The Virtual


Godfather of cyberpunk William Gibson recently crash-landed in Hollywood with the Keanu Reeves movie Johnny Mnemonic. He speaks to Teddy J amieson about his latest novel and the frustrations of being a virtual moviemaker.

The future is catching up with William Gibson. The latest novel from the godfather of cyberpunk. Idoru. was. Gibson had thought, a new twist on the Japanese idoru phenomenon.

Meaning literally ‘idol singers‘. f(l()l‘ll.$‘ are ridiculously artificial Japanese pop starlets. immensely popular with Japanese pre-teens. When Gibson chanced on an article describing a particular fdfll’ll who didn't actually exist the producers would hire girls to play the role it inspired him to take the idea one stage further and come up with a virtual idem as the central character of his new book.

No sooner had he finished the novel than he learned that Japanese multi-media engineers had been working to create their very own virtual version.

‘i‘ve checked out her Website and downloaded a video of her first single and she’s completely computer-generated,‘ says Gibson down the phone

William Gibson: godfather of cyberpunk

from his Vancouver home. But at least he can claim that he was still ‘fully two months ahead of the curve’.

It should really come as no surprise that contemporary science should be dogging Gibson's footsteps. After all. since the publication of his first novel Neimmmmier in 1984. he has almost single- handedly defined how we imagine tomorrow. His concept of cyberspace did more to popularise the concept ofthe lntcrnet than any computer boffin. in so doing. he gave the science fiction genre a hipness quotient it hadn't seