August 6, 2007 2:32 PM PDT

William Gibson heads for 'Spook Country'

Science fiction novelist William Gibson has been exploring the relationship between technology and society ever since he burst onto the literary scene with his cyberpunk classic Neuromancer in 1984.

He invented the word "cyberspace" and his influential works predicted many of the changes technology has brought about.'s Steve Ranger caught up with him in the run-up to the launch of his latest novel, Spook Country.

Q: You've written much about the way people react to technology. What's your own attitude toward technology?
Gibson: I'm not an early adopter at all. I'm always quite behind the curve but I think that's actually necessary--by not taking that role as a consumer I can be a little more dispassionate about it.

Most societal change now is technologically driven, so there's no way to look at where the human universe is going without looking at the effect of emergent technology. There's not really anything else driving change in the world, I believe.

Has the impact of technology been positive or negative?
Gibson: I'm absolutely agnostic about it, and if I was either a Luddite or a technophile I couldn't possibly function in my job. I think that, generally speaking, technologies are morally neutral until humans beings pick them up and use them for something.


It's a positive thing depending on what happens when we use it. Nothing that I can see other than the market drives the emergence of new technologies. The technologies that change society most profoundly aren't legislated into existence.

There's a blue plaque in London that says, in effect, "Broadcast television was invented here." Nobody in that room above the shop was filled with a kind of eldritch horror and a vision of a world of closed-circuit surveillance--it was the last thing they were thinking.

All of the big changes that emergent technologies bring us are, for the most part, completely unanticipated by the people that introduce those technologies. It's out of control by its very nature and if you could control it, it wouldn't work.

Unlike many of your novels, which are set in the future, Spook Country is in the near past. What's different about writing about the past rather than the future?
Gibson: I'm writing speculative fiction about the year before last (rather than) speculative fiction about the year after next Tuesday, which is what I was doing for a while.

I'm not an early adopter at all. I'm always quite behind the curve but I think that's actually necessary--by not taking that role as a consumer I can be a little more dispassionate about it.

There's not a lot of clever, made-up, semi-imaginary new technology cluttering the thing up but all the pressures in these books the characters are feeling are ultimately technologically driven, so I'm using the same tools to look at the same things but without the conceit that one is viewing this in some imaginary future.

So what's the difference?
Gibson: It's much harder to just make s*** up to get oneself out of a tight plot spot. When I'm writing about the future, if I get really stuck I can just go back and reinvent some other aspect of the amazing whatsit machine that makes it possible to drive the truck past the checkpoint, or whatever it is.

For me it's harder work to irradiate the content of a shipping container (in Spook Country) in a way that at least convinces me, than it is to dream up some gizmo from Chiba city that will crawl in there and do it all by itself.

So why not write about the future?
Gibson: The trouble is there are enough crazy factors and wild cards on the table now that I can't convince myself of where a future might be in 10 to 15 years. I think we've been in a very long, century-long period of increasingly exponential technologically driven change.

We hit a point somewhere in the mid-18th century where we started doing what we think of (as) technology today and it started changing things for us, changing society. Since World War II it's going literally exponential and what we are experiencing now is the real vertigo of that--we have no idea at all now where we are going.

CONTINUED: New book themes…
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Good Interview CNet
Good job. Go eat a cookie!
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American democracy
William Gibson on non-functioning American democracy, the importance of giving computers to the poor, and the elitist appeal of the Internet.
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A point blank review of Spook Country by William Gibson
A point blank review of Spook Country by William Gibson
Posted in Uncategorized by chrisbradley on the October 4th, 2007

Let?s get started on the best note possible. William Gibson stated yesterday in the California Literary Review that Spook Country was a ?contractual obligation? and that he started with a ?blank page? and found himself in ?varying degrees of distress? during the task of publishing it.

For every reason stated above, and the fact that it is a dry uninspired read at best, it is not worth spending one red cent on. His work has become no better than Steven King?s work since the release of Pattern Recognition in 2003, and he is willing to admit, that he is no longer interested in writing about the future.

If I were tied to a ?contractual obligation? I don?t think I would feel that inspired to write anything particularly new or different either. Especially if I were aware the Publishers were screwing me out of a good portion of the profits.

So, with these things in mind, lets talk about the story and the characters. Brown is a psychopathic failed government agent who is holding Milgrim hostage. Milgrim is addicted to psychotropic speed analogs. They are in New York at the start of the work. Hollis Henry, a pop singer from a band called the Curfew (not far from Curve or the Cure in name) has had a failed career and is making a last ditch effort as a Journalist for an Internet rag called the node. Except that she never writes a single significant word in the entire novel. The container she ends up searching for is ultimately filled with U.S. Government Money (literally 100.00 bills) and it is a ruse that makes her a possible target for a Chinese / Cuban group intent on tagging the money with Cesium. She starts in Los Angeles and Everyone ends up in Vancouver at the conclusion. The Cubans main characters are a kid named Tito and a guy with the Gun to tag the money inside the Shipping Container.

