Ok, so here’s the second half of the William Gibson Weekend story. Told as a Thursday Thirteen, because that way I can kill two birds with one stone.
- That same night, there was a multi-author reading, titled “Encounters”, on the Mainstage. Six authors were on the docket, though one couldn’t make it.
- Quoting from the programme:
Lawrence Hill and Linda Leith move characters through changing landscapes. Brenda Hasiuk, David Chariandy, and Marie-Claire Blais [who was the no-show, IIRC] gather intersecting characters in one space. William Gibson hooks these two ends of the spectrum and complicates it with virtual dimensions.
- They ran three authors, then had an intermission, followed by the last two authors. As things were getting set up I saw Gibson come in and sit in the audience, over the in corner.
- The first three authors read from their works: Linda Leith from The Desert Lake, David Chariandy from Soucouyant, and Brenda Hasiuk from Where the Rocks Say Your Name. All were interesting; I particularly liked Chariandy and Hasiuk.
- At the intermission, I went up onto the stage, and had a chat with David Chariandy, who is perhaps my age. He’s a professor of English at SFU (Simon Fraser, not San Francisco). He was polite and enthusiastic. I also told Brenda Hasiuk that I’d enjoyed her reading — her description of riding around a frontier town in a pickup truck rung true, and I could almost feel the fabric of the seatbelt as she read.
- After this I glanced down into the audience. William Gibson was still sitting there in his chair, and there was still no one around him. What the hell, I thought, and went down into the row in front of him. I introduced myself, told him I’d always enjoyed his work — I read Count Zero when I was fifteen or so, and it told me there was a whole new kind of science fiction, something I’d never read before. It hooked me.
- We had a brief chat, mostly centered on a) me trying not to say “OhmygodIloveyourwork” over and over again and b) how Gibson’s work has come closer and closer to the present.
- Consider: The Sprawl trilogy was set in what I assume would be the 2080s or so, given little hints in the narrative. The Bridge trilogy was probably closer to about 2030 or so, if I had to guess. But his two latest works — Pattern Recognition and Spook Country are set in the present. The past, in fact: Spook Country takes place in late 2006.
- Gibson made the point that, really, the world we live in now is at least as science-fictional as anything he’s come up with in his novels. Constant personal connectivity, the world-wide web and the Internet it overlays: it reads, in some ways, like something out of Neuromancer. Just add some hustlers and an unhealthy dose of street drugs.
- (True story: My sister bought me Ting Ting Djahe ginger candies for Christmas one year. They looked and tasted exactly as I’d expected from their description as Julius Deane’s candy of choice in Neuromancer.)
- Gibson was very gracious, and I sure hope I didn’t come across as a raving fanboy. He was very approachable, and I kind of wish I’d have stayed longer, talking, but I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. So I went back to my seat, and waited for intermission to end.
- McNally Robinson had a table set up, selling the books from the authors that night, so when he came up to read, Gibson just grabbed a copy of Spook Country off the table. He reads in a bit of a monotone, something I knew to expect from having seen him read on TV. What I wasn’t ready for, though, was his accent: soft and Southern. After all, we may claim him as a Canadian, but he was born in South Carolina and grew up in Virginia.
- And that’s my William Gibson story.