Cross posted from The Peripheral UK, the notes I took from the discussion and the audience questions. There should be a podcast at a certain point in the future. As well, I am not a native speaker and I have my own preconceived ideas about WG's work. So take it with a grain of salt, or several.
So, the notes.
The conversation focused on Neuromancer, but there was some extra information on closer books. He does not consider his books as trilogies, but "sets". And he has started a new one with The Peripheral, even if it is a natural sequel from the Blue Ant set.
After the Bridge set he found his weirdness standard was way off, as he found the world was much weirder than his books, so to really think about the future he needed to recalibrate reality, and he did that with the Blue Ant set, as they are speculative novels set in the near past. That allowed him to envision not one but two different futures, even if they are otherwise dependent.
Cyberspace, the idea of an imaginary space where all the information exchange needs of the future take place, arose from the interaction of the concept of Personal Computer with the physicality of the first arcade games, requiring big physical efforts from the players. He realized that players would be willing to enter a new physical space in order to keep playing and make big sacrifices to that, while if everyone had a PC, they could build a huge game space, that imaginary place where computer-human interactions took place. And so it was born, and to his surprise people wanted in.
Influences. This was a constant thread throughout the discussion and the audience questions.
In no particular order:
He did not feel he was writing an original, revolutionary work, as he was too aware of the influences on it.
Tron was not an influence, despite the common threads, as the his first story about Cyberspace (Burning Chrome?) was already published when it came out. It however made him aware of the new information economy that would come with computers, and how that would change things in later books.
Blade Runner was an anti-influence, as he almost quit after seeing the movie. However its cold reception and limited distribution made him realize his novel still had a chance. It has influenced a lot of things, but later.
Case's narrative voice owes a lot, of course, to Jim Thompson, Raymond Chandler and, a little, Dashiell Hammet. However it owes most to Bruce Springsteen record "Nebraska". How the future would look through the album's viewpoint.
The Tessier Ashpools are a bit like a miniature Gormenghast, but a Gormenghast uprooted and mixed with Las Vegas.
The biggest influence, as a whole, was Bester's "Tiger, Tiger", a title he likes much better than the final "The stars his destination". That totally showed the kind of tale and characters he wanted to portray. Another Science Fiction tale that influenced the whole story within a computer was Ellison's "I have no mouth and I must scream". Finally, though Dick did not really influence him directly, "The man in the high castle" certainly influenced his understanding of science fiction.
Burroughs was not an influence as such. However he noticed that Burroughs had access to prose abilities that nobody else had. Or as he elaborated, if writers were guitar players, many would not have an effects pedal, a few would have one, and Burroughs had over a dozen of them at his disposal, that enabled him to do things nobody else could. He wanted very badly to have one of those "wow" pedals, so he tried.
The final influence came from his English studies at University, specifically Literary critical methodology, where among others he studied EM Forster's "Aspects of the novel". It really affected the formal aspects of the novel, and one point that made him think he was on the right track: Forster's claim that a writer fully in control of his characters is not doing his job right. As someone who could not control his characters, that was encouraging.
Case's attitude to meat, his rejection of the physical that would so much influence others, was actually a pose, a lie, from his own shame with himself, what a piece of shit he is. He lies to himself because he cannot face his own feelings. His saving moment, when he becomes a hero and activates his superpower is when he refuses to surrender, when he realizes he cannot lose one more time. So he pushes on, and wins.
Related to it, Case's addiction is not to a high tech drug but a low tech one for stylistic reasons. That way he injects some "street dirt" into the story, a small dose of reality. That will come back later.
Relationship to London. In a weird turn of events, Neuromancer was initially more successful in UK than the USA. So he has been invited often, with each new book and more. So he has seen the place change and grow. He has always preferred to return to a place he knows well than to visit a new one. By now this is the only foreign place he feels comfortable enough wandering (in his fiction) without embarrassing himself.
Richness of language. A technique he did overuse while writing Neuromancer was that when he got stuck he could push forward by elaborating and using more complex language forms. So almost all occurrences of such indicate moments of writer panic.
