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[..] William Gibson, the novelist who coined the term “cyberspace” [...]

I feel a little embarrassed for him whenever someone brings this up.
posted by wayland at 5:17 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel a little embarrassed for him whenever someone brings this up.

That was awesome back then. Everyone wanted to jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace. Experience new wave, next wave, dream wave and cyberpunk.

BTW: I think Gibson is talking about Neal "Everything invented since 1968 has sucked" Stephenson.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:27 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Nostalgia for the future ain't what it used to be.
posted by kcds at 5:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love nostalgia. But the trick is to love it while not trusting any of it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't trust any predictions of the future over 30.
posted by sammyo at 5:30 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Remember when we said there was no future? Well, this is it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:31 PM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I thought maybe Sterling, but Sterling is less dour than given to gleefully rolling around in a perpetual state of pee-apocalypse.
posted by Artw at 5:31 PM on February 8, 2012


PRE- apocalypse.

DO NOT GO TO THE PEE APOCALYPSE.
posted by Artw at 5:32 PM on February 8, 2012 [37 favorites]


The golden age of pee-apocalypse stories was pretty much pissed away years ago.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:33 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


The golden age of pee-apocalypse stories was pretty much pissed away years ago.


So glad you didn't include "showers" in there. ;)
posted by usagizero at 5:35 PM on February 8, 2012


Ballard would be it's big proponent.

That was awesome back then. Everyone wanted to jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace. Experience new wave, next wave, dream wave and cyberpunk.

Cyberspace is now banal because it is ubiquitous.
posted by Artw at 5:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you ever jacked in?
Have you ever wire tripped?
No? [smirk] A virgin brain.
Well, we're gonna start you off right.
This isn't like "TV only better", this is life. Yeah, this is a piece of somebody's life. Pure and uncut, straight from the cerebral cortex.
You're there! You're doing it, seeing it, hearing-hearing it. You're feeling it.
It's about the stuff you can't have, right?
Like running into a liquor store with a .357 magnum in your hand, feeling the adrenaline pumping through your veins. I can make it happen. I can get you anything you want. Ya just have to talk to me. Talk to me, talk to me, talk to me, talk to me. I am your priest. I am your shrink. I am your main connection to the switchboard of souls. I'm the magic man. The Santa Claus of the subconscious. You say it. You even think it. You can have it! Are we beginning to see the possibilities here?

You know you want it
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:38 PM on February 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


DO NOT GO TO THE PEE APOCALYPSE.

WHAT?! NOW YOU TELL ME!
posted by P.o.B. at 5:40 PM on February 8, 2012


Had no one really used the word "cyberspace" before Burning Chrome? Huh.
posted by Justinian at 5:48 PM on February 8, 2012


jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace

Then there was "surfing" the web. Like a surfer, duuuuuuude. There really was a time when people wanted the internet to be Poochie the Rockin' Dog really really bad. Now it's just a really useful tool.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:48 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


DO NOT GO TO THE PEE APOCALYPSE

I know what you're thinking. 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why, oh why didn't I take the YELLOW pill?!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:03 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


BTW: I think Gibson is talking about Neal "Everything invented since 1968 has sucked" Stephenson.

He's still sore about the opening chapters of The Diamond Age.
posted by sourwookie at 6:14 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still sore about the closing chapters of The Diamond Age...
posted by outlaw of averages at 6:28 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


The title of this article just really sounds to me like it should be a mnemonic for something.
posted by moss at 6:46 PM on February 8, 2012


Gibson figured a number of clever ways around his "After us, the Deluge!" instincts. First, he co-invented steampunk... yeah, it had been kicking around on the periphery, the way cyberspace had, but man, he and Sterling figured out the zeitgeist, and nailed it to the wall. You want a golden age? Here's your fucking golden age, and yeah, it's fucked up, too.

Second, he fell in love with objects that were intrinsic in their beauty, endless in their fascination, yet completely obsolete - and worthwhile because of the three factors. He found immortality in slubby jeans, mechanical calculators, Volkswagon Phaetons and Russian ground-effect military vehicles.

Thirdly, he clung to his Marty Stu characters, and he insisted they be clueless dupes, with a talent they didn't really understand, surrounded by competence and energy they aren't a part of, but can merely witness, with only as much resentment as a screwdriver, as they are used by the forces around them.

