I think we may be headed for something, in the early 21st Century. People will probably look back from the mid-21st century at what we call , and see it like the precursor phenomenon to what ever it is they’re going through. – ( #12 1994) CYBER NOODLE SOUP no. 12

Cyber Noodle Soup is published from time to time, usually whenever we have a couple of pages of material

Another obscure interview…


William Gibson is probably the first name the average person would associate with cyberpunk. His early short stories and his first novel, , set the scene of the second new wave of SF, brilliantly documented in the anthology that I encourage all those interested in cyberpunk to buy. Recently he has moved on to other subjects and has written the world’s first "" novel, , with . His latest novel is , which I plan to read as soon as I get the time.

This interview was done on the 1st of October after a reading from Virtual Light held in Waterstones bookstore. Unfortunately, due to background noise, slight bits of the conversation didn’t record well on the dictaphone and therefore have had to be excluded.

Ed PROTOTYPE – Could you tell me about VIRTUAL LIGHT?

William Gibson – When I put the proposal to the publishers one of the things I said to try to get them to buy it was it would be like an Elmore Leonard set in the near . To some extent it attempts that but it wound up having a lot of other peculiar agendas running in the background, some of them poking fun at… well, not so much my earlier works as some responses to my earlier works that I found so funny.

William XXXIII – Do you believe the future will turn out like you say it will?

W.G. – No, no. I don’t think that stuff is being predictive at all. What I’m really trying to do is to throw the present into a different perspective. This book really isn’t extrapolative in any classic SF sense. It’s something else. I’m not at all sure what it’s doing as it’s not the result of an entirely rational process.

Ed – What do you think of, for example, being called "the father of cyberpunk"?

W.G. – It’s been going on for a while. Someone in London the other day called me "the Milton of the ". I like that one. It was getting pretty silly. Somebody else called me "the James Brown of cyberpunk".

W. XXIII – Do you think that cyberpunk fits into , Lettrist International, Situationalism, rock, that sort of thing..

W.G. – Yeah, actually I do to some extent. Particularly the original literary movement of cyberpunk to the extent that there was one. W. XXIII – But do you think that if someone carried out your teachings they’d be as successful as Situationism as carried out in Cambodia by Pol Pot (Editors note – William XXIII has some funny ideas about Pol Pot. Don’t ask me why…)?

W.G. Whoa, man. That’s an amazing question. No ‘cos there’s no theory behind this stuff. These books aren't’ didactic. In a funny sort of way they pretend to be but that's’ sort of a fictive conceit. I don't’ think you can use these as blueprints for anything really.

Ed. – No, they’re not blueprints for living…

W.G. – I don’t think so. No, but all the original cyberpunk phenomenon did indeed have something historically in common all of those various other flirting moments. Have you read Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus?

Ed. – Yeah…

W.XXIII - ….and the Spectacle by Guy Debord.

W.G. – Yeah…

Ed. – What do you think about all the hype over virtual at the moment?

W.G. – Well, I think its ready for the museum of obsolete . It has almost become are sort of kitsch. It joined the flying cars of the 1930s. Which pretty much means.. I think that whatever is going to be is not going to be anything like the model girl with goggles and gloves… which is actually a very good objective paradigm for what television has already done to us.

W.XXIII – What does cyberpunk actually have to do with punk rock which is primitive and about going back and attacking the leaders?

W.G. – Well… It’s funny. It was the tile of a peculiar short story which was not in itself in any way cyberpunk.

Person watching – By Bruce…

W.G. – Yeah.

W.XXIII – Was it stupid?

W.G. – Well, I’ve never read it but I understand it wasn’t that memorable. But Gardiner (? – Ed) (…) appropriated just because he saw its usefulness in what I suspect was a conscious act of propagation. He was trying to be an agent provocateur by saying this movement exists he actually cause it to crystalize.

W.XXIII – But Malcolm McLaren did the same thing with punk. You need agent provocateurs to put a name on things.

W.G. – Yeah, indeed.

Ed – So what do you think of ’s adoption of cyberculture? W.XXIII – Do you think he’s just a pathetic old man?

W.G. – No I wouldn’t go that far… I think he’s just…. He obviously has burnt out.

Ed – He’s trying to make himself credible again (come to think of it, was he ever very credible?)…

W.G. – Yeah.

Ed – It never really works… trying to make yourself credible.

W.G. No probably not… I doubt it…..

