Interview To William Gibson
taken on the release of Gibson's book IDORU
QUESTION: Idoru takes place in the same reality as "Virtual Light." Is this a
GIBSON: As they say in science fiction, it's set in the same universe, but it's
not a sequel in terms of directly carrying through any of the action of the
previous book. A couple of the characters will be familiar to people who read
QUESTION: In Johnny Mnemonic, you created a future where corporations rule. Is
that fiction or prediction?
GIBSON: Actually it's pretty much the world we're living in. I think we're
several steps further in that direction than we were when I wrote Johnny
Mnemonic all these many years ago. There's nothing left now but mostly
multinational capitalism. The nation states are hanging on, but I sometimes
wonder how much longer that will last.
QUESTION: What is your fascination with Japan and how did it start?
GIBSON: I don't know exactly. I can't really answer the first half of that
because I just am fascinated by it, but I'm sure it started because when I
started writing, I was living in Vancouver where I still live and this is very
much a Pacific rim city. There's a Japanese presence here and we're as conscious
in some ways of what's going on around the Pacific rim as we are of what's going
on back east in North America.
QUESTION: When you were in Singapore, you said you didn't see a single bad girl.
Is Molly a bad girl?
GIBSON: Yes, she is in the sense that I was using that in the sort of semi
-erotic sense that. . . she has excess fashion attitude. She's gone to sort of
elective surgery to express her 'tude.
QUESTION: Where did cyberspace come from? What does it mean?
GIBSON: I coined the word cyberspace in 1981 for a short story called "Burning
Chrome," and it's in the opening couple of paragraphs. At the time, I didn't
have a very clear idea of what I was going to try to make it mean. But I do
remember sitting with a blank sheet of paper and a typewriter going to dataspace
and infospace and a couple of other clunkers, and then coming to cyberspace
thinking it sounds as though it means something. Actually I think it was
probably more fun for me when I was still able to look at it and wonder what it
meant. When I look at it today, I know more or less what it means, and I have to
wonder what the implications are -- which is a different thing.
QUESTION: What about cyberpunk?
GIBSON: Cyberpunk, on the other hand, was a sort of journalistic/literary
critical label that someone else, we're not quite sure who, coined. But it was
applied to what I and a bunch of other newer SF writers were doing in the early
'80s. And I was immediately worried by it. A lot of the other writers were
younger and sort of delighted by it, by and large. And I said, no, it's a label.
Labels are dangerous things and they said, yeah, but we can sew it on the back
of our jacket. Then you'll be wearing it for the rest of your life. And indeed
they are and indeed I am. I kind of wince when it comes up actually.
QUESTION: What are some uses of cyberpunk for the uninitiated?
GIBSON: What you can really use it for these days is as a kind of flavor
identifier in popular culture. You can say, well, did you see that video?
"No, what's it like?"
"It's totally cyberpunk. It's kind of retro cyberpunk."
People know what you mean. "It looks like Blade Runner." Or you can say, "Yeah,
those trousers are way cyberpunk," and for certain trousers, it would probably
QUESTION: How does it feel to have coined a word that has became almost
universal? It must be an extraordinary feeling to have influenced the whole
GIBSON: It's funny, I don't have anything to compare it to, so I don't really
know how it feels. It's been my career, you know. For the most part, it's
amusing and I do sort of look forward to the attribution. Most dictionaries do
not yet have the attribution, but eventually they'll run a little quote. But a
few of them, notably the Oxford English Dictionary said, "Oh, yes, we know
that's your word and when we eventually bring out another full scale edition,
we'll quote your first use of it."
QUESTION: Lots of people might find it ironic that you wrote Neuromancer on a
GIBSON: The typewriter that I actually wrote that stuff on was a Hermes 2000,
which is like a very Ernest Hemingway sort of war-correspondent-f or-the
-Spanish-Civil-War machine, from my wife's step-grandfather who was a
journalist. I still have it, but it doesn't work. I was hunting around to find
somebody who could fix the machine when this little mechanical part finally
broke and they no longer made that part. So I eventually gave up on it and got
an Apple II. One of the guys in the typewriter store said, "Well, I can order
you one of those. They still make it. It's exactly the same machine, it just has
a different case or a molding around the mechanism." But he said it would cost
more than a computer.
QUESTION: It wasn't even an electric typewriter?
GIBSON: I never had an electric typewriter. When I started writing -- when I
coined the word cyberspace -- the absolute top of the line professional writing
machine in the world was an IBM Selectric with a couple of type balls, and
that's what everybody aspired to. But I could never have afforded one of those
things. Today those things are like landfill. Literally. I've seen fifty working
Selectrics piled up like dead cockroaches in the back of a university learance
QUESTION: Anything else headed for the movies or TV?
GIBSON: Neuromancer is in the very, very early stages of film development. It
was announced, albeit rather quietly, in the trades a couple of months ago, but
there's really nothing in place. It's in that beautiful pre-pre production limbo
where it's all talk and possibility. The realities of the process have not yet
locked on. But it's such a complicated project and the time it takes to do
science fiction movies! The ironic thing is the optimal delivery on that I think
would be 2001. So people shouldn't hold their breath.