Also, Darwin's Bastards is a fantastic collection, and I endorse it entirely. Great stuff if you're into Canadian postmodernism in science fiction short story form.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:54 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think Gibson is talking about Neal "Everything invented since 1968 has sucked" Stephenson.

Eh? I've never really thought of Stephenson as either particularly down on the future or nostalgic. I've read pretty much all of his fiction, what have I been missing?
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:55 PM on February 8, 2012


I agree with Gibson on the futurists, too. I've wondered for years what the past-due date is on armaggedon and the singularity? Kind of like when year 2000 and The Rapture never ammounted to much. Can we ever just say, "Okay, we were wrong. Future has come and gone. What's next looks like something totally new and exciting, but not at all what we thought" - ?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:01 PM on February 8, 2012


Great link. And great post header.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:10 PM on February 8, 2012


Thirdly, he clung to his Marty Stu characters, and he insisted they be clueless dupes, with a talent they didn't really understand, surrounded by competence and energy they aren't a part of, but can merely witness, with only as much resentment as a screwdriver, as they are used by the forces around them.

I like your other insights but I don't think calling any of his characters Marty Stu (or Mary Sue in Molly's case) is fair. They're all pretty flawed and fucked up, aren't they?
posted by Sebmojo at 7:12 PM on February 8, 2012


I've read pretty much all of his fiction, what have I been missing?

Oh, his solve for x talk and his innovation starvation stuff.

Mostly I am just annoyed at Reamde so I am kind of joshing him. I kinda get the impression he has some kind of hate on for nerds nowadays because we didn't provide him with a jetpack, he only got twitter and facebook,
posted by Ad hominem at 7:18 PM on February 8, 2012


Yeah, by that I mean he has characters that are clearly representations of himself, leading a glamorous and exciting life, and interacting with the other characters in flattering ways - Milgrim being the most obvious, Cayce less so.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:22 PM on February 8, 2012


Someone once told me that the concept of the future is a modern invention. Throughout history most people expected things to pretty much stay the same forever. Radical short term change was rare, hundreds of generations toiled and died. Every once in a while there was a great leap forward. I think we may be heading back into a lull. We have already won all the easy victories of this age. There is no reason to go into space, we may not have enough natural resources to keep going at this rate, and people are tired. I think this may be a cyclical nature of human kind. Maybe we need 500 years to recouperate.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:35 PM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


That was awesome back then. Everyone wanted to jam with the console cowboys in cyberspace. Experience new wave, next wave, dream wave and cyberpunk.

hell yeah!!
posted by delmoi at 7:39 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


BTW: I think Gibson is talking about Neal "Everything invented since 1968 has sucked" Stephenson.

He's still sore about the opening chapters of The Diamond Age.


....

In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?

Neal:

You don't have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

The first time was a year or two after SNOW CRASH came out. I was doing a reading/signing at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson's Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson's arms. Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head...

posted by ovvl at 7:46 PM on February 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, come on! I mean, really? He just happened to have his short sword handy? Pfft, fake.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:51 PM on February 8, 2012


He's still sore about the opening chapters of The Diamond Age.

Huh?

Stephenson's books aren't really even about the future. Snowcrash and The Diamond Age were stories set in "the future" as a sort of common backdrop, not anything I thought he thought might actually happen.
Can we ever just say, "Okay, we were wrong. Future has come and gone. What's next looks like something totally new and exciting, but not at all what we thought" - ?
Who says it will be new and exciting? Maybe it will just be the same old boring shit. Or maybe the same old boring shit but with robots. Like Ad hominem said, in the past, there was no 'future' because things didn't change quickly. It was only when things started changing rapidly that people started to fantasize about what's next. But maybe in the next few decades it will be over. We'll have advanced as far as we can go, and reach the limits of science and knowledge.
posted by delmoi at 7:59 PM on February 8, 2012


You should have seen the meetup when jscalzi and cstross met. Stross started it, with a semiotic weapon planted on the video feed to the bar's big screen TV, and Scalzi responded by plunging a butterly-chainsaw he had hidden in his boot-top into Stross' eye socket, severing his wireless implant. Then Jessamyn told them to take it to MeTa.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:01 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like your other insights but I don't think calling any of his characters Marty Stu (or Mary Sue in Molly's case) is fair. They're all pretty flawed and fucked up, aren't they?
Gibson always a lot of "normal person" characters in his stories, in contrast to Stephenson, who's characters are always exceptional people. You have the example of Bobby Newmark in Count Zero, the girl from Florida in Mona Lisa Overdrive (can't remember her name), and Berry Rydell from the bridge trilogy. These were characters who were just 'along for the ride' in a sense. You also had characters like Chia Pet McKenzie or Kumiko who had more agency but were very 'normal'

Compare that with Reamde where everyone turned out to be a super badass by the end of the book.
posted by delmoi at 8:18 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


He's still sore about the opening chapters of The Diamond Age.

