Tuesday, June 03, 2008

William Gibson Says Writerly Things

William Gibson's latest novel, Spook Country, has come out in paperback so he was in town. The upstairs "reading room" at U. Bookstore was packed with stargazers. I got there a half-hour early so I could get a good seat. And I was not disappointed.

A famous novelist like William Gibson should say writerly things. Things that you may have heard your English Lit. prof. say way back in the day. But, coming from William Gibson, it's better. So, Gibson does say stuff like "the common convention is that science-fiction is about the future. It's never about the future. It alway says more about the present and the past because that's all we have. The novel 1984 is great science-fiction. In fact, it is the best novel about 1948 ever written." This from an author who this year is to be inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

But there's also the quirky, the somehow profound little nuggets too. Stuff that maybe on warm summer nights back in the college days, doing bong hits with other liberal arts free-thinkers, you might have come upon in a flash of hazy casu consulto lucidity.

Except Gibson is completely sober, if a little quirky, in a creative genius kind of way. "When I am writing," Gibson said, "I am discovering questions. Questions move me forward, answers do not. I'm not looking for answers." So, even at a bookstore reading, you can know that the twists and turns, the ups and downs of life, are not so much problems to be solved as a mystery to be lived.

And, further on the subject of the writing process, " Starting a novel is ugly and awkward, like starting out to make a rubberband ball" Gibson said. "In the beginning, the rubber bands are just awkward, asymetrical knots but after a while you can start to snap bands onto them; it becomes easier, and they become this nice spherical shape, and then you have a ball. That's what writing is like."

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