“Things were always changing at Autodesk. By the time I stopped working there, in 1992, the Advanced Technology division employed about twenty or thirty people. As well as my little Science Series programs, they’d set up a virtual reality lab.
We had sets of Jaron Lanier’s new VR goggles, which held a little TV screen for each eye, also his stretchy, optical-fiber-equipped data gloves that tracked the position of each finger joint, creating images of your hands in the virtual world that the goggles were showing you. I wrote a demo that immersed the user in a flock of artificially alive birds that were continually wheeling and regrouping around the user’s position in cyberspace. Rather than making them look like actual birds, I made the birds look like three and four dimensional polyhedra that I called topes—and thus my demo was called Flocking Topes.
The lab’s goal was to develop a VR operating system to be called Autodesk Cyberspace®. They’d picked this name on their own, and without asking me about it. My old cyberpunk writer friend William Gibson was a little annoyed by this development. After all, he’d coined the word cyberspace, and now Autodesk wanted to trademark it? A few months later, when I saw Gibson at a San Francisco virtual reality fair called the Cyberthon. He half-jokingly threatened to trademark the name of Autodesk’s original virtual reality programmer, a talkative hipster named Eric Gullichsen.
Although sales of our Chaos program were even better than CA Lab’s had been, the profits from these relatively low-priced packages were negligible compared to Autodesk’s income from their flagship product, AutoCAD. And Autodesk Cyberspace® was shaping up to be a dud. And then the company’s stock price dropped.”
— Rudy Rucker, Nested Scrolls, Chapter 19.
“Shiny Balls of Mud: Hikaru Dorodango and Tokyu Hands” – Tate Magazine, issue 1, September/October 2002
And in the book.
Le projet d’adaptation de Neuromancien au cinoche en 1986 avec William Gibson et Timothy Leary.
Playing Timothy Leary’s Lost Games / Timothy Leary’s Neuromancer
But in Leary’s floppy disks and paper documents, the archivists also found traces of more ambitious forgotten projects, including a choose-your-own-adventure-style “mind movie” based on William Gibson’s novel “Neuromancer,” which was to have included graphics by Keith Haring, music by Devo, photographs by Helmut Newton and writing by William S. Burroughs.
“Night City was like a deranged experiment in social Darwinism, designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button. Stop hustling and you sank without a trace, but move a little too swiftly and you’d break the fragile surface tension of the black market; either way, you were gone, with nothing left of you but some vague memory in the mind of a fixture like Ratz, though heart or lungs or kidneys might survive in the service of some stranger with New Yen for the clinic tanks.”
William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984
“I didn’t have a manifesto. I had some discontent. It seemed to me that midcentury mainstream American science fiction had often been triumphalist and militaristic, a sort of folk propaganda for American exceptionalism. I was tired of America-as-the-future, the world as a white monoculture, the protagonist as a good guy from the middle class or above. I wanted there to be more elbow room. I wanted to make room for antiheroes.
I also wanted science fiction to be more naturalistic. There had been a poverty of description in much of it. The technology depicted was so slick and clean that it was practically invisible. What would any given SF favorite look like if we could crank up the resolution? As it was then, much of it was like video games before the invention of fractal dirt. I wanted to see dirt in the corners.”
“Rydell caught something deep in her tired eyes, some combination of fear, resignation, and a kind of blind and automatic hope: she was not having a good morning, year, or life probably, but there was something there that wanted him to like her. Whatever it was, it stopped Rydell from getting up with his bag and walking out, which was really what he knew he should be doing.”
— William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties
The world of the Sprawl is often called dystopian.
Well, maybe if you’re some middle-class person from the Midwest. But if you’re living in most places in Africa, you’d jump on a plane to the Sprawl in two seconds. Many people in Rio have worse lives than the inhabitants of the Sprawl.
I’ve always been taken aback by the assumption that my vision is fundamentally dystopian. I suspect that the people who say I’m dystopian must be living completely sheltered and fortunate lives. The world is filled with much nastier places than my inventions, places that the denizens of the Sprawl would find it punishment to be relocated to, and a lot of those places seem to be steadily getting worse.
“Can we run it?”
“Sure,” the construct said, “unless you got a morbid fear of dying.”
— William Gibson, Neuromancer, page 128
“Chevette’s there because bicycle messengers, particularly in San Fransisco, are a really hot sub-culture. They’ve become a source for a lot of creative people. Lotta people, like designers, are watching what bicycle messengers are wearing. And they have their own bands … here’s places where messengers hang [out], and there’s messenger fanzines! I got everything I know about being a bike messenger from “Mercury Rising” which is a fanzine put out by the San Francisco Bike Messengers Association. There’s this terrific coffeehouse near the Haight called The Horseshoe where messengers hang and young people with lots of tattoos and multiple piercing go there too … and it’s the only coffee house I’ve ever seen where they’ve got laptop computers super-glued to the tables. Each computer has it’s own e-mail address so you can go in, log on and do your stuff. So these kids come in off the streets with bones through their noses, their bodies covered in heavy Samoan blackwork, and looking like extras out of the back streets of Bladerunner, and they sit down and they do their e-mail! The underground in San Francisco has mutated into a really astonishing thing.”
