Tuesday, 31 May 2011

William Gibson's Lens

William Gibson is probably most famous for his novel Neuromancer, an often-imitated masterpiece of slick science fiction. I love Neuromancer. But lately, Gibson's novels have gotten a lot harder to define. They are increasingly set in the present or the near, near, near future, and deal with pretty interesting ideas concerning fashion, capitalism, globalization, and trends. This passage, from zero history, is a recent favorite of mine:

...male streetwear generally, over the past fifty years or so, she said, had been more heavily influenced by the design of military clothing than by anything else. The bulk of the underlying design code of the twenty-first-century male street was the code of the previous mid-century's military wear, most of it American. The rest of it was work wear, most of that American as well, whose manufacture had coevolved with the manufacture of military clothing, sharing elements of the same design code, and team sportswear.

That's the type of weird, just-under-the-surface observation that distinguishes a truly great author from a "mere sci-fi" author. Neal Stephenson has the same ability. Perhaps unintentionally in self-reference, by the way, one of Gibson's excellent recent novels is called Pattern Recognition.

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