William Gibson Biography

William Gibson Biography

William Gibson might be a postmodern renaissance man. First of all, he is known as the father of cyberpunk, and he is even credited with inventing the term "cyberspace" in 1982. Gibson wrote the wildly successful sci-fi book Neuromancer in 1984; it was the first novel to win the three most prestigious science fiction awards: the Nebula, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo. In addition to sci-fi books, Gibson has also collaborated on an alternate history novel, cowritten two episodes of The X-Files, guest starred in the miniseries Wild Palms, written lyrics for Yellow Magic Orchestra and Deborah Harry, and contributed to several magazines (Wired in particular). Gibson’s work has also been brought to life on the big screen in the films Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel.

Facts and Trivia

  • Gibson ran away to Canada in the late 1960s to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, but he was never actually drafted. He has remained in Canada since then, despite keeping his United States citizenship.
  • Gibson has written several works that have been used as performance art pieces across the globe.
  • The films Hackers and The Matrix were both inspired by Gibson’s work. In fact, the computer that gets broken into in Hackers is called “the Gibson.”
  • The band U2 is featured on the audiobook of Neuromancer, and members of U2 also appear in the biographical documentary about Gibson called No Maps for These Territories.
  • Despite writing futuristic cyber sci-fi, Gibson composed Neuromancer on a manual typewriter.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

William Gibson Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

William Ford Gibson was born on March 17, 1948, in Conway, South Carolina. His father was in construction and helped build the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, facilities where the first atomic bomb was built. In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, Gibson fled to Canada to avoid the draft. He attended the University of British Columbia, earning a bachelor’s degree in English. Settling in Vancouver, Gibson began publishing science-fiction stories with “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” in 1977.

In 1984 Gibson’s first novel, Neuromancer, a noir thriller about cyberspace and artificial intelligence, became an instant cult classic and earned three major science-fiction awards: the Nebula, the Philip K. Dick, and the Hugo. The book inextricably linked Gibson to the cyberpunk movement, which was a group of writers who dealt with the rising influence of the Internet and the growing integration of advanced technology to everyday life.

Neuromancer was the first in Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, named after the megalopolis that dominates the United States East Coast. Count Zero (1986) followed, then Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). Several short stories in the collection Burning Chrome (1986) also take place in the Sprawl, most notably “Johnny Mnemonic” and “New Rose Hotel”—both of which were later made into movies, for the former of which Gibson wrote the screenplay.

After the Sprawl trilogy,...

(The entire section is 564 words.)

William Gibson Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

William Ford Gibson was born on March 17, 1948, in Conway, South Carolina, to William Ford Gibson and Otey Williams. That he was born around the same time as the publication of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) is auspicious, given Gibson’s contributions to utopic and dystopic literature. Gibson’s father was a civilian contractor who helped build the Oak Ridge atomic bomb facility during World War II. After his father died in Gibson’s early childhood, Gibson and his mother moved to Virginia, where he spent his youth until he attended boarding school in Arizona as a teenager. To avoid the draft for the Vietnam War, Gibson dropped out of high school in 1967 and left the United States at the age of nineteen. In 1972, he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, and joined the bohemian post-1960’s culture thriving there. Gibson attended the University of British Columbia, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1977. He married Deborah Thompson, a language instructor, and they had two children together. His work as a founder of the cyberpunk movement in the 1980’s and early 1990’s has left a legacy of seminal novels that are essential reading for science-fiction fans and critics and those interested in so-called cyberculture.

An almost overnight success as a science-fiction novelist, Gibson is best known to the general public as having coined the term “cyberspace” and having envisioned virtual reality long before its technological applications were possible. His first novel, Neuromancer, won the 1984 Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards—the three highest honors for a science-fiction writer—in a first-ever sweep. Neuromancer’s descriptions of dystopic urban decay, combined with utopic virtual possibilities, presented the dominant metaphor for cyberspace. The Sprawl series—Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive—merged technology, multinational corporate capitalism, and vast urban landscapes in a mélange that revolutionized and reinvigorated the...

(The entire section is 850 words.)