William Gibson, doyen of cyberpunk, has given an extensive, and thoroughly entertaining, interview to Wired.
In the first of three parts, the author of Neuromancer is asked about the crystal-ball power of his writing, and sci-fi in general. He says:
Science fiction writers aren’t fortune tellers. Fortune tellers are fakes. Fortune tellers are either deluded or charlatans. You can find science fiction writers who are deluded or science fiction writers who are charlatans — I can think of several of each in the history of the field. Every once in a while, somebody extends their imagination down the line, far enough with a sufficient lack of prejudice, to imagine something that then actually happens. When it happens, it’s great, but it’s not magic …
I’m having a week where some well-intentioned person on the internet describes me as “oracular.” As soon as one of the words with a magic connotation is attached — I know this from ongoing experience — as soon as someone says “oracular,” it’s like, boom! It’s all over the place; it’s endlessly repeated. It’s probably not bad for business. But then I wind up spending a lot of time disabusing people of the idea that I have some sort of magic insight…. You can also find, if you wanted to Google through all the William Gibson pieces on the net, you can find tons of pieces, where people go on and on about how often I’ve gotten it wrong.
And Gibson, an inveterate Twitter user, has some thoughts on social media:
My friend Doug Coupland recently tweeted something to the effect that he was once again trying to get into Facebook but he said, “It’s like Twitter but with mandatory homework.” That might be another good way to describe it. With Twitter you’re just there; everybody else is just there. And its appeal to me is the lack of structure and the lack of — there’s this kind of democratization that I think is absent with more structured forms of social media. But that’s actually way more abstract and theoretical than I usually get with these things.
Quite right, too.
But my favourite bit is when he relates how, for five years, he learnt all he could about antique watches – a “hobby” motivated by a desired to “pointlessly know really a lot about one thing”.
And he couldn’t have done it without the net.
In the old days, if you wanted to become insanely knowledgeable about something like that, you basically had to be insane — you had to travel around the world, finding other people who were sufficiently crazy to know everything there was to know about that.
But now you can be a kid in a town in the backwoods of Brazil, and you can wake up one morning and say, ‘I want to know everything about stainless steel sports watches from the 1950’,” and if you really applied yourself, to the internet, at the end of the year you would have the equivalent of a master’s degree in this tiny pointless field.
Gibson fans: you’ll be wanting, too, to read his introduction to the new book Punk: An Aesthetic, republished here.