Understanding William Gibson

Understanding William Gibson

Understanding William Gibson

Understanding William Gibson

Synopsis

Gerald Alva Miller Jr.'s Understanding William Gibson is a thoughtful examination of the life and work of William Gibson, author of eleven novels and twenty short stories. Gibson is the recipient of many notable awards for science fiction writing including the Nebula, Hugo, and Philip K. Dick awards. Gibson's iconic novel, Neuromancer, popularized the concept of cyberspace. With his early stories and his first trilogy of novels,Gibson became the father figure for a new genre of science fiction called "cyberpunk" that brought a gritty realism to its cerebral plots involving hackers and artificial intelligences.
This study situates Gibson as a major figure in both science fiction history and contemporary American fiction, and it traces how his aesthetic affected both areas of literature. Miller follows a brief biographical sketch and a survey of the works that influenced him with an examination that divides Gibson's body of work into early stories, his three major novel trilogies, and his standalone works. Miller does not confine his study to major works but instead also delves into Gibson's obscure stories, published and unpublished screenplays, major essays, and collaborations with other authors.
Miller's exploration starts by connecting Gibson to the major countercultural movements that influenced him (the Beat Generation, the hippies, and the punk rock movement) while also placing him within the history of science fiction and examining how his early works reacted against contemporaneous trends in the genre. These early works also exhibit the development of his unique aesthetic that would influence science fiction and literature more generally. Next a lengthy chapter explicates his groundbreaking Sprawl Trilogy, which began with Neuromancer.
Miller then traces Gibson's aesthetic transformations across his two subsequent novel trilogies that increasingly eschew distant futures either to focus on our contemporary historical moment as a kind of science fiction itself or to imagine technological singularities that might lie just around the corner. These chapters detail how Gibson's aesthetic has morphed along with social, cultural, and technological changes in the real world. The study also looks at such standalone works as his collaborative steampunk novel, his attempts at screenwriting, his major essays, and even his experimental hypertext poetry. The study concludes with a discussion of Gibson's lasting influence and a brief examination of his most recent novel, The Peripheral, which signals yet another radical change in Gibson's aesthetic.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931-2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives— and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.