Queen Victoria's Personal Spook,
 Psychic Legbreakers, Snakes and Catfood:
 An Interview with William Gibson
 and Tom Maddox
 by Darren Wershler-Henry
(source: _Virus 23_ #0 [Fall 1989], 28-36)
 A conversation with William Gibson is kind
 of like a full-immersion baptism in all of
 the weird and disturbing gomi [1] that
 comprises late twentieth century culture
 (Arthur Kroker would call it "excremental"
 culture,but then again, he's also capable
 of calling "the post-Einsteinian individual"
 a "hyper-Hobbesian energy pack." Screw that
 noise). Japanese Nazi geneticists in white
 bathrobes and terrycloth tennis hats, Luddite
 death squads, catfish farms, high rollers
 drawing voodoo designs in lines of cocaine,
 guinea pig-driven flamethrowers, unlicensed
 these are a few of his favorite things.
 Gibson's writing is, on the most basic level,
 a testament to this obsession with the
 bizarre and the disturbing: he takes these
 random, abandoned fragments of our shattered
 society and fuses them together into a
 strange and beautiful mosaic of words. The
 resulting gestalt, though, is more just than
 an artistic curiosity. Out of this odd
 assortment of cultural detritus, Gibson
 creates some
 genuinely new ideas, and redefines many old
 ones. "Scramble and resequence  but, in the
 process of borrowing symbolic energy from the
 past, new simultaneities and odd juxtapositions,
 like dreams, emerge" [2]. Take Gibson's most
 famous creation, cyberspace, as a prime example.
 The Media Lab (MIT) and Autodesk (California)
 are all lathered up about the possibility of
 actually building the thing. "Ether, having once
 failed as a concept, is in the process of being
 reinvented. Information is the ultimate
 mediational ether" [3]. As much as he is an
 entertainer, Gibson is also vitally important
 as a writer of ideas.
 Tom Maddox, a long-time friend of Gibson's,
 is a professor at Evergreen State College,
 an excellent science fiction writer, and an
 astute critic. In the short biography of
 Gibson he wrote for the ConText 89 program,
 he points out that the public's reaction to
 Gibson has often been a mixed one: "
 [Many SF writers and readers say] Gibson's
 work is all 'surface' or 'flash,'
 'never passes from ugly to ennobling.'"
 In other words, the reasons given by Gibson's
 detractors for their (often violent) dislike
 of his works rarely varies from typical
 conservative distaste for Postmodern writing
 techniques [4]. (On the other hand, it could
 be jealousy....) The explanation Maddox provides
 for this kind of reaction ia a blunt and simple
 one: Gibson's writing can be a colossal mindfuck
 for those unprepared to deal with the issues
 it raises.
 It's a truism of SF criticism that speculative
 fiction is more about the author's lifetime than
 any hypothetical "future." Reading Neuromancer
 is like putting on a pair of the X-ray specs
 from John Carpenter's They Live, and seeing
 the subliminal underbelly of North American
 capitalist culture. A trip through the
 lookinglass darkly, a strangely warped
 reflection in the left lens of the author's
 mirrorshades... it doesn't matter which metaphor
 you use, because the upshot of it all is that
 Gibson sees a blackness in our society that very
 few people are anxious to hear about, much less
 do or say anything about. So when someone picks
 up a Gibson novel which describes a world where
 multinational corporations have more personality
 than the people they employ, where the US navy
 "recruits" dolphins by hooking them on heroin,
 where people would rather live vicariously through
 media personalities than cope with their own lives,
 a little voice starts up in the back of their head.
 Our world isn't like that at all. Oh no.
 Bruce Fletcher (Virus 23 staff writer) and I met
 Gibson and Maddox in Edmonton, where they were guest
 writers at ConText 89 (Gibson was the Guest of Honor),
 and persuaded them to talk for several hours about
 many of the things that make Gibson's work unique.
 My starting place was the Summer 1989 issue of the
 Whole Earth Review, "Is the Body Obsolete?" [5].
