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William Gibson (1948)

William Ford Gibson

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  Summary  

William Ford Gibson is an American-Canadian speculative fiction novelist who has been called the "noir prophet" of the cyberpunk subgenre. Gibson coined the term "cyberspace" in his short story "Burning Chrome" and later popularized the concept in his debut novel, Neuromancer . In envisaging cyberspace, Gibson created an iconography for the information age before the ubiquity of the Internet in the 1990s. He is also credited with predicting the rise of reality television and with establishing the conceptual foundations for the rapid growth of virtual environments such as video games and the World Wide Web.

Having changed residence frequently with his family as a child, Gibson became a shy, ungainly teenager who often read science fiction. After spending his adolescence at a private boarding school in Arizona, Gibson evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by emigrating to Canada in 1968, where he became immersed in the counterculture and after settling in Vancouver eventually became a full-time writer. He retains dual citizenship. Gibson's early works are bleak, noir near-future stories about the effect of cybernetics and computer networks on humans—a "combination of lowlife and high tech". The short stories were published in popular science fiction magazines. The themes, settings and characters developed in these stories culminated in his first novel, Neuromancer, which garnered critical and commercial success, virtually initiating the cyberpunk literary genre.

Although much of Gibson's reputation has remained associated with Neuromancer, his work has continued to evolve. After expanding on Neuromancer with two more novels to complete the dystopic Sprawl trilogy, Gibson became an important author of another science fiction sub-genre—steampunk—with the 1990 alternate history novel The Difference Engine, written with Bruce Sterling. In the 1990s, he composed the Bridge trilogy of novels, which focused on sociological observations of near-future urban environments and late capitalism. His most recent novels—Pattern Recognition , Spook Country and Zero History —are set in a contemporary world and have put his work onto mainstream bestseller lists for the first time.

Gibson is one of the best-known North American science fiction writers, fêted by The Guardian in 1999 as "probably the most important novelist of the past two decades". Gibson has written more than twenty short stories and ten critically acclaimed novels , and has contributed articles to several major publications and collaborated extensively with performance artists, filmmakers and musicians. His thought has been cited as an influence on science fiction authors, design, academia, cyberculture, and technology.

  Biography  

 early life
  Childhood, itinerance, and adolescence
William Ford Gibson was born in the coastal city of Conway, South Carolina, and spent most of his childhood in Wytheville, Virginia, a small town in the Appalachians where his parents had been born and raised. His family moved frequently during Gibson's youth owing to his father's position as manager of a large construction company. In Norfolk, Virginia, Gibson attended Pines Elementary School, where the teachers' lack of encouragement for him to read was a cause of dismay for his parents. While Gibson was still a young child, a little over a year into his stay at Pines Elementary, his father choked to death in a restaurant while on a business trip. His mother, unable to tell William the bad news, had someone else inform him of the death. Tom Maddox has commented that Gibson "grew up in an America as disturbing and surreal as anything J. G. Ballard ever dreamed".

A few days after the death, Gibson's mother returned them from their home in Norfolk to Wytheville. Gibson later described Wytheville as "a place where modernity had arrived to some extent but was deeply distrusted" and credits the beginnings of his relationship with science fiction, his "native literary culture", with the subsequent feeling of abrupt exile. At the age of 12, Gibson "wanted nothing more than to be a science fiction writer". He spent a few unproductive years at basketball-obsessed George Wythe High School, a time spent largely in his room listening to records and reading books. At 13, unbeknownst to his mother, he purchased an anthology of Beat writing, thereby gaining exposure to the writings of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs; the lattermost had a particularly pronounced effect, greatly altering Gibson's notions of the possibilities of science fiction literature.

A shy, ungainly teenager, Gibson grew up in a monoculture he found "highly problematic", consciously rejected religion and took refuge in reading science fiction as well as writers such as Burroughs and Henry Miller. Becoming frustrated with his poor academic performance, Gibson's mother threatened to send him to a boarding school; to her surprise, he reacted enthusiastically. Unable to afford his preferred choice of Southern California, his then "chronically anxious and depressive" mother, who had remained in Wytheville since the death of her husband, sent him to Southern Arizona School for Boys in Tucson, Arizona. He resented the structure of the private boarding school, but was in retrospect grateful for its forcing him to engage socially. He took the SAT exams, scoring five out of 150 in mathematics and 148 out of 150 in the written section, to the consternation of his teachers.

