|Excerpt / Summary|
Section 2.8 :: Cyberspace
I’d gotten to a point…I’d gotten to a point in my early fiction – and, you know, we’re really talking, like, two or three attempted short stories – and I’d gotten…I’d gotten to a point where I needed a “buzzword.” I needed to replace the “rocketship” and the “holodeck” with something else that would be a…a signifier of technological change, and that would provide me with…with a narrative engine, and a territory in which the narrative could take place. And I didn’t realize…I don’t think I realized that…quite what a tall order that was. And in the way that people sometimes do, I solved the problem in a very offhand…in a very offhand way. All I really knew about the word cyberspace when I coined it was that it was…it seemed like an effective buzzword. It was evocative and essentially meaningless. It was very suggestive of…it was suggestive, of something, but it had, like, no, you know (pauses) no real semantic meaning, even for me, as I saw it emerge on the page.
(Gibson raises his eyebrows in a sort of befuddled-genius-cum-sage-magician expression, a kind of innocent amusement)
TV: But it’s not just the word, it’s the idea of a virtual reality inside a computer network. Where did that come from?
WG: (suddenly as if from the inside of some video-world) My input for doing that was, uh, my experience of the very first SONY Walkman® as a really intimate interface device that I could carry around. My observation of the body language of kids playing those early, plywood-sided arcade games…like, I saw the kids playing those games and I knew that they wanted to reach right through the screen and get with what they were playing with there. And I thought, “Well, if there’s space behind the screen, and everybody’s got these things at some level, maybe only metaphorically, those spaces are all the same space.” And as soon as I thought that…I, you know…I had it.
(in a nanosecond, images culminate in a dizzyingly edited paroxysm: Gibson on a black-and-white screen, warping and undulating in and out of scale, interspersed with his mouth proclaiming the coinage in hyperzoom, with a spectral explosion of pixels, more intense tight shots of kids ardently battling Galaga or Ms. PacMan, ancient, bitmapped video forms, game scores and synthesized audio all pulsate in unison, while Gibson, half-frozen in slow-motion, looms like a monochrome icon of a future-bygone era)
It’s interesting that it’s become common parlance. I had no idea. I had not idea that that would…that would happen. It’s a…it’s a…it’s a strange…it’s a strange thing for me. I mean, I see it…I see it in every newspaper that I open. It’s become…it’s become part of the language. Which is very, which is very nice…but I simply marvel that that’s…that’s happened. ‘Cos I had no idea. I had no idea that no one else would do it. It’s…it’s a very singular and peculiar thing. (grins)
Cyberspace, one day, might be the last usage of the prefix, “cyber,” because “cyber” is, I think, “cyber” is going to go the way of “electro.” We don’t use the prefix…we don’t use the prefix “electro” in…in pop-cultural parlance much anymore. Electricity being…it being taken for granted that most things are electrical. And I think that, at this point, it could be most…taken for granted that most things are computerized.