The big conglomerates and the socioeconomic awareness in the novel. That is another deliberate decision to avoid the failures of classic science fiction, which traditionally ignored the real requirements of an economy, and influenced by a lecture at University on Multinational Corporations, where the lecturer made the point (in 1977) that an alien would recognize multinational corporations as the dominant life form in our planet. She offered a compelling argument so he integrated them in his view of the future.
Religions. Someone asks about the absence of religion in Neuromancer, even as we have this godlike characters. That is mainly due to the fact that we have a single viewpoint character, Case, and this character simply does not give a shit about religion, in the same way that he does not give a shit about normal people, so there are none in the book. Later books with different viewpoints allow him to explore those aspects.
The Turing Police. It does not have any hidden meaning or message. It was just a distraction, a tool to transmit a message to Case, that he had been a very bad boy, before getting chopped into small pieces and never seen again.
Movie. An extremely recurrent event, even if Hollywood has failed to get far on turning the idea into reality. Fortunately he is not the kind of man that feels that a big budget Hollywood film is the ideal final form of a novel.
Brands. The use of brands started as a deliberate effort, as he found the lack of brands a failure in classic science fiction, as the world around us is fully branded and that will not go away. Then he started to be fascinated by the fictional brands themselves and what they meant about the future world.
There are a few more, but I do not recognize my own hand writing, so I go to sleep.
[Edited to clear up a lot of typos. Typing with your fingers on a rebellious iPad at 1 am are not ideal conditions. I also deciphered the Burroughs mention]
"Thanks to the duplicitous nature of NIMBYs, now we have three levels of censorship happening here in Hollywood: Organizations erecting digital walls around our most famous landmarks, technology companies lying to tourists about our geography, and a faction of vigilante residents cracking down on bloggers who are trying to disseminate accurate information about our city."
Thread Manifesto/Mission Statement Thingy: A space in this dusty old paleoweb "forum" ghost town for the improvement of the penmanship, ideation, and creative manuscription of our resident narcissistic solipsistic schizophrenics who talk to friends in their head writers.
(Google Translation to Millennialian): A hashtag chan w/ no char lmt 4 u 2 get cray good at long-winded serial-tweeting.
(Plain English): A writer's circle for those of us looking to get some feedback on our work, develop some kind of creative community / comraderie, and all of that good stuff.
Rules of Write-Club
1.) We don't talk about write club (jk, tell everyone, especially your rich aunt with the makeup line who can kickstart us all Amazon premium distribution deals)
2.) Each post must have at least a few sentences of commentary, praise, constructive critiquing, exclamations of abject horror, impassioned rantage, or self-righteous indignation gentle suggestion for the writing of at least the previous poster. Feel free to give feedback / respond to others as well, but at least the last guy so no one feels le shunned.
Sorry to bite into the market share of Write Something Now, but honestly, that thread kind of feels like scribbles on a bathroom wall in a dive bar frequented by eloquent drunken English majors.
(Full disclosure: I'm trying to get something into Gil's Mythaxis, so I have stock in this venture.)
Since we've got a tabula rasa here, I'm going to shanghai some material from elsewhere on the board, since dumping my own Google Doc cache would be in poor taste.
Originally Posted by Stage Drifter:
My name is MetaX and my Book Club is the best in the world!
Internet addresses are forthcoming, but we are close to the start of the third ride before the release of the new book, people! That's awfully soon.
So the launch party is set!
I'm setting everything up. The computer is as ready as ever, and you servers out there know who you are. I've got the uptick!
The blue cheese ain't cheap, and I've somehow hooked up the Lynchburg Lemonade to the tap, so get ready! Jack in to our Mountain Dew drinking contest, which you will need a web cam to participate in, to end with a preposition. I've even got the keyboard hooked into the mainline, so it's all online. Music on list is techno "Buddy". Well there's different voice overs of the word "Buddy", and it goes on with music for a long time. And screw it, I've got "Men Without Hats" as backup. There's music, dude!
I'm working on the sacrifice, and am making progress. All hail the mechanical bull. Adrenaline junkie, level 4! We know you're out there! And seriously it's all good, but don't lose it. Those are the rules.
And I'm not sure if it's the second, third, or sixth seal, but it's in the kitchen drawer, by the microwave, inside a pencil case.
There's even a large "Hefty" bag full of organic popcorn!
Please sign up, and support the book! We acknowledge you with this party!
