When did you decide to write about the contemporary world?
For years, I’d found myself telling interviewers and readers that I believed it was possible to write a novel set in the present that would have an effect very similar to the effect of novels I had set in imaginary futures. I think I said it so many times, and probably with such a pissy tone of exasperation, that I finally decided I had to call myself on it.
A friend knew a woman who was having old-fashioned electroshock therapy for depression. He’d pick her up at the clinic after the session and drive her not home but to a fish market. He’d lead her to the ice tables where the day’s catch was spread out, and he’d just stand there with her, and she’d look at the ice tables for a really long time with a blank, searching expression. Finally, she’d turn to him and say, “Wow, they’re fish, aren’t they!” After electroshock, she had this experience of unutterable, indescribable wonderment at seeing these things completely removed from all context of memory, and gradually her brain would come back together and say, Damn, they’re fish. That’s kind of what I do.
The writer William Gibson has long been one of my favorites. While known for creating the term “cyberspace,” perhaps his most important contribution to science fiction is merging it with literary naturalism.
Along those lines, as a marketer, I have always found his representation of “brands” compelling. In particular, the way they weave almost subliminally throughout our lives.
Gibson was recently interviewed by David Wallace-Wells in the Paris Review. If you are a fan of Gibson’s writing, I strongly encourage you to read the lengthy discussion.