Only Magazine interview with William Gibson

Only Magazine, based in William Gibson's home city of Vancouver has a short but revealing interview with the author.

  • William Gibson's "predictive talent" rather than the direct influence of his writings:

  • "When I wrote Idoru, I didn’t know what a website was. I’d never seen one, which was a real advantage."

  • Gibson's interest in "design" and his early difficulty imagining characters and plots , rather than objects.

  • Charlie Stross's calculations against the practicality of space travel or colonisation.

  • "Anyways, I think that I’m pretty much a complete urban life-form at this point. The distinction between being urban and not being urban has more to do with bandwidth than where you live."

  • "When I started writing science fiction I already knew that it was never about the future. It’s about the moment in which it’s written. Nothing gets quainter faster than a piece of fiction set in an imaginary future. That’s really part of its charm"

  • "Lord of the Rings is the Anglican Church on crack."

Saturday August 4, 2007

William Gibson
by Asher Penn

I knew people would do that shit

Throughout his career, William Gibson has maintained his status as one of the most innovative and visionary science fiction writers in his field. His debut novel Neuromancer, published in 1984, was the first book to be triple-crowned with all three science fiction awards: the Nebula, the Hugo, and Philip K Dick Award. It also spearheaded the cyberpunk movement and introduced the world to the term “cyberspace.” Gibson has since written six full-length novels that have imagined, with a technophile’s insight, a future that is both insane and plausible. His most recent novel, Spook Country comes out August 9.

ONLY: I had originally wanted to interview you regarding the Lonelygirl15 thing last year. Your last book, Pattern Recognition centers around a fictional web-video broadcast, called “the footage” which many people felt paralleled the first serialized show on Youtube.

William Gibson: I didn’t think that was that interesting anyway… in a situation like that, with regard to my work as an influence I always assumed that what I have is a “predictive talent.” Some capacity to imagine what people will do. If I imagine what people do and then people do that thing, I don’t go “Oh they did it because of what I wrote.” They did it because… I knew people would do that shit!

ONLY: I read somewhere that you were completely disinterested in the Internet when it began.

WG: I wasn’t interested in it, except, you know, theoretically, until it became “The Web.” As long as there was any learning curve involved I didn’t want anything to do with it. I mean, people forget that before the web template, you had to take lessons. Somebody had to teach you how to do it. In the early days, people actually prided themselves on being able to send email messages. I used to say that I’d send email when people’s dogs could send email, which is now pretty much the case. When I wrote Idoru, I didn’t know what a website was. I’d never seen one, which was a real advantage. The way I write sometimes, less information is better.

Idoru was published in 1996

ONLY: Throughout many of your novels you have written about fictional artists, designers and musicians: tech-savvy creatives as opposed to inventor engineers.

WG: When I was doing imaginary fiction, speculative fiction, I had a lot of fun designing things. One of the things that so-called “cyber punk” writers talked about at the very beginning, before they had been labeled that, was “hyper specificity.” I really liked that. The idea that if you’re going to imagine something you have to imagine it more thoroughly than you are going to present it. I‘ve always worked that way. In my head I would have some pretty clear visual image of what a gizmo looked like. As long as I can remember I have been interested in what people now call “design.” Why people made a specific object. How functionality could be worked into an object or how an object could become uselessly baroque just from adding trim. I don’t know why I never studied it formally, but when I started writing science fiction it really came to the fore. I couldn’t imagine characters, and I couldn’t imagine plots but I could imagine objects. Really, my first couple of short stories could be read as linear catalogues of objects. You could just list the objects. The creative pleasure was in the dreaming up these bits and pieces. Having to do the storyline stuff was like pulling teeth.

ONLY: One of the things that distinguishes your work from mainstream science fiction writing is your fixation on the urban setting: you don’t write about intergalactic war at all.

WG: Well, one way to look at that is the contrast between reality and glib bullshit, because there’s no such thing as “intergalactic warfare!” There probably never will be! Who knows? Nobody knows about the specifics of that stuff, and cyberpunk kind of suspected that. If you read Charlie Stross’s argument that there will be no space travel, never be space colonization, it’s pretty convincing. I was stunned…like what if he was right? That it was all just bullshit?