— William Gibson talking about the inspiration for All Tomorrow’s Parties from “Traveling the Cyber-Highway with William Gibson” by Marisa Golini in Cyberspace Vanguard Magazine Volume 2 March 31, 1994 Issue 2
“Through this evening’s tide of faces unregistered, unrecognized, amid hurrying black shoes, furled umbrellas, the crowd descending like a single organism into the station’s airless heart, comes Shinja Yamazaki, his notebook clasped beneath his arm like the egg case of some modest but moderately successful marine species.”
— The first sentence from “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by William Gibson.
“He kept walking, simultaneously conducting an imaginary exchange with his therapist, one in which they sorted out what he was feeling. Having worked very hard to avoid feeling much of anything, for most of his adult life, recognizing even the simplest of his emotions could require remedial effort.”
— William Gibson, Zero History
‘Why Japan?’ I’ve been asked for the past 20 years or so. Meaning: why has Japan been the setting for so much of my fiction? When I started writing about Japan, I’d answer by suggesting that Japan was about to become a very central, very important place in terms of the global economy. And it did. (Or rather, it already had, but most people hadn’t noticed yet.) A little later, asked the same question, I’d say that it was Japan’s turn to be the centre of the world, the place to which all roads lead; Japan was where the money was and the deal was done. Today, with the glory years of the bubble long gone, I’m still asked the same question, in exactly the same quizzical tone: ‘Why Japan?’
Because Japan is the global imagination’s default setting for the future.
“There’s often something in a good translation that can’t quite be captured in the original.”
— William Gibson quoting Bruce Sterling who was paraphrasing Jorge Luis Borges, Distrust That Particular Flavor
“I think revision is hugely underrated. It is very seldom recognized as a place where the higher creativity can live, or where it can manifest. I think it was Yeats who said that literary revision was the only place in life where a man could truly improve himself.”
— William Gibson in The Paris Review
“Eventually I began to try to write a sentence. I tried to write it for months. It grew longer. Eventually it became: “Seated each afternoon in the darkened screening room, Graham came gradually to see the targeted numerals of the academy leader as hypnagogic sigils preceding the dreamstate of film.” I’m not sure it was Graham. Maybe it was Bannister. It was a sentence far too obviously in the manner of J.G. Ballard, and Ballard gave his protagonists sturdy, everyman British middle-class surnames. I had no idea what my sentence meant, in terms of where any narrative might go, but I now know that that was not a bad thing. I was in the first place of fiction, as was my protagonist. A door was opening, however slightly. I began to imagine that the deserted (recently deserted?) office building in which Graham/Bannister reviewed film had a fountain in its atrium, and in this fountain, submerged, along with the usual coins, were dozens of wristwatches, some of them very expensive. Time had ended, perhaps, or the awareness of its passage had become somehow undesirable. And that was as far as I went, the door closing. I may have sensed, correctly, that a Ballard pastiche, no matter how earnest, was somehow not the thing.”
There’s a famous story about your being unable to sit through Blade Runner while writing Neuromancer.
I was afraid to watch Blade Runner in the theater because I was afraid the movie would be better than what I myself had been able to imagine. In a way, I was right to be afraid, because even the first few minutes were better. Later, I noticed that it was a total box-office flop, in first theatrical release. That worried me, too. I thought, Uh-oh. He got it right and nobody cares! Over a few years, though, I started to see that in some weird way it was the most influential film of my lifetime, up to that point. It affected the way people dressed, it affected the way people decorated nightclubs. Architects started building office buildings that you could tell they had seen in Blade Runner. It had had an astonishingly broad aesthetic impact on the world. I met Ridley Scott years later, maybe a decade or more after Blade Runner was released. I told him what Neuromancer was made of, and he had basically the same list of ingredients for Blade Runner. One of the most powerful ingredients was French adult comic books and their particular brand of Orientalia—the sort of thing that Heavy Metal magazine began translating in the United States. But the simplest and most radical thing that Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner was to put urban archaeology in every frame. It hadn’t been obvious to mainstream American science fiction that cities are like compost heaps—just layers and layers of stuff. In cities, the past and the present and the future can all be totally adjacent. In Europe, that’s just life—it’s not science fiction, it’s not fantasy. But in American science fiction, the city in the future was always brand-new, every square inch of it.
Cities seem very important to you.
GIBSON: Cities look to me to be our most characteristic technology. We didn’t really get interesting as a species until we became able to do cities—that’s when it all got really diverse, because you can’t do cities without a substrate of other technologies. There’s a mathematics to it—a city can’t get over a certain size unless you can grow, gather, and store a certain amount of food in the vicinity. Then you can’t get any bigger unless you understand how to do sewage. If you don’t have efficient sewage technology the city gets to a certain size and everybody gets cholera.
William Gibson and his wife, Deborah, at the University of British Columbia, 1973
CPUs. Cayce Pollard Units. That’s what Damien calls the clothing she wears. CPUs are either black, white, or gray, and ideally seem to have come into this world without human intervention.
What people take for relentless minimalism is a side effect of too much exposure to the reactor-cores of fashion. This has resulted in a remorseless paring-down of what she can and will wear. She is, literally, allergic to fashion. She can only tolerate things that could have been worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000. She’s a design-free zone, a one-woman school of anti whose very austerity periodically threatens to spawn its own cult.
— William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
“And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.”
William Gibson’s “Marly and the Boxmaker” (Count Zero?)