Science fiction icon William Gibson will be appearing at the Central Library's Montgomery Auditorium this Thursday, August 16 at 7:00 p.m. (This event is free; no tickets required.) His latest novel, Spook Country, was released earlier this month. Mr. Gibson took a few moments to chat with us about some of our favorite topics.
What role have libraries played in your life?
My mother, an avid reader, bootstrapped a tiny storefront library into operation, more or less single-handedly, when I was about 10. My hometown had lost its public library to a fire, years before. But I have been more a user of the secondhand shops than of public libraries. Probably out of some need for randomness, and freedom from the merely popular.
What was your favorite childhood book?
It changed constantly. I recall a two-volume set of Doyle's Complete Sherlock Holmes as an early favorite.
What made you think you could be a writer?
Science fiction writers were more accessible, and at 14 or so I had written Fritz Leiber a couple of fan letters, and gotten very kind postcards back. This showed me that writers, even favorite ones, were actually people, which until then I hadn't been entirely sure of.
Who are the three authors you think everyone should be required to read--which books would you start with?
I don't think people should be required to read anything. I've always reacted negatively to “required” reading, myself, as a reader. Putting it on a required list was always the easiest way (or the only way, in some cases) to keep me from reading something. In some scenario where future Americans were only allowed to read a single work of fiction, and it fell to me to choose, I'd opt for an omnibus unexpurgated Tom ‘n Huck. I'm yet to see Twain make anybody meaner or less forgiving.
If you couldn’t write, what other job would you like to have?
I'd like to design streetwear. Seems odd, I know, but it's really another form of “recombinant codes” creativity, which is what writing has always felt like to me. Any streetscape with people is a field of codes, of communication, and the codes that work (rather like Chris Alexander's Pattern Language in architecture) help people look good, feel good. That’s actually the opposite of “fashion,” though.