 In attempting to deal with the question of bodily
 obsolescence, Whole Earth lays bare the connections
 between most of the important work being done today
 in, well, in just about every field you can imagine
 (and a few others): cybernetics, theories of the body,
 downloading, feminist theory, artificial intelligence...
 the list goes on and on. Essentially, this is the
 same weird collection of oddities--gomi--that Gibson
 is so fond of. Sure, it's intellectualized gomi, but
 gomi nonetheless. The section on Gibson himself falls
 right in the middle of the magazine, acting
 (intentionally or not  there are no accidents, right?)
 as the point where all the other articles converge.
 It seemed to me that a natural place to begin an
 examination of Gibson's fiction would be the
 exploration of some of these connections. Judging
 from the range of the topics we covered in about
 2 hours--many of which I've never seen mentioned in
 another interview with Gibson--I think it worked
 pretty well.
 What follows is a sliced, diced (and hopefully coherent
 everyone present was nursing a hangover) version of that
                      * * * * *
 Darren Wershler-Henry: (Producing a copy of the Whole
 Earth Review, Summer 1989: "Is The Body Obsolete?")
 Have you seen this? It's a collection of a whole bunch
 of different things that seem to crystallize around your
 work: theories of the body, information theory  there's
 a piece on Survival Research Laboratories [6],
 a list of the major influences on cyberpunk writers,
 and (pointing out the interview entitled "Cyberpunk Era")
 they even did a [William] Burroughs-style cut-up of your
 old interviews.
 William Gibson: No... show it to me.
 (To Tom Maddox) Have you seen this? This is really
 bizzarre. I wouldn't give them an interview so they cut
 up a bunch of old interviews.
 Tom Maddox: Who did this?
 WG: Kevin Kelly. It's the Whole Earth Review.
 TM: Oh--I heard about that, yeah.
 DW: For me, one of the most interesting things
 in this magazine is when they start talking about
 what happens when you download people into machines.
 What constitutes personality when the borderline
 between people and machines starts to blur? The
 Flatline seems to be a personality, but is a ROM
 construct, and the Finn, who gets himself made
 into some kind of construct...
 WG: (Laughing) That's one of my favorite parts
 in that book... he's got the high rollers drawing
 in cocaine.
 TM: Do you mean, what is it that's in there?
 DW: Yeah. At the end of Mona Lisa Overdrive
 you've got Angie, Finn, Colin, and Bobby--
 two dead people and two personality constructs,
 one modeled after a "real" man and one a complete
 fabrication--in the Aleph, heading off into alien
 cyberspace, and they seem to have their own
 volition. It's not just a machine kind of thing...
 they're not programmed to act in certain ways. So
 that's what I want to look at: where does the self
 go? How much self do any of these characters have?
 WG: Yeah, well, that's just a question, you know?
 I suppose the book poses that question, but it
 doesn't answer it. I can't answer it. As for
 that downloading stuff, I think those guys who
 seriously consider that stuff are crazier
 than a sackful of rats. I think that's monstrous!
 It just seems so obvious to me, but people like
 those guys at Autodesk who're building cyberspace--
 I can't believe it: they've almost got it--they
 just don't understand. My hunch is that what I
 was doing was trying to come up with some kind
 of metaphor that would express my deepest
 ambivalence about media in the twentieth century.
 And it was my satisfaction that I sort of managed
 to do it, and then these boff-its come in and say
 "God damn, that's a good idea! Let's plug it all
 in!" But, you know, it just leaves me thinking,
 "What??" You know, that is actually stranger
 than having people do theses about your work,
 is to have people build this demented shit
 that you dreamed up, when you were trying
 to make some sort of point about industrial
 society. It's just a strange thing.
 DW: Actually, there is an article in here on
 NASA's virtual reality project, and Whole
 Earth calls it cyberspace.
 WG: (looking at the photo of a sensor-lined
 glove that controls the movement of the wearer
 in "cyberspace") Hey, Tom: you know, if you
 turned this thing inside out, you could get
 the computer to jerk you off?
 TM: (laughing) That's beautiful, Bill. Put
 it in your book and someone'll build it.
