In his fiction, William Gibson is known for inventing the term ‘cyberspace’ in 1981, before such a thing existed. Distrust that Particular Flavor is a collection of his non-fiction essays for such magazines as Wired and Rolling Stone and talks he has given in which he presents his thoughts on culture and evolving technology and how it is changing us. He also writes about Japan and Singapore, cinema and music.
Although the articles are not that old – they were mostly published in the nineties and early noughties – it is fascinating to see which were prescient and which are already out of date. For example, in ‘The Net is a Waste of Time’ he writes about “submitting to the search engine of AltaVista.” Remember that?
At the end of each article Gibson writes a little postscript on why and how he wrote the article and his thoughts on the subject now. He berates himself for a lazy title or admits he feels he owes a magazine another article. This is a fascinating and brave exercise and he’s quite hard on himself. He also adds biographical notes and writes about the consequences of his writing – his article on Singaporeentitled ‘Disneylandwith the death penalty’ resulted in Wired being banned there.
I sometimes got a bit lost in some of the geekery but that’s probably because I wouldn’t spend any time worrying about the things that Gibson ponders such as ‘Will we have computer trips in our heads?’ I found the articles on Japanese culture,Singapore and his biographical pieces more enjoyable. In ‘My Obsession’ he writes amusingly about his addiction to bidding for vintage watches on eBay. ‘Rocket Radio’ is a refreshing take on the influence of technology.
Gibson’s writing is so good that even the techie articles are engaging and fans of his fiction will no doubt love this collection.
Any Cop?: One for the fans although the honest postscripts provide some intriguing insights.