After this, the interview lapsed into a conversation so pointless I wont even both printing it. We are thrown out of Waterstones and make our way back to my house for some caffeine…

From Prototype #8 (1994?) out of Dublin, Ireland. No attempt has been made to correct spelling or syntax.


All Tomorrow’s Parties (2) - JPC

Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties is an enjoyable book so far as it goes. Filled to the brim with that trademark grit and detail of the near future which Gibson is so rightfully credited, the novel engages you at once. It's something of a reunion tour bringing together characters from the previous Virtual Light and . Colin Laney, a man able to see the emerging future, so to speak, out of patterns of information is hiding amongst the homeless in a cardboard box at the subway. Sensing that the world is fast approaching some epochal shift he is both an observer of events and an agent of change. Lany hires Berry Rydel, the cashiered cop from Virtual Light, to investigate matters for him in California. Rydel is working as a security guard at the Lucky Dragon in LA, a chain of worldwide 21st century convenience stores. He is instructed to go to San Francisco and retrieve a mysterious package near The Bridge, Gibson’s great artifact from Virtual Light. He is then to hang out on The Bridge making himself visible. Whatever forces are at work will find him. Meanwhile, Chevette, fleeing an abusive boyfriend, arrives at the The Bridge with her graduate student housemate who is doing a documentary on "interstitial" communities -- of which The Bridge is a prime example. Also in play are a Taoist assassin lurking in the area, the shopkeeper Fontaine and an autistic young boy named Silencio who possesses a strange talent involving antique wrist watches, and Harwood, a media powerbroker who, like Laney, senses some seismic paradigm shift approaching. Harwood hopes to control the emerging future so that his privileged status in the old order will continue in the new. This involves a technological "whatzit" called the "nanofax" and the Lucky Dragon convenience store chain.

The tale emerges in a series of mostly short chapters jumping from person to person. This gives us an opportunity to tour the future. And the future is just okay. The world of ATP is not startlingly different from today, or I should say the 1980s. Gibson liked to say that The Sprawl books were actually fables of Reaganomics. Gibson still writes within that environment of drab marginal cultures, impoverished people, feral violence, overweening corporations and impotent governments. When Neuromancer came out, that was a not unreasonable scenario. By 1999 that seemed a most unlikely outcome. If the 90s have been about anything it's been about color and flash and speed. Unless Vancouver is a particularly awful place, Gibson's claim that he is writing about today is wrong; he's writing about yesterday. The two major sf devices, Laney's talent for "sensing" the future and the nanofax, are outright red herrings. Laney's ability to see emerging patterns and nodal points is a mystery. He essentially watches television (it's more complicated than that, but not much more complicated). How does that work? Gibson is vague. The nanofax is more or less the replicator device from the -- God help us! -- Star Trek universe. It exists within ATP in splendid isolation from any other technological innovation and is completely improbable. The two features exist solely to get the plot moving and bring it to an end; in between they hardly exist at all.

Character development is pretty minimal. What motivates these people? The Tao assassin is a total cipher. He works for Harwood but acts against Harwood's mercenaries The Bright Young Things. He becomes allied with Rydell but we're never sure why. Fontaine and Silencio are present, frankly, to pad out the book and give Gibson a chance to demonstrate his geek knowledge of wristwatches. (Gibson has a serious watch fetish.) Rydel, it must be said, is a klutz. Time and again his foes get the drop on him and he has to be saved by an outside party. (In this respect he resembles Dekkard in who gets trashed by all four in turn and whose heroics consists of shooting two women, one in the back as she runs for her life.) Rydell is a nice enough guy but he's more hapless than heroic. And the Idoru -- what's going on there?

Of course the descriptions and details of the book's background world are all brilliant. It's what Gibson does best. As a concept, The Bridge is not particularly viable. Yet as a place it's completely believable. You can easily imagine walking along the corridors and shops of this "autonomous zone" over the Bay. When Laney is on camera, the action and explication slow to a crawl but Gibson' s evocation of Laney's cardboard box hideout is stunningly realized. But of all the places described in ATP, that cardboard box is the most amazing piece of writing. You can actually smell it. And that is the main strength of ATP, indeed of all of Gibson's novels. It seems real while you read it. When you finish the book, then you start the "Hey! Wait a minute!" quibbling. (Like, "Hey! Wait a minute! Two million gallons of water weighs 8000 tons! When that hits….") But by then it's too late. Gibson has had your head for a couple of hours and, really, it's a good feeling.

