Through the Looking Glass


The talk by William Gibson that I mentioned in “Get Angry and Change Things” is from a newspaper interview carried out during his promotional tour for Spook Country, and not, as I thought, a talk of his. I rediscovered it a few days ago, and it is worth reading properly.

Stranger Than Fiction

As uncannily as Gibson has sometimes foreseen the future, there are other times when the events of the real world outstrip anything he could conjure up. In 1998, for example, when Viagra was brand-new and he was presented with a sample, he examined it carefully and responded incisively, “It does what ?”

Behind the hotel courtyard lunch table, a Marine helicopter roars low over the Potomac. Thoughts turn to the future of Washington. Could Gibson have predicted that in 2007, two leading candidates for the presidency would be a white woman and a black man?

That’s the problem with his game, he says. “If I had gone to Ace Books in 1981 and pitched a novel set in a world with a sexually contagious disease that destroys the human immune system and that is raging across most of the world — particularly badly in Africa — they might have said, ‘Not bad. A little toasty. That’s kind of interesting.’

“But I’d say — ‘ But wait! Also, the internal combustion engine and everything else we’ve been doing that forces carbon into the atmosphere has thrown the climate out of whack with possibly terminal and catastrophic results.’ And they’d say, ‘You’ve already got this thing you call AIDS. Let’s not –‘

“And I’d say, ‘ But wait! Islamic terrorists from the Middle East have hijacked airplanes and flown them into the World Trade Center.’ Not only would they not go for it, they probably would have called security.”

It may also have come from a talk somewhere, but I’ve long since lost the original reference, so this will have to do.

Through the Looking Glass [Washington Post]

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