Cyberpunk qua cyberpunk served, in the long run, only to provide a facile adjective for the working vocabulary of lazy journalists and unimaginative blurb-writers. Yet even those at least partially in the know about science fiction (if nothing more) who debated, defended, or denigrated Gibson didn’t have the faintest idea of what Gibson was actually doing. (Though he didn’t either, at least not at the time—no writer knows what he or she has actually created until the book is actually read by others.) Neuromancer, foremost, was a shout in the night that was the 1980s, is the 1990s, and will be, it seems to me, the decades soon to come. That is to say, a foreshadowing and estimation of our future derived from a specific reinterpretation of our present, and in this very special instance lifted into actuality through the agency of its readers. For if Gibson in truth had nothing to do with the making of cyberpunk as it came to be known (he didn’t create it, didn’t name it, and after it was cursed with its catchy monicker, didn’t want a whole lot to do with it), in the most genuine sense he did create cyberspace. Not merely the word (see the OED); the place.
Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.
… Let me emphasize a point earlier glanced upon: All fiction, whether straight or genre, whether literature or Literature, is a personal reinterpretation of its writers’ existence during the time the fiction was written. Therefore science fiction has rarely predicted with any accuracy, save through coincidence or extremely well-informed suppositions a la Verne or Wells, the specifics of the future that ensues, postpublication. (Where do you park your atomic-powered lawnmower?) Sometimes, however—who can say how the spark catches fire, how the fish manages to live on land—it turns out to exactly, mysteriously, capture the spirit. In Neuromancer Gibson first apprehended, as no one else had, what I believe shall prove to be the shape of things to come; he saw the writing on the wall, the blood in the sky, the warning in the entrails. Saw the mind beneath the mirrorshades, as it were, and what that mind would be capable, or incapable, of thinking. Saw the substance disguised in style. What if someone, in the spring of 1914, had stood in the center of Berlin, foresaw in a vision the philosophies and worldviews capable of provoking the events for which the twentieth century would be most remembered, and then went off and wrote it all down? Now let’s be Heisenbergian and ask: What if the act of writing it down, in fact, brought it about?
When Neuromancer appeared it was picked up and devoured by hundreds, then thousands, of men and women who worked in or around the garages and cubicles where what is still called new media were, fitfully, being birthed; thousands who, on reading his sentence as quoted above, thought to themselves, That’s so fucking cool, and set about searching for any way the gold of imagination might be transmuted into silicon reality. Now Gibson’s imagined future cannot by any means be called optimistic (nor, in truth, can it be called pessimistic—it is beyond both); more to the point, he has often said that he intended “cyberspace” to be nothing more than a metaphor. No matter. Once a creation goes out in the world its creator, like any parent, loses the control once so easily exertable over the offspring; another variety of emergent behavior, you could say. That’s so fucking cool, man—I think we can pull it off. So rather than the theoretical Matrix, we now, thanks to all those beautiful William Gibson readers out there in the dark, have the actual Web—same difference, for all intents and purposes, or it will be soon enough. (Some Dark Holler, Jack Womack)