William Gibson (YGtCTO Words #44)


Book written by William Gibson

The only cyberpunk book you ever need to read! The science fiction novel that changed science fiction forever! Exclamation points are fun!

The truth is that many, many works cannot withstand the torrent of praise that powers promotion, so it is always wonderful when a book holds its own with its reputation. Published in 1984, I had little chance of reading it then as I was living in a small town in southern Ohio with no nearby bookstore carrying current science fiction. We had Walter Tevis and Daniel Keyes in the flesh, but that was as close as we got to speculative fiction.

I had to get to Boston before a copy of Neuromancer got into my grimy paws. I was in the happy throes of rediscovering my love for the genre, powered by a job and a salary that made my book shelf grow onto window sills and coffee tables.

The thing about that rediscovery is the strange fact that sometimes art just grabs you like the best roller coaster ride. For me, science fiction offered the best pay-off. I had so much to find among used books, from Kuttner and Kornbluth to Adams and Silverberg. Then, recent classics started slipping through, with everyone talking about cyberpunk. Bruce Sterling, Rudy Rucker and a few others kept being mentioned. I worked at MIT in computer science, so you can imagine the cult of adoration. (Strangely enough, the other affinities revolved around baseball and country music.)

William Gibson

World building
is a longstanding tradition in science fiction. Of course, that’s true of all fiction, but the difference is in scale. Tatooine is a bit larger than Nero Wolfe’s brownstone, for example. Arguably, cyberpunk is another exercise in world building, albeit driven by current experience of the world and not reading other science fiction. While it is madness to suggest these wonderful books (Neuromancer, Islands in the Net, Wetware and Zodiac) were created without awareness of any other work, they did move toward a new style and a new vision. That’s how the world actually changes-knowledge moves us, not ignorance.

A few years later while living in Cleveland, I got word that Gibson and Sterling would be visiting a local bookstore in support of The Difference Engine. My wife and I went, expecting a bit of madness and long lines. I brought my beat-up copy of Neuromancer and felt awkward, as I do at this sort of thing. A card table sat there and the store was relatively empty.

Gibson and Sterling wandered in and sat down. They chatted with one another. I think a handful of us went over. I bought the new collaboration despite having little money as it did not look like too many would be sold. Both authors brightened considerably. Their minder from the store looked almost gleeful as he led me to the counter where they gave me a commemorative t-shirt which was embossed with the book cover. It’s not Neuromancer, but it’s pretty damn cool.

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You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 169 more to go.

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