There is a bit about stealing a Glock from a drug dealer, and that?s about as much action as takes place in the book. The sequence in New York where Brown is madly trying to procure an Ipod containing data from Tito is a miserable, uninventive look at Union Square, and involves automobiles very rarely.

The big excitement in Milgrim?s life is getting a haircut and a Makeover paid for in Washington D.C. by Brown?s attache?s before boarding a Jetstream to Vancouver where he appears to lose his mind completely. Crashing a car in an attempt to kill Tito. At which point Milgrim escapes, snatches Hollis Henry?s purse which contains 5000.00 given to her by proxy from a dead band mate, heroin overdose, who could have figured? Which lands him in a bed and breakfast having a nice egg breakfast on his way out to roam the streets.

That about sums it up. There?s nothing more to it. It was the most uninteresting, formula driven work that Gibson has ever written. And the Locative art and GPS opening sequences with Bobby Chombo are so lost in the gratuitous waste of language that they are hardly worth reflecting on. It leaves a big ?So what?? in my mind.

I am glad Gibson is admitting that his publishing company is doing him no good, and I suggest that he continue to do so, and ?dropkick the chihuawa?s into the soup.? Because they are just like PRADA bags, trendy, hollow, purchased by vindictive people, and generally bred for all the wrong reasons.

I am glad I bought the book, but maybe Penguin Putnam should rethink their marketing strategy before alienating their customers with tripe that isn?t worth the toilet paper it was manufactured on. In today?s world, now that he is the Godfather of Cyberpunk, Gibson could have as easily signed his name on a bag of old tomatoes, and they would sell for $17.00.

And he knows it. And he will do it again.
10 Reasons Not To Buy Into Gibson Mythos
Posted in Uncategorized by chrisbradley on the October 3rd, 2007

1) While Gibson May Have Coined The Word Cyberspace, He Did Not Construct It. DARPA Did.

2) Cyberspace was good for all of 3 Books. Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Every subsequent work dealt with other subjects - which were based solely on the trendiness of the times. Virtual Light (Virtual Reality), Idoru (artificial intelligence turned pop-star), and All Tomorrow?s Parties (the homeless problem). Pattern Recognition (Modern Marketing). Spook Country (Paranoia of the Government).

3.) I wrote a review of Pattern Recognition that was widely available to people seeking Gibson?s work. A few thousand people probably bought the work because of it. I didn?t receive a single thank you note from the Publisher of the work. Instead - I have repeatedly been asked to either stop publishing my own work, or leave their forum altogether.

4.) When I made my best efforts over the course of years from 2003 - 2007 to participate in the Gibson Forum, yes that is 4 years, I was ultimately harassed, shunned, insulted, and instigated into arguing with its members. They are a HOSTILE, Unpleasant, Self Righteous Bunch, With No Valid Intent to Read REAL meaningful posts and respond in a Non Hostile way.

5. The proprietors had me REMOVED from the forum for responding in kind. After having spent Several Hundred Dollars on Gibson Merchandise over the years and invested COUNTLESS hours studying Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence as a result of his works, you would think I would have something of a place there discussing the subjects.

6. Their forum patrons, PERSIST in posting hostile materials against my person, after I have left the forum. I know this because the forum has no measure in place from me ANONYMOUSLY viewing its content.

7. William Gibson, is not at the heart of the real matter at hand. The real matter at hand is that he probably signed a contract with Putnam that prohibits him from doing anything but writing Bestsellers. Therefore his work is Toned Down and not worth reading at all. It is Formula Work designed to shift units. He has little or no creative control over the end result as he did with Neuromancer.

8. A Publishing Company that has No Adequate Oversight over its own resources and the people that uses them has no business being a Publishing Company at all in today?s world. If they cannot prohibit users from behaving badly to one another on their website, because they do not interact with it to a significant degree, then they have no business running the website.

9. The Pattern Recognition Movie will probably sell a lot of tickets. Good for the Executive Producer. Bad for Gibson. Good for the publishers of the book - who hold sway over the Copyrights to it through contracts, bad for Gibson. Good for DVD sales and Wal-Mart, bad for Gibson. Good for Leather Jackets, bad for Gibson. Because he knows its not a real story. Its a story that took advantage of the 9-11 event, just like World Trade Center, which was a cheaply made story with a terribly mundane plot.

