William Gibson on the future

Novelist William Gibson interviewed by BBC News:

The rapid rate of technological and social change means the future comes crashing towards us faster than ever before, says visionary science fiction author William Gibson.

“In the 1960s I think that in some sense the present was actually about three or four years long,” he said, “because in three or four years relatively little would change.”

That stood in sharp contrast to late 2010, he said, when big changes had become a daily occurrence.

“Now the present is the length of a news cycle some days,” he said in an interview with BBC News.

That ferocious rate of change made writing about the present day exciting, he said, and explained why his current novel, Zero History, is set around about now.

“The present is really of no width whatever,” he said.

Realising how things were speeding up made Mr Gibson take a conscious decision to recalibrate what he described as his sense of “contemporary weirdness” that fuels his writing.

“By the time I had finished my sixth novel I had this nagging sense that my yardstick of contemporary weirdness was really an 80s yardstick,” he said.

“There’s a sense in which I need the formal official metric unit of contemporary weirdness in order to know how much I can successfully expand that and induce science fiction’s characteristic cognitive dissonance in the reader.

“What I actually found was that this contemporary weirdness was incredibly expansive and the deeper I looked into it the weirder it got,” he said.

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