Why You Should Read… William Gibson

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Today I am pleased to welcome Tom Hunter, the ever-enthusiastic Award Administrator for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Tom can be found on Twitter as @clarkeaward. It should come as no surprise that his chosen Why You Should Read… subject comes from the world of Science Fiction, one William Gibson.

“Anti-buzz,” he said. “Definition by absence.”

She waited to see if he’d indicate that he was joking. He didn’t. “That’s ridiculous.”

I’ve bought more William Gibson books as gifts for other people than I have those of any other author.

I buy a lot of books as gifts.

A big part of what I do in what I guess we might as well call genre fandom – you know, BSFA stuff, running the Clarke Award, always buying the same gift for different people – is all about that drive to show people things I think are cool.

“Secrets,” says Gibson in Spook Country, “are the very root of cool.”

I love that quote. I’ve even used it in client meetings. For me though, being a fan is all about sharing the joy, spreading the word, offering myself up as patient zero for a particularly infectious case of genre buzz, and in the instance of Bill Gibson I may well turn out to be a terminal case.

Unless, of course, I can pass my memetic baggage over to you, right?

Too late now, you read this far, you may as well stick around and hear why I think Gibson is the mainline, main-man essential, interstitial, futurist, and only, writer you need to be checking yourself into this year.

You need to hurry up and do it this year, because he’s a meaningful, deep, and, yes, slow, writer, and 2010 is the year of his latest, Zero History.

Last in a trilogy too, so you know after this one, whatever comes next, everything is going to change (again). In other words, time to jump on board and surf the wave, right?

Maybe.

And maybe the above is just too much spiel? All branding style, no content? No decent reason yet to check this guy out if he hasn’t already dug his hooks into your attention span?

What’s that? You’re still here, just multi-tasking like a good Cyberpunk and tabbing over to your Amazon wishlist at the same time? Well, in that case I guess I can’t fault your style.

The thing is Gibson often gets accused of style, like it’s his fault he coined the word Cyberspace or dreamt up stunning openers like Neuromancer’s, “The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

For a lot of people though, this fear of style seems to be their major barrier to really grokking out on Gibson, so let me just stay this, where there is style there is content: A deft characterization, a subtly unfolding image, even a sly wink and the dry laugh of a satirist who doesn’t read himself too seriously… And I seriously suggest you rush to one of his scheduled live readings if you don’t trust me on that one.

William Gibson is one of science fiction’s least best kept secrets, but the public eye can distort our perceptions of a writer – the map becomes bigger than the territory. That whole story about Neuromancer and the typewriter for instance.

If you’re lucky enough to be coming to Gibson’s work fresh and for the first time, you have my utter envy and please do let me know what you think. If there’d one thing I enjoy almost as much as reading his books, it’s talking about them.

Oh, and that book I buy as a gift more than any other? It’s Pattern Recognition.

Thanks Tom! Don’t know about you guys, but I’m now desperate to rush out and buy Pattern Recognition…


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AMANDA RUTTER, one of our guest reviewers, used to be an accountant in the UK but she escaped the world of numbers and is now living in a fantasy world she creates. She runs Angry Robot's YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. And we knew her when....

View all posts by Amanda Rutter (guest)

4 comments

  1. “that book I buy as a gift more than any other? It’s Pattern Recognition.”
    That’s high praise — something that will make me buy a book!
    Thanks, Tom!

  2. Nice job, Tom.
    I love the quote about secrets being the root of cool, because I always say, its not what you do in life that is important, its how cool you are. :)

  3. Greg, you sound like my 14 year old son.

  4. Well I have been told that I’m very immature for my age..hey wait a minute.. that’s not a good thing… :(

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