10. If you have any ambitions of being a writer, stay away from allowing a Publishing Company like Penguin Publishing to contract you. They only pay a few cents per copy sold, while with self publishing, not only are you your own boss, but the book is instantly available internationally, and you get paid up to 2 or 3 dollars a copy. Working the slave life isn?t anything anyone should aspire to.
An open letter to Penguin Putnam Group
Posted in Uncategorized by chrisbradley on the October 3rd, 2007


#1. I am not going to ask you to reconsider lifting your ip ban because it doesn?t matter anyway. I have more than 1 ip.

#2. If I had not been threatened by your members first, I would not have chosen to respond as I did.

#3. No one enjoys being a) called mentally unstable b) being outright cursed at c) called a self promoting ?troll?

#4. To the people that were supposedly ?injured? by my remarks, let me make this comment, they deserved it.

#5. If Gibson wants to Host a Forum about the US Intelligence Services aka Spook Country maybe it should be considered that people DO actively participate by making regular reports to them on regular issues.

#6. I attempted to generate 2 threads, that were of practical use. 1 called 21 Gun Salute, which was a fiction thread designed for that purpose only. The content was no more volitile than any other collection or anthology of short stories published in the last Decade. You chose to suppress it. 2nd - A seasonal / autumn thread - which had NO volitile content whatsoever, and was actually beginning to make progress. You chose to suppress it also.

#7. It doesn?t matter that you have done these things, the most important of my posts have been copied to my blog. And WILL BE PUBLISHED in a future book. You can bank on that.

#8. People who live in glass houses shouldn?t throw stones. A member on the William Gibson board literally took my face and attached it to a sign that said ?Narcissitic Personality Disorder.? If he thinks its funny, its not. If anyone has it, it is the entire makeup of your board who think they are a) self important b) infallible c) allowed to push drugs through your forum d) allowed to manipulate foreigners in illegal ways. They fit their own description. Using my personal photograph without my permission and without my posting it EVER on the forum, is a) illegal b) an obscene affront to decency c) lawsuit worthy.

#9.William Gibson?s future products will not be on my shopping list if I am not re-admitted to the board. I will take no future action to purchase any of his endorsed products, enjoy his literature, or give him any sort of positive review with my peers, limited as they are. I may even write a negative review of Spook Country and make it prominently viewable. Because I know it isn?t his best work, and I know it was a tactic to sell books for your company rather than produce anything genuine or creative.

#10. A word to the wise: Losing me means losing everyone like me - including newcomers to the community who see it as an open forum, rather than a CENSORED, ILL PLANNED, POORLY HOSTED, attempt at selling products and manipulating a market that should have dried up with All Tomorrow?s Parties.

#11. I will not spend Movie theater or DVD money on Pattern Recognition either, and I will start telling my friends it is a waste of time. And that it has nothing to do with cyberspace, which is the God?s Honest Truth. From the OUTSET, PR has to do with Marketing, and I?m sad to say that in writing my review which appreared in VoidSpace and probably sold at least 10,000 copies of PR - I fell for it Hook Line and Sinker. Never again.

#12. You don?t want to deal with people talking about politics, tell your author not to write about them. I think Gibson is too far away from America now to make any sincere comment on what goes on here. And I don?t see him catalyzing a single sincere thought on the subject from his home in Canada which has become an Anethma to any American crossing into its borders. Canadians come to our country and criticize us in our own stores while we stand there and listen to how they are superior to us. Maybe we should close the borders and cut our trade to them, and see how the Canadian Dollar Fares, when we stop spending money to support them. Canadians seem to think that America is going to protect them eternally and they have it carte blanche to step on our ideas. I?m here, and I?ll say it, we probably won?t. And if something horrible happens in either of your two media centers now, I?ll be laughing from my Border Town which is well secured and doesn?t have any real potential targets.

#13 To think I actually thought I might use Toronto or Montreal for a site for a future film is now virtually entirely off. I?ll have to rethink the entire strategy. Hollywood has its magic, and so does New York. Two places I can see laughing very hard when Pattern Recognition doesn?t sell enough tickets to pay back the investors.

#14 You can forget I said any of this - laugh me off - or not even read it for all I care. But keep this in mind, that aborted thought you skipped when a) either you didn?t reply or b) you replied negatively will cost you. This draft will be copied to my blog which gets a considerable number of Keywords into Google, as will any of your responses, legal threats, or scoldings. I implore you, give it a chance. Because your company really doesn?t need a gaping wound to be its #6 NY Times best seller.

#15 In case you wondered - Yes I still enjoy gibson, but as I said - I won?t buy another thing, and I will turn on his work like a bad penny in an instant, if you don?t do something about controlling your internal problems with your community. And from an ANONYMOUS perch, I will be watching.
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