Huh?


Bud at the beginning is Stephenson's parody of a cyberpunk protagonist like Case.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 PM on February 8, 2012


Dunno about that, he's more of a generic Cyberpunk-As-Writen-By-Second-OrThird-Hand-Hack badass, and a bit thick to boot. Case was never thick.
posted by Artw at 8:36 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't think of any really dumb Bud like characters in Gibson. They are all pretty canny. Even the unlikable ones are canny. He also has a thing for people with a sort of zen like perfectionism, ninjas who can shoot playing cards blindfolded, systema experts.These zenlike experts are almost all so deeply focused are flat and emotionless, and totally flawed. He never has a Stephenson style Greatest Hacker/Greatest Swordsman/All Around Awesome Guy character.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:57 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wired: I listened to your Intelligence Squared interview with Cory Doctorow. From what he said, it sounds like a lot of people in Singapore sort of have a complex about you referring to their country as “Disneyland with the death penalty.” Is that the most worked up that people have gotten over something you’ve written, or are there other examples?

Gibson: No, that’s the only thing I’ve ever written that caused a national government to make a formal complaint to the publisher [laughs] … and then to ban the magazine for a while.
posted by delmoi at 9:12 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As far as Gibson's self-insertion in his stories, I imagine Konrad from All Tomorrow's Parties as looking exactly like William Gibson. I happened, for whatever reason, to look at the photo on the back of the book while reading one of the Konrad chapters, and thought, "Holy shit, he could play Konrad if they ever made a movie of this one", followed immediately by, "Holy shit, that means that Bill Gibson looks like a stone-cold killer."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:46 PM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


the girl from Florida in Mona Lisa Overdrive (can't remember her name)

Mona. Mona Lisa. Although now she goes by Angie Mitchell.

I always thought Gibson Praise, the telepathic chess playing kid from X Files, looked exactly like William Gibson and that it must've been deliberate. He did co-author a couple X Files episodes.
posted by Babblesort at 10:06 PM on February 8, 2012


TERRIBLE X-Files episodes.
posted by Artw at 10:46 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dunno about that

I should have said:

Bud is a parody of a cyberpunk protagonist.
Case is an example of a cyberpunk protagonist you might have heard of.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:39 PM on February 8, 2012


You don't have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

Gibson replied: I would have liked to have gotten him permanently out of the way shortly after reading Snow Crash, of course, but I could already see that I would need him one day to help battle Bruce Sterling. Literature is a long game.
posted by Zed at 12:00 AM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Compare that with Reamde where everyone turned out to be a super badass by the end of the book.

Gonna have to take your word for it as I have never been able to get to the end of a Stephenson book. Dude writes great set-up though.
posted by bukvich at 6:19 AM on February 9, 2012


TERRIBLE X-Files episodes.

What was your problem with Kill Switch? I liked that one, and due to my work, I was in a position to judge the technical accuracy/probability of the subject matter. I thought it was a great stand-alone ep. And I did not cringe too hard at any of the tech either.
posted by some loser at 6:39 AM on February 9, 2012


Maybe we need 500 years to recouperate.

Might need to add a zero or two or three, if we use up all the easy wins.
posted by rory at 7:45 AM on February 9, 2012


Blarg, Kill Switch's problem was mostly that it was that it was written and directed like it was Fox Mulder Writes William Gibson Fanfic, which could be great if done deftly and with a lot more self-awareness about the cybercheese stuff, but as it was it was just tonally awful and felt like a string of bad jokes about cyberpunk that Gibson and/or the production staff thought worked a lot better than they actually did.

It might have worked fine as a one-off episode of something that didn't already have it's own strong narrative and aesthetic tone, but it was jarring as an X-Files episode.

Still wasn't near as bad as First Person Shooter, though. For that Gibson should be barred from TV writing by court order.
posted by cortex at 8:18 AM on February 9, 2012


There needs to be a William Gibson stripper name generator.
posted by Artw at 8:26 AM on February 9, 2012


First Person Shooter was just awful. Kill Switch had a hacker woman character who went by the handle Invisigoth which did make me giggle at least.
posted by Babblesort at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2012


Well I never. Jade Blue Afterglow's name is, apparently, a name inspired by that of a real life stripper with a silly name. I'd have thought he would have pulled it out of thin air as the most Gibsonian thing posible.
posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2012


Still wasn't near as bad as First Person Shooter, though. For that Gibson should be barred from TV writing by court order.

