This is true – I did meet William Gibson this weekend and he’s a thoroughly lovely fellow.
In case you have no idea who he is, William Gibson is widely creditted as being the inventor of the word ‘cyberspace’ and for being the most famous author of Cyberpunk literary movement (although his books have moved on to be contemporary thrillers driven by technology and don’t fit obviously with the Cyberpunk aesthetic any more). His ideas shaped the way that the people making the internet thought about computers and he is creditted by The Guardian newspaper in the UK as being one of the most important authors of the last three decades.
If you’ve never read any Gibson and you’re interested, here’s a quick run down:
Neuromancer – the most important book of his canon, but also one of the most difficult to read. It invented the now-familiar dystopian future where it always rains. A drug addict called Case is hired to do one last job. Somehow his self-destructive nature helps him through a plot filled with high-technology, AIs, and girls with razor blades beneath their fingernails. Dark, dense, and intensely nihilistic. It’s an astonishing book, truly one of a kind.
Count Zero – Set in the aftermath of Neuromancer, one man is seeking to escape his cancerous flesh and disappear into Cyberspace, meanwhile a woman is hired to finder the maker of a series of hauntingly evocative art-boxes.
Mona Lisa Overdrive – The end to the Sprawl trilogy. AIs run amock, humans try to work out what and who they really want.
Virtual Light – The start of a new trilogy, often called the Bridge trilogy. The story is set around the life of a bike messenger and a security guard in a semi-futuristic society. The style is much more approachable.
Idoru – One of his best novels, in my opinion. A real-world pop star falls in love with a virtual-reality pop idol. As they try to work out how to marry, life gets very complicated for everyone around them.
All Tomorrow’s Parties – The end of the Bridge trilogy. Events from the previous novels all focus onto the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, which has been entirely occupied by homeless people and now forms an improvised community. The conclusion (as always) is beautiful and enigmatic.
Pattern Recognition – The third trilogy, currently without a snappy title that I’m aware of. These are set in the present day, albeit with a focus on occasionally slightly speculative technology. Pattern Recognition follows a woman called Cayce as she searches for the maker of melancholy film clips that have been posted anonymously online. Gibson’s writing style has matured immensely, making Pattern Recognition a great place to start reading his books if you are unfamiliar with them.
Spook Country – A collection of odd characters are thrown together in a search for a mysterious shipping container.
Zero History – released only a few weeks ago, Gibson’s latest is a briliant novel where a simple objective spirals further and further out of control. An ex-rock-singer is employed to find the designer of a range of timelessly stylish clothing. As the journey continues, the search becomes increasingly dangerous in strange and unxpected ways. This is likely to be the end of a trilogy, but it’s impossible to say; however, it does provide a fantastic resolution to the events of the previous two books. Again, this is a real highlight in his career.
So, I hope you might be inspired to dip into these novels for yourself. I wrote my PhD thesis about them (among other things) and so finally getting the chance to talk with Gibson this weekend was a very special moment for me.
See you Friday!