Prescience can be tedious for science-fiction writers. Being proven right about a piece of technology or a trend distracts from the main aim of the work: to show us how we live now. William Gibson knows this as well as anyone. Since the late 70s, the American-born novelist has been pulling at the loose threads of our culture to imagine what will come out. He has been right about a great deal, but mainly about the shape of the internet and how it filters down to the lowest strata of society.
I hadn’t intended to write this article about prophecy at all. Following Classic Scifi 4: William Gibson Neuromancerthe next step was to analyse William Gibson’s prescience and his ability to prophesy elements of the future. More accurately the article was to analyse Gibson’s ability through his fiction to hold a mirror up to our real future. We could then use that understanding to analyse what it all means, through concrete examples of prophecy presented in the Neuromancer trilogy. More of that later.
Yet, I wanted to present this in the context of what it does take to prophesy future trends. As I began, I realised that it was crucially important to understand the nature of prophesying the near future and how others had gone about it, before we could understand what a rare talent Gibson has.
The local came booming in along the black induction strip, fine grit sifting from cracks in the tunnel’s ceiling. Case shuffled into the nearest door and watched the other passengers as he rode. A pair of predatory looking Christian Scientists were edging toward a trio of young office techs who wore idealized holographic vaginas on their wrists, wet pink glittering under the harsh lighting. The techs licked their perfect lips nervously and eyed the Christian Scientists from beneath lowered metallic lids. The girls looked like tall, exotic grazing animals, swaying gracefully and unconsciously with the movement of the train, their high heels like polished hooves against the gray metal of the car’s floor. Before they could stampede, take flight from the missionaries, the train reached Case’s station.