 WG: (laughing) Instead of jacking in,
 you'd be jacking off.
 DW: It seems to me that what is at the
 center of the discussions in this issue
 of Whole Earth is the way the "personhood"
 of people is jeopardized by new technologies.
 What does happen to the concept of self in
 a society where downloading, cloning, and
 replaceable body parts are commonplace?
 In your books, the main characters use
 technology to protect what's left of the
 self. Molly is a particularly good example.
 The mirrors over her eyes, and the
 razorblades under her nails seem to me
 to be an attempt to protect what's left
 of any kind of interiority.
 TM: I think the categories you're using
 are too traditional. Those are adaptations
 those aren't protections of the self.
 The self is much more labile than in
 previous cultures, if you will...
 and in Gibson's stuff, it seems to me
 that what the self is is sort of open
 to negotiation on a particular day.
 WG: Yeah, I'd agree with that.
 DW: Something else that  comes up over
 and over is the position that women characters
 end up occupying in your books, and in
 Postmodern literature in general. There's a
 book written by a feminist theorist at Yale
 named Alice Jardine called Gynesis, and she
 talks about the way in Postmodern fiction that
 women's bodies become a map for Postmodern
 Man to follow--the only the only remaining
 guide to the unknown. Angie in Count Zero,
 with the vvs written on her brain, or the
 messages Wintermute sends Case through Molly's
 eyes in Neuromancer, could be textbook
 examples of this phenomenon.
 TM: No  I don't know  I just don't...
 WG: I find it kind of poetically appealing.
 TM: Yeah. I can't imagine it being true or
 false, right? (laughing). It's a nice way of
 looking at this stuff.
 WG: Yeah (laughing). It's a good come-on line
 try that next time.
 TM: (laughing) Right: "Let's explore the unknown."
 WG: I don't think it's necessarily women's bodies
 why not men's bodies? You know, it's a two-way
 street. The closest I ever come to saying anything
 about that is the scene in Neuromancer where Case
 fucks the construct of Linda Lee in the construct
 on the beach. He has some kind of rather too self-
 consciously Lawrencian experience. He connects
 with the meat and it's like he gets Lawrencian
 blood-knowledge (and that's a little too much
 the English major there), but I was sincere about
 that  on some level I guess I believe it. But
 I think it works both ways.... Am I shooting
 myself in the foot, Tom? Should I be saying
 these things and have people come back in 20
 years and cite this guy's thesis to me?
 TM: There's a fundamental separation of
 categories that you have to understand here.
 Asking Bill if this thesis about women's
 bodies is true to his work is asking him
 to be the interpreter of his own text,
 in which case he's just another interpreter.
 Now if you what he meant by something,
 well, that's legit, but he can't validate
 or invalidate a particular interpretation,
 and in fact, to ask him to validate or
 invalidate a particular interpretation
 is like asking him to betray the
 possibilities of his own work. Umberto Eco
 wrote a book called A Postscript to The
 Name of the Rose, in which he said that
 in writing his postscript he was betraying
 the novel. He said, if I wanted to write an
 interpretation, I wouldn't have written a
 novel , which is a machine for generating
 WG: Well, the thing that I would question
 in that theory as you paraphrased it is
 that women's bodies are the map  I think
 bodies are the map, and if, for instance,
 you looked at the sequence in Mona Lisa
 Overdrive where what's-her-name, the
 little thing... I forget her name...
 Mona! yeah, Mona.
 TM: (laughing) Your title character, remember?
 WG: Jesus, I can't remember the character's
 names... I never think about this shit.
 (laughing) That's what I think you gotta
 TM: Nobody who ever writes a book thinks
 about this shit.
 WG: Yeah, the eponymous Mona, where she
 remembers her stud showing up for the
 first time, when she's working in a catfish
 farm. All that really sexual stuff happens
 there before he takes her away. Think about
 the way she's looking at him, the way she's
 reading his body. Or look at the art girl,
 Marly. Marly follows the map in that book.
