-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
Yesterday was William Gibson day.
Philadelphia's Free Library was his last stop on his paperback release tour for Pattern Recognition, and the place was packed. We showed up an hour and a half early, and our group took up about half the third row.
After an essay read by some woman from Rutgers (which admittedly was a good essay, and captured a lot of the hard to describe things about Gibson's work), he seemed to sway out onto the stage.
The podium is bronzed, shaped like a large tome. He leans on it heavily. The man himself is 6'6", 6'7", with his hair all messed up, eyes squinting out behind round frames. He looks exhausted.
He read the first chapter of PR, with much laughter from the crowd in all the right places.
The Q&A session was interesting. He rambled a bit, but always brought it back and managed to make a point. A third of the questioners had British accents, which I thought was odd.
One of the questions related to how print is apparently dead (again? someone should probably mention it; people seem to claim print is dead just as often as people claim Apple's marketshare is about to completely collapse), and the questioner asked if printing books was a rebellious action on Gibson's part.
(possibly paraphrased, I wasn't taking notes)
"Hell, I don't know. Ask Barnes and Noble or Borders. Why are there more book stores and books being printed than ever before? Why does selling books have such a huge retail slot, bigger than it ever has?"
I've long maintained that there is some undefinable thing about a book, something that can't be replaced by a digital copy. Reading long pieces of text on a display of any sort invariably gives me a headache (including, unfortunately, code). Even when smart paper becomes marketable, and business-viable, it'll still have to be shaped, I think, in some way not entirely unlike a book.
"I'm sure there are some people who read books on their PDAs, but I don't know them."
We all looked pointedly at Andrew, who is the gadget freak of the group. He gave us a What?! look in return. :-)
The crowd itself was perhaps 10% geek, the rest lit people, most of them old. Back in the day, reading Gibson was part of what being in the scene was (not that I've ever been in the scene, just on the fringes of it, enough to know that everyone'd read Neuromancer at least), at least for the cyberpunkish kids.
It was the same mix at the Stephenson signing, in fact. Most of them were literature people; a sprinkling of computer or EE dorks.
The signing itself is where the only really good story comes in.
O'Donnell had decided to give Gibson a copy of Hacker's Challenge 2, a computer/network security book series he co-authors. There's a Gibson quote in the front, and one of the stories O'Donnell wrote is very cyberpunkish. So he marks the cpunk chapter with his business card.
We mocked him relentlessly for this, calling him many names.
However, Gibson thanks him and said it could be useful, and that he'd put it on his research shelf.
Afterwards, we all agreed it was cool and a nice thing for Gibson to say, but remained adament that O'Donnell is just a big dork.
So this morning O'Donnell gets a call, waking him up:
"Uh, hi, Adam? This is William Gibson."
Needless to say, a very cool way to get woken up. Gibson had a couple compsec questions for him, for a friends book. Adam can answer just about any security question you have, so.
The moral of the story here is: Being a superdork pays off.
Have you exercised your inner nerd today?
Nothing new here, for those of us who follow Gibson and his work, but a relatively interesting read anyway.
< solios> < girl> harry, this is william gibson.
< solios> < william_gibson> hey.
< solios> (wild palms)++
< solios> O_o
< solios> wow.
< solios> Wild Palms is pretty cool.
< solios> kind of slow start.
< solios> domestic domestic domestic RHINO domestic domestic domestic party blah blah blah WETWARE TELEPRESENCE HOLOGRAMS HEY LOOK WILLIAM GIBSON
The only good thing going right now is I have found a little bit of time, among the retarded amount of work I have been doing, to start reading Pattern Recognition again. Partially in preparation for the release of Spook Country, but mostly because it is so very full of the good.
Gibson's prose is one of the few things that almost makes me glad I have such an awful memory. It means when I read a passage and think "That is beautiful. I want to remember that", I can't. When someone asks me to quote my favorite lines, I typically can't. "I can't remember anything specifically, but trust me, it's amazing" is sometimes not very convincing.
It also mean, however, that whenever I re-read one of his novels I have no choice but to approach the work almost completely fresh, in terms of the writing itself. I remember plot points and characters, I remember what happens but individual lines, paragraphs, that make me close the book for a moment, just to reflect on them, are always new.
And that's something worth having.
...as if reflected off wings of receding dream.
<@javaman> got book signed.
