William Gibson Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

William Gibson

William Gibson

An interview with William Gibson

Q&A with William Gibson

You are famous for having coined the term "cyberspace" in 1982, how did you hit on it and did you think it would stick like it has?
It didn't seem momentous at the time. I wrote out a list. The only two I remember were "dataspace" and "infospace" and neither of those was going anywhere. Then I hit on "cyberspace", and I thought, "Ooooh, cyberspace. That sounds like something people might actually say."

You seem to have stopped using the word in your two latest novels, Idoru and Virtual Light, why is that?
There's something funny going on with the prefix "cyber-". It's become not fashionable. Somebody told me recently that the proprietors of the Cybercafe have taken cybercoffee off the menu and I can understand exactly why.

While we're discussing that particular prefix, what about "cyberpunk? You've been hailed as the king of cyberpunk since your first novel, Neuromancer. Where did that term come from and what does it mean to you?
I can never remember who coined the term "cyberpunk", but it was the title of a short story which wasn't itself cyberpunk and had nothing to do with what was subsequently called cyberpunk. It's something to do with bohemia and computers ...... it's the underground with computers.

You are famous for writing about virtual reality before it really existed. Do you accept this visionary status?
I think I wrote about VR because in some way I sensed its larval presence. It was already there. But when the VR builders got hold of Neuromancer they loved it - what they were doing was so hard to describe - when people asked "What is VR?" they would reply, "Well, read this."

Does this mean that you are in favour of VR and of, say, a world where VR is the norm/has taken over our lives?
I want to counter the kind of wacky Utopian tendency of some of these VR guys, who appear on TV and say, "Yes, virtual reality will cure all human ills!" I think some people do live in virtual reality now. We're already in a relatively virtual environment but we're not aware of it because we've grown up in it.

What do you mean by that?
We're surrounded by VR - when you turn on the TV and can watch a bomb exploding on the other side of the world. That's what I call "CNN moment", when you get lost for a minute with the dread and ecstasy of what you're seeing. And that's what I'm trying to give people in my novels.

Would you describe your novels as SF then?
Making distinctions between genres is very inelegant. Most writers I know delight in blurring the borders. Look at Martin Amis, look at J.G. Ballard, the great saint of blurring boundaries.

Turning now to your novel, Idoru, which tells how a world-famous rock-star, Rez, wants to marry a virtual Japanese media star, the idoru of the title. Can you clarify what an idoru is?
She's a multi-media construct - there's no woman there at all. It's like Milli Vanilli times ten.

I understand idoru's already exist within Japan's pop culture.
Yeah, I read a description of one in a Tokyo magazine a few years back. Everyone knew it was one girl's face, somebody else's voice, someone else's dance moves and the fact that she didn't exist at all seemed only served to heighten the appeal. By the end of her career, she was publishing books on poetry and having shows of her watercolours. She had quite a following. I loved that story, so in a way, Idoru just grew out of that.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  131Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.