 She's the only one who can receive the
 true map and she goes to the heart of it.
 She gets an audience with God, essentially,
 and she does it through her own intellectual
 capacity and her ability to understand the art.
 TM: She, in a way, for me is the most
 important one of those three characters
 [in Count Zero].
 WG: If I was doing a thesis on my work,
 I would try to figure out what the fuck
 that Joseph Cornell stuff means in the
 middle of Count Zero. That's the key to
 the whole fucking thing, how the books
 are put together and everything. But
 people won't see it. I think it actually
 needs someone with a pretty serious art
 background to understand it. You know,
 Robert Longo understood that immediately.
 I was in New York--I've got a lot of fans
 who are fairly heavy New York artists,
 sort of "fine art guys", and they got
 it right away. They read those books
 around that core. I was actually trying
 to tell people what I was doing while I
 was trying to discover it myself.
 DW: It goes back to Postmodernism, to
 pieces again, and to making new wholes
 from fragments, doesn't it?
 WG: Yeah. It's sort of like there's nothing
 there in the beginning, and you're going to
 make something, and you don't have anything
 in you to make it out of, particularly, so
 you start just grabbing little hunks of kipple,
 and fitting them together, and... I don't know,
 it seemed profound at the time, but this
 morning it's like I can't even remember how
 it works (laughs).
 DW: But it seems to me that the body is still
 more important to your female characters than
 to your male characters. You start out with
 Case, and the whole thing about how "the body
 is meat." It's like it's just not important to
 him  it doesn't matter.
 WG: He's denying it.
 TM: There's that key line "He fell into the
 prison of his own flesh," which is the whole
 point, in a way. I don't know--if you want
 some real ammunition for this that's not
 just bullshit Postmodernist criticism,
 there's a guy at Berkeley named Lakoff,
 George Lakoff. He's a cognitive psychologist,
 and he's testing a whole set of theories
 based on the notion that all knowledge is
 a "body" of knowledge, and that every single
 intellectual structure in the world is
 ultimately a piece of embodied spatial
 knowledge translated by metaphor into
 something else.
 WG: Wow...
 TM: Very heavy shit. This guy's really
 something. He's got a book called Women,
 Fire and Dangerous Things that's about
 how we categorize the world. And, as a
 matter of fact, I'll set him loose on
 Neuromancer some time because he'll come
 really back with like four hundred
 explanations about why this is the way
 that Bill's books work. But it fits very
 nicely with Bill's thoughts, because
 in the worlds he creates, knowledge
 is perceived knowledge, which means
 embodied knowledge, and the people who
 deny that, like Case, maybe they have
 to be taught by women about that denial,
 taught that the prison of our own flesh
 is the only place there is.
 WG: The thing is, I'm very labile,
 especially this morning (laughs). I could
 sit here with 20 different people and 20
 different theories and say, "Yeah, that's
 what it is." I like Chip Delany's reaction
 to anybody who comes on him with anything
 like this. He listens really intently and
 then he says, "That's an interesting thesis."
 And that's all. (laughs)
 TM: It's very easy to make this stuff stand
 up and dance to whatever tune you want it to.
 If you're Julia Kristeva and you've got some
 well worked out critical act that you want
 to work on something, fine. But here's what
 I'm really objecting to in this stuff. The
 categories that you're applying to this stuff
 are not categories that are integral to the
 books. Things like the map on the woman's
 body and the "self". The interesting thing
 about Bill's stuff is that it's creating new
 categories. Cyberspace is not an analogue of
 something. It's not the self, it's not sex,
 it's cyberspace.  that's what's really
 interesting. Look at the new categories.
 There's sort of ongoing discussion groups
 where people who work at universities and
 corporations all around the world are
 thinking about what they call cognitive
 engineering The most valid literary
 criticism that I know of is archaic by
 comparison. It's got all these categories
 it's trying to drag kicking and screaming
 into the twentieth century. It's like J.G.
 Ballard says about Margaret Atwood and those
 people: "Yeah, it's the psychology of the
 individual--who gives a fuck, you know?
