I have named every computer I have ever owned “Wintermute” after one of the sentient, artificial intelligences in the novel, Neuromancer, by William Gibson. Currently, my wifi connection bears the “Neuromancer” moniker, and just the other day, I could not help but chuckle when I noticed that one of my neighbors had changed their wifi connection name to Count Zero– another novel by William Gibson. That made me start thinking about why I formed such a strong connection to the writings of Mr. Gibson and what makes him such a great author. For better or worse, I decided to write a little bit about it.
Number Five: Saying More by Writing Less
I read Neuromancer for the first time when I was a sophomore in college, and it changed the way I thought about writing fiction (Ironically I read the entire book on a webpage using my laptop. Mmmmm, tasty irony.). I had been engrossed in the uber-detailed worlds of authors like Tolkien and did not realize what an author could do by using less words instead of more. William Gibson showed me that an author could say a lot using just a few words; that is, if they knew the right words to use.
William Gibson can let you know more in a few sentences than many authors can in an entire page. Try this quote on for size: “They were blonde. They were standing beside their car, an aluminum avocado with a central shark-fin rudder jutting up from its spine and smooth black tires like a child’s toy.” Tell me those few sentences don’t evoke a vivid scene in your mind, and I will call you a dirty damn liar. In case you care, that quote is from the short story, “The Gernsback Continuum,” in the collection of short stories, Burning Chrome. You should probably go read that now. I will wait until you get back.
Number Four: Looking Like an Average Nerd
Have you ever Googled a picture of William Gibson? No? Go ahead . . . guess I will wait on you again. *Sigh* Done? Great. The guy looks like one of the biggest geeks on the planet, right? Round, Harry Potter-style glasses? Check. Bad hair when young turning to no hair when older? Check. Seriously out of date clothing? Check, check and check. Makes me feel pretty good about the free t-shirt I am wearing and my $10 hair cut. Tell Maurice at Great Clips that I sent you; he’ll cut you a deal. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that William Gibson does not pretend to be a nerd, he is the grandfather of nerds and he will kick your ass (wordsmith speaking, of course) with
one ballpoint pen tied behind his back. And speaking of ballpoint pens . . .
Number Three: Eschewing Technology
Eschewing. That sounds like a sneeze. Is that the kind of sneeze where snot comes out? No, no, no. It just means that William Gibson does not care much for the gadgets. So what, right? He is not into iPads; I mean, my grandparents would probably use a tablet computer for a coaster if you gave them one, and ole’ Mr. Gibson is not exactly a spring chicken. The last I heard, he is using a 2005 Mac Powerbook. The only computer in my house that are that old are being used as doorstops or to level out my dining room table. You know that book, Neuromancer, that I mentioned earlier. It was written on a typewriter. Bazing! Mind. Blown.
Number Two: Writing an Unhackable Electronic Poem
In 1992, Gibson published a poem called “Agrippa” on 3.5 inch floppy disks. The cool thing? The entire poem was encrypted. The entire point of the thing was for people to have to hack the poem in order to figure out what it said. Now, if you go looking for the poem on Google, you will find it in its entirety, so you might assume that someone must have unlocked the code. Wrong. After 20 years, no one has come forward with proof that they were able to decrypt Gibson’s poem. The only reason we know what it says is because some yahoo got his hands on a secretly taken videotape of a public showing in Manhattan in December 1992.
Number One: Coined the Term “Cyberspace” . . . in 1984.
Think back – when did you start using the Internet for the first time? (Right now I am not talking to anyone born after 1985, so if that means you, go get yourself a snack while the adults talk.) For me, it was around 1994 when our local library started giving out usernames and passwords for the local, municipal internet program. You guys remember dial-up and Netscape, right? Ahhhh, nostalgia. Anyway, a solid nine years before pimple-face Matt was entering cyberspace for the first time, William Gibson published a novel telling us all about it. Not only did he envision a world-wide network of computers where people could meet and interact in a virtual space, he also gave us concepts like bio-implants and sentient computers; things that are just now within the reach of reality almost 30 years later. I am not saying that William Gibson definitely has a time machine hidden away under an old blue blanket in the back right-hand corner of his garage near the shelf of empty mason jars, but I am not saying that he doesn’t have one either. Maybe I should have made time-traveler the number one reason?