The world of the Sprawl is often called dystopian.
Well, maybe if you’re some middle-class person from the Midwest. But if you’re living in most places in Africa, you’d jump on a plane to the Sprawl in two seconds. Many people in Rio have worse lives than the inhabitants of the Sprawl.
I’ve always been taken aback by the assumption that my vision is fundamentally dystopian. I suspect that the people who say I’m dystopian must be living completely sheltered and fortunate lives. The world is filled with much nastier places than my inventions, places that the denizens of the Sprawl would find it punishment to be relocated to, and a lot of those places seem to be steadily getting worse.”
Just some days, he knew, the only thing you could do was read William Gibson novels and drink until things were better.
It didn’t always work, he knew that too, but by the time you figured that out you were lit up and wired up to a dark techno future that never quite was, so that was alright.
So he sighed, turned the page, and took another drink.
Clichés crop up for a reason. It has become one to say of William Gibson’s near-future novels that he has a genius for picking out the seeds of future in the present, that he writes about the world we already know as if it were science fiction. I remember reading his Pattern Recognition in 2007, when I had a job as a shop-girl in a cyberpunk warehouse in Camden Lock Market in London and feeling the hairs on the back of my arms rise on the bus to work when I came to his description of the Lock as a “Children’s Crusade,” full of shuffling teenagers up from the provinces to buy overpriced pieces of space-kitch and fake fur boleros.
Yes, the lumpen shop fronts with their weird plaster statues of boots and bangles really did look a bit like they’d been modelled by a giant toddler out of plasticine. At the warehouse, we specialised in flogging plastic cyberware headsets and bits of tacky Japanalia to teenagers with pocket money to spare on the debris of the future everyone expected in 1987, 20 years on. We got timed for toilet breaks and occasionally fired for playing with the nerf guns on our breaks. It was the worst job I’ve ever had, and because the shop and the young punks who flocked to it were a paean to his aesthetic, I blame William Gibson for almost all of it.”
This is why science fiction is dangerous. When Slavoj Žižek visited Occupy Wall Street in October, he drew protesters’ attention to the fact that “in mid-April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV, films, and novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. These people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dreaming. Here, we don’t need a prohibition because the ruling system has even oppressed our capacity to dream.”
The Future, Probably – The New Inquiry