I've always found First Person Shooter so bad on so many levels, that I find it kind of baffling. Season 7 of the X-Files is well into The Decline at that point, but good lord. It was the episode that put me off watching X-Files completely for various reasons (I would've quit anyway when Duchovny left the show anyway, but still).

Gibson did have a co-writer on the episode. I choose to blame that dude for it more than Gibson, but who knows (TV writing credits can be funny things).
posted by sparkletone at 12:59 PM on February 9, 2012


Bud is a parody of a cyberpunk protagonist.
Case is an example of a cyberpunk protagonist you might have heard of.
It's been such a long time since I've read that book I don't really remember that character.
Gonna have to take your word for it as I have never been able to get to the end of a Stephenson book. Dude writes great set-up though.
I thought the first 500 pages of Reamde were great (Especially the first quarter). The second half... not so much. Stephenson should really try writing a 250 page book. It also felt like, he thought up all these interesting ideas, about the real world and a game world, and then kind of went nowhere with it.

That said, the "Stephenson can't write endings" thing is really more of a meme then reality. He actually talked about how, for Anathem he had everything plotted and marked down exactly how everything should work out. And it makes sense. The baroque cycle worked out, and Reamde actually probably has the most elaborate and logically consistent ending in a book -- the problem is that it was all kind of boring.

The thing is, Stephenson is actually a really funny writer, and his books almost end up seeming somewhat like parodies of themselves.
posted by delmoi at 1:17 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is "Even the Greeks thought that things were getting worse, thousands of years ago!" really the best historical example for an anti-pessimist to use? These days the Ancient Greeks are mostly famous for a democracy that failed to catch on and a whole lot of once-beautiful ruins.
posted by roystgnr at 3:51 PM on February 9, 2012


roystgnr: clearly the greeks are better off today then they were 3k years ago, even with their current economic problems.
posted by delmoi at 6:01 PM on February 9, 2012


So on the Gibson vs. Stephenson thing, what I noticed when I read Zero History and Reamde back-to-back in the same week, right after going on an EDC kick, was how derisive Gibson's characters seemed toward EDC/tactical-clothing-wearing types, dubbing them "mall ninjas" (as opposed to the "professional" Systema-practicing shadow people and Bigendian armored-car types, I suppose), whereas Stephenson's characters seem to live in a Geek Social Fallacy No. 4 kind of world where EDCers (especially the gun-nut kind) find themselves in situations where they get to make valuable and integral contributions to impromptu alliances of awesome people. Without being too specific, Gibson's EDCers mostly get mocked and killed for their imposture; Stephenson's tend to be smart and lucky enough to make it out alive and continue to indulge their geek hobbies with the friends, lovers, and future business partners they've found.

When I noticed that, it made me wonder if it's just a matter of knowing one's audience and choosing to say (in Gibson's case) "Ah, but you know better...EDC is just gadget lust, a hobby, an indulgence—it won't help you against the truly bad people" or (in Stephenson's case) "Ah, and you know, this little hobby just might save you someday when you're up against the truly bad people." Or maybe it isn't deliberate at all, and just reflects some difference of experience on the part of the two writers.
posted by limeonaire at 7:53 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


limeonaire: Sure but there is a big difference between the early sprawl stuff and the later stuff. Molly and Case in Neuromancer are clearly the badass type.

Also I have no idea what you mean by "EDC"
posted by delmoi at 11:31 PM on February 9, 2012


Also I have no idea what you mean by "EDC"

Wikipedia Pete suggests that it refers to this.
posted by sparkletone at 10:32 AM on February 10, 2012


Yeah, I'm going to go with mall-ninja there, with a side order of dangerous idiot.
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


[shrugs] I'm an EDCer, always been into keychains and the like, so this just makes them useful. I don't think basic preparedness or having good tools on hand is a bad idea; the many AskMe threads on "What is the best X?" suggest that a lot of other MeFites feel similarly.

But yeah, I just thought it interesting that both authors are addressing the rise of this sort of enthusiasm for tactical gear from quite different perspectives.
posted by limeonaire at 4:50 PM on February 10, 2012




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