Thursday, August 8, 2019

Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson

I’m closing in on being a William Gibson completist. After this I’ve only got 4 books left; the Bridge Trilogy and the short story collection Burning Chrome. I started in an odd spot for a person of my age. I didn’t read Neuromancer and its sequels in their 80s and 90s heydey. I began with Pattern Recognition in 2010. Despite its contemporary setting, that book and its sequels are structured as science fiction novels, despite all the technology being more or less available at the time of publication. It turned out to be a great starting place.

Periodically over the years I would watch YouTube videos of him lecturing or in conversation and found that he was a fascinating and insightful thinker outside of his fiction as well. Often in spite of the fact the topics and questions fly in the face of his insistence that he is not a futurist; a debatable claim. The same brilliance and tension is on display in Distrust that Particular Flavor, which collects his nonfiction pieces written between the late 80s and early 00s.

This gives insight into Gibson’s obsession with Japan. Into the making of Johnny Mnemonic (I didn’t realize how involved he was in the process of adapting his short story). Into the mind of a collector. Into his view that technology more than ideology drives social change. Into the ways science fiction is more about the time it was written than the actual future and how frustrating it is when most people seem not to get that.

I’d recommend reading the fiction before this, but this is a fascinating look at his thought over the years with commentary from the year of the books publication. If you’re already a fan of his, it’s well worth a read. If not go read The Peripheral, Pattern Recognition or Neuromancer. Then read this.


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