William Gibson

By: Adam McGovern
March 17, 2015

Author William Gibson

WILLIAM GIBSON (born 1948), patron saint of five-minutes-from-now, once freaked out an interviewer by revealing that he hadn’t yet watched some zeitgeist-dominating cable serial, explaining that he always waits several years, to see if the mark something makes on the culture is a lasting one. In that way, he was always writing about the present, even before his books started being set there. He sees the circuits that tap into the tree of our primeval impulses and span out to our likely behaviors. Einstein said that the atomic bomb changed everything but the way we think, but the machines that came after it changed the way we think too, and over time are doing more of it for us. Though we all know that the unused-90-percent-of-our-brains thing is a myth, Gibson understands that there are capabilities of it that just aren’t always activated, or haven’t found the sympathetic software yet: association of random facts into consistent narratives; visualization of organizing concepts into concrete environmental constructs; a 24-hour cognitive cycle. Those could be called pattern-recognition, or divination; 3-D modeling, or conjuring; post-humanity, or a trance-state. Early in Gibson’s oeuvre a government op likens a powerful A.I. to a tempting demon, but she’s not looking in the right direction along the timeline; Gibson’s stories are not about things we’ve always known are behind us, but things we always sensed were waiting ahead of us. We’re replaced by new models of ourselves, not anything we create externally, and Gibson is the reverse pioneer, bringing back the flag planted in the everyday of the next century, or the unimaginable, immediately next thing — from cold space, or a shabby sprawling earth, or a wondrous mass mirage, but all from a world we recognize if we look carefully, or a future only our self-centeredness makes us think is ending anytime soon.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: J.D. Beresford, Nat King Cole, Bayard Rustin, Alexander McQueen.

READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).