Meditate, all of you, on the meaning of the polygonal dice of X. That's our vector, folks, and that's the future. Polyhedron.
Polyhedron, polyhedron, polyhedron, polyhedron.
Just be here, however you do it! It's on.
There's also liverwurst, to go with the cheese, and naughty poetry, for the heck of it.
Join up now! I've even bought a new hoodie for the occasion.
But bring your own ICE. Mine is all mine, and in short supply.
(That's the newbie password, jerks. Don't ask.)
Be you the Pharaoh.
Signed, MetaX, Book Club.
*** BEGIN FEEDBACK
Favorite bits: "Mountain Dew drinking contest". "different voice overs of the word "Buddy", and it goes on with music for a long time." "Polyhedron meditation".
Overall, the core concept of satirizing the problems with getting people, especially gamer-types, excited about books in the digital age, is tight and fresh. I think that's the main idea, at least, although I think I hadn't understood it until about five seconds ago. I'm never sure with Stagedrifter's material though, which can be a strength. I think the lead singer for The National who said, "Ambiguity is everything". And I respect that guy as a writer.
I'm not going to get grammar Nazi on the sentence structure or pacing or and all those fun points-of-contention for right-brain types and people who knit and crochet. I do like the odd phrasing of seemingly innocuous sentences though. I think that could be a signature trait for SD.
*** END FEEDBACK
Ok so here's my little rough grain of sand rolling around in my head, trying to make a pearl for Gil's magazine. Not sure if this is beginning, middle, end, liner notes, garbage better suited to the North Pacific Garbage Gyre, or what. Just what I've got at this point.
They say it was air conditioning brought the Roman Empire to its knees. With the windows closed, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming. The barbarians come, crush their little heads against Leviathan, the automated Dreg-rejection system. Leviathan is Seal Team Six, wrapped in a panzer tank, operated by HAL 9000. A swarming botnet of terminators programmed to throw a gatling hailstorm of uranium-depleted .50 cal at anything without STATUS
Dreg. Noun. The sediment of liquids; lees; grounds. The least valuable part of anything. In the “Golden Age” of America, the Dregs were given jobs in factories bolting plates of steel into Ford Thunderbirds, paid salaries that could support a family. Today, the Dregs are mowed down by heat-seeking, homicidal Thunderbirds, that bolt themselves together. Their families are supported on meathooks.
Now, I’m no Good Samaritan, I’m no Jesus Christ. Hell, I’m not even some Sam Spade hard-boiled head-case with a bushido street-code of honor and a heart full of napalm. Although I confess to drinking of the dark Hammett elixir now and then in my self-driven flying car on the commute.
Oh, did I forget to mention about the flying cars? Yeah, the World’s Fair, “Tomorrowland” future finally arrived. Not evenly distributed, but… You know. Nero sent manslaves up the Apennine mountains to make his personal ice cream, when it was invented. Ice cream tech was a 0.1%’er thing. The Bourbon Kings had their personal cake, ate it too. Rockefeller drank up all the Gilded Age milkshake. Kind of fucked up, but c’est la vie.
I’m a blue blood. One of them. I’ve got STATUS (Stratoplex Access To Upper Sectors) and ECLAT (Elite Citizen Legally Allowed Titles). I’m a made man. I’m the son of the Holy Roman Empire. Got the predecessor to prove it, too; my dad’s name is Julius. Sardonic laughs all around any time dad mentioned his name and empire in the same sentence, which was often. He’d let his fellow white shoes laugh it up. The next week, he’d own them. Veni, vidi, vici. A real gold-star tycoon, my dad. Real overachiever.
The family business? Everything. Merger of a tech supergiant and a war profiteering “oil”igarchy conglomerate. We’re in social media, e-retail, p-retail, you name it. Toilet tissue and robo-childcare, data mining and gold mining. Frakking in the arctic, selling vaccines for petri-evolved superstrains of small pox, weapons contracting for World War III, end-of-world credit default swap brokering, the whole nine yards. We’ve got “offices”, more like hyper-metropolitan fortresses, touching down in every city that doesn’t sprain a Geiger counter, isn’t overrun by meth labs, velocibears, uber-blight, and cannibal warlords, and has some natural resource left to stripmine.
