Gibson promoting the French release of
Spook Country in Paris, March 17, 2008
|Born||William Ford Gibson
March 17, 1948
Conway, South Carolina, U.S.
|Genre||Speculative fiction, science fiction|
|Literary movement||Cyberpunk, steampunk, postcyberpunk|
|Notable works||Neuromancer (novel, 1984)|
|Notable awards||Nebula, Hugo, Philip K. Dick, Ditmar, Seiun (all 1985); Prix Aurora (1995)|
All we really have when we pretend to write about the future is the moment in which we are writing. That's why every imagined future obsoletes like an ice cream melting on the way back from the corner store.
Dreaming in public is an important part of our job description, as science writers, but there are bad dreams as well as good dreams. We're dreamers, you see, but we're also realists, of a sort.
I'm a really good eavesdropper. I listen to what people say and remember all the buzzwords.
If you make something, it's an artifact. It's something that somebody or some corporate entity has caused to come into being. A great many human beings have thought about each of the artifacts that surround us. Different degrees of intelligence and attention have been brought to bear on anything.
I don't generate a storyline and then fill it out in the course of writing. The story actually generates in the course of the writing. It's one of the reasons I've never been comfortable doing screenplays, because in order to get the contract for the screenplay, you have to sit down and tell them what's going to happen.
Futurists get to a certain age and, as one does, they suddenly recognize their own mortality.
Sometimes, I can myself be frustrated by books that seem to me to be insufficiently realistic about the world's potential for just being totally a randomly bad place.
I don't much live my life as if I was living in a Raymond Chandler novel, which is probably a good thing.
I would like to design what people generally call streetwear. I'd like to dress skateboarders, or whatever the older equivalent of skateboarders are. I pay more attention to that stuff than anyone would ever imagine because I'm watching what the designers do.
That's one of my favorite things about Twitter: You can tweak your feed into a fabulous novelty engine. That's only one thing you can do with it, but it's one of the things I find most entertaining about it.
I don't begin a novel with a shopping list – the novel becomes my shopping list as I write it.
And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.
When I start writing a novel, I have no sense of direction, no idea, really nothing.
I like the idea of people who've had some success in one form secretly wanting to be something else; I have some of that myself. I look for it in other people who've established themselves in some particular art form, and then you find out that they really would like to design running shoes, or edit literary magazines or something.
I started with Apple, in a pre-Windows era when PCs seemed to involve more of a learning curve. But the fact that I'm yet to acquire so much as a single virus still seems a very good thing.
I started writing short fiction very briefly, as I imagine is the case for some novelists.
The Internet is part of this ongoing, species-long project we've been working on since we climbed down out of the trees in the savanna. We've been working on it without really knowing it.
I'm often saddened and dismayed to see myself portrayed as either a Luddite or as a raving technophile. I've always thought that my job was to be as anthropologically neutral about emerging technologies as possible.
I think the least important thing about science fiction for me is its predictive capacity. Its record for being accurately predictive is really, really poor! If you look at the whole history of science fiction, what people have said is going to happen, what writers have said is going to happen, and what actually happened – it's terrible.
If I'm practicing making up what the characters will do, it's never good. In fact, when I catch myself doing that, I try to get rid of that section, and try and let them start making the decisions.
I've become convinced that nostalgia is a fundamentally unhealthy modality. When you see it, it's usually attached to something else that's really, seriously bad. I don't traffic in nostalgia. We're becoming a global culture.
I don't have to write about the future. For most people, the present is enough like the future to be pretty scary.
I very seldom compose anything in my head which later finds its way into text, except character names sometimes – I'm often very much inspired by things that I misunderstand.
I'd always maintained that much of the anarchy and craziness of the early Internet had a lot to do with the fact that governments just hadn't realised it was there.
'Cyberspace' as a term is sort of over. It's over in the way that, after a certain time, people stopped using the suffix '-electro' to make things cool, because everything was electrical. 'Electro' was all over the early 20th century, and now it's gone. I think 'cyber' is sort of the same way.
Cyberspace is colonising what we used to think of as the real world. I think that our grandchildren will probably regard the distinction we make between what we call the real world and what they think of as simply the world as the quaintest and most incomprehensible thing about us.
Whenever I read a contemporary literary novel that describes the world we're living in, I wait for the science fiction tools to come out. Because they have to – the material demands it.
A snappy label and a manifesto would have been two of the very last things on my own career want list. That label enabled mainstream science fiction to safely assimilate our dissident influence, such as it was. Cyberpunk could then be embraced and given prizes and patted on the head, and genre science fiction could continue unchanged.
I'm happiest with people who've gotten furthest from traditional ideas of nationalism.
I'm interested in how people all over the world array themselves and go forth in the morning to do whatever they have to do to make a living.
If I write something set 60 years in the future, I am going to have to explain how humanity got there, and that's becoming quite a big job.
I'm quite good friends with the putative director, Vincenzo Natali, and I'm a big fan of his work, but beyond that, I don't like to talk about other people's work work-in-progress.
In a sense, if you're not getting it wrong really a lot when you're creating imaginary futures, then you're just not doing it enough. You're not creating enough imaginary futures.
I think the least important thing about science fiction for me is its predictive capacity.
I think with one exception I've never changed an opening sentence after a book was completed.
As a writer of fiction who deals with technology, I necessarily deal with the history of technology and the history of technologically induced social change. I roam up and down it in a kind of special way because I roam down it into history, which is invariably itself a speculative affair.
I think that our future has lost that capital F we used to spell it with. The science fiction future of my childhood has had a capital F – it was assumed to be an American Future because America was the future. The Future was assumed to be inherently heroic, and a lot of other things, as well.
