How Soon Is Now?

William Gibson's Present Tense

Comparatively ancient impulses are at work too. Cayce likens the viewing of each new segment of footage to "that Lumière moment, the steam locomotive about to emerge from the screen." Pattern Recognition impels the century-old dream of movies into a future of filmless film. The premise allows Gibson to tease out his fanciful notion of the "Garage Kubrick," first advanced in a 1999 Wired article—"a control freak to an extent impossible any further back along the technological timeline . . . making, literally, a one-man movie."

This quaint idealism is the province not just of the hypothetical maker but also the fans. The almost childlike pleasure Cayce and her fellow footageheads take in their shared passions is all the more moving given their awareness that to search for patterns is to risk apophenia, "the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things." But pattern recognition, as Gibson makes clear, is more than Cayce's job description, more than an avant-garde footage jigsaw, more than what his books have been sneakily doing for over 20 years now. It's a survival tactic within the context of no context—dowsing for meaning, and sometimes settling for the illusion of meaning, as our accelerating now seems to leave us ever further behind.


William Gibson: "a very specialized bit of human litmus paper"
photo: Karen Markowitz
William Gibson: "a very specialized bit of human litmus paper"

Related Article:
"Think Different: An Interview With William Gibson" by Dennis Lim

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