Mr. Cyberpunk

William Gibson was interviewed for the Paris Review’s Summer 2011 edition, by David Wallace Wells. The piece opens with David explaining that while in person and in recent work Gibson might speak/write elegiacally of the term/idea cyberspace he is unhappily haunted by his coining of the term cyberpunk.

Also discussed: how J. G. Ballard was the leader of post-war British New Wave science fiction and the inherent sci-fi of Burroughs Naked Lunch.

What the heck is that? I could tell that there was science fiction, somehow, in Naked Lunch. Burroughs had cut up a lot of pulp-noir detective fiction, and he got part of his tonality from science fiction of the forties and the fifties.”

Gibson outlines how he came up with the title for Neuromancer which he calls a “sticky neologism“, and there is a passage on the importance, aesthetically of a Springsteen(ean?) kind of punk, to his work.

 I found the answer not so much in punk rock as in Bruce Springsteen, in particular Darkness on the Edge of Town, which was the album Springsteen wrote as a response to punk—a very noir, very American, very literary album. And I thought, What if the protagonist of Darkness on the Edge of Town was a computer hacker?

Or the dystopian nature of his future Sprawl the BostonAtlanta megalopolis of post 1981 America and the influence of Borges’s Alephand  Joseph Cornell.

Finally, Gibson relays a wonderful anecdote he credits to a friend, in order to describe his ability for “pattern recognition“.

A friend knew a woman who was having old-fashioned electroshock therapy for depression. He’d pick her up at the clinic after the session and drive her not home but to a fish market. He’d lead her to the ice tables where the day’s catch was spread out, and he’d just stand there with her, and she’d look at the ice tables for a really long time with a blank, searching expression. Finally, she’d turn to him and say, “Wow, they’re fish, aren’t they!” After electro­shock, she had this experience of unutterable, indescribable wonderment at seeing these things completely removed from all context of memory, and gradually her brain would come back together and say, Damn, they’re fish. That’s kind of what I do.


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