There was a lot of inherent cultural relativism in the science fiction I discovered then. It gave me the idea that you could question anything, that it was possible to question anything at all. You could question religion, you could question your own culture’s most basic assumptions. That was just unheard of—where else could I have gotten it? You know, to be thirteen years old and get your brain plugged directly into Philip K. Dick’s brain!
That wasn’t the way science fiction advertised itself, of course. The self-advertisement was: Technology! The world of the future! Educational! Learn about science! It didn’t tell you that it would jack your kid into this weird malcontent urban literary universe and serve as the gateway drug to J. G. Ballard.
And nobody knew. The people at the high school didn’t know, your parents didn’t know. Nobody knew that I had discovered this window into all kinds of alien ways of thinking that wouldn’t have been at all acceptable to the people who ran that little world I lived in.
“In time-travel stories, we tend to imagine that the people in the past are hicks and rubes. And when we imagine people in the future in time-travel stories, they’re always weak and decadent.”
Who needs a plain old crime now? Crimes need endorsement, distribution, crowds.
You’re a small group with no reputation, and you start covertly blowing up or murdering the people of a big group, like a government or a nation-state or a whole race. And you can’t just do it and then go and do the next one. You have to do it, and then go and do your PR. “We just bombed your mall. It was us.”
Gibson-Faulkner space = “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” × “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
I stay in. Hooked. Is this leisure – this browsing, randomly linking my way through these small patches of virtual real-estate – or do I somehow imagine that I am performing some more dynamic function? The content of the Web aspires to absolute variety. One might find anything there. It is like rummaging in the forefront of the collective global mind. Somewhere, surely, there is a site that contains … everything we have lost?
Oldie but a goodie. William Gibson in 1996.
Today, in its clumsy, larval, curiously innocent way, it offers us the opportunity to waste time, to wander aimlessly, to daydream about the countless other lives, the other people, on the far sides of however many monitors in that postgeographical meta-country we increasingly call home. It will probably evolve into something considerably less random, and less fun — we seem to have a knack for that — but in the meantime, in its gloriously unsorted Global Ham Television Postcard Universes phase, surfing the Web is a procrastinator’s dream. And people who see you doing it might even imagine you’re working.
Mechanical watches partake of what my friend John Clute calls the Tamagotchi Gesture. They’re pointless in a peculiarly needful way; they’re comforting precisely because they require tending.
Post-industrial creatures of an information economy, we increasingly sense that accessing media is what we do. We have become terminally self-conscious. There is no such thing as simple entertainment. We watch ourselves watching. We watch ourselves watching Beavis and Butt-head, who are watching rock videos. Simply to watch, without the buffer of irony in place, might reveal a fatal naiveté.
A book exists at the intersection of the author’s subconscious and the reader’s response. An author’s career exists in the same way. A writer worries away at a jumble of thoughts, building them into a device that communicates, but the writer doesn’t know what’s been communicated until it’s possible to see it communicated.
I always assume that a good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of.
An able reader often discovers in other men’s writings perfections beyond those that the author put in or perceived, and lends them richer meanings and aspects.
Conspiracy theories and the occult comfort us because they present models of the world that more easily make sense than the world itself, and, regardless of how dark or threatening, are inherently less frightening.
Had the concept of software been available to me, I imagine I would have felt as though I were installing something that exponentially increased what one day would be called bandwidth, though bandwidth of what, exactly, I remain unable to say.
Writers, it seems to me, should write, not make speeches. But speeches, like quasi-journalistic writing assignments, can come attached to plane tickets, to hotel rooms in cities one might never have thought of visiting otherwise. In writing speeches, curiously, one sometimes finds out what one thinks, at that moment, about something. The world at large, say. Or futurity. Or the impossibility of absolutely grasping either. Generally they make me even more uncomfortable to write than articles, but later, back in the place of writing fiction, I often discover that I have been trying to tell myself something.
One of the more peculiar, more semiconscious exercises I practiced, early in my fiction-writing career, consisted of reading record reviews in, say, Melody Maker, while pretending that I was actually reading a review of a new science fiction novel. I would later attempt to recall that novel, my sense of it from the review, as a species of writing-prompt.
We [are] shaped as writers, I believe, not much by who our favorite writers are as by our general experience of fiction. Learning to write fiction, we learn to listen for our own acquired sense of what feels right, based on the totality of the pleasure (or its lack) that fiction has provided us. Not direct emulation, but rather a matter of a personal micro-culture.
I’m almost annoyed when something I’ve been interested in becomes valuable. Then it becomes trouble. I have to take care of it.
I think that part of my experience of growing up in the American South in the early ‘60’s was one of living in a place unevenly established in the present. You could look out one window and see the 20th century, then turn and look out another window and see the 19th.
I think it’s an expression of our old hunter-gatherer module. I think that’s the module that lights up for everybody on eBay, regardless of what they’re looking for. It’s the flea-market gene. It’s hunting a bargain, sometimes. But when I went through my “watch process,” at the end of it I realized it was about information, about trying to master a body of fairly esoteric knowledge, regardless of what it was about. For somebody else it could have been hockey statistics. It wasn’t really collecting; it was about getting the knowledge.
Happy endings in life, and in fiction too perhaps, are really about where you decide to roll the credits.
What we call terrorism is always asymmetric warfare. You’re a small group with no reputation, and you start covertly blowing up or murdering the people of a big group, like a government or a nation-state or a whole race. And you can’t just do it and then go and do the next one. You have to do it, and then go and do your PR. “We just bombed your mall. It was us.” And then maybe you do it, and some other guys, these upstart assholes across town, are calling up the news and saying, “We did it! We bombed the mall!” So then you have to get your PR guy on the phone and say, “No, they’re full of shit. WE bombed the mall.” So it’s about branding to that extent.