Portland/ Recommended Authors

William Gibson at Powell’s: SRO

I wasn’t surprised that there were a lot of people, but I was surprised that I knew so few of them; further evidence that Portland’s nerd community is multifaceted.

We were mostly quiet while he read. Not, I would attest, because we weren’t appreciating the humor and nuance of the language, but because we wanted to be able to hear. It can be tricky when the room’s that crowded.

Steve and I were standing near the elevator. At one point a guy got out, looked aghast at the sea of humanity, and made his determined way toward the Architecture section.

One of the people in front of us appeared to have a double-jointed knee, bent distractingly backward.

Multiple notable handlebar mustaches were in evidence.

The line that got the biggest laugh was near the end of the reading: “Inchmale’s subclinical sadism sometimes finding a deserving target.”

I took notes during the Q&A, but sometimes I just got his responses sans Q.

On what’s next: “Not only do I have no idea, I kind of have to have no idea.”

“I don’t want anybody to think that I’ve gone Tom Clancy.”

“SF is a narrative strategy rather than a genre.”

The next biggest laugh came after the question that began with something like: “I don’t think of you as a funny writer, but…” and went on to praise his humor.

He remarked that he felt that his humor didn’t usually get much attention because journalists can’t do hooks that involve more than two concepts.

Neuromancer was not without a certain comic edge; my colleagues and I sniggered about it mightily…in our cyberpunk ratholes.”

The answer most comforting to the other writers in the room (or to this one, anyway) was when he confessed that he would not recommend his writing process to anyone, that he never gets any more confident about it.

Lots of questions about technology, how his work is both influenced by and influences it, and if there were particular technologies that had surprised him. One answer:

“Try to imagine an sf novel written in 1981 wherein the driving technology is cellular telephony…the world in which we live is irrevocably and multiply and complexly changed by cellular telephony.”

On how it’s different to publish a book now: “Books are surrounded by an invisible cloud of hyperlinks…readers will find easter eggs because you’ll be going to the source material for a lot of what I did.”

On an e-reader demo: “Software that tracks your eye — if your eye is wandering it can give you a DDZT! — or show you illustrations in the margins…”

Authors he recommends: Iain Sinclair, Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, and Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack.

On cyberpunk: “When I started, my model was not the Sex Pistols. I was fired up for the idea of a roots movement: Waylon and Willie going to Nashville and saying ‘You fools, get this plastic shit off the table, this can really kick some ass…'”

On cyberpunk, part 2: “Now you can say ‘That album is cyberpunk. Those pants are a little cyberpunk,’ and people know what you mean. Cyberpunk has become a Pantone chip in the spectrum of popular culture.”

On cyberpunk, part 3: “Anything that begins with a manifesto is going to end up slightly embarrassing.”

I didn’t stay to get the book signed, but I already own it twice: the nice hardcover (although I prefer the UK cover with that cool barcode detail), and the audiobook.

Thanks for visiting Portland, Mr. Gibson. Come back again.

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  • Fashpo
    September 10, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Great write-up! Do you have any pictures from the event?

  • Sara
    September 10, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Thanks! And I thought about taking photos, but from my vantage point it would basically have been the backs of many people’s heads, the occasional glitter of glasses frames, and perhaps a vague suggestion of Mr. Gibson in the distance.

    I saw other folks with cameras and phones in action, though, so I bet there are shots to be found.