Follow TV Tropes


Creator / William Gibson

Go To
William Ford Gibson (born March 17, 1948) is an author and grandfather of the Cyberpunk genre. Trope Maker and Trope Namer of Cyberspace; Trope Namer of the term Raygun Gothic. Also, the man responsible for Steampunk as we know it.

Has an official website.

His books include:

He also wrote the script for the film Johnny Mnemonic based on his short story by the same name, a couple episodes of The X-Files, the original (unused) screenplay for Alien³ and many short stories. The Abel Ferrara film New Rose Hotel is an adaptation of his short story of the same name.

In 2022, The Peripheral was adapted into a Prime Video TV series — he had no direct involvement in the making of it, but was consulted.

Outside of fiction, he penned an essay that gave Singapore the enduring appellation of "Disneyland with the Death Penalty".

Works by William Gibson that don't have their own pages include examples of:

  • Asimov's Three Kinds of Science Fiction: All sci-fi written by him (i.e. Sprawl Trilogy, Bridge Trilogy, Bigend Books, and the "Jackpot" novels) falls squarely in the Social camp. While Gibson does his best to research his contemporary technology, he has stated many times that he is neither interested in its nitty-gritty nor in predicting the future. Instead, his focus is on how technological progress affects the present, reflected in his imagined futures to highlight what he perceives as the most important. This focus on humanity is what gives his books a timeless quality despite the tech in them always marching on and makes them time capsules of the concerns of the respective decades when they were written (Sprawl in The '80s, Bridge in The '90s, Bigend after 9/11, and Jackpot in The New '10s).
  • Black Box: The Highway in the short story "Hinterlands". Astronauts go in and come out, sometimes bringing back pieces of alien civilisation with them. The "jump" only happens when the astronaut is alone and they all, invariably, come back either dead or catatonic. Sometimes the jump doesn't happen at all...
  • Cargo Cult: Played with in the science-fiction short story "Hinterlands"; this time, it's humanity who are on the receiving end, and by the end of the book we're still no wiser as to how the whole thing works or why. The rule is that you must travel to a set point in space and release a radio-flare; if you do, you might "disappear" and come back after a lengthy period of time, either dead or insane, but possibly carrying a random alien object or information that might be valuable.
  • Courier: The short story "Johnny Mnemonic" is about an underworld courier who transports digital information in a brain implant.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Gibson (in)famously described Singapore as the "Disneyland with the death penalty" for a Wired magazine article published in 1993. The Singaporean government subsquently banned Wired from the country.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Parodied in the short story "The Gernsback Continuum". A photographer, while on commission to shoot some old Thirties-art-deco buildings (all magnificent examples of Zeerust), suddenly begins to see glimpses of an alternate reality that contains all the weird architecture, drapery clothing, and amazing technical advances predicted by the pulp-SF writers of the 1920s-1950s. Gibson actually specifies that the alternate-Earth dress code includes a toga.
  • Cyberspace: The term "cyberspace" itself was coined by Gibson in his 1982 short story "Burning Chrome". The setting in this story involves computer networks whose operating system is now a virtual reality simulation of a "world in the computer". Interesting in that you don't "walk" through Gibson's cyberspace... you move across a grid more or less at will, assuming you know where you want to go. There is no slow walk or fly unless you want to admire the view.
  • Dance Battler: In the short story "Johnny Mnemonic", the Lo Teks have a fighting floor that is wired to shift and produce musical beats based on your footing, with the intention of turning brawls into a sort of dance. Molly Millions fights a Yakuza assassin on the floor, and its strange characteristics give her an advantage.
  • Diagonal Cut: Happens in the short story "Johnny Mnemonic", with a monomolecular whip.
  • Disney Villain Death: In the short story "Johnny Mnemonic", the villainous Yakuza assassin who is pursuing Johnny and Molly meets his end like this, but instead of reaching for his hand, Molly tricks him into chopping it off with his own molecular wire, which also opens a hole in the platform he was standing on with a very long plummet to the city below.
  • Futuristic Superhighway: The narrator of the short story "The Gernsback Continuum" has a terrifying hallucination of driving on one of these. It's described as an "eighty-lane monster".