Like I said, I’m not Jesus. I don’t deliver you from evil. I can opt out, sure, but I’m not Spiderman. If I try to put the brakes on 300 years of gonzo capitalism, I’ll just get pushed off some fluted-marble, gold-sided balcony, and the next jackal in the diabolic Randian pez machine will slide into my corner office.
So it’s 4:30 AM, and I’m awake. My mind is running a million miles a second. In a few hours I’ll be turning in my letter of resignation. No big deal, right? A job’s a job. Except I’m a division head of one of the biggest corporate city-states in the world. Oh yeah, and my dad is the CEO.
Ok, technically it’s a transfer, but I’m daddy’s little scion, and the destination is to Canuckistan, and so this amounts to resignation. In the hawkish, horn-rimmed eyes of papa Ceasar, I’ll be classified as a draft dodger. Traitor. McCarthy trial pending. Charges: aiding and abetting the communist party, deserting during the Cold War against feuding corporate empires.
I always lived in the mile-high-club, but when I was a kid, I remember at least you could see the street. I remember getting “Picantedogs” with dad after school, stopping by our favorite food truck. Fresh salsa sourced from hydroponic, local co-op operations. Cheddar, sour cream on a plump frank and artisan bun. Mess your face up good. I look out my bullet-proof window now and all I see is a blanket of pollution shit out by our sub-level autonomous factories, forced down throats below by some sadistic application of meteorological science that probably won a Nobel Peace Prize. Somewhere, down in the drug-addled, sludge-inundated slumsprawl of the Dregosphere, I imagine the Picantedog food truck, converted into a meth lab.
Look up, I see ten thousand-foot castles, lit up like electric gold and ivory birthday cakes, floating above the aphotic, coal-grey necropolis below . Lonely, malice-filled towers of Babel. Prisons of wealth. The Stratoplex. Hushed marble offices populated by hyenas in tailored suits pushing each other from the nearest balcony if it means they move a rung up the totem. I’m surrounded by smiling colleagues, sure. Plastic-beautiful faces, pretty as money can buy. They’re all future Brutuses. Waiting for pappy Julius to slip, so they can plant the knife and take this high-altitude Empire for their own. I can’t call on these people. Hell, I wouldn’t trust’em to call an ambulance if I choked on a remoulade crab cake.
I need out of here. Out of the Stratoplex.
Up north, New Canada, they say there are still cities with buildings that open out onto the ground. Drag yourself up with a gunshot wound, hospital won’t close the door if you don’t have platinum credit. Ice cream for everybody. Democratic republics. I want to start my own food truck, up there, on those streets, if they exist. They have this thing called Japadog, amazing miso-franks, furikake snow. Maybe I’ll call mine, “Anglodog”. Whatever. I’m over empire. It’s tasteless.
Listening to rather than reading this. A bit of a challenge at first w/the lexicon of newly minted as well as newly purposed words, but am keeping up so far as Gibson is great w/contextual clues. I think that's part of the fun. But I also think it might be fun to compare and contrast one's understanding of some of those words with that of others, thus this thread. If you are the go-it-alone type in this regard, you might want to bypass this one.
First up: Sounds like "Maenad crush"? Is that how it's even spelled (remember, I'm doing this audio)? On chapter 25 at the moment, and this term has surfaced a couple of times so far. Most recently when describing the curtains surrounding Ash's workspace nook in Lev's Notting Hill "garage."
"This is one nation under God!" You got to respect!
I have to admit to you that even if you do religion witha long prayer you go through a process that is the same. Because so many people yell at you for two and a half hours. They just don't give up. There is always a new victim for them. The vitizimation is begging. Relgious people are not that educated. Becuae they are looking at it with hate.
Even priests need assistance. SEriously, though, how can they teach when they know nothing?
I like to eat beef with khurd onn it. I am going to try buttermilk next. Or was it invented in America? Some say Europeans discoverd the technology in America?
Allot of socalled Indian programmers are supposed to do programming for a living but most I know are int he stupid hosue. Anyone who goes against Dharma will be annihilated.
Chaes Manhattan. THe proud sponsor of 911.
P.S. I have observed Jews drinking tea. Eva Brown died by drinking tea. Much like Adam and Eve died by eating the apple.