I'm a reluctant writer of non-fiction, in part because I don't really feel qualified.
In the early '80s, I happened to find myself in the vicinity of people who would work for Microsoft five years later.
In 1981, I was a futurist – or at least I was a guy who put on a futurist hat occasionally – and I wrote about the 21st century.
Science fiction writers aren't fortune tellers. Fortune tellers are fakes.
When I wrote 'Neuromancer', I had a list in my head of all the things the future was assumed to be which it would not be in the book I was about to write. In a sense, I intended 'Neuromancer', among other things, to be a critique of all the aspects of science fiction that no longer satisfied me.
If you've read a lot of vintage science fiction, as I have at one time or another in my life, you can't help but realise how wrong we get it. I have gotten it wrong more times than I've gotten it right. But I knew that when I started; I knew that before I wrote a word of science fiction.
I didn't have a manifesto. I had some discontent. It seemed to me that midcentury mainstream American science fiction had often been triumphalist and militaristic, a sort of folk propaganda for American exceptionalism.
The box was a universe, a poem, frozen on the boundaries of human experience.
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead station.
I find it interesting to see people – mostly people who are younger than I am – going to considerable trouble to try to reproduce things from an era that was far more physical, from a less virtual day.
A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.
I grew up in southwestern Virginia. I was born in South Carolina, but only because my parents had a vacation cabin or something there on the beach. I was like a summer baby. But I did grow up in the South. I grew up in serious, serious Appalachia, in a very small town.
I don't think nostalgia is a healthy modality. But nostalgia and a sense of history are not the same thing. Nostalgia is a dysfunction of the historical impulse, or a corruption of the historical impulse.
I'm quite proud of what I anticipated about reality television from my books in the early '90s, which I based on the early seasons of 'Cops' and on the amazing stuff I had read about happening on Japanese shows and the British 'Big Brother'.
I've never really been very interested in computers themselves. I don't watch them; I watch how people behave around them. That's becoming more difficult to do because everything is around them.
I read a great deal of science fiction with consummate pleasure between, say, the ages of 12 and 16. Then I got away from it. In my mid- to late 20s, I started trying to write it.
I watch for emergent technologies and pay attention to what people say they'll be good for, then see what we actually use them for. It never occurred to me that a tiny telephone with a wireless transceiver would do whatever it is that it's done to us.
I think that technologies are morally neutral until we apply them. It's only when we use them for good or for evil that they become good or evil.
Why shouldn't we give our teachers a license to obtain software, all software, any software, for nothing? Does anyone demand a licensing fee, each time a child is taught the alphabet?
Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts.
It's impossible to move, to live, to operate at any level without leaving traces, bits, seemingly meaningless fragments of personal information.
My dream scenario would be that you could go into a bookshop, examine copies of every book in print that they're able to offer, then for a fee have them produce in a minute or two a beautiful finished copy in a dust jacket that you would pay for and take home.
I think the large part of the function of the Internet is it is archival. It's unreliable to the extent that word on the street is unreliable. It's no more unreliable than that. You can find the truth on the street if you work at it. I don't think of the Internet or the virtual as being inherently inferior to the so-called real.
I was afraid to watch 'Blade Runner' in the theater because I was afraid the movie would be better than what I myself had been able to imagine. In a way, I was right to be afraid, because even the first few minutes were better.
The 'Net is a waste of time, and that's exactly what's right about it.
The thing that 'Neuromancer' predicts as being actually like the Internet isn't actually like the Internet at all!
The history of the past, a hundred years from now, won't be the history of the past that we learned in school because much more will have been revealed, and adjectives we can't even imagine will have been brought to bear on what we did learn in school.
I guess Twitter is the first thing that has been attractive to me as social media. I never felt the least draw to Facebook or MySpace. I've been involved anonymously in some tiny listservs, mainly in my ceaseless quest for random novelty, and sometimes while doing something that more closely resembles research.
Gadgets are usually the last thing I think about, and if there's something new, I'll get to the store for the final shipment of the first generation when it's on sale. So I have last year's stuff.
I can't do fiction unless I visualize what's going on. When I began to write science fiction, one of the things I found lacking in it was visual specificity. It seemed there was a lot of lazy imagining, a lot of shorthand.
All my life I've encountered people who were obsessed with one particular class of object or experience, who were constantly pursuing that thing. Since I was a little kid, I hadn't afforded myself the opportunity, I guess, to have a hobby.
The ecological impact of book manufacture and traditional book marketing – I think that should really be considered. We have this industry in which we cut down trees to make the paper that we then use enormous amounts of electricity to turn into books that weigh a great deal and are then shipped enormous distances to point-of-sale retail.
Science fiction was one of those places, particularly during the McCarthy era, where you could write whatever you wanted because it was beneath contempt. They didn't bother censoring it.
I can't imagine writing a book without some strong female characters, unless that was a demand of the setting.
I assume that – because you can get degrees in journalism from very reputable universities – I assume that people can be trained to be journalists. I've never been entirely certain that anyone can be trained to be a novelist in the same way.
I've been interested in autism since I've known about it, which is more or less since I've been writing.
I try to be objective about technology. Agnostic, in a sense. Whatever personal opinions I form tend to have more to do with what we find to do with the new thing.
I'm not a computer guy. I'm like an anthropologist. I'm fascinated with people's obsessions. I've learned to wear them.
For years I have been mourning and not for my dead, it is for this boy for whatever corner in my heart died when his childhood slid out of my arms.
Occasionally if I look back at something I've written I'll find one of those that I don't understand, but that's a bad thing – the unconscious has dealt me a bad hand.
The people I hang out with tend to use Macs, not that I think they're necessarily superior.