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The short story "Hinterlands" describes a point in space between Earth and Mars in which space ships radiating energy at "the broadcast frequency of the hydrogen atom" disappear. Sometimes they return, sometimes with some fragment of an alien culture. The alien artefact may be useless or invaluable. But the returning pilots are always dead on arrival or the strongest of them make it through a few weeks of catatonia or drooling madness before committing suicide.
  • Involuntary Charity Donation: In the short story "Burning Chrome", the two "Console Cowboy" protagonists hack the Swiss bank account of a local mob boss and donate most of it to a dozen different charities because the sum was simply too big to move discreetly and they needed to make sure that she couldn't put out a hit on them.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Satirized in the short story "The Gernsback Continuum", set in 1980; the central character finds himself inadvertently "peeking" into an alternate 1980 — the one imagined by 1930s filmmakers, in which everyone lives in monumental towered cities, the average car looks like "an aluminum avocado with a shark's fin", and people wear "white togas and Lucite sandals" and say things like, "John, we've forgotten to take our food pills."
  • Nothing Is Scarier: This trope is the heart of the short story "Hinterlands", which concerns an interdimensional "highway" and its effects on the astronauts who travel it. The Fear, as it's called in the story, visits those who even think too much about what's on the other side. The astronauts who actually go there all come back insane or dead by their own hands.
  • Permanently Missable Content: He attempted to invoke this trope with his book Agrippa: A Book of the Dead. With the exception of two copies sent to the Library of Congress, each copy of the book was printed with ink that gradually turned invisible when exposed to light, and the accompanying floppy disk ran the program on it once and then corrupted itself - and it was copy-protected to prevent back-ups and wouldn't run if the write-protect tab was covered. Hackers being hackers, a copy of the program was eventually ripped and passed around the Internet, and social engineers snuck into the studio where Gibson was giving a one-time-only reading of the book and recorded it, distributing the transcript around the BBS circuit.
  • Playing with Syringes: The short story "Hinterlands" depicts what it would be like to be on the receiving end of a Cargo Cult — the first human to experience it does not end well, dissected in a Soviet laboratory. Also Foreshadowing, as an insane victim of the cargo cult reprograms her spaceship's surgical bay to dissect herself, committing suicide.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In the short story "Dogfight", the main character wins the aerial combat video game, but in the process alienates everyone he might possibly celebrate his victory with.
  • Razor Floss: In the short story "Johnny Mnemonic", a yakuza assassin has a monomolecular whip attached to the first digit of his thumb. When he pulls on his thumb, the filament extends and the joint becomes the weight for a whip that can decapitate his enemies with one swing.
  • Reality Bleed: In "The Gernsback Continuum", the main character is a photographer, and working on documenting 'the future that never was', mostly the future as seen from the 1950s. Then he starts slipping into that reality...
  • Sapient Cetaceans: The short story "Johnny Mnemonic" features Jones, a drug-addicted cyborg dolphin who communicates through a panel of christmas lights and lives in an amusement park after being retired from the Navy. He uses his SQUID implant to help Johnny extract the stolen Yakuza data in his head in exchange for a shot of good shit.
  • Space Madness: In the short story "Hinterlands", those who travel the interstellar "Highway" invariably return catatonic, insane or dead by their own hand. In rare cases a returnee can be temporarily grounded in reality by taking some really good drugs with someone they can totally relate to.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": In the short story "Johnny Mnemonic", Johnny has some sensitive data stored his head by an information broker, and the data can only be retrieved when the broker recites a password to Johnny. The broker is noted to be a huge fan of a particular music band, to the point of having had plastic surgery to look like the band's front man. When the broker is killed and Johnny is forced to retrieve the password by other means, he's nonplussed to discover that the password is the name of the band.
  • Yakuza: In "Johnny Mnemonic," the Yakuza send a vat-grown cyborg assassin to kill the main character. It's revealed in Neuromancer that a second one succeeded.
  • Zeerust: Consciously addressed in "The Gernsback Continuum", a short story about a photographer who receives an assignment to photograph California's Zeerust-laden "Raygun Gothic" architecture.