Science fiction legend visits campus

GIBSON’S FIRST NOVEL, NEUROMANCER , WON the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards in 1984.

For those who love the science fiction genre and glimpses at the future, then it should be no surprise for any fan to have been excited for the reading of William Gibson last Sunday, an author who is certainly one of the premier modern science fiction authors, and who has cemented himself as one of the greatest in history.

Prior to this past summer, I had no experience with Gibson’s work. Then I picked up a copy of Gibson’s debut and most lasting work, Neuromancer. I was blown away with not only the cyberpunk world, but how clearly different it was from other science fiction. Orwell’s 1984 and other novels coming after display either a future where there is an ominous overseer or a seemingly free utopia of equality that is actually broken, clear metaphors for how a fascist and communist future are both poor outlooks. However, the uber capitalist and disgusting corporate universe Gibson created was both beautiful and sickening. Corporations become Monarchies, but ascend to an almost God-like level of omnipresence. Gibson injects a level of ingenuity and originality in his works that I’ve not seen paralleled in the science fiction world by any other author.

For the reading, Gibson chose two passages from his newest book, The Peripheral. The Peripheral takes place in two distinct futures, one not so distant and another quite so. The closer of the two is an earth where a Wal-Mart type corporation is one of the only industries with power, while the farther is set in the only stronghold for humanity after a series of disasters leave only an anarchic London standing. The chapters from both perspectives gave the audience a good taste of the book before asking questions, most of which related to Gibson’s process for writing.

Gibson is quite peculiar as a science fiction author; he wrote Neuromancer on a typewriter, and while he writes about cyberspace (a term he coined), video games, and emergent technologies, he doesn’t really use them. During the question section, he stated explicitly that as someone who watches others play video games and the new uses for computers, it makes it easier for him to write characters who use them as an observer. He stated that the last video game he had played was pong, and once Tetris had come out, it was all too complicated for him. He also discussed musical influences and how he always disappoints people. While artists like Lou Reed and David Bowie have had an influence, Steely Dan and Bruce Springsteen are a greater sources of inspiration. Gibson stated that he likes to imagine the music in a future setting, and tries to write around what kind of world that would be.

After the crowd questions, Gibson tabled outside the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center Concert Hall to sign books and talk with fans. If you haven’t read any of Gibson’s works, I would highly recommend it, and if you missed this reading, I would also recommend not missing the next.