 It's all been done." Right, it's been done
 as well as it's ever going to be done. And
 why people get excited about Bill's stuff,
 is that it's not what's been done. And the
 categories are genuinely emergent. Maybe
 there's not a body. Maybe the idea of the
 body or self is entirely irrelevant. Maybe
 the question of the self becomes infinitely
 complex. Literary critics love to talk about
 consciousness. You know what Marvin Minsky
 says about consciousness? It's a debugging
 trace. It's like a little piece of froth on
 the top of this larger thing. I think Bill
 believes that. Consciousness is just part
 of the act (laughs). All this other shit
 that goes on is equally important.
 WG: Yeah. The snake wanted catfood [7], yeah.
 TM: (laughing) Yeah, the snake wanted catfood,
 right, yeah, right.
 WG: And, you know, sometimes you're just
 running on brain stem. I was running on
 brain stem last night. Look where it got
 me too.
 TM: This is what Bill's work is in fact
 about. Bill has been an obsessive afficionado
 of late twentieth century experience, which
 for most people is just too unnerving.
 They don't want it, so they screen
 themselves off from it. But Bill actively
 seeks it out, and this has always been
 true. I mean most people don't want it.
 It fucks their minds up and they don't
 want to be part of it.
 WG: What I do is I give it to them in
 these books and they're able to open up
 to it a little bit because it's
 science fiction.
 TM: Right. But in science fiction itself,
 which is enormously conservative in these
 matters, his stuff generates a lot of
 resentment because they don't want to know,
 and they don't want to experience what the
 late twentieth century is like, they want
 to experience what some fifties version of
 the future is like. Most of the stuff he
 thinks about, in terms of structure and all
 that, the visual artist immediately gets,
 bang bang bang. Whereas people who do
 straightforward literary criticism wheel
 out these creaky old novelistic categories
 that don't apply worth a fuck.
 WG: Most of the stuff that I'm seeing,
 even the stuff in The Mississippi Review,
 it's like a bunch of guys from the
 English Department being forced to
 write rock criticism (laughs).
 DW: So what do you consider some of
 the better work that's been done on your
 WG: Well, one of the things that's really
 amazing about the British reception of my
 work, and this has just been consistent
 all the way through, is they think I'm a
 humorist. By and large, they think of me
 as being largely a humorist, and they think
 the stuff's funny as hell. It's 'cause
 they're Brits. They understand--it's more
 like their sense of humor. The kind of
 sense of humor I've got is still considered
 sort of suspect to North America, it's
 considered just a little too bleak. See,
 a lot of it was written because I thought
 it was funny.
 Bruce Fletcher: That kind of backhanded
 humor really came out in the reading
 [excerpts from The Difference Engine [8]]
 last night.
 WG: Well, there's kind of two levels to
 that thing. Actually, the world we're
 depicting there is infinitely grimmer
 than the world of Neuromancer, and it
 needs that humor. I mean, when you get
 to the third section of the book, you
 realize that they've invented the art
 of making people disappear. And they're
 doing this with death squads (chuckles).
 There are death squads working in London
 to take these Luddites out, or anyone
 who interferes with the system. They
 just arrest you and take you to Highgate
 and hang you in the middle of the night,
 and drop your body into a pit of quicklime,
 and that's it. One of the viewpoint
 characters is this tortured British
 spook diplomat named Laurence Oliphant--
 he was a real historical figure--
 he was Queen Victoria's personal spook:
 "Oliphant of the Tokyo legation."
 He was a hero  he was in this crazed
 samurai uprising, in Tokyo. Anyway,
 Oliphaunt's manservant was an avid
 lepidopterist. In the middle of one
 night, these black-clothed barefoot
 ninjas with samurai swords were sneaking
 toward Oliphant's bedroom and they
 stepped on this fucker's pinned
 butterflies which he'd put into the tatami.
 WG: That's true, that's a true story.
