Jeff Waxman is a bookseller with the Seminary Co-op's 57th Street Books, and promotions manager at the University of Chicago Press.
At some time, in some place, I read an interview with William Gibson in which he said that he stopped writing about human alienation in a dystopian future when the world around him caught up to his visions.
It's basically true: his books since Neuromancer have become less about the future and more reflective of the present. His writing is notable now less for the forward thinking fever dream of the Sprawl, and more genuinely interesting because of what he tells us about the world we're living in and about the people who live on the fringe. What's most interesting about the evolution of his work, though, is that his books created massive communities of the disenfranchised. They lent identity to sprawling virtual populations that are joined together by their affinities and by a depth of feeling for literature about loners in league against the establishment.
Will Gibson be remembered as the man who coined the word “cyberspace?” Maybe only by the people who know that Orwell invented the term “Cold War” or that Mark Twain is responsible for the phrase "Gilded Age” or that Henry Fairlie was the man who finally called “The Establishment” what it is. But we don't continue to read him merely because of the way he shaped tech culture. We still read Gibson with enthusiasm not just because of what he's written, but because there are few people who can write the way he does, few people who can write with a polished appeal to the intellectual and still unabashedly entertain the fans of genre writing.
Gibson's books are thriller and sometimes mystery, they're social and creative. And his blend of technology and literature, of age-old story arc and archetypal characters within the dramatically different, wired world we live in makes him one of the most necessary recorders of the moment, one of those crucial writers who will help us to bridge the gap between fiction as we've known it and life as we live it.
Ethel M Barber Theater: Oct. 16, 12:00 PM
Tags: william gibson, cyberspace, neuromancer, science, fiction, sci-fi, orwell