William Gibson at EMPAC: Recap

The following is a guest post from Scott Birdsey.

Legendary science fiction author William Gibson has a new book out called The Peripheral, and appeared in support of if at EMPAC on Sunday night. Mr. Gibson did a few readings from the new book, and took questions from the audience, which was a diverse mix – academics and punks, literati and nerds.

To pay tribute, I wore my black MA-1 bomber jacket, which was the iconic wardrobe mainstay of Cayce Pollard, the main character of Gibson’s 2004 novel Pattern Recognition. Gibson’s stories occupy a space between fiction and non-fiction, and that jacket is the perfect example: Buzz Ricksons, the high-end Japanese designer of the jacket referenced in the book, didn’t actually make the MA-1 in the color black in real life – but decided to shortly after the book came out and found themselves flooded with requests. Mine was a cheaper Alpha Industries model, but did the job.

Gibson read chapters from the new book, which is set in two timelines – one near-future, which includes veiled references to Walmart and Google Glass – and a more alienating far-future, about 100 years from now. EMPAC is very much a great environment for William Gibson. This is the guy who coined the phrase ‘cyberspace’ in Neuromancer, years before Al Gore would invent the internet. But Gibson was down to earth about EMPAC, focusing on the podium of all the things – that it was the tallest he’d ever used, and that it was even adjustable. The Peripheral feels a bit like this – epic in its scope and vision into where our society is going, but stopping along the way to explore the odd little details.

After the reading, Mr. Gibson took several questions from the audience, summarized below.

On whether video game storylines are becoming on par with literature:
“Pong was the only video game I was any good at. When they went to Tetris I said ‘no, that’s too complicated’.”

On what music he listens to:
“It disappoints people.”

On whether Neuromancer will ever be made into a movie:
“People don’t realize, the end point of the novel IS the novel.”

On whether or not any other careers were considered:
“I’d been an aspiring cartoonist as a kid. The only thing that remains of that is how I’ll sign your books tonight.”

Myself, I wasn’t able to get my copy of the Peripheral signed – I’d bought an electronic version of it the previous week from Apple. Exactly the stuff that makes William Gibson tick.

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