William Gibson

burst onto the Sci-Fi scene in the 1980's with his first book "Neuromancer" - A revolutionary story portraying a bleak future in terms of the human condition - The alienation and depression of his heroes and anti-heroes brings a gothic element to the overall feel of the novel, which has been echoed throughout his career.

A future rent by technocracy (with the poverty and overcrowding it implies), prolific crime and humanitys endless obsession with it's own beauty, weave together to coldly echo the rapid spiraling of civilisation toward something much stranger.

Neuromancer lays the foundations of a much larger story, developed in detail through the rest of the series; "Count Zero" and "Mona Lisa Overdrive" which gives the trilogy an unusual distinction in that the original hero is completely left out of the second and third books and each story refers only tangentally to the others.

Gibsons second trilogy; "Virtual Light", "Idoru", and "All Tomorrow's Parties", is set after the first but not in the future Gibson originally envisaged when writing his short stories (See "Burning Chrome"). The harshness endures but many changes are in the wind as a result of the first storyline.

One story element that should be of great interest to us all here at E2 is the "Nodal Data Streams" that Laney surfs in "Idoru" and "All Tommorrows Parties". The theory is that as raw data accumulates, it naturally gravitates to certain topics and information 'nodes'. If one has the skill it is possible to sift valuable information from immense amounts of data once these nodal points are recognised! Sound familiar to any E-2 noders?

Overall, I think it is the combination of dark prospects, alienation and good solid "John Woo" action in literary form that has made Gibson one of the most respected modern Sci-Fi authors.

For more on Gibson check out:


William Ford Gibson was born March 17, 1948 in Conway, South Carolina. Gibson was the only child of a civilian contractor who was involved in constructing the Oak Ridge facility where the first atomic bomb was created. When his parents separated, he moved with his mother to Wytheville, Virginia. From a young age he was obsessed with science fiction, and wrote for various local 'zines. The obsession waned into his teenage years, as few of his friends shared his love of sci-fi. After his father's premature death, Gibson left for boarding school in southern Arizona.

Briefly he returned to Virginia after completing his secondary education. With the onset of the Vietnam War and a low draft lottery number, at the age of 19, Gibson fled the US for Toronto's Yorkville district along with many others avoiding conscription.

When he was accepted as an English major to the University of British Columbia, Gibson shifted to Vancouver in 1972. A subject in science fiction revived his childhood passion. Instead of a term paper for the course, he wrote "Fragments of a Hologram Rose" later to be published in UnEarth Magazine in 1977. After publishing a series of short stories in Omni magazine, an editor from Ace Books contacted Gibson and encouraged him to try his hand at writing longer works. Gibson wrote Neuromancer. Published in 1984, the same year as the release of the Apple Macintosh, Neuromancer won the Hugo Award, the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and the Nebula Award.

Whilst Gibson is almost always credited with coining the term 'cyberspace', Gibson himself often points to other authors for the design of the concept. Ray Bradbury, one of his favorite childhood authors, describes cyberspace in his short story 'The Veldt', where children lure their parents into a virtual world wherein they are eaten by lions. 'The Veldt' was published in 1952.

Post-Neuromancer, Gibson manages to write at least one novel every three years, and has travelled extensively following his fame. He toured Japan in 1992, and found the experience edifying. He has also tried scriptwriting to varying degrees of success, with a script for Aliens3 and episodes of the X-files. Only his idea of bar-coded prisoners made it into the final script of Aliens, and his dallying with Mulder and Scully is often panned by X-philes.

His single published work of poetry, Agrippa was a literally self-destructive work dealing with the death of his father. Coded as a computer program, it destroys itself as it is read.

Whilst Gibson has possibly seen the death of cyberpunk, its death has come through its very popularity and crossover into the mainstream. Since writing the Sprawl trilogy, Gibson's oeuvre has slowly drifted away from harder science fiction towards the softer sciences. His latest work, Pattern Recognition is set in post-911 era rather than some distant future, and stars documentary makers and marketers rather than hackers and ninjas. Gibson remains a popular futurist.

