Monday, May 29, 2006

The magic of William Gibson

How disappointing is it that the only two posts on my blog in the last couple of weeks have been links to other stuff that I wrote, rather than new material for here?

Maybe I should do a piece on "how to ignore your blog in five easy steps" or something. With summer rearing its head, and the kids, and finishing the basement, working on the MAME cabinet, and starting to do some contracting work, time for the blog has been scarce.

That's fine--it's never been intended as something that's kept up-to-date religiously. It's more of a place I can dump my brain, sound off about things and generally share stuff too one-sided to make for good conversation. A write-only conversation.

The other thing I've been doing is rereading William Gibson. I started with Neuromancer a couple of weeks ago and blazed through those, and I just started Virtual Light this morning at breakfast. I don't know what it was with the timing, but it was perfect--it was like reading them again for the first time.

Neuromancer especially was an incredible experience. Gibson's prose just comes out and kicks you in the gut; it's such a visceral experience. I love it.

I just love that Gibson has had several of his novels do well outside of the sci-fi area as well, selling well against "general" fiction. I get a mental picture of the laid-back Western saloon of fiction, and Gibson's prose drifting into town on a lazy summer afternoon, kicking in the doors of the saloon, overturning all the tables, starting some fights, and then vanishing, leaving the place wondering what hit it... but knowing it was an incredible experience.

As an aspiring author, I am astounded by the meaning he packs into a single phrase. He reminds me a lot of Dickens in that way, bizarre as that might seem, but Dickens had the same talent of having a short sentence layered with meaning.

One of my favourite passages from Neuromancer is where Molly gets asked about her eyes. She has mirrored lenses surgically inserted into the flesh around her eyes, and someone asks her how she cries. She says she doesn't, much. The questioner presses the issue, asking how she does, if she does need to. "I spit... The ducts are routed back into my mouth."

Incredible, isn't it? There are so many insights into Molly that you can read from that. I love it.

The other thing that's great about Neuromancer is it's not at all dated. Considering that Neuromancer is 22 years old, it's still got a fresh, futuristic feel. There's only one moment that doesn't ring true, and that's Case's 3 megabytes of hot RAM--that's the sort of reference that dates quickly. You can also tell, from the fact that it's 3 megabytes and not 2 or 4, that Gibson is not a computer person--but he's admitted as much himself.

Of course, you could interpret the problem with the RAM another. What kind of sick and twisted future is it where RAM comes in 3 megabyte sticks, and is worth stealing in those quantities?

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