Agency is the sequel to William Gibson's tour-de-force 2014 novel "The Peripheral"; as previously discussed, Gibson had to scrap large sections of the novel and rewrite it after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election. Agency is out later this month (I have a review pending for publication date) and Gibson has conducted a long interview with Sam Leith about the process by which the book came to be — and almost wasn't.
Gibson's had quite a year, being named a grandmaster by the Science Fiction Writers of America and winning EFF's Pioneer Award. The upcoming, long delayed publication of Agency has also prompted some outstanding, intimate profiles of his life and work (it's been more than 20 years since I profiled him for The Globe and Mail).
The Leith interview is a great warm-up for Agency, which is a remarkable book.
The lazy shorthand with which he's sometimes described is as a prophet. How does he feel about that? An albatross around the neck, an encouraging compliment – or just part of the job? "It's actually … It seems to be a thing. But I've been discounting it actively throughout my entire career. I don't think you could find a single interview with me in which I don't make the point that I've got it wrong easily as often as I've got it sort of right."
He certainly gets it right in one respect in Agency: the flashpoint crisis in the book's contemporary timeline concerns a Turkish invasion of northern Syria, complicated by Russian interference, after the US pulls out. The book would have been at the proof stage by the time Trump announced his withdrawal from the region last year.
"The person who designed that crisis," Gibson says, "is someone with a job in government in the United States. He's been a very good friend for quite a while, and given his professional background, I knew that he could give me something. I didn't specify that part of the world. I just said I need a Cuban missile crisis-like event that could happen now. He came up with that one almost immediately. What's been very eerie for me is seeing the actual place names I used on the news. I wrote to him immediately. He said: 'Well why do you think I put it in there? If that sort of thing happens it's going to happen there.'" Subcontracting crisis design, it bears noticing, is an extremely William Gibson thing to do.
William Gibson: 'I was losing a sense of how weird the real world was' [Sam Leith/The Guardian]
(Thanks, Mark Askwith!)