<@nrmlgrl> i was wondereing where you were
<@javaman> gibson's new book
<@javaman> highlight: he remembered me, wanted to ask me some questions for the current book
<@javaman> but thought his questions were stupid
<@bikepunx> thats pretty awesome
<@waltman> who thought his questions were stupid -- you or him?
<@bda> javaman: Dude.
<@javaman> he thought his questions were stupid.
<@waltman> were they?
<@javaman> he never asked.
<@bda> javaman: Presumably you ensured that for the next book he would call you? :)
<@javaman> gave him my card again.
<@bda> That is super awesome.
<@javaman> but yeah i told him that i would never consider a question stupid.
William Gibson Agony Podcast Interview
it's funny, when gibson talks, and i remember this from his talk at the library a few years ago...
he really understands what the interviewer is trying to ask even when they're being vague
and answers the question above and beyond what anyone could have even imagined
his insight is uber
I hadn't thought of it that way though, in regards to interviews.
he just answers questions above and beyond and gives insight into his comments more than probably anyone i've ever heard
he's just very far from snooty
where he is in the position of being allowed to be snooty
I am really tired, and must sleep, but here is a brief, brief overview:
Cronin, Walt and I showed up to the Library around 1700. They closed it down until 1815, so we sat outside and watched the pretty girls go by (I hate summer, but I like pretty girls; cursed am I). Cronin also attempted to lure the disgusting city pigeons into attacking me via strategically placed pieces of Wawa hoagie, but failed miserably.
Then it was time for the awesome.
<@bda> Gibson Is A Prophet
<@bda> Adam Is Froody
<@bda> So because we think it's hilarious that Adam gives his biz cards to William Gibson, I gave him another of Adam's cards tonight.
<@bda> "A buddy of mine keeps giving these to you whenever he sees you, so we figured we'd continue the tradition in whatever city you happen to be in."
<@bda> The first link makes it far less funny, and much more awesome.
<@bda> But Gibson remembered, and laughed, and said:
<@bda> "That's fine, but it makes me wonder if he's a distributed entity."
Though I am positive I said something far, far less coherent than that. He also looked incredibly tired (considering his signing schedule, and the ridiculous things that it incurs, who can blame him). Questions this trip were surprisingly sparse, not that I ever have anything to ask one of my favorite authors when I have the ability to do so. I remember last time he was here, lots of people were up for it, though. Kinda odd. Maybe everyone was just keying off his obvious exhaustion?
Also, my brain went into total Fanboy Glee Mode after his response, so I just sort of stumbled off, giggling.
After the signing, Cronin, Hunter, Faith and I went to Vietnam Palace for some tasty food and to catch up on the last few years. It was good seeing them again. :-)
On my way home, I was waiting to catch a cab and some suburbanite hipster kids were failing to hail one as well. Failing like they kept running back and forth across Market St., whenever they saw one. I mostly ignored them and talked on my cell. Finally I managed to get a cab, not noticing the kids running across the street to... cabjack me?
I figured, whatever, there's four of them, and they are obviously unused to how this works. I will be a nice guy. As I am holding the door for one of the girls, one of the guys gets all puffed up and starts to call me a douche, or a dick.
I let out a mighty "Ay, yo!" with the full intention of smacking him around (for whatever it would be worth, he was younger than me and it is impossible for me to be in worse shape, physically, without actually being made of donuts), but his buddy... held him back? Or something?
The whole situation was resolved amicably once the (drunk?) kids realized, oh, you are being nice and letting us have your cab, while we are too incompentant to get one.
It just makes me feel like a real Philadelphian though: "Ay, yo!" to shut someone up, perhaps precipitating a bout of violence, and then a random act of charity.
"Hey sorry about--" "Yo, no worries. You and me. We're cool. You have a good night now."
Then two seconds later I caught another cab.
Pete came home after I got back, and we sat around talking about uh, lots of weird random things (books, politics, I failed to explain even the most basic aspects of quantum physics, more books), which was pretty entertaining.
Now I must sleep. Before the doom.
Video and audio in various downloadable or streaming formats of Gibson's talk in Berkely are available at fora.tv.
A guy in front of me (the only other person I talked to who had actually finished the damn book) was in the front row and filmed the Philly talk. I gave him my biz card, so hopefully he will remember to email me when he uploads it to YouTube.