I turned up an hour earlyÂ for William Gibson’s talk at the library, promoting his new non-fiction collection Distrust that Particular Flavour. Gibson was, as usual, an interesting speaker, ranging from why he thought he would never be a non-fiction writer (too much of a perfectionist to deal with journalistic deadlines), how science fiction ages (more like milk than wine)Â and his views on intellectual property and piracy.
During the question session, a female fan asked why this event, which filled the Alice McKay auditorium, was so well attended by women. She compared it to a Neal Stephenson reading which had one women in a sea of guys. Gibson said that when he was getting serious about writing, the most innovative science fiction in the USA was feminist science fiction, so this informed his earlier work.
Local literary figure Carellin Brooks introduced him as a “science fiction writer”, and I wondered if he still consideredÂ himself that. There’s a long, long route from Molly Millions to Cayce Pollard. Has he turned his back on his earlier work? This topic was on my mind during and after my David Cronenberg essay, as there are certain similarities in their career paths. Both moved from low genres like science fiction and horror to high genre like literary fiction and costume drama.
During the autograph session afterwards, I asked him if he still considered himself a science fiction writer. He said that he still considered himself a science fiction writer in the same way he still considered himself a Virginia boy:Â they were his roots.Â I think Gibson’s answer was pretty good, reflecting his evolution as a writer and the evolution of his work. Pattern Recognition still feels like Gibson, even if it is set in the immediate past.
(I wish I’d had a chance to see him sign somebody’s Kindle or other ereader, which according to his Twitter feed, he does sometimes.)