How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real

Speaking of William Gibson:

The ten novels that Gibson has written since have slid steadily closer to the present. In the nineties, he wrote a trilogy set in the two-thousands. The novels he published in 2003, 2007, and 2010 were set in the year before their publication. (Only the inevitable delays of the publishing process prevented them from taking place in the years when they were written.) Many works of literary fiction claim to be set in the present day. In fact, they take place in the recent past, conjuring a world that feels real because it’s familiar, and therefore out of date. Gibson’s strategy of extreme presentness reflects his belief that the current moment is itself science-fictional. “The future is already here,” he has said. “It’s just not very evenly distributed.”

The further Gibson developed his present-tense sci-fi, the more mysterious and resonant his novels became. They seemed to reveal a world within the world: the real present. The approach was risky; it put him at the mercy of events. In 2001, Gibson rushed to incorporate the September 11th attacks into his half-completed eighth novel, “Pattern Recognition,” a story about globalization, filmmaking, Internet forums, brand strategy, and informational deluge. Terrorism turned out to fit neatly within this framework; “Pattern Recognition” is often described as the first post-911 novel. The risks could pay off.