This is a bit delicate. Due to his attention to detail, and his legerdemain to avoid describing matters he lacks information of, Gibson books are quite defect free. However, that makes those details which do not fit more obvious.
By definition this will seem insignificant to most people, and arcane to several. So is the nature of nitpicking.
In The Peripheral there is one that jumped out of the pages and made me flinch. And then it was compounded when it was mentioned in the acknowledgments (sorry, Martin).
It is the use of roofing tiles as barricade material. It does not seem a good material in its original presentation, as it has a very anisitropic response to deformation, and its layered presentation creates the possibility of channels and paths of minimum energy to push through. However, is they are turned (the flat parts towards you and the enemy), it is actually a great kinetic energy dissipator, with the layers now playing in favor of stopping projectiles and maximizing the elastic properties of the material. However my opposition arises from another angle.
Recycled plastic and tyres are flammable. Not much, but they are, and once set alight they burn at high temperatures and produce toxic smoke. Tyre fires are the worst kind of fires, and there are a few that have lasted for months. What I would like for an undefended barricade, but not for a stronghold, specially when you consider how easily sieges end up in flames.
Sandbags have been in use for over a century for three main reasons. Cheap, reasonable stopping power, no secondary shrapnel. Any construction store will have sand, or as an alternative, concrete bags. Concrete is much finer and may raise dust clouds. That can be both an advantage and a disavantage.
In the Spanish Civil War salt bags were used as an alternative, and it is also used in huge quantities in the food industry and in water treatment. Other products are usually easy to find, palletized in bags, and fairly innocuous, but I am sure Home Depot has sand bags, ready made (thin polyethylene is not a great material, but you could also use woven polypropylene big bags).
If it had been themselves who had brought the idea, I would not have bristled so much. But an AI from the future? And mentioned half a dozen times?
Books, just like the ideas they contain, like to travel.
So as that title suggests, share with us where you enjoy to read "The Peripheral".
Inspired by CuspTech, who posted a picture of Spook Country in Antarctica. But keep in mind, the view out of your rainy kitchen window, no matter what a crappy corner of the world it might seem to you, is almost guaranteed to be exotic and wonderful to somebody else.
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."