"First Person Shooter" -- the recent Gibson episode on The X-Files by James Lileks

… another angry Xfiles screed. I loved the Cops episode; loved it. This week’s show was enormously depressing. Fox "" Mulder fights Lara Croft while playing Quake Arena on the holodeck! What absolute dreck. What total utter KREP of the worst order. Here’s what I learned from this week’s show:

1. Programmers never use a mouse. All computer input consists of typing quickly while frowning. And no one ever makes a typo.

2. Programs are not only capable of running themselves, they can run independent of computers and electricity - don’t even think of wandering down to the junction box and cutting off the juice, because the computer will prevent you from doing so, somehow. Yes, the same machine that goes blue screen when it eats some rotten javascript code is capable of running a simulation involving millions of simultaneous, random instructions AND monitoring the fusebox panel

3. The shutdown command that saves the day also destroys the program. And of course there’s no backup of the program, so we need never worry about this again.

4. no longer requires goggles - indeed, computers are now somehow capable of projecting images into physical space that exceed the quality of images they can project on the inside of a CRT.

5. When designing a game for mass audiences, make it so hideously difficult that "No one’s ever gotten past level two." Oh, that’s a game I want to play.

6. Female programmers who sign on to design violent action games are stunned and humiliated to find testosterone is involved. 7. Crappy script writers who sign on to write scripts about violent action games believe that comments about testosterone indicate insight into the male psyche.

8. If your friend is in danger of losing his life, you will nonetheless lose all perspective and say things like "Whoa, she’s in the zone!" with a grin on your face.

9. In 2000, people who spend all day on the computer still use the word "cyber." A lot.

10. In a city the size of , police can find a woman in minutes based on a 72 dpi printout of a skin.

11. Having trouble finding out what happened in the program? Go to wireframe mode! Doesn’t do anything, but it looks like something is happening.

12. Game geeks quote marketing slogans - "The bloodthirst is unquenchable!" - without irony.

And so forth. I don’t know if the script’s little inside jokes - the Thresh-like gamer, the substitution of "Retro" for "Neo" - were meant to assure the geeks in the audience or just wink at them, as if to say "we know you know this sucks." But suck it did. And from William Gibson! Oy. I mean, this one hurt on every level, and it just kept getting worse and worse until the unbearable voiceover ending. To say nothing of the needless squandering of the Lone Gunman’s cachet. This show hasn’t just jumped the shark, it went face down on the concrete with a groin full of spokes.

(Thanks to Scalzi for the "jump-the-shark reference." It means a show is past its peak, and refers to a Happy Days episode.)

Some Gibson sound bytes.

I can see one of the flaws in the realism of my work is that in my fiction, technology almost always works. I didn’t have nearly enough things that break or that don’t work and nobody knows why. It’s all so cranky. - New York Times May 22, 1995

Y’know the technical community’s ability to read my words as prescriptions for technology never ceases to amaze me. Social criticism and irony just seem to have passed these guys completely. - i-Zone [e-zine] May-June 1996

1984 is called 1984 because it was written in 1948. But a lot of mainstream, traditional science fiction writers, particularly in the United States, I don’t think were conscious that they were writing about the era in which they lived. I think they actually thought they were writing about the future. I’m different in that from the very beginning I was self aware and I was aware of that so there’s a level irony there that isn’t present in a lot of stuff. And I think that’s because I came from the first generation who conceivably could have discovered and William Burroughs in the same week. Prior to us, that wasn’t possible.

If we could get a long distance-phone call from 1965.... If we could get a long-distance from me, from myself in 1965, I’d be saying, "Wow, did we win this sexual revolution? Have we gone to the moon or Mars?" What am I going to tell myself? I’m going to say, well, we did but we’ve got this contagious sexual cancer and you can’t really have sex with people you don’t know unless you’re wearing a really heavy duty condom. Yeah, we went to the moon for about five minutes but nothing ever came of it. And, by the way, the Soviet Union doesn’t exist. - Addicted to Noise 2.10 [e-zine] Oct. 1996

We live in a series of overlapping science-fiction scenarios. - Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service Jan 8, 1997 When did it become necessary to explain what's so cool about ? Everyone was quite obsessed with it 15 years ago. Have we gotten used to them? I find them more interesting in their post-Bubble state than I did when they were the center of the world. I suppose it's the only Asian country that developed an imaginary entree to me. That's why I go back. - Toronto Globe & Mail November 23, 1999

The people in the world who are the closest thing to the idoru might be the girls with the webcam who get these cults of guys who I guess are in love with them or have a crush on them, and sort of pay to watch them…do nothing. - Entertainment Weekly October 8, 1999