William Gibson: how I wrote Neuromancer


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After Neuromancer: “We’ve arrived at a level of commodification that may have negated the concept of counterculture,” Gibson said in the Paris Review.

Is there a quality of human experience which resists commodification? Good story subject.


Still my № 1 favorite book and the only one I can see myself rereading more than one time.


the experience of being commodified has until lately resisted commodification, but when companies become willing to pay you for your time viewing their ads even that starts to crumble.


That’s a great example — it partly makes me wonder too at what point that humans begin to reverse commodification by humanizing previously commodified relations.


Is it better, though, than paying companies to not see ads?


That book was still crazy futuristic when I first read it when I was twelve ( a few years after it came out). I think we’ve all become inured to how fast things have been changing since then, in that it seems very much a product of its time.

If you’d told me twenty years ago that Bruce Sterling would be writing design fiction and William Gibson would have a fashion label now, you’d have blown my mind.


Try his latest The Peripheral. It’s absolutely freaking fantastic. I’ve read all of Gibson’s books many times each, and love them all, but The Peripheral is really just amazing. Not sure if he’s said whether or not it’s going to become a trilogy or series, but man, I sure hope so, because I can’t wait to see where he takes it.


I think one could argue that this is already happening. I’d even argue that Anonymous is an example of this – the anti-commodification of “anonymous” online communities, which have, of course, become largely commodified via Facebook, Twitter and the like. Heck, art like Banksy and Sheperd Fairy also began like this, although interestingly they have become re-commodified through their success and fame. I think you could say that many things vacillate between commodification and anti-commodification, and the definition of “hip” and “cool” all relate to things surfing the edge between those realms.


Great article which I hadn’t read upon its first publication, so thanks for highlighting it bb!

Gibson has been by far and away one of the most influential people on my life, period. Neuromancer rocked me when I first read it as an early teenager in the beginning of the 90s, when I was also discovering these silly things called “modems” and this thing called “the internet.” Gibson (and later Stephenson) painted a vision of reality that I realized was, essentially, coming true over the course of my particular lifetime. And I had better get with the program, if I was to survive in a near-future, often dystopic sci-fi reality. It’s worked out quite well for me – Gibson’s books have been absolutely critical “training manuals for the future” which is exactly how I’ve always read them.

And man oh man, is 2016 the year it all seems like it’s starting to kick in, between VR (cyberspace), 360-degree immersive video (simstim), etc. Exciting times!


Anonymous is an interesting example. The mask image is a sort of brand that can be commodified. Their actions are often reported like a criminal disturbance story, like Occupy or SDS used to be reported. But they have maintained some autonomy since the identity is apparently shared among more than one person. They also choose actions which are self-defining to some extent, i.e., they are releasing secret files rather than organizing demonstrations.


Anonymous is so similar to the themes of the two seasons of the Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series, definitely worth checking out.


Thank you! I will check that out. I was thinking of Mister Robot too.


Twenty years ago could you have guessed that Gibson would have a fashion label and still be writing while Bruce Sterling had become kind of irrelevant.


I’d buy his books if I could get them on kindle in Australia.


Surely there are used book stores or charity shops down there?

He did write some good stuff a long time ago and one fun short story a year or so ago


Yeah but I have given up on paper. After 50 years of collecting, I have no more storage.


No. We’ve adopted a model of capitalism that is increasingly concerned with redemption in a way that blurs the line between consumerism and activism. You are what you buy, and if you buy nothing, how can you have any impact?


I am currently reading it! Seems fun so far, but even more confusing than Neuromancer. Still, I don’t think any book could be as stylistically perfect to me, but that may of course be because I associate so many things with Neuromancer.

Schismatrix + is my second favorite, by the way, with Snow Crash being third. After first reading Neuromancer I just had to get my hands on every cyberpunk book I could find, even if they were long out of print and only available used at the Amazon Marketplace. So far, nothing beats the original!


Nope. Bruce Sterling was on a roll all through the '90s, and hasn’t written anything great since then.