Works by William Gibson

Short Stories from Burning Chrome Other Articles And Stories
  • "Rocket Radio", Rolling Stone, June 15 1989
  • "Doing Television", The Face ?, 1991, p.81-82
  • "Darwin", Spin Magazine, 1991, p.60-61
  • "Academy Leader in Cyberspace : First Steps" in Cyberspace: First Steps, (1991) Ed. Michael Benedikt, The MIT Press
  • "The Nazi Lawn Dwarf Murders" (unpublished) (Tom Maddox, Gibson's partner on the two X-Files scripts claims in a 1989 article that Gibson wrote a story titled thus. yet to be verified)
  • "Hippie Hat Brain Parasite" in SEMIOTEXT(E) (1989), Eds. Rudy Rucker, Peter Lamborn Wilson and Robert Anton Wilson, Ak Press, pp 109-112
  • "Thirteen Views of a Cardboard City" in New Worlds 64:222, Ed. David Garnett White Wolf Publishing, pp 338-349
  • "Skinner's Room" (1990) in catalog for SFMOMA Visionary San Francisco, SFMOMA and Prestel-Verlag, Munich
  • "Disneyland with the Death Penalty", Wired1.4, Sept-Oct. 1993, p. 51-114
  • "Preface to Heatseeker" in John Shirley, Heatseeker (1989), Scream/Press
  • "Foreword to the novel Dhalgren" in Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren (1996), Wesleyn University Press
  • "Foreword to the novel City Come A-Walking" in John Shirley City Come A-Walking (1996), Eyeball Books
  • "Foreword to the reissue of The Artificial Kid" in Bruce Sterling, The Artificial Kid (1997) Cortext
  • "Review of The Acid House" in SF Eye, Spring 1996
  • "Jack Womak and the Horned Heart of Neuropa." in SF Eye, Fall 1997
  • "My Own Private Tokyo" in Wired 9.09, September 2001
Other Media Adaptations not involving William For potential Gibson stalkers, the original typewritten manuscript of Neuromancer is available at the University of British Columbia library.
An excellent bio exists at http://www.futures.hawaii.edu/j7/LOWENTHAL.pdf
and bibliography at http://www.slip.net/~spage/gibson/biblio.htm

William Gibson is a bare, harsh, striking, humorless writer. His prose is blunt and oddly dynamic, his ideas visionary, yet his plots remain dry and uninterested--and further end in ways that seem wholly unfulfilling and inexplicable. His technological cynicism stands up to the likes of Crichton, his pace seems to never slow, and his characters stand both interesting and honest; his stories however never seem, to me at least, to be complete. Gibson is probably the best prose writer I've ever read, yet I feel I can classify his novels only as good.

Gibson starts his books with lines like "The sky above the port was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel" (Neuromancer) and brashly matter-of-fact paragraphs like

They set a slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the colour of his hair. It caught up with him on a street named Chandni Chauk and came scrambling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs and pedicab tires. Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT. (Count Zero)

that, to me, are the literary equivalent of the same "recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT." He knows how to pack style and punch into a dozen words, and he's far too skilled a writer to diffuse his flow in a fit of scenic rendering. I can think of a dozen writers who would have taken the "television, tuned to a dead channel" image and turned it into a conceit: half-a-page describing the ear-piercing buzz of electricity and the dark, threatening anonymity of a world that's piped into a cable going nowhere--because that's "genius," that's "art"; I have described Gibson as skilled rather than a genius, I've been talking about his use of prose rather than poesy, because I see him as a man hunched over an old, manual typewriter, cutting and cutting and cutting. He's a man with a craft, the way sword-making is a craft, and I'll bet while he's working his tools burn bright red, because when his stuff comes out in the end, it shines.

I can't say his plots always work, because they don't. I can't say his science is perfect. But the science is not the point, even the plots aren't the point. This is what separates Gibson from the mainstream in Science Fiction: These devices are tools. If you want to see his point, give stories like "The Belonging Kind," "Dogfight," and "New Rose Hotel" (from Burning Chrome) a try. I could talk about alienation and frustration and fifteen other concepts filling fifteen pages and I'd never do them (or him) justice. I try to abide by the rule that you make sure to keep your writing at least as interesting as your subject; I'm not going to describe these things when he's already written them tighter and darker and better.

Note: The first paragraph of this writeup was posted in this node on 8/22/2000, the day after I joined e2, as my first writeup. Due to an inadvertent deletion, I've rewritten and re-posted this piece.

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