Wednesday, 26 November 2014

In the presence of the Prophet

Two weeks ago, I talked about the thirtieth anniversary of William Gibson’s debut novel Neuromancer, the importance of it and his subsequent works on modern science-fiction literature. I also mentioned that on November 25th, 2014, I was going to get to meet the man himself. That was yesterday. I was tempted to write this blog straight away last night, but decided I needed a day to chill and let the giddy fan-boy squealing bleed off first.

To my somewhat credit, I did manage to contain a lot of my squealing. I only tripped over once sentence when I met the man himself, when I expressed a strange sense of joy and affinity with a fellow left-handed writer as Gibson signed the pile of books I brought out of my Chatsubo Bar messenger bag. At the sight of the stack he said, “I don’t remember writing all of those.”

When I first heard words escape his mouth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know he’s American, residing in Canada, but the accent threw me for a second. Before I realised that the ever-so-slight twang was from his native South Carolina. The realisation was swiftly swept away by the awe of hearing the man speak. I was in a room with one of my absolute heroes. I may have to make that point two or three times before I shut up.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one in the room star-struck in the presence of the Noir Prophet himself. I’m fairly certain everyone was. The young chap from Topping and Company who introduced him expressed similar feelings of awe during the introduction. During the Q&A session after he read an extract from his new novel, The Peripheral, the audience quizzed him on matters of the future. Here was our oracle, the prophet of the future gods, and we mere mortals dared to ply him for predictions of what will happen next. He answered with clarity and grace, with the ease of one used to being tapped for perceived prescient knowledge as so many of his novels have hooked onto trends in our society before they even emerged.

A year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting fantasy authorPeter V. Brett. I hold in him in very high regard, giving him the title “DUDE”. In capital letters because that’s how much of an awesome DUDE he is. Last night, William Gibson proved himself to a quieter, but no less utterly awesome DUDE. Once again though, this is not my story, but a story of a friend.

Last night, I attended the William Gibson event with my friend Jester, who has a good few years worth of experience on me and has read further and wider than I have. But it all started when one of his friends lent him a copy of Neuromancer. That was the first sci-fi that Jester read and was the beginning of a long and voracious love affair that remains passionate to this day. Jester had Gibson dedicate the book to his friend and explained that this friend introduced him to not only Gibson, but sci-fi literature. And Gibson said, “The next time you speak to your friend, tell him thank you.”

Such a subtle, small phrase, but boy does it carry weight. When Jester told me the story...I was in further awe. William Gibson says thank you. If a friend of mine called me and told me that, I would no doubt squeal so loud the Martians would be yelling at us to keep the noise down. Holy frak, what a dude.

Now I say that I managed to contain most of my giddy fan-boy squealing (something Jester was VERY glad about), but I did have a moment of what I would characterise as total fan-boy-ness. When Gibson had finished signing all twelve books I brought with me, I sheepishly produced one last item. The essay, “Wisdom of the Noir Prophet: Arguing for the inclusion of William Gibson in the literary canon”. I explained that I wrote in my final year of university and asked if he would sign it. He did. I then scooped up my pile of books and scurried on so other people could have their moment with one of the greatest minds in modern science-fiction.

Last night, I basked in the presence of the Prophet. My life is the richer for it and this world richer for containing his works.

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