See Charlie Stross's blog article The High Frontier, Redux

Anyways, I think that I’m pretty much a complete urban life-form at this point. The distinction between being urban and not being urban has more to do with bandwidth than where you live. Your little kids in Omaha with their bedrooms are totally urban creatures, but there’s no city outside their window.

ONLY: In the last decade, you have begun to write in the present day.

WG: When I started writing science fiction I already knew that it was never about the future. It’s about the moment in which it’s written. Nothing gets quainter faster than a piece of fiction set in an imaginary future. That’s really part of its charm. As the days go on, the fork widens and the flying cars become less likely… but it was never about that. The only way to read science fiction that made any sense to me was to make it about the period in which it was written. 1984 is about 1948. Orwell didn’t have to make anything up. He had Hitler. He had Stalin. Something like the Puppet Master is the United States under McCarthy.

The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein (1951)

Lord of the Rings is the Anglican Church on crack. That’s how I read that stuff. I never thought it was about the future.

About this blog

This blog is discusses and analyses the new book Spook Country by cyberpunk author William Gibson, published in August 2007.

This will be primarily from a United Kingdom perspective, as some of the themes of espionage and surveillance and hidden forces really do resonate in our endemic Surveillance Society.

This blog has been described, quite fairly, as "otaku-worthy immersion"

Email Contact

email: blog @ SpookCountry [dot] co [dot] uk

Here is our PGP public encryption key or download it via a PGP Keyserver.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g.

Spook Country Links

William Gibson Books discussion bulletin board Spook Country *NO SPOILERS* forum

William Gibson Books discussion bulletin board Spook Country - *SPOILERS OK* forum

William Gibson video about "Spook Country" on YouTube and on the official website.

William Gibson Links

William Gibson blog - written by the author himself, on which he has test marketed fragments of his novel Spook Country whilst writing it.

William Gibson Books discussion bulletin board

www.williamgibson.de - William Gibson book promtion website in Germany

William Gibson aleph - lots of resources about William Gibson's works.

The Cyberpunk Project - some online texts of some of William Gibson's writings hosted in Russia.

Wikipedia Links

Wikipedia entry for "Spook Country"

Wikipedia "Spook Country" page edit history RSS feed or Atom feed

The character "Hubertus Bigend" has his own fictional Wikipedia entry in "Spook Country", which has now become now a real one.

Node Magazine

  • Node Magazine - a fictional magazine which "seems to be actively preventing the kind of buzz that magazines normally cultivate before they begin to exist" mentioned in the hints given about the Spook Country book, which has already been created online by a fan (patternboy), before the book has been published.
  • node.tumblr.com - Node Magazine is publishing 2 Chapter Summaries and Quotations each day in the 42 day countdown to the official publication of Spook Country
  • Spook Country blog's "cloud of hyperlinks" in numerical chapter order - commentary and annotations on the node.tumblr.com annotations to Spook Country.

Fictional British TV Spooks

James Bond 007

Stylish, if somewhat far fetched, BBC TV drama based on MI5 the Security Service - Spooks

BBC children's TV series M.I.High

2008 spin off TV series from Spooks [spooks] code 9 , set a few years into the future in 2013, in the Orwellian Police State which has emerged after a nuclear bomb attack on London.

Fictional Spooks

The Spy Wise Blog by Wesley Britton

Real Spooks

MI5 - the Security Service - counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, domestic surveilance

GCHQ - the Government Communications Head Quarters - intercepting and deciphering enemy communications, and protecting UK ones.

MI6 - SIS - the Secret Intelligence Service - mostly foreign intelligence - not quite like depicted in James Bond films.

Ex - Spooks

RichardTomlinson.org - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6. There are also links to Cryptome's archives of articles and alleged, unproven, lists of names of former or mcurrent MI6 agents (including, improbably, some UK Ambassadors), which caused lots of controversy. Tomlinson denies publishing anything not already in the public domain.

