Tagwilliamgibson

William Gibson Interview on Zero History in Vice

William Gibson

In your last three books, you’ve developed this world where marketing is treated like espionage. There are agents and double agents and intrigue upon intrigue, but it will be in the service of something like a new denim line. Is this approach intended to be satire? Or is it closer to the truth as you see it?

If something really is satire, I don’t enjoy it. It can’t be satire and be that good. What I like is something that’s closer to a useful, anthropological description that has a really, really sharp satirical edge. Satire, traditionally in our culture, pushes the exaggeration past where the edge really hurts, and you sort of just goof on it. But other cultures, like the British, totally get it. Where you want to be with satire is right on the razor’s edge, where it really hurts and you can’t tell whether you’re being put on or not.

One of the easiest illustrations of the differences between their satire and ours would be the two versions of The Office. The British Office had a genuine humanity to it. It could be totally moving. The American take on it is far more buffoonish, and the attempts at humanity in it are maudlin.

Yeah, absolutely. The original Office is heartbreaking, it’s totally heartbreaking. And it’s not that we can’t do it, but that sort of work doesn’t have the prominent foregrounding in American culture that it does in British culture. And it’s something that can often scare Americans the first time they discover it.

Maybe it’s that most people prefer to know what they’re getting beforehand. They don’t like to feel confused about genre or intent.

I think that I am kind of functionally incapable of staying absolutely true to genre or form. Sometimes I feel sorry for somebody in the Atlanta airport who’s just bought one of my books when what they really want is Ludlum or Clancy. They get on the plane to the other side of the world and all they’ve got to read is this screwy shit about designer blue jeans.

Vice: William Gibson

Reflections on the Early Days of Cyberpunk, and the Role of J.G. Ballard and Hakim Bey

young william gibson

Rudy Rucker: Early Days of Cyberpunk, an except of his memoir:

Gibson was an impressive guy from the start. He was tall, with an unusually thin and somewhat flexible-looking head. When I met him at one of the con parties, he said he was high on some SF-sounding substance I’d never heard of. Perfect. He was bright, funny, intense, and with a comfortable Virginia accent.

Plus: Ballardian examines the roles of Hakim Bey and J.G. Ballard in the history of Cyberpunk

Complete Text of William Gibson’s The Gernsback Continuum

This story, reprinted in the Mirrorshades anthology, was the first Gibson story I ever read:

Mercifully, the whole thing is starting to fade, to become an episode. When I do still catch the odd glimpse, it’s peripheral; mere fragments of mad-doctor chrome, confining themselves to the corner of the eye. There was that flying-wing liner over San Francisco last week, but it was almost translucent. And the shark-fin roadsters have gotten scarcer, and freeways discreetly avoid unfolding themselves into the gleaming eighty-lane monsters I was forced to drive last month in my rented Toyota. And I know that none of it will follow me to New York; my vision is narrowing to a single wavelength of probability. I’ve worked hard for that. Television helped a lot.

I suppose it started in London, in that bogus Greek taverna in Battersea Park Road, with lunch on Cohen’s corporate tab. Dead steam-table food and it took them thirty minutes to find an ice bucket for the retsina. Cohen works for Barris-Watford, who publish big, trendy “trade” paperbacks: illustrated histories of the neon sign, the pinball machine, the windup toys of Occupied Japan. I’d gone over to shoot a series of shoe ads; California girls with tanned legs and frisky Day-Glo jogging shoes had capered for me down the escalators of St. John’s Wood and across the platforms of Tooting Bec. A lean and hungry young agency had decided that the mystery of London Transport would sell waffle-tread nylon runners. They decide; I shoot. And Cohen, whom I knew vaguely from the old days in New York, had invited me to lunch the day before I was due out of Heathrow. He brought along a very fashionably dressed young woman named Dialta Downes, who was virtually chinless and evidently a noted pop-art historian. In retrospect, I see her walking in beside Cohen under a floating neon sign that flashes THIS WAY LIES MADNESS in huge sans-serif capitals.

American Heritage: The Gernsback Continuum

For more Gibson, check out our dossier.

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