Science + Fiction = Zero History: An Interview With William Gibson

From recession-proof military contractors cool-hunting secret, weaponized brands to “gear queers,” viral iPhones and Twitter darknets, William Gibson’s new novel Zero History examines the 21st century’s techno-cultural fetishes with a deceptively simple directive: The future is now.

Gone is the sci-fi pretense of an imagined future, and for good reason.

“All we really have when we pretend to write about the future is the moment in which we are writing,” the 62-year-old godfather of cyberspace told by phone. “That’s why every imagined future obsoletes like an ice cream melting on the way back from the corner store.”

Zero History dissects our paranoid, post-9/11 information overload with an eye for imminent terror and immanent transcendence. Like Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and Don DeLillo’s White Noise before it, Gibson’s new novel is not as interested in riveting plot points as it is in parsing an everyday life swarming with signifiers.

Its main characters — detail-obsessed Russian translator Milgrim, ex-rocker and taste-making detective Hollis Henry, and postmodern marketing mogul Hubertus Bigend — have been retrieved from the pages of Gibson’s previous novels Pattern Recognition and Spook Country to serve as ciphers through which the author’s hypercritical cultural examinations are executed.

I spoke with Gibson in a wide-ranging interview about Zero History, social networking, 9/11, fashionable militarism, brainy endeavors like Inception and The Century of the Self, smartphones and the cinematic adaptation of his sci-fi classic Neuromancer.



Read an Excerpt From William Gibson’s New Novel, Zero History

Milgrim woke, took his medication, showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, dressed, and left the Neo charging but turned on. The U.K. plug-adaptor was larger than the phone’s charger. Keeping the dressmaker’s dummy out of his field of vision, he left the room.

See also:
William Gibson Talks Zero History, Paranoia and the Awesome Power of Twitter

In the silent Japanese elevator, descending three floors, he considered pausing to Google Hollis Henry on the lobby MacBook, but someone was using it when he got there.


William Gibson Counts Down to Zero History

SCI-FI VISIONARY AND father of cyberspace William Gibson returns to the 21st century’s literary wasteland with Zero History. And he’s got the rocking teaser video to prove it.

“Some geezer reads some dialogue from Zero History,” the Neuromancer and All Tomorrow’s Parties author tweeted Monday, adding a link to the clip above and commenting that he found the trailer’s hyperspeeding “imagery all quite apt.”

Does he feel the same way about the promo video’s slick rock riffage?


March 17, 1948: Father of Cyberspace Born

1948: William Gibson is born in Conway, South Carolina. He later blossoms into legend with the prize-winning fiction that gives the world the term cyberspace.



William Gibson: I’m a Natural Born Twitter Machine

When asked if he had ever wanted to wear a uniform, Gibson responded with a sharp cultural critique delivered in his stellar style and wrapping with a shout-out to Nicholas Roeg and David Bowie’s sci-fi classic The Man Who Fell to Earth:

When was I last out of one?” Gibson wrote. “The extent to which we are all of us usually in uniform brings to mind [Brian] Eno’s definition of culture: Everything we do that we don’t really need to. Pajama bottoms beneath a raincoat? Out of uniform. Jeans with one leg cut off? Out of uniform. Contracultural apparel disturbs us. Countercultures are intensely cultural. Bohemias have dress codes as rigid as those of merchant banks. We all read uniforms, constantly, whether we’re aware of it or not.