Dennis Lim: Pattern Recognition is your first present-day novel. Does it feel like you’ve been counting down to this moment? William Gibson: The present of Pattern Recognition actually feels to me like the futures of my other books but with the skins of futurity removed.
How did the book change after 9-11? I was about 100 pages in on September 10. I came back to it a couple of weeks later and realized that my character’s backstory had ceased to exist, or diverged onto an alternate time track. It’s the strangest experience I’ve ever had with a piece of fiction.
Did you rewrite those 100 pages? It proved more an issue of re-inhabiting—written in one world, revised in another.
Was there more research involved this time around? I did go to Tokyo because I needed post-bubble Tokyo. I’ve never been to Moscow—a friend of mine was milked thoroughly. I did the rest on the Web.
You just Googled stuff? Yeah, and some of the Web stuff that turned up was quite eerie. I Googled Kensington Gardens and found myself in one of those low-grade virtual realities. Having that texture to admix with the texture of the London of memory was a strange new thing—I’d find myself thinking that novels will be different now.
Did you have any films in mind as reference points for the footage? More like this über-movie—every great European film ever made. It had more to do with this “Garage Kubrick” idea: I was talking to these digital film people who I thought would be really excited, but they were realists. I got the same reaction early on, writing science fiction. I’d come up with ideas for A.I. and run them by people in the computer business, and they’d say, there’s not enough bandwidth in the entire universe! And I’d go away in this childish sulk: I’ll show you!
Have you ever been enlisted to sell anything? I haven’t, and it’s a puzzle. Remember those ads? “What’s Henry Rollins got on his laptop?” I thought, well, they could ask me.
You use a Mac? I’ve never used anything but a Mac! I suppose it’s good to look like a holdout.
Have you ever left anything out of a book for fear of the real-world implications? In Idoru, one of the characters had a memory of a terrorist event. It stayed in to the first galleys, but it seemed so workable and media-efficient an idea that I didn’t feel like I could let it out.
What was the idea? I can’t tell you that.
Return to Dennis Lim’s review of Pattern Recognition