CYBERPUNKS NOT DEAD

The Pattern Recognition books are also the first since Mona Lisa Overdrive in which Gibson’s characters speak of cyberspace, and they speak of it elegiacally. “I saw it go from the yellow legal pad to the Oxford English Dictionary,” he tells me. “But cyberspace is everywhere now, having everted and colonized the world. It starts to sound kind of ridiculous to speak of cyberspace as being somewhere else.”

 

You can tell the term still holds some magic for him, perhaps even more so now that it is passing into obsolescence. The opposite is true for ­cyberpunk, a neologism that haunts him to this day. On a short walk to lunch one afternoon, from the two-story mock-Tudor house where he lives with his wife, Deborah, he complained about a recent visit from a British journalist, who came to Vancouver searching for “Mr. Cyberpunk” and was disappointed to find him ensconced in a pleasantly quiet suburban patch of central Vancouver. Mr. Cyberpunk seemed wounded by having his work ­pigeonholed, but equally so by the insult to his home, which is quite ­comfortable, and his neighborhood, which is, too. “We like it quiet,” he explained.

 

—David Wallace-Wells

 

 

 

INTERVIEWER

 

What’s wrong with cyberpunk?

 

GIBSON

 

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.

 

 

 

GIBSON

 

[....] It’s taken me eight books to get to a point where the characters can have recognizably complex or ambiguous relationships with other characters. In Neuromancer, the whole range of social possibility when they meet is, Shall we have sex, or shall I kill you? Or you know, Let’s go rob a Chinese corporation—cool!

 

 

Dystopian?

 

INTERVIEWER

 

The world of the Sprawl is often called dystopian.

 

GIBSON

 

Well, maybe if you’re some middle-class person from the Midwest. But if you’re living in most places in Africa, you’d jump on a plane to the Sprawl in two seconds. Many people in Rio have worse lives than the inhabitants of the Sprawl.

 

I’ve always been taken aback by the assumption that my vision is fundamentally dystopian. I suspect that the people who say I’m dystopian must be living completely sheltered and fortunate lives. The world is filled with much nastier places than my inventions, places that the denizens of the Sprawl would find it punishment to be relocated to, and a lot of those places seem to be steadily getting worse.

 

 

 

See Also

ScienceFiction
blog posts tagged ‘William Gibson’
KathyAcker

 

 

Category Tags

authors sciencefiction sf cyberpunk


 

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