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In this episode of a A Phone Call From Paul, Paul Holdengraber talks to William Gibson about the end of the world, writing fiction, and how crazy it is that people can make little marks on a page to represent and share their thoughts with other people.
William Gibson on writing through the world…
It isn’t that I would want to particularly be working in a better time, but I suspect that the nature of what I do in fiction has something to do with taking some sort of measurement of the zeitgeist at the time of writing, and writing somehow slightly to the side of that. And there is some way I have, but I don’t really understand it, of finding at least for myself a place of resonance around my most generalized sense of how the world is. I need to find that in order to function, and the current situation seems to have an element of goofy incoherence to it that makes it more than usually difficult to find this complementary resonance.
William Gibson on the competing urges of fiction…
Because I’m writing, I’m in the middle of my writing process now, and when I’m doing that, I’m able to read very little fiction. So whether it’s new fiction for me or old favorites, the enjoyment and the creation of it seem to me to take place in the same part of the mind, so that if the part of the day in which I’m not writing fiction has anything else going on, it’s probably not going to be reading fiction. When I’m writing fiction I tend to read nonfiction.
William Gibson on predicting the future…
I’m ever reluctant to take our predictive narratives totally seriously because I think that in spite of our best efforts at prediction, I think that our self-regard defeats us in the end. That we tend to—we imagine relatively heroic outcomes, and no one wants a prophet standing on the corner saying that everything is going to be hideously stupid and banal. Utterly atrocious, and that’s just the nature of things. It lacks even the—well, the appeal of the apocalypse is closure and a sort of clarity. Yes! The world is ending. And yeah it’s kind of a banner one can get behind, in a way. Its opposite is this kind of willy-nilly nihilistic absurdist narrative that one can feel one is living in.
William Gibson on phonecalls…
You’re reaching me through one of a number of post-urban constructs that humanity’s erected in the past hundred or so years, so we are in a common city with San Bernardino. It’s a virtual space. Even then, one could live in a rural setting and arrange one’s life in such a way that one was completely plugged in to every major city in the world and have no idea that there were trees and birds on the other side of the wall. That wasn’t previously possible, you know? That’s relatively—that’s the last century or so.
NEXT WEEK: PART TWO WITH WILLIAM GIBSON