William Gibson 1948–-
(Full name William Ford Gibson) American-born Canadian novelist, short story writer, and scriptwriter.
Gibson is a leading practitioner of cyberpunk, a futuristic subgenre of science fiction that combines the tough atmosphere and scatological language of hardboiled crime fiction, imagery from the punk counterculture movement, and technical developments of the 1980s. Like the new wave science fiction writers of the 1960s, who introduced such topics as sex and drugs to a traditionally conservative genre, Gibson updates conventional science fiction concerns to reflect contemporary trends. His short fiction has been published in several periodicals and collected in Burning Chrome (1986).
Gibson was born on March 17, 1948, in Conway, South Carolina. He grew up in a small town in Virginia and developed a strong interest in science fiction from an early age. Gibson was heavily influenced by the noirish, subversive work of such authors as William Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Thomas Pynchon, and J. G. Ballard. He dropped out of high school and moved to Toronto, Canada, in 1967. A few years later he moved to Vancouver and enrolled in the University of British Columbia. After receiving his B.A. in 1977, he began to write science fiction stories and had some of his early work published in Omni magazine. In 1984 he published his first novel, Neuromancer, which attracted much critical attention. In fact, the book was the first novel to win all three major science fiction awards: the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards. Since that initial success, Gibson has issued numerous novels, a short fiction collection, and has written several scripts for film and television.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Gibson's reputation as a short fiction writer rests on his 1986 collection, Burning Chrome, a volume of his early short stories that also include pieces written in collaboration with fellow cyberpunks Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, and Michael Swanwick. Several of these stories have been widely anthologized in science fiction magazines. Stylistically, Gibson's work is characterized by frenetic pacing; Gibson also utilizes features such as flashbacks, vivid imagery, juxtapositions, and metaphors. Central to Gibson's stories are his grim vision of the future, misfit characters, the role of memory as well as the artist in society, and a reliance on dense layers of technological information and slang. For instance, in the story “Johnny Mnemonic” (1981), the title character hides a stolen microchip in his brain. He is pursued by a Japanese crime syndicate, intent on killing him and recovering the chip, and later saved by Molly Millions, a bionic hit woman with razor blades under her fingernails. The story was made into a movie in 1995. “The Winter Market” focuses on the relationship between Casey, an engineer, and Lise. Dying, Lise has her personality encoded as a computer program and stored on a computer. After her death, the computer calls Casey every morning. He now must address his grief while reconciling the reality of Lise's physical death and her continued existence in the memory of the computer.
The stories comprising Burning Chrome are generally praised for their craftsmanship and subtle portrayals of characters caught up in fantastic events. Reviewers have commended Gibson's bleak envisage of the future and of the disturbing role of technology in society and on human interaction. Gibson's portrayal of multinational corporations and their growing role in the world is considered by some commentators as insightful, disconcerting social commentary. Yet some critics regard Gibson's work as superficial, immature, sometimes impenetrable, and only geared toward young, technologically savvy males. Despite these charges, Burning Chrome is a well-regarded collection and Gibson's short fiction is perceived as an integral aspect of his oeuvre. Moreover, Gibson is viewed as a vital voice in the science fiction field.