Thirty years ago this summer, author William Gibson released his debut novel, “Neuromancer,” and pretty much single-handedly changed the trajectory of science fiction. Gibson’s story – of virtual realities and insane artificial intelligences – pioneered the genre of cyberpunk and folded in dozens of details that would prove remarkably prescient.
Gibson’s work over the years has gradually crept from far-future speculation toward contemporary observation. His most recent books – concluding with 2010’s “Zero History” – are set about five minutes into the future and examine a world changing so rapidly that science fiction is becoming indistinguishable from everyday reality.
Gibson’s much-anticipated new novel, “The Peripheral,” splits the difference. By way of an alternating-chapter structure – and an exceedingly cool time-travel premise – “The Peripheral” toggles between near-future and far-future settings. Using high-tech “peripheral” technology, characters are able to project their consciousness into machines and effectively move through time.
“The Peripheral” is a murder mystery wrapped in cyberpunk noir, with some spooky conjecture on our weirder modern technologies – including drones, 3-D printing and virtual reality gaming. Calling from his home in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, Gibson recently spoke to The N&O about time travel, apocalypse and hope for the future.
So I happily appropriated that, then added the rule that physical time travel is utterly impossible. Thirty years ago that would have left you with no room to have a story. But in a world in which a pilot can sit in a warehouse outside of Las Vegas and kill people in Afghanistan in a flying robot – which is our world – then you can have a total story. The mechanics of that called the whole peripheral thing into existence.