August 6, 2007 2:32 PM PDT
William Gibson heads for 'Spook Country'
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Will global warming catch up with us? Is that irreparable? Will technological civilization collapse? There seems to be some possibility of that over the next 30 or 40 years--or will we do some Verner Vinge singularity trick and suddenly become capable of everything and everything will be cool and the geek rapture will arrive? That's a possibility too.
You can see it in corporate futurism as easily as you can see it in science fiction. In corporate futurism they are really winging it--it must be increasingly difficult to come in and tell the board what you think is going to happen in 10 years because you've got to be bulls****ing if you claim to know. That wasn't true to the same extent even a decade ago.
What would you say are the big themes of Spook Country?
Gibson: In the process of doing the tour I will be informed by interviewers of what the broad themes are. I haven't been interviewed sufficiently to be able to tell you. It's set in the same world as Pattern Recognition and involves some of the same characters but they're a few years down the road and the world has changed a bit. I suppose one of the things it's trying to do is take some measure of how much the world has changed since Pattern Recognition.
How has technology changed writing?
Gibson: The thing that has affected me most directly during Pattern Recognition, and subsequently, is the really strange new sense I have of the Google-ability of the text. It's as though there is a sort of invisible hyperlink theoretical text that extends out of the narrative of my novel in every direction.
Someone has a Web site going where every single thing mentioned in Spook Country has a blog entry and usually an illustration--every reference, someone has taken it, researched it and written a sort of little Wikipedia entry for it and all in the format of a Web site that pretends to be from a magazine called Node, which is an imaginary magazine, within Spook Country, and which turns out to be imaginary in the context of the narrative.
I have this sense when I write now that the text doesn't stop at the end of the page and I suppose I could create Web pages somewhere and lead people to them through the text, which is an interesting concept. I actually played with doing that in Spook Country but I didn't know enough about it. Everything is bending toward hypertext now.
You've done a reading in Second Life. What did you make of that?
Gibson: It's a lot more corporate than the vision I had. What I find most interesting about Second Life is that I've noticed now, very occasionally, I'll see on the street someone who looks as though they have escaped from Second Life. There are people who look all too much like Second Life avatars and I don't know if they were there before or whether I just hadn't notice them.
How well do you think your earlier novels such as Neuromancer have stood the test of time?
Gibson: Any imaginary future as soon as you get it down on screen starts to acquire an instant patina of quaintness--it's just the nature of things.
If I were a smart 12-year-old picking up Neuromancer for the first time today I'd get about 20 pages in and I'd think "Ahhaa I've got it--what happened to all the cell phones? This is a high-tech future in which cellular telephony has been banned."
So I completely missed that (mobile phones). When people ask me about Neuromancer as a predictive construct, they always ask about the technology. They don't ask about globalization, which wasn't even a word when I started that book. The world of Neuromancer is a post-globalized world and it's hurting from it and that may carry a lot of people through it today. But if that wasn't there then maybe it would be hopelessly dated.
Except for the Soviet Union--which is another whopping anachronism looming in the background of Neuromancer--there don't seem to be any nation-states in that world, it's completely corporate.
So what's next?
Gibson: I think what I may be doing here with this current batch of books is attempting to take the measure of the present, which will allow me to try that sort of projection again. I sort of hope so--otherwise I don't know what I'll do!
Steve Ranger of Silicon.com reported from London.
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