Tag Archives: william gibson

William Gibson

A Shopping List

“I don’t begin a novel with a shopping list – the novel becomes my shopping list as I write it.”

William Gibson


From Conversations with William Gibson edited by Patrick A. Smith. While I love this quote, this particular interview conducted in 2011 by David Wallace-Wells is excellent as a whole. An extended version of the exchange is below but you can read the whole thing over on The Paris Review, “William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211.” (Paywall.)


David Wallace-Wells: How do you begin a novel?

Gibson: I have to write an opening sentence. I think with one exception I’ve never changed an opening sentence after a book was completed.

David Wallace-Wells: You won’t have planned beyond that one sentence?

Gibson: No. I don’t begin a novel with a shopping list—the novel becomes, shopping list as I write it. It’s like that joke about the violin maker who was asked how he made a violin and answered that he started with a piece of wood and removed everything that wasn’t a violin. That’s what I do when I’m writing a novel, except somehow I’m simultaneously generating the wood as I’m carving it.

E. M. Forster’s idea has always stuck with me—that a writer who’s fully in control of the characters hasn’t even started to do the work. I’ve never had any direct fictional input, that I know of, from dreams, but when I’m working optimally I’m the equivalent of an ongoing lucid dream. That gives me my story, but it also leaves me devoid of much theoretical or philosophical rationale for why Me story winds up as it does on the page. The sort of narratives I don’t trust, as a reader, smell of homework.


FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images


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Cyberpunk is Real

Cyberpunk is Reality

Yesterday, I came across a tweet from Carl Zha (okay, technically it’s from his auntie) that included a video clip of evening skyline above the city of Chongqing in southwestern China. There is a cyberpunk quality to the city that enthralled me. I felt as if Chongqing was plucked from the pages of William Gibson’s Neuromancer or Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Below the tweet, Zha also linked to the following video which goes even further, giving the viewer a close-up view of the city which only further cemented my opinion, check it out below.

The slick soundtrack and artistic jump-cuts only add a level of depth that expands the ultra-cool visuals of a city of the future. For a Westerner, it’s almost hard to imagine Chongquing as a real place. Our own cities are dull by comparison. This is the stuff of anime and Hollywood blockbusters, not reality.

It’s easy to become absorbed in the sleek aesthetic and forget that the cyberpunk genre was meant to serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unregulated capitalism, economic inequality, and the rampant abuse of technology. Warnings we’ve mostly ignored. I hesitate to prognosticate on the ramifications we’ll face. As Gibson once said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

At least Chongquing looks cool.