[IMAGE VIA CLR]
Following on from my second to last post, I’ve decided to ramble on about another culturemaker, which I’m hoping to become a (relatively!) regular feature of this blog. A culturemaker being someone that has shaped or influenced culture in a rather significant, often visible, way; be it through an idea, theory, act, event, production, object or design of some sort. So, without further delay, I’d like to turn to the science fiction genre, and specifically to American-Canadian novelist William Gibson (b. 1948)—one of the leading exponents of cyberpunk.
Gibson is best known in trends or marketing circles for his widely, perhaps even overly quoted maxim: "The future’s already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet" . However, there’s far more to Gibson’s sci-fi literary canon than a sweet justification to hire the coolhunting brigade. Gibson has also played an inspirational role in making ‘future culture’ accessible to sci-fi geeks, filmmakers, designers and beyond—as well as adding an air of anticipation and excitement to trend pitches, briefings and yet another trends book!
So, please allow me to play my get out jail free card by saying that this is merely a tribute, call to action, reminder, teaser even—depending on which happens to apply—to some retrospective insights from the cyber-dude himself. Needless to say the full, official, Gibson historiography will be written in the future by cyborg archaeologists far more equipped for the task than I—ironically inspired by one of his own novels of course!
Lets start in an obvious place. The Internet. The Internet has a kind-of awkward piecemeal history; one often neglecting Gibson who deserves much credit for coining ‘cyberspace’ in Neuromancer , and conceptually anticipating its form and role in the modern day. Faris observed the distribution of identity not so long ago, whilst a similar idea has also received David’s trademark graphic design treatment to enhance its viral propensity. Check out this precursory quote then―from Gibson’s short story Johnny Mnemonic —that dates back to good ol’ 1985 (I’m sure the Back to the Future connection is just pure coincidence):
It's impossible to move, to live, to operate at any level without leaving traces, bits, seemingly meaningless fragments of personal information.
Yes, Google your name and providing it’s not John Smith (or similar), I’m sure you’ll soon be reacquainted with some cheesy restaurant review that you submitted in 2001. Or alternatively, you might just find that Linked In has befriended you without the slightest means of permission.
What is more, with web 3.0 rumours brewing, Gibson’s “It seems as though the Net itself has become conscious,”  might not be too far away. But if not, don’t get too worried about it, after all, “The Net is a waste of time, and that's exactly what's right about it” .
Changing the model?
Advertising and branding are increasingly coming under fire: or at least, somehow, they seem to be simultaneously increasing and diminishing in importance. In any Case(y)—sorry, poor Gibson joke—his point that: “far more creativity, today, goes into the marketing of products than into the products themselves” probably helps explain marketers' retreat to productopia.
Not only that, but in a William & Gibson ad agency, rebranding to an ideas agency doesn’t quite cut the mustard:
I want to make the public aware of something they don’t quite yet know that they know—or have them feel that way. Because they’ll move on that, do you understand? They’ll think they’ve thought of it first. It’s about transferring information, but at the same time about a certain lack of specificity .
Re-imagining, re-inventing, re-mixing, re-stating, re-wording, stealing etc. etc.
It’s as though the creative process is no longer continued within one individual skull, if indeed it ever was. Everything, today, is to some extent the reflection of something else .
Okay, so Gibson was hardly the first guy to note this idea—the BBB brothers (Barthes, Bakhtin, Baudrillard) had all cottoned onto something similar years before—, but Gibson’s cultural remix really nails it for me:
This stuff is simulacra of simulacra of simulacra. A diluted tincture of Ralph Lauren, who had himself diluted the glory days of Brooks Brothers, who themselves had stepped on the product of Jermyn Street and Savile Row, flavouring their ready-to-wear with liberal lashings of polo kit and regimental stripes. But Tommy surely is the null point, the black hole. There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more derived of soul .
I have to agree you know. Everything was going just fine before Tommy joined the cultural (re)production line …
I only know that the one constant in history is change: the past changes. Our version of the past will interest the future to about the extent we’re interested in whatever past the Victorians believed in .
Yep, Gibson knows his history, and equally the importance of always historicising:
When I began to write fiction that I knew would be published as science fiction, part of what I brought to it was the critical knowledge that science fiction was always about the period in which it was written. '1984' is really about 1948. It can't really be understood outside the historical context of 1948 .
To the extent that, arguably, “one day we’ll need archaeologists to help us guess the original storylines of even classic films!" .
And when you get intellectual uberweights like Fredric Jameson  analysing your stories, I guess you know you know you’re doing something right!
It appears this word already has a meaning, but I’m all for polysemy and multivocality! Gibson’s acute observations and depictions of urban culture add a further layer of appeal to his stories. This one particularly resonated with me personally:
Soho on a Monday morning has its own peculiar energy. She wants to tap into that for a few minutes .
The transformation of object meanings, vis-à-vis social action, also finds a home in Gibson’s Burning Chrome , where “the street finds its own uses for things.”
It seems only right to end with the future, and a slightly more modest take on Gibson’s creative futuristic exuberance:
Dreaming in public is an important part of our job description, as science writers, but there are bad dreams as well as good dreams. We're dreamers, you see, but we're also realists, of a sort .
And just to put rumours to rest:
I've had a growing frustration, particularly when I would go out and do book tours and interviews. I got frustrated with people asking me, 'How do you know what the future is going to be like?' And I'd always say, 'I don't' .
 Interview on NPR’s ‘Talk of the Nation,’ 30 November, 1999
 Neuromancer, 1984
 Johnny Mnemonic (Omni, 1981)
 Time Magazine, 19th August, 1996
 New York Times, 14th July,1996
 Pattern Recognition, 2003
 Special to CNN, 4th Feb, 2003
 Archaeologies of the Future (Fredric Jameson, 2007)
 Burning Chrome, 1981
 National Academy of Sciences Convocation on Technology and Education, 10th May, 1993