 Oliphant got his wrist slashed, and one
 of the lines in the book, which is actually
 lifted from a recorded conversation with
 Oliphaunt, is, "Strange how a Japanese"--
 and this scar is right on his wrist,
 so when he shakes hands you can see it--
 "Strange how a Japanese sword when you're
 concerned is quite adequate carte de visite."
 TM: Oh Jesus Christ (laughs).
 WG: In our book, Oliphant is the man who
 dreams up disappearing people  he believes
 in the All-Seeing Eye. He just dreams it
 up to solve one terrible problem that
 they have, and then it takes over.
 And so he's sort of tortured by knowing
 he's the guy that discovered the principle
 of this, because he knows it's wrong.
 It's gonna be a crazy book  I hope we can
 finish it. We've got the whole plot together
 it's really twisted.
 BF: What are the mechanics involved with
 collaborating with someone on a book?
 WG: It's impossible to explain. It's like
 telling somebody how you "be married."
 You "be married" the only way you can
 be married to the person you're married to,
 and that's all there is to it.
 BF: Since we're on the topic of writing,
 I'd like to talk a bit about influences.
 I find the Cyberpunk 101 reading list [9]
 interesting in terms of what it says about
 the formation of canons. As soon as people
 accept and validate a category like
 "Cyberpunk," it becomes a retroactive
 thing. All of a sudden everyone like
 J. G. Ballard and William Burroughs
 becomes a proto-cyberpunk writer.
 There are works on this list written
 as long ago as 1937.
 WG: (looking at list, laughing) Last
 and First Men??! ...and Chandler...
 I don't like that, you know? I'd like
 to go on record as saying that I don't
 like Raymond Chandler. I think he's kind
 of an interesting stylist but I just
 found him to be this creepy puritanical
 sick fuck.
 DW: That would explain the way you
 handle Turner in Count Zero.
 WG: Yeah, Turner is a kind of detective,
 a deconstructed [literally and figuratively:
 ed.] thriller guy. I wanted to get one of
 those macho thriller guys, a real he-man
 straight out of the kit, and just kind of
 push him apart. I never was quite able to
 do it. The scene that works for me the most
 is when he kills the wrong man. There's a
 slow build and he blows the shit out of
 somebody and someone says to him, so-and-so's
 the agent here, you asshole.
 TM: (laughing) Yeah, why'd you kill him?
 WG: (back to the list) Alfred Bester, yeah.
 Bester I'll go for. [William Burroughs']
 Naked Lunch, yes. Philip K. Dick, though,
 had almost no influence.
 TM: Right, you've really never much
 really read...
 WG: I never really read Dick because I
 read Pynchon. You don't need Dick if
 you've read Pynchon. I mean Dick was
 the guy who couldn't quite do it.
 TM: Ah, I think that's different,
 but you haven't read Dick, Bill (laughs).
 WG: That's true. I read a little Dick,
 but I didn't like it. [Michael Moorcock's]
 The Cornelius Chronicles? Well,
 [Samuel R. Delany's] Nova, yeah, I could
 see Nova. But The Cornelius Chronicles,
 well.... I never read [Alvin Toffler's]
 Future Shock. [J. G. Ballard's]
 The Atrocity Exhibition, yeah.
 [Robert Stone's] Dog Soldiers, yeah.
 DW: Do you know Richard Kadrey,
 the guy who made this list?
 WG: Yeah. You know, I think Richard
 Kadrey's first short story was my first
 short story cut up into individual blocks
 of one or two words and rearranged. It was
 published in Interzone, and it's really
 weird. I talked to him about it, and he
 just wouldn't cop to it. It's weird,
 it's indescribably weird, you should
 actually read it. Ther are sentences
 in there that are out of "Fragments of
 A Hologram Rose," but they've been
 dicked with in some mysterious way.
 And you couldn't really say it's
 plagiarism. I actually thought it was
 kinda cool.
 TM: Yeah. he's a good guy, a smart guy.
 Richard's the only one I know who's really,
 Metrophage is really and truly a Gibson
 hommage. He's not derivative at all.
 WG: Yeah, it's really good. This guy
 published his book and everybody's saying,
 "God, this really a rip-off of you.
