Kind-of met William Gibson the other day. He was in SF for the launch-ish event of his clothing line at Self Edge, which seems to be a shop full of jeans fetishists down Valencia a ways. They’re the only outlet for his stuff in the US, I’m given to understand, and flew him down for a meet and greet. Present were a fairly interesting cross-section of people from the area. Must admit that I felt a bit out of place, and spent the entire time talking to other people. I’d always imagined that I’d have something to say to Mr Gibson, seeing how big an influence he was on my early reading, but it turns out that I do not. I’m uncertain why that is, but mostly I think that it’s a matter of divergent interests.
Most genre fiction tends towards examination of people in extreme conditions, under huge amounts of strain. The quotidian is discounted, the self relevant only in its reaction to how characters shoulder the weight of the story. Gibson’s characters are drill bits, experts in arcane fields (cyberspace, brand impact, san francisco’s psychogeography) slotted into place to drill through obstacles, powered by the hydraulic pressure of hidden oceans of money. They’re given an infinite expense account, often in the shape of a special credit card or chip, access to pull and influence, and set free. Their interests are never entirely aligned with those of their employers. This is a major source of reversals. Events are set in motion. Our protagonists barely survive asphyxiation by the avalanche their actions have begun. All of this happens, again and again, in very precise prose, in a tone that rarely reaches far from wistful, as if relating a series of interesting but unfortunate accidents.
While I still read all of his books with interest and enjoyment, they mean less to me than they used to. I spent a long time trying to write like Gibson; this turned out to be a mistake. In figuring out why, I seem to have partially ruined my enjoyment of his work (and that of other influences who’ve undergone the same treatment). Somehow, that transition drained me of any real desire to talk to the man. I suppose that I should have said something, “Thanks for Count Zero,” at the very least, but I spent the entire time talking to the friend I had come with and woman with fascinatingly intricate hair about his zoot suits and politics and her search for suitably debauched men’s dress shoes, amongst other things.