Advice from the Masters: William Gibson

Nov 18, 2015 | Better Writing

William Gibson has written some amazing stuff. My first exposure to his magic was in “Burning Chrome,” almost immediately followed by Neuromancer.

I always thought it was cool that Gibson wrote the first works using the term “cyberspace” on a manual typewriter. It just seemed to fit.

We’ve got this funny thing about great authors. We treat them like flies in amber, caught in a particular place and time in their lives. We usually think of Hemingway, for example, in Havana and rarely as that fellow filing dispatches from Europe for the Toronto Star.

I had frozen Gibson with that manual typewriter, crafting noir visions of the future on an almost-disappeared device. Then I read the following in Gibson’s Paris Review interview.

“I wrote Neuromancer on a manual portable typewriter and about half of Count Zero on the same machine. Then it broke, in a way that was more or less irreparable. Bruce Sterling called me shortly thereafter and said, ‘This changes everything!’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘My Dad gave me his Apple II. You have to get one of these things!’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Automation—it automates the process of writing!’ I’ve never gone back.”

I laughed out loud. Writers, even great ones like Gibson, are always looking for ways to do things better. It just makes sense.

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