William Gibson is an author of speculative fiction, most notably his breakout debut novel, Neuromancer, which won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and The Philip K. Dick Award. According to fans, it accurately predicted the aesthetic and cultural influence of the Internet.
His latest novel, The Peripheral, was published this month. It follows a pair who realizes a side job they've been working -- playing a game that simulates guarding a building -- could actually involve murder. Featuring Gibson's signature cyberpunk setting, the story also explores PTSD and the detrimental impacts of capitalism.
Gibson spoke with HuffPost Books about the novel, the ever-growing fusion of our online and offline lives, and his fascination with Twitter:
The Peripheral deals with some themes your work commonly addresses -- a “game” is revealed to be much more than meets the eye. Why do you find that you are attracted to the idea of exposing big conspiracies?
“Exposing big conspiracies” might seem what it’s about at a level of plot mechanics, but I find the world to be more complex and ambiguous than conspiracy theories can afford to allow for. The central appeal of conspiracy theories, I assume, is that they are simpler than reality, less ambivalent, hence comforting. So, while my plot may hold out the offer of revealing an imaginary conspiracy, whatever I may have to say about how the world may actually work won’t be that, but will be embedded somewhere else, in some other way.
Would you say The Peripheral sheds light on your speculations for the future of the Internet?
It’s an extension of my assumption that what we still call the Internet originally seemed like “another space” where we did certain things, but that that’s come to be, increasingly, “the world.” That it becomes the ground of everything, increasingly transparently. It seems to me that we all live today in a sort of partial condition of “Internetness," and daily less partially.
And would you say the book addresses the fine line between games and violence?
Or the increasingly fine line between existence and violence? One of my characters may suffer from PTSD as the result of something she experienced in a game, but I suspect that that’s because she and her friends earn their livings playing on teams, for more affluent players. They feed their children that way, so can’t afford not to play. So the question, then, is whether that’s still “a game”?
What, in your opinion, are the biggest threats the Internet poses, say, 20 years down the road?
I feel less threatened by the Internet than by efforts to control it, generally.
Which contemporary speculative fiction writers do you admire?
Purely in terms of what it may be possible to do with the form, in ways I personally identify with most: David Mitchell, Nick Harkaway, Lauren Beukes, Ned Beauman, Cory Doctorow ... A full list would be very long indeed.
You tweet pretty frequently -- what do you enjoy about Twitter, and what bothers you about it? Are there any accounts you really enjoy?
It’s like having a window open on a very crowded pedestrian thoroughfare. I love the sense of people and ideas passing. The demonstrations of very pure crowd dynamics can be unsettling, though. A shaming crowd, on Twitter, for instance, can feel like something out of Orwell.
You’ve said that you don’t play close attention to computers themselves, but the way people behave around them. How are you able to continue to make that distinction today?
A lot less readily, actually! We are now surrounded by invisible computers. In cars, fridges, our pockets. It becomes difficult to find a human, in this landscape, who isn’t in some sense using one.