The Shape of Things That Came

I’ve been a huge William Gibson fan ever since I stumbled onto Neuromancer in high school, so I’m eagerly anticipating some free time in my schedule, probably around the Labor Day weekend, to read his latest novel, Spook Country, and in the meantime I’m glad to see his continued assimilation into the literary mainstream, like the Sunday NYT interview with Deborah Solomon, who wonders when “American life [became] stranger than science fiction.”

“If I had gone into a publisher in New York in 1981,” Gibson replies, “and told them I wanted to write a novel that is set in a world where the climate is out of whack and Mideast terrorists have hijacked airplanes and in response the U.S. has invaded the wrong country—it’s too much. Contemporary reality is like an overlapping set of dire science-fictional scenarios.”

Too much…unless maybe you were Gregory Benford, and you were offering those publishers the manuscript to the 1980 Nebula-winning novel Timescape, set in a 1998 where the world is threatened by catastrophic climate change and New York City was obliterated by nuclear terrorists. (I can’t remember if the U.S. retaliated by invading anybody, and if I still own a copy, it’s in a basement hundreds of miles from here.) Given my own trajectory through the science fiction canon, I must have read Timescape about a year or so before Neuromancer, and, as you can see, there are aspects of it that remain fresh in my memory, more than twenty years later. You should be able to track down a copy with a little hustle, and my memory tells me it would be an effort well spent.

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