 You should be offended!" I thought that
 it was a dynamite book and that it
 really stands out. What he'd gotten
 in there and done was he'd gone in
 there and played riffs on the instrument
 that I'd never dreamed of. And he's one
 of the hipper people in the field, that's
 for sure. He knows about drugs, too.
 DW: What about the "punk" in cyberpunk?
 Do you see any real connections between
 what you write and punk rock?
 WG: I read something recently where
 they described me as the dark godfather
 of an outlaw subculture (laughs).
 I mean, when I was fifteen, that was my
 wildest dream, but now...
 TM: (laughing) It's a case of being
 careful what you wish for, Bill, because
 sometimes you get it.
 WG: There was a while, at the start of all
 this cyberpunk stuff, when I contemplated
 dressing up like that, getting a foot tall
 blue mohawk or something. When people go
 to a reading to see a cyberpunk author,
 they expect to see him come running in
 out of the rain and whip the sweat out of
 his mohawk and start signing books.
 (laughter) Actually, one time I was in
 New York signing books, there was this
 godawful huge roar outside the bookstore,
 and these two huge motorcycles screeched
 up to the curb, and these two huge guys
 covered in leather and studs and chains
 and shit got off, and came into the store.
 When they got a good look at me in my
 loafers and buttondown shirt their faces
 just fell, you know? One of them pulled
 out this copy of one of my books and said,
 "Well, I guess you can sign it anyway."
 DW: Some of the characters you describe
 in your books sound a lot like various
 types of punks: the Gothicks and
 Jack Draculas, for example.
 WG: Yeah, I hung out with some of them
 [Goths] in London. You know, they pierce
 their genitals? And they won't fuck anyone
 who doesn't have a hunk of steel shoved
 through there. It's weird, 'cause they
 hang little bells & shit on them. You can
 hear them jingle when they move (laughs).
 BF: Are there other people who've
 influenced you that you talk to regularly?
 Do you correspond with Timothy Leary at all?
 WG: I exchange letters with Mark Pauline
 the stuff in Mona Lisa Overdrive is supposed
 to be a homage to SRL, but I don't think I
 quite got it. Leary? I talk to him on the
 phone, yeah. We don't really correspond,
 because he doesn't write...
 TM: I was going to say he's probably post-
 literate at this point (laughs).
 BF: I like his new book, he's redone Neuro-
 Politics, he calls it Neuro-Politique
 [check titles]. It's dedicated...
 WG: Oh God, finding that out was the
 weirdest experience. I was in L.A. working
 on screenplays, and I got into this limo
 in L.A.X. to go to a meeting in this fancy
 Chinese place on Sunset. I got this crazy
 little Yugoslavian limo driver--you have
 to be very careful with limo drivers
 because every limo driver's an out-of-work
 screen writer or something--I get in and
 he sort of looks at me and he says,
 "Are you the William Gibson?" and I said,
 "Well, I'm the William Gibson that's sitting
 in your car" (laughs). And he says, "I haven't
 read your books, but I'm the greatest admirer
 of Dr. Timothy Leary," and he whips Leary's
 book out and it's dedicated to me and Bob Dylan.
 I mean, if you want weird, I thought, you know,
 total cognitive dissonance there. And he got
 talking so much that he made me late for the
 meeting: he overshot the restaurant.
 BF: Yeah, that's the book, all right (laughs).
 WG: Yeah, he overshot the restaurant, and
 then he told me this really sad story about
 how he'd been a TV producer. It was a
 heartbreaking fucking story  I believe it too.
 He got his ass out of Yugoslavia, and he got
 over to Hollywood, and he thought, you know,
 he could work in the TV or film business,
 and he just realized that he'd been around
 and nobody would touch him with a ten foot
 pole. So there he was, mooking around and
 driving this limo. Anyway, I went into the
 meeting, and somewhere between realizing
 that I didn't want to write another version
 of Alien III and getting back into the car,
 when we were sort of doing small talk,
 I said, "This is such an amazing town.
