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Cyberspace Guru William Gibson: Reality has Replaced Science Fiction

William_gibson_2_2 In an interview with Reuters Life about his new book, Spook Country, the 59-year old American author and science-fiction futurist, William Gibson, says it's hard to write science fiction anymore when reality is so unbelievable. Gibson's vision of the internet and Reality TV- before they existed- has led many to call his work prophetic.


Gibson, who coined the term cyberspace in his 1984 novel Neuromancer, said publishers would have laughed at a plot in which a sexually transmitted disease killed millions as 9/11 terrorists hit New York and technology was warming the planet.

Spook Country is his second consecutive novel to break away from science fiction, focusing instead on cultural changes in the United States since 9/11 and political paranoia. His prior book, Pattern Recognition,  was hailed as one of the first significant novels of the 21st Century, and earned him a place high on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Spook Country follows and builds upon the sinister post 9/11 atmosphere of Pattern Recognition. A brilliant review in the College Crier, T. Virgil Parker describes the plot: "Spook Country partakes of the cloak-and-dagger stuff that is in all likelihood pervasive these days. The story of a smuggler, a former Rock Star, and two rival intelligence groups could easily have veered into the realm of Cheap Spy Novel were it not woven with the postmodern irony that may turn out to be the only sane perspective left to us. The secret cargo from Iraq on which the plot hinges is not the only mystery in this book. The biggest mystery is how this story manages to resonate with the our most menacing headlines without losing the archetypal power and playfulness that William Gibson seems to summon at will."

"Personally," Gibson says, "I think that contemporary reality is sufficiently science fiction for me. Some critics are already maintaining that science fiction is a sort of historical category and it is not possible any more... I may not be done with the future but I have to figure out what it means to try to write about the future at a time when we are all living in the shadow of at least half a dozen wildly science fiction scenarios." 

Gibson stresses that accidentally coining coining cyberspace, aside that there "are a couple of areas I did get right in "Neuromancer" that no one ever credited me for. I don't think globalization existed as a concept in 1981 but "Neuromancer" is set in a very nasty globalized society in which there does not seem to be any surviving middle class. There are only millionaires and people on the street -- like in Moscow and some of the other less fortunate parts of the world. Everyone says I foresaw cyberspace but I did foresee the world of globalization."

Increasingly Gibson is reading history vs fiction: "I am a big fan of the novelist/historian Ian Sinclair who has been a favorite for the last 15 years or so. I don't read as much fiction."

In an interview with the College Crier, Gibson stressed the importance of living and writing in the present, of the "future present" so to speak: "I would find that spookier if I had been believing all along that those sort of dystopian themes in science fiction were about some sort of vision of the future. I think they were actually like being perceived in the past when that stuff was being written. 1984 is a powerful book precisely because Orwell didn't have to make a lot of shit up. He had Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under Stalin as models for what he was doing. He only had to dress it up a little bit, sort of pile it up in a certain way to say, "this is the future." But the reason it's powerful is that it resonates of history. It doesn't resonate back from the future, it resonates out of modern history."

Posted by Casey Kazan.

Video Interview

College Crier Interview


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