William Gibson WashPo interview "one of the best ever"

Bruce Sterling calls Joel Garreau's Washington Post interview with William Gibson, "One of the best William Gibson interviews ever." Garreau interview Gibson about Spook Country, his new novel that is so futuristic, it could only have been set in the recent past, and digs into the meaning and purpose of sf and literature in general, and how it ties into a world of technological change and splintering subculture. Garreau pinged Bruce for good, meaty Gibson questions, something I did for my 1999 interview with him for the Globe and Mail (Bruce said, "Ask him about the shoes"). It's good advice -- the Sterling questions evoke some of the most interesting material in this piece.

"Every hair is being numbered -- eBay has every grain of sand. EBay is serving this very, very powerful function which nobody ever intended for it. EBay in the hands of humanity is sorting every last Dick Tracy wrist radio cereal premium sticker that ever existed. It's like some sort of vast unconscious curatorial movement.

"Every toy I had as a child that haunted me, I've been able to see on eBay. The soft squeezy rubber frog with red shorts that made 'eek eek' noise until that part fell out. I found Froggy after some effort on eBay, and I found out that Froggy was made in 1948 and where he was made and what he was made of. I saw his box, which I'd long forgotten. I didn't have to buy Froggy, but I saved the jpegs. So I've got Froggy in my computer.

"This is new. People in really small towns can become world-class connoisseurs of something via eBay and Google. This didn't used to be possible. If you are sufficiently obsessive and diligent, you can be a little kid in some town in the backwoods of Tennessee and the world's premier info-monster about some tiny obscure area of stuff. That used to require a city. It no longer does."

Link (via Beyond the Beyond)

(Photo credit: cropped, downsized thumbnail ganked from a larger image credited to Pouya Dianat -- The Washington Post.)

See also:
BoingBoingBoing #15: William Gibson
William Gibson's Spook Country
Original proposal for William Gibson's Spook Country
William Gibson explains why science fiction is about the present
William Gibson on writing in the age of Google

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  1. Thank you! I’m so glad somebody has finally realized (and publicly said) what I’ve thought for some time– the net trumps big cities. It’s about time people took notice that you don’t have to be in the city to find big city culture, knowledge, or expertise. Even more interesting will be the spin that rural areas will be able to put on things like the avant-garde, high fashion, and even activist roles that previously only played out in high-population areas.

  2. Every hair is being numbered — eBay has every grain of sand. EBay is serving this very, very powerful function which nobody ever intended for it. EBay in the hands of humanity is sorting every last Dick Tracy wrist radio cereal premium sticker that ever existed. It’s like some sort of vast unconscious curatorial movement.

    See, that’s just the thing. EBay is sorting this stuff unconsciously, i.e. it’s being used for something it was not necessarily intended for. That’s just great. But what if we were to create a site with just that in mind, that is, an intention to classify all this stuff. To paraphrase Gibson’s words, “A vast conscious curatorial movement.”

    Well, just such a thing exists. It’s called Collectors Quest, and it was launched recently in the US. It’s like EBay, but without the selling. It’s sole purpose is to classify your stuff.

  3. Great interview, and great photo with Gibson and the mirrors. If you look carefully, you can see Bruce Sterling in 1983, with his headphones on, writing a novel while watching MTV with the sound off.

    Eileen Gunn

  4. Good point about eBay. The only problem is that, unlike stock markets, you can’t track items or prices over time. You can only see what’s for sale right now (sure, you can track items from here forward, but you get no perspective on the past).

    This lack of transparency has drawbacks. A case in point would be the Curta calculator, which first came to my attention in “Pattern Recognition”. There are never more than a dozen on sale on eBay at any given time. They invariably sell for over $1,000 (in my experience).

    It would be interesting to see whether “Pattern Recognition” and/or the subsequent Scientific American article on Curtas had an impact on prices (presumably they did, but eBay gives you now way of knowing). This sort of analysis, linking prices to events, is standard in the securities markets.

  5. Really a showy, self-absorbed and piss-poor interview. Demonstrates in spades that the interviewer should never take up the room; the subject should be in foreground. Gibson wants to talk and write about politics. Why not ask him some informed questions about that topic and get out of the room?

  6. Whatever you may think of the interviewer, it’s still Bill Gibson saying interesting things.

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