  Draft-dodging, exile, and counterculture
After his mother's death when he was eighteen, Gibson left school without graduating and became very isolated for a long time, traveling to California and Europe and immersing himself in the counterculture. In 1967, he elected to move to Canada in order "to avoid the Vietnam war draft". At his draft hearing, he honestly informed interviewers that his intention in life was to sample every mind-altering substance in existence. Gibson has observed that he "did literally evade the draft, as they never bothered drafting me"; after the hearing he went home and purchased a bus ticket to Toronto, and left a week or two later. In the biographical documentary No Maps for These Territories Gibson said that his decision was motivated less by conscientious objection than by a desire to "sleep with hippie chicks" and indulge in hashish. He elaborated on the topic in a 2008 interview:


After weeks of nominal homelessness, Gibson was hired as the manager of Toronto's first head shop, a retailer of drug paraphernalia. He found the city's émigré community of American draft dodgers unbearable owing to the prevalence of clinical depression, suicide and hardcore substance abuse. He appeared, during the Summer of Love of 1967, in a CBC newsreel item about hippie subculture in Yorkville, Toronto, for which he was paid $500 – the equivalent of 20 weeks rent – which financed his later travels. Aside from a "brief, riot-torn spell" in the District of Columbia, Gibson spent the rest of the 1960s in Toronto, where he met Vancouverite Deborah Jean Thompson, with whom he subsequently traveled to Europe. Gibson has recounted that they concentrated their travels on European nations with fascist regimes and favourable exchange rates, including spending time on a Greek archipelago and in Istanbul in 1970, as they "couldn't afford to stay anywhere that had anything remotely like hard currency".

The couple married and settled in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1972, with Gibson looking after their first child while they lived off his wife's teaching salary. During the 1970s, Gibson made a substantial part of his living from scouring Salvation Army thrift stores for underpriced artifacts he would then up-market to specialist dealers. Realizing that it was easier to sustain high college grades, and thus qualify for generous student financial aid, than to work, he enrolled at the University of British Columbia , earning "a desultory bachelor's degree in English" in 1977. Through studying English literature, he was exposed to a wider range of fiction than he would have read otherwise; something he credits with giving him ideas inaccessible from within the culture of science fiction, including an awareness of postmodernity. It was at UBC that he attended his first course on science fiction, taught by Susan Wood, at the end of which he was encouraged to write his first short story, "Fragments of a Hologram Rose".

  Post-graduation, early writing, and the evolution of cyberpunk
After considering pursuing a master's degree on the topic of hard science fiction novels as fascist literature, Gibson discontinued writing in the year that followed graduation and, as one critic put it, expanded his collection of punk records. During this period he worked at various jobs, including a three-year stint as teaching assistant on a film history course at his alma mater. Impatient at much of what he saw at a science fiction convention in Vancouver in 1980 or 1981, Gibson found a kindred spirit in fellow panelist, punk musician and author John Shirley. The two became immediate and lifelong friends. Shirley persuaded Gibson to sell his early short stories and to take writing seriously.

Through Shirley, Gibson came into contact with science fiction authors Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner; reading Gibson's work, they realised that it was, as Sterling put it, "breakthrough material" and that they needed to "put down our preconceptions and pick up on this guy from Vancouver; this the way forward." Gibson met Sterling at a science fiction convention in Denver, Colorado in the autumn of 1981, where he read "Burning Chrome" – the first cyberspace short story – to an audience of four people, and later stated that Sterling "completely got it".

In October 1982, Gibson traveled to Austin, Texas for ArmadilloCon, at which he appeared with Shirley, Sterling and Shiner on a panel called "Behind the Mirrorshades: A Look at Punk SF", where Shiner noted "the sense of a movement solidified". After a weekend discussing rock and roll, MTV, Japan, fashion, drugs and politics, Gibson left the cadre for Vancouver, declaring half-jokingly that "a new axis has been formed." Sterling, Shiner, Shirley and Gibson, along with Rudy Rucker, went on to form the core of the radical cyberpunk literary movement.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Гибсон, Уильям", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.