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William Gibson On Writing Sci

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Bruce Bethke’s “Cyberpunk” supplied the name, and Gardner Dozois, in a 1983 article, defined the movement by applying the term to works set in Computer-driven, high-tech Near-Future venues inhabited by a slum-bound streetwise citizenry for whom the new world is an environment, not a project. In terms of traditional US sf, this was heresy, and Gibson’s enormous success as an sf writer must have seemed an ominous harbinger of the death of traditional sf, whose agenda was to treat the future as fixable by competent men. The essential displacement from which they suffer – like so many protagonists of Postmodernist literature – is the loss of an integrated self, the disintegration of any story of civilization they can descry truly and so defend. For the inhabitants of Gibson’s world, selfhood has emptied itself into the instruments of the world, and in book after book – like cases of flesh – his characters are found hacking the wilderness for Cargo. Gerald Alva Miller Jr.’s Understanding William Gibson is a thoughtful examination of the life and work of William Gibson, author of eleven novels and twenty short stories.

The first website was almost a decade away, and no one he knew had a personal computer. Mother Jones Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery sat down for a conversation with Gibson at Public Works in San Francisco last January to talk about his new book.

They discuss how politics has influenced his writing, and how the real-life climate crisis intersects with his fictional imaginings of the end times. In his late twenties, Gibson earned an English degree at the University of British Columbia. He took a class taught by the feminist sci-fi pioneer Susan Wood; she suggested that, instead of writing an analytical paper, he might turn in a story of his own.

Gibson is the recipient of many notable awards for science fiction writing including the Nebula, Hugo, and Philip K. Dick awards. Gibson’s iconic novel, Neuromancer, popularized the concept of cyberspace. With his early stories and his first trilogy of novels, Gibson became the father figure for a new genre of science fiction called “cyberpunk” that brought a gritty realism to its cerebral plots involving hackers and artificial intelligences. The American speculative fiction author William Gibson has said that sci-fi writers are “almost always wrong”, but over the course of a dozen acclaimed novels, Gibson himself has proven he has a gift for describing the present in terms of where it’s headed.

His fame as a writer was established by his insight that much of our future would be played out in representative space, the not-there place to which people go when they stare at a computer screen – a realm he called, in the 1982 short story “Burning Chrome”, “cyberspace”. In the age of the smartphone this may seem obvious, but that story and Gibson’s first novel,Neuromancer, were written on a Hermes 2000 typewriter from the 1930s.

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