never has...

  17. William Gibson: Waiting for the Man
    (pp. 147-151)
    Antony Johnston and William Gibson

    William Gibson needs no introduction. But he’s going to get one anyway.

    Gibson coined the term “cyberspace,” visualizing a worldwide communications net eleven years before the World Wide Web was born. His debut novel,Neuromancer, won all three major science-fiction awards—the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick—upon its release. He is the first name that comes to mind when the term “Cyberpunk” is mentioned, known and revered the world over by authors, artists, rock bands, and more.

    Yet Gibson the man remains startlingly elusive. A professional novelist for fifteen years, he has published only seven novels (one of...

  18. William Gibson Interview Transcript
    (pp. 152-161)
    Cory Doctorow and William Gibson

    This is the raw transcript of the interview for the William Gibson story I did for theGlobe and Mail. I wish I’d had more room to insert Gibson’s quips in the story, but they limited me to 1,600 words.

    Gibson never meets your eye when he talks to you. I’d been warned about this going in, but otherwise, it might’ve inspired quite a fit of self-doubt.

    In person, he’sreallytall, and very affable, with an easy smile.

    I had invaluable assistance with this interview. First of all, the people at Bakka referred the Arts Editor of theGlobe...

  19. Redefining William Gibson
    (pp. 162-168)
    Donna McMahon and William Gibson

    To an international audience of literary critics, philosophers and geeks who readWiredmagazine, William Gibson is the revered pundit of post-industrialism.

    To his Kitsilano neighbors, he’s a really nice family guy (they tell you this anxiously, to reassure you he’s not some kind of crazed cyberpunk weirdo).

    To the science-fiction fans he used to hang out with at the University of B.C., he’s a great cartoonist, someone absolutely worth inviting to a party and the only guy as skinny as Spider Robinson.

    Born in 1948, Gibson grew up in South Carolina. Until recently he’s been very reticent to discuss...

  20. William Gibson: The Father of Cyberpunk
    (pp. 169-177)
    Alex Dueben and William Gibson

    William Gibson took the science-fiction world by storm in 1984 with the publication of his first novel,Neuromancer. The novel is one of the most significant books in what is now called cyberpunk.

    In 2003 withPattern Recognition, Gibson shifted gears, writing a novel set in the present. It was a much more natural and logical transition for Gibson than for most other science-fiction writers because Gibson has first and foremost been a humanist, a writer concerned not with technology and the future but with people who find ways to adapt.

    His new novel isSpook Country.

    Alex Dueben: This...

  21. Futuristic Fantasy Lives Now for Author William Gibson
    (pp. 178-182)
    Mary Ann Gwinn and William Gibson

    William Gibson dazzled readers in the 1980s by envisioning worlds few could have imagined then; cyberspace, the Internet, virtual reality. Now the pace of change has become so mindboggling, the Vancouver, B.C.–based author has decided to dwell in the ephemeral present—“We can’t spin futures, because the present has become too brief,” says the author ofNeuromancerandPattern Recognition.

    Gibson’s new novel,Spook Country, lives in the present, but what a strange and wonderful present it is. Virtual art created with the aid of Global Positioning Systems, rogue intelligence agents who “dead drop” intelligence via iPod, a mysterious...

  22. Space to Think
    (pp. 183-188)
    Tim Adams

    The fantasy worlds of his bestselling eighties novels were uncannily prophetic, but where does the sci-fi writer go for inspiration when the future catches up on us? More than twenty years after he coined the term “cyberspace,” he talks to Tim Adams about the shape of things that came to pass.

    The present has recently caught up with William Gibson. The great prophet of the digital future, who not only coined the word “cyberspace” in his debut novelNeuromancerin 1984, but imagined its implications and went a long way to suggesting its YouTube and MySpace culture, has stopped looking...

  23. Interview: William Gibson
    (pp. 189-193)
    Noel Murray and William Gibson

    From the moment in 1984 when William Gibson’s first novel,Neuromancer, was published, the soft-spoken Southerner—who relocated to Canada in the late sixties to avoid Vietnam—has been a hero to the kinds of science- fiction readers who favor mind-expanding ideas over two-fisted action. His early work dealt with the possibilities and travails of a hyper-technological future, but over the past decade, Gibson has primarily been setting his novels and short stories in a time closer to our own, where the technology we already live with is regarded with a sense of alien wonder. Gibson recently spoke with the...

  24. William Gibson Talks to io9 about Canada, Draft Dodging, and Godzilla
    (pp. 194-197)
    Annalee Newitz and William Gibson

    Yesterday William Gibson rolled into San Francisco to do a book signing for the paperback release ofSpook Country, his recent novel about surveillance, augmented reality, dream politics, and advertising. The novel is also, incidentally, a fairly overt critique of the idea of “cyberspace,” a term Gibson invented early in his career, and which several characters inSpook Countrydescribe as something that has been surpassed by newer ideas. I caught up with Gibson at a coffee shop downtown, and we chatted about everything from Godzilla movies and draft-dodging, to the novel he’s always dreamed of writing.

    io9: Gibson refers...

  25. William Gibson: The Art of Fiction No. 211
    (pp. 198-228)
    David Wallace-Wells and William Gibson

    Vancouver, British Columbia, sits just on the far side of the American border, a green-glass model city set in the dish of the North Shore Mountains, which enclose the city and support, most days, a thick canopy of fog. There are periods in the year when it’ll rain for forty days, William Gibson tells me one mucky day there this winter, and when visibility drops so low you can’t see what’s coming at you from the nearest street corner. But large parts of Vancouver are traversed by trolley cars, and on clear nights you can gaze up at the wide...

  26. Why William Gibson Distrusts Aging Futurists’ Nostalgia
    (pp. 229-234)
    John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley

    Few things seem more pathetic than a science-fiction writer who pines for the “good old days.” Just a whiff of that sort of crippling nostalgia sets off a red alert in the crackling mind of William Gibson, the novelist who coined the term “cyberspace” and is known for his piercing insights into what the future might look like.

    “Futurists get to a certain age and, as one does, they suddenly recognize their own mortality,” Gibson says in theWiredpremier ofThe Geek’s Guide to the Galaxypodcast. “And they often decide that what’s going on is that everything is...

  27. William Gibson: The Complete io9 Interview
    (pp. 235-242)
    Charlie Jane Anders and William Gibson

    What is the novel for? How do we deal with living in such a futuristic time, without getting future shock? Do novelists have a duty to provide optimism about science and the future? We sat down with William Gibson for a half-hour discussion about writing and the role of science fiction in society. And here’s what he told us.

    io9: Your last trilogy is set in the present—but what is it that you can say about the present by writing about the future that you can’t say about the present by writing about the present?

    William Gibson: That’s a...

  28. Key Resources
    (pp. 243-252)
  29. Index
    (pp. 253-260)