Steve Bein, writer & philosopher

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I met a legend today

How many days do you get to say you shook hands with one of your role models? Today I met one of mine: William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero, all books that set me on the path to writing science fiction.

WG at BP

He spoke at Book People today, Austin’s oldest indie bookstore. I got a shiny new copy of The Peripheral, his latest novel, and I also brought my shabby, yellowed, old-book-smelling copy of Neuromancer. Now I’ve got both of them autographed, the first-edition hardcover and the tattered paperback from 1986 that I’ve read and re-read more times than I can remember.

I don’t know whether it was my obsession with Japan that made me latch on to Gibson’s work, or whether it was Gibson’s novels that turned my Japanese fascination up to eleven. Either way, I was hooked. Now, the more I think about it, the more I come to understand what an influence he had on me. I’ve always credited Tolkien and Herbert for making me think seriously about world-building, but now I realize I was reading Gibson before I ever picked up

There’s this tiny throwaway line in
Neuromancer that has always stayed with me: “Rent me a gun, Shin?” Case, the protagonist, asks this out of nowhere. That little line got me thinking: how many things would have to go wrong in a culture for unregistered gun rentals to become commonplace? It’s clear from the context that what Case is asking for isn’t legal, but it’s equally clear that this is no big deal. You need to shoot someone, you rent a gun for a few hours.

It’s a throwaway line, totally inessential to the plot, but what it does for the setting is enormous -- or it was for me, anyway. And today I got to shake hands with the guy that wrote it, and that makes today pretty good.