Raw footage for the award-winning TV series The 90's. William Gibson, successful science fiction writer (the movie Johnny Mnemonic was based on his story of the same name), chats casually with Joel Gold about his trip to Japan, his career, and the internet. He talks about his shock at the massive success of his first book, "Neuromancer", which sold 6.5 million copies and initiated a new style of science fiction writing. "I thought that science fiction had become so conservative that I thought Neuromancer would be either ignored or held up for special scorn."
00:00Copy video clip URL The tape starts in the middle of a conversation, as videomaker Joel Gold and William Gibson chat about MTV.
02:26Copy video clip URL Gold asks about Gibson’s thoughts on Japan, and Gibson says he used to think of it as “the future,” but his expectations were only partially matched when visiting. Gibson explains that he wrote about it first and then traveled there. When he visited, he says he got “the cook’s tour,” and that he only saw what his hosts wanted him to see, and had no free time. “I like the feeling of being North American in a country where you’re poor,” referring to the exchange rate.
05:05Copy video clip URL Gold says part of his family lives in Tokyo, and that he hitchhiked around Japan. Gibson had only been to Kamakura, a small city outside of Tokyo, which he describes as “intra-urban.” He talks about vivid electric lights, and live fish.
07:00Copy video clip URL The two talk about Japanese food, and Gold recounts an experience ordering eel in Shinjuku. Gibson mentions one bar in Shinjuku (known as Tokyo’s red light district), and says it was the only “sinister” place he found in Tokyo.
08:45Copy video clip URL Gibson says the third book in his series was written after his trip to Japan, but he did not want to “violate” the other two books in the series by putting in too much of his trip. He says he thinks Japan may have peaked, “since the Industrial Revolution,” the entirety of which they had imported and absorbed. He says they coped with the change much better than the Europeans did.
12:22Copy video clip URL Gibson says “one of my strangest moments in Japan” was when he and his hosts were looking at downtown displays, and his host said “‘Now you understand, we’re not Asian, we’re Western people!'” Gibson goes on to talk about a theme restaurant he went to that was an imaginary third-world Asian country. The restaurant had a name that was just a nonsense syllable, and they talk about the translation of names across cultures.
17:03Copy video clip URL Gold asks about Gibson’s current work, and Gibson says he’s waiting for screenplays in development and for books to be published, but mostly he’s on the phone. Gold asks if he wants to make movies, and Gibson is hesitant because of what he considers Hollywood bureaucracy; he does not like that his screenplays could be rewritten. Gibson sees novels as completely different from movies, because movies are collaborative, and he does not have artistic control.
21:09Copy video clip URL Gibson feels that the “gestation period” for movies is very long, and the making of movies is a slow process, even if now is the right time to make a movie of one of his screenplays, so it will be at least two years before any movie comes out. He has, however, been talking to a Soviet producer in Leningrad, who ironically has more freedom to make movies than American producers. Gibson is shocked that he can call places like Kazakhstan with a clear connection, and he has a bit of “techno-shock,” and this may be why he writes about the future, “to excercise” this shock.
25:03Copy video clip URL Gibson talks about his adolescence as a science-fiction fan. This leads him to discuss a shift in the demographic of the science-fiction audience, which is aging instead of being replaced every generation, introducing the possibility that the science-fiction audience will die out. He has trouble figuring out who his audience is, but it strikes him as an older crowd. He is 42 years old, and thinks this is old for only having published a few books, because many science-fiction writers begin young. He himself did not start writing until his early thirties, but he is glad he waited. When he first started, he felt a bit juvenile, and had not written in other styles beforehand.
30:05Copy video clip URL Gibson began writing short stories after having taken a science-fiction course in college. He tells an anecdote where his teacher encouraged him to sell a story to a magazine for $26. The lack of fame deterred him for about a year, and then he started selling stories to Omni. A man commissioned him to write Neuromancer as his first novel. He says he originally “constructed it to piss off the traditional science fiction audience,” but it won many prizes, and Gibson was “flabbergasted,” but he was disappointed he didn’t receive the “reactionary art shock outrage” he had expected.
34:35Copy video clip URL Gibson did get outrage at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently, where he wrote for an architectural show called “Visionary San Francisco.” A review said they had no place in a museum of art, and Gibson said, “Finally, I got it!” referring to a certain kind of scorn. He had wanted this because his heroes of literature were all initially dismissed. He cites Kerouac and Burroughs as examples. A dog begins to bark, interrupting the interview.
37:26Copy video clip URL Gibson was born in 1948, and remembers when there were no television sets, or they were incredibly small. He is amazed that children do not know what vacuum tubes are anymore, and Gold asks about these changes, which Gibson says have “put food in [his] mouth.” Gibson thinks that science fiction has some “redeeming value” for examining things that have happened in his lifetime.
39:33Copy video clip URL Gold asks about the quickening pace of changes in technology, and Gibson is not particularly concerned. “That’s not only what’s happening, that’s what we are… more and more I see that this is the Industrial Revolution.” He says these changes go back in a “constant arc,” though he has no idea where it’s going.
42:33Copy video clip URL Gold asks him his opinion on virtual reality, and Gibson contrasts it with the idea of cyberspace. He sees virtual reality as more like a television. Gibson goes on to describe his idea of cyberspace as a territory at length, and contrasts it with physical territory. He talks about the (legal) problem with defining what cyberspace is, though he does not really see the existence of cyberspace as he conceives of it in our world, yet.
53:49Copy video clip URL End of tape.