William Gibson: Reading Spook Country

William Gibson can’t read his own fiction, I’m sorry to say. I went to his reading here in Hamilton organized by Brian Prince and some guy from a bookstore in Burlington who thought it was a good idea to merge the science fiction in his bookstore with the other fiction (see below). Gibson read from Spook Country which I blogged before. He is a bland reader who, when combined with local musician Tom Wilson looks pickled white. He also had some strange pronunciations, like “bitch” for “bench”. (Benches show up surprisingly often in Spook Country chapters, something you don’t notice until someone pronounces them “bitch.”) Perhaps it’s an elaborate joke, or a Vancouver accent, or just that Gibson was at the end of a tour in boring town in Ontario reading after Tom Wilson.

Reminder to self … never follow Tom Wilson!

To be fair Gibson was good at answering questions, most of which were of the sort, “what sort of books-music-movies do you read-listen-watch.” I think Gibson fans confuse him for an oracle of nerd cool because his recent characters seem so hip. To be frank I’m more interested in what music Tom Wilson listens to. For that matter, Gibson more or less said he doesn’t read fiction after a long day writing it. As for his musical tastes his answers felt canned, and sure enough, showed up verbatim on his web site.

Now to comment on the idea of merging sci fi with regular fiction. This was presented to us (Gibson fans) as a legitimation of sci fi as if we were worried all along that our reading wasn’t being taken seriously. Who cares what others think? I personally prefer my sci fi in one place so I don’t have to wade through a large bookstore by author; that’s how I discover new authors like Ian Banks. The advantage of organization by genre is that you can discover more books in that genre when you don’t have an author in mind. Margaret Atwood talks about what sci fi or speculative fiction can do in The Guardian. If she is right that certain things can be done better with sci fi, and if that is what you want to read, why not have a couple shelves dedicated to it (and, of course, fantasy, which doesn’t do the same stuff, but gets lumped in there.) Thank Atwood that Brian Prince hasn’t reorganized their shelves.