Producer Allan Carr was once quoted as saying ‘Never meet your heroes’. His reasoning was a meeting he had with his hero Paul Newman, who when he actually met him just turned out to be a badly dressed old man who didn’t want to be there.
I haven’t had the chance to meet very many of my heroes anyway, but last night I did. I went to a talk at the New York Public Library (you know, the one with the lions) by William Gibson, one of my all time favorite authors and heroes. I don’t regret it.
I’ll admit, my first reaction upon seeing him in person was along the lines of “Wow he’s a little bent over old man”, but once he starts talking, that goes away. The moderator of the event had asked him to provide a seven word biography, which he used to introduce him. His chosen words were..
Post War. Cold War. Stop War. Later.
He said this summed up his life. He was born post war, then lived through the cold war, the 60s and 70s and the anti war movement, and now… is “Later.” It also smacks greatly of Ginsberg and Burroughs and the Beat writers he says he first idolized growing up in Virginia.
The fact he crafted such meaning and feeling into seven short words shouldn’t be much of a surprise to Gibson fans. After all, the way he entered the writing world was with what many people (and not just his rabbid fans) consider one of the best opening sentences of a novel of all time.
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
He talked a lot about his life and what influenced his writing, which I won’t get into much because it’s all available on wikipedia and in assorted bios of him, but then something very exciting happened. He broke his almost religious practice of never discussing his current projects, and talked to us about his upcoming novel, roughly titled ‘The Peripheral’ which he says he is about 1/3rd of the way through. He said the book alternates voices from chapter to chapter between a nearish future of about 30 years out that is fairly recognizable, and a very far out future which is unrecognizable, and by his own account, very difficult to write. He said he couldn’t tell us too much about it because unlike most of his past works this one relies heavily on a lot of ‘reveals’ and telling us much about the story would be full of spoilers.
Then he read us the first few pages. Simply amazing, I am one of the few people to hear the beginning of his next book, the world premiere! There wasn’t too much story in the first few pages, mostly scene setting. The character ‘Flynn’ is obviously ex military, living in an antique streamline trailer on his family’s ranch, which he calls ‘the most valuable thing on the property’. He has scars from where ‘haptics’ were removed when he left the military. I can only assume that Flynn himself is ‘the peripheral’ that the title refers to. There isn’t much more to say, like I said it was mostly just scene setting, but it was very exciting to hear it.
I also got him to sign a copy of the 20th Anniversary edition of Neuromancer!
And took a few more pictures..