William Gibson talks writing-craft

Here's a really meaty, interesting interview with William Gibson, talking about his new novel -- but also talking about what makes narrative tick, why inserting artifacts into the story makes books better, what happens when characters go rogue, and whether there's such a thing as good fashion.
Someone said that if a fourteen-year-old boy writes a novel, it's got to be set in a post-apocalyptic world, because a fourteen-year-old boy doesn't know anything about how the world works (laughs). But if you smash the shit out of it, it's easy to depict, and he can do a rather convincing job of depicting how people would behave in it.

I think I was in somewhat that position when I began to write. I didn't have the confidence to depict more complex emotional characterization. Some people have unkindly assumed that this is characteristic of much genre SF and fantasy anyway. So it could have something to do with science fiction having been my native literary culture. But as I've gone along, with quite a bit of effort, I think I've been able to widen that bandwidth a little.

Milgrim is a good example. But Milgrim was a strange character for me in terms of his arrival. It's unusual for me to be able to remember the advent of a character, because I think that they often arrive when I'm not actually writing. I'll be doing something else, and somehow the beginning of a character will be there, and because I'm not writing I don't take note of it. I sort of shove it aside, and later it drifts back.

Maximus Clarke talks with William Gibson about his "speculative novels of last Wednesday" (via Making Light)

(Image: William Gibson, the 'cyberpunk' father, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from fredarmitage's photostream)


  1. Gibson is talking with Doctorow in London next month – October the 4th – the two are a perfect match and I can’t wait to hear them. I’m especially interested in the idea that SF genre novels don’t exactly get praised for their characterisation, and this compulsive “insertion” of artifacts in his novels. I’ll be reading Zero History over this week in time for the event.

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