I first met Bill Gibson in 1999 when I was profiling him for the Globe and Mail as part of a review of his book "All Tomorrow's Parties." Since then, we've become friends and colleagues, and I genuinely treasure every chance I get to sit down with him, because he's both fantastically clever and incredibly nice.
Joshua Rothman's long, intimate insightful profile of Gibson was tied to the release of Agency, the forthcoming sequel to 2014's astounding The Peripheral — a book that was repeatedly delayed when world events overtook its action (it was rewritten at least twice: once for Trump and once for Cambridge Analytica).
Rothman digs deeper into Gibson's personal story than I've seen before — getting him to talk about the deaths of his parents when he was young — and into the racist Confederate revisionism that Gibson was spoon-fed as a child. He also connects deeply to Gibson's fascination with material culture — fashion, technology, and ephemera, and devotes generous space to describing Gibson's library, basement and attic.
All of this atmospheric and biographical material forms a spine for a fantastic bibliographic journey through Gibson's many modes — young, poetic cyberpunk; contemporary war-on-terror chronicler; far-future dystopian. It's a fantastic build-up for Agency, which I offered some modest advice on during its drafting, and which is also Bill's best book since Neuromancer.
Gibson has a bemused, gentle, curious vibe. He is not a dystopian writer; he aims to see change in a flat, even light. "Every so often—and I bet a lot of people do this but don't mention it—I have an experience unique in my life, of going, 'This is so bad—could this possibly be real?' " he said, laughing. "Because it really looks very dire. If we were merely looking at the possible collapse of democracy in the United States of America—that's pretty fucked. But if we're looking at the collapse of democracy in the United States of America within the context of our failure to do anything that means shit about global warming over the next decade . . . I don't know." Perched, eagle-like, on his barstool, he swept his hand across the bar. "I'm, like, off the edge of the table."
Photographs of Gibson have tended to find him in dark rooms, surrounded by wires and gizmos—a seer in his cyber cave. In fact, he has spent his writing life in a series of increasingly pretty houses on the arboreal streets of suburban Vancouver. The rambling, sunlit home where he and Deborah live now, in the city's Shaughnessy neighborhood, dates from the early twentieth century; its many windows open onto radiant greenery. His quarter million Twitter followers are accustomed to photographs of Biggles, the couple's extraordinarily large cat, lounging in the library, where Gibson does most of his writing. A photograph on the living-room mantelpiece shows the Gibsons' son, Graeme, in aviators and a military jacket; nearby, a drawing of their daughter, Claire, hangs on the wall. Wandering around the first floor, I could find only one futuristic object: a small glass-and-aluminum cylinder, lit from within by warm L.E.D.s. This abstract oil lamp turned out to be a wireless speaker, given to Gibson by Jun Rekimoto, Sony's version of Jony Ive.
How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real [Joshua Rothman/New Yorker]
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