William Gibson was born on March 17, 1948, in Conway, South Carolina. His father, William Ford Gibson, Jr., was a manager at the construction company that installed the plumbing fixtures in the Oak Ridge nuclear facility, where the first atomic bomb was built. His father’s work required the family to move throughout the southeastern United States. Gibson’s father died when he was eight. After his father’s death, Gibson and his mother, Elizabeth Otey Williams Gibson, moved to Wytheville, Virginia, a small town in the southwestern part of the state where she grew up. Gibson’s mother was an avid reader and helped restore the town library, which had burned down in 1910.
As a boy, Gibson discovered science fiction in a Classics Illustrated comic book adaptation of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine: An Invention (1895), which led him to Wells’s original. He also watched Tom Corbett, Space Cadet on television and read a book on space travel so many times that the cover fell off. As a young teenager, Gibson was reading the works of J. G. Ballard, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Samuel R. Delany, and other science-fiction writers. (Gibson later wrote the foreword to the 1996 edition of Delany’s novel Dahlgren.) At age fifteen, Gibson was sent to a boarding school in Tucson, Arizona, where he discovered William S. Burroughs, especially his 1964 novel Nova Express. Gibson went on to read Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, and Thomas Pynchon.
After his mother’s death when he was eighteen, Gibson dropped out of school and fled from the...
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