 The guy driving my limo used to be a
 television producer in Yugoslavia,"
 and I told them this story that had
 really affected me. One of the people
 who's there is this woman who's
 The Bitch Woman from the studio--
 she's there to hurt me if I get out of line--
 they've always got an edge, you know. She
 keeps her mouth shut until I'm finished,
 and then she sort of drew on her pity look,
 and she says to me, "Huh. Don't they all
 have a story."
 TM: Yeah, right. All the little people
 WG: Oh, man. But they do--they have
 people who're like psychic leg-breakers
 that they bring along. There's always one.
 1  "Kumiko stared as Sally drew her past
 arrays of of Coronation plate and jowled
 Churchill teapots. "This is gomi," Kumiko
 ventured, when they paused at an
 intersection. Rubbish. In Tokyo, worn and
 useless things were landfill. Sally grinned
 wolfishly.  "This is England. Gomi's a major
 natural resource. Gomi and talent."
 -William Gibson,
 Mona Lisa Overdrive. (p.30)
 Gibson's writing is testament to what talent
 can do with gomi.
 2  Sol Yurick, Behold Metatron, the Recording
 Angel. New York: Semiotext(e), 1985, 6.
 The Semiotext(e) series is published at
 Columbia University, and, despite some
 embarrassing editing problems, is a valuable
 source of texts by influential Postmodern
 theorists like Baudrillard, Lyotard,
 and Deleuze and Guattari.
 3  Sol Yurick again: page 9.
 4  One of the few really good studies
 that has been done to date on Gibson's
 merits and faults as a writer is
 Lucy Sussex's "Falling Off the Fence:
 Reviewing William Gibson's Neuromancer and
 Count Zero," The Metaphysical Review,
 November 1987. If you can't find it
 (The Metaphysical Review is an
 Australian journal), send me a
 SASE c/o this magazine, and I'll
 mail you a copy.
 5  I have to admit a vested interest
 here. A discussion of the space the body
 occupies in Gibson's writing will form
 the core of my Master's thesis.
 6  A sorta-kinda performance art group
 from California (where else) that builds
 big machines that destroy each other.
 SRL was one of Gibson's major influences
 in the writing of Mona Lisa Overdrive
 (see the article elsewhere in this magazine).
 7  A quotation from Tom Maddox's short story
 "Snake-Eyes," which can be found in
 Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology,
 ed. Bruce Sterling. New York: Arbor House,
 1986. At the risk of bowdlerizing the piece,
 I'll just mention that it's about this guy
 whose higher thought processes become
 involved in a conflict of interest with
 his brainstem. And you thought
 hangovers were bad...
 8  The Difference Engine is an alternate
 world novel Gibson is writing with Bruce
 Sterling. It is set in a nineteenth
 century England where Charles Babbage's
 steam-driven computer actually gets built,
 and all sorts of weird shit happens as a
 result (including Lord Byron becoming
 Prime Minister). Gibson read excerpts
 from the manuscript at several points
 during ConText 89.
 9  Another product of The Whole Earth Review,
 the Cyberpunk 101 reading list can be found
 in the Summer 89 issue, or, in an earlier
 form, in Signal: Communication Tools for
 the Information Age. New York:
 Harmony Books, 1988.
 (Signal is a whole Earth catalog). It
 makes for some interesting reading, but it
 should come with a warning sticker that
                   * * * * *
 This Shareware meme is brought to you
 courtesy of the ADoSA in conjunction with
 _Virus 23_.  If you plan on reprinting
 or reposting it, (or are just curious
 about what else we do) please let us know:
 c/0 Box 46
 Red Deer, Alberta
 T4N 5E7
 Copies of _Virus23_ #$ (memes, real-life
 vampires, the Twentysomethings, Guy Maddin,
 Dario Argento, Jack Womack, prairie
 depressionist film, concrete fractal poetry,
 IAO Core, Rose McDowall, The Brotherhood
 of Baldur, The Loved One, art by Don David,
 and much much more) are available from the
 above address for $7.00 ppd.
 Because there's No Reason Not To Gnow.