Happy birthday William Gibson!

William Gibson in 2007
William Gibson in 2007

William Ford Gibson (photo ©Dylan Parker) was born on March 17, 1948 in Conway, South Carolina, USA.

When he was still very young, William Gibson decded that he wanted to become a science fiction writer as that genre allowed him to escape the problems of an environment he didn’t find stimulating and the difficulties of socializing. The death of his father when he was very young and of his mother when he was 18 contributed to his isolation.

In 1967 William Gibson moved to Canada. Avoiding military service and therefore going to fight in Vietnam is the most cited reason but over the years the author stated that he also wanted to participate more in hippie activities. The exposure to the counterculture of the ’60s but also some travels allowed him to find new interests.

In the 1970s, after getting married to Deborah Jean Thompson, William Gibson starting working as a writer and for some time he was also a teaching assistant in a film course at the University of British Columbia, where he went to study. In 1977 he earned a degree in English literature, published his first science fiction story, “Hologram Rose”, and began more journeys in Europe.

William Gibson’s stories of those years generally had dark tones and the author developed them differently than most of science fiction works. In 1984 he published “Neuromancer”, which won the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards, launched his career for good and had considerable influence in the field. The novel also incorporates some themes already existing in science fiction but because of the way in which he develops them marked in particular the cyberpunk movement.

In the following years, William Gibson published two more novels with the same setting: “Count Zero” (1986) and “Mona Lisa Overdrive” (1988). The three novels form what’s called Sprawl Trilogy.

In 1990 William Gibson collaborated with his fellow writer Bruce Sterling and the two of them published the novel “The Difference Engine“, which contributed to the success of another science fiction movement, steampunk.

Back to the near future but in a different way even if it can be included in the cyberpunk subgenre, William Gibson wrote another trilogy, called the Bridge trilogy, formed by: “Virtual Light” (1993), “Idoru” (1996) and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” (1999).

Meanwhile, his 1981 story “Johnny Mnemonic” was adapted to the cinema and William Gibson wrote the movie’s screenplay. He also wrote together with Tom Maddox the scripts of two episodes of the TV show “The X-Files“: “Kill Switch” and “First Person Shooter”.

Since the beginning of his career, William Gibson interpreted science fiction in his own way and over the years he gradually moved away from any labels. The so-called Bigend cycle is at the borderline of this genre and is often considered a thriller, even if the technological elements remain important. It’s made up of “Pattern Recognition” (2003), “Spook Country” (2007) and “Zero History” (2012).

William Gibson’s latest novel is “The Peripheral” (2014) but in 2017 a graphic novel was published, “Archangel”, he wrote together with Michael St. John Smith. Over the years, his short fiction works have been collected in various anthologies.

With his very visual style, William Gibson marked a period in the history of science fiction with an influence that went even beyond that genre. His descriptions of Western society, which in various ways proved to be apt in certain negative developments, made him important regardless of genre labels, inspiring subsequent productions in various media.


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