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Spooky Info

Cryptome.org - including various spooky documents which some Government agencies would prefer not to be online.

Alan Turnbull's www.secret-bases.co.uk - "An entertaining guide to using Internet-based research tools – Ordnance Survey's maps, Getmapping's aerial photos and Google Earth! to reveal the UK's "hidden" MoD facilities and military sites"

Eye Spy Magazine - " The world's leading newsstand magazine on intelligence and espionage" - photos, articles, book reviews, private sector surveillance equipment and services adverts etc. N.B. Sometimes uncritical articles on various anti-terrorism and espionage topics, presumably in order to keep in favour with their anonymous sources.

Historical Spooks

Science Museum, London - Science of Spying Exhibition - for Spy Kids of all ages until September 2007.

Bletchley Park - "Historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during WWII and birthplace of the modern computer."

Imperial War Museum. London

Spooky CyberPunks and CyberGoths

The Dose is a "free, downloadable PDF zine ranging from industrial and gothic music to indie game development, Japanese visual kei, eyecandy, cyberpunkness" produced in Hungary.The three (so far annual) issues so far, with another promised in July 2007 contain plenty of CyberPunk and CyberGoth images and reviews, with the occasional reference back to William Gibson or other cyberpunk fiction authors.

Spy / Surveillance Art Projects

Spy Box - "A digital camera inside a parcel looks out through a small hole and captures images of its journey through the postal system. The Spy Box was sent from my studio to the gallery taking an image every 10 seconds recording a total of 6994 images these were then edited together to create an animated slideshow." - by artist Tim Knowles

Benjamin Males - "Face Targeting and Analysis System (2008) - Software designed to find and analyse faces in a video stream. First stage in an ongoing project looking at the potential misuse of technology"

London CyberPunk Tourist Guide

As part of the preparations for William Gibson book signing and lecture event promoting Spook Country in London, during August 2007, this "local knowledge" guide to places of interest to cyberpunk fans was compiled, and has been subsequently expanded.

London CyberPunk Tourist Guide - http://CyberPunk.org.uk

Please feel free to add comments or send emails, to keep it up to date.

Zero History

Zero_History_amazon_150.jpg

Zero History blog - ZeroHistory.net - discussion and hyper link cloud enhanced literary criticism of William Gibson's forthcoming novel, entitled Zero History, which is due to be published on 7th September 2010.

See the Fragments of a Hologram Bill thread on the William Gibson Books discussion forum for the snippets of writing which have been released for discussion to the public so far.

Syndicate this site (XML):

Zero History

Zero_History_amazon_150.jpg

Zero History blog - ZeroHistory.net - discussion and hyper link cloud enhanced literary criticism of William Gibson's forthcoming novel, entitled Zero History, which is due to be published on 7th September 2010.

See the Fragments of a Hologram Bill thread on the William Gibson Books discussion forum for the snippets of writing which have been released for discussion to the public so far.

Cover Artwork

US cover art (the design we prefer):
US_cover_April_150.jpg

UK cover art:
UK_cover_February_150.jpg

See how the cover artwork designs have changed slightly over time in the Cover Artwork category archive

"Spook Country" hyperlink cloud annotation

Our "Spook Country" hyperlink cloud annotation - re-orderd into numerical Chapter sequence

The Node Magazine node.tumblr.com, which this was a collaborative online contribution to, was online even before the official publication date of the first hardback edition of the book in August 2007.

This has been commented on by the author William Gibson, and described by Emeritus Professor of English Literature John Sutherland as "the future of literary crticism"

Campaign Buttons

cfoi_150.jpg
Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Free Gary McKinnon, who lives in London, is accused of hacking in to over 90 US military computer systems, and is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg
FreeFarid.com- - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
Spy Blog - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Open Rights Group
Open Rights Group

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves." The WikiLeakS.org project makes use of Tor as part of their anonymity infrastructure.

anoniblog_150.png
BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

ngoiab_150.png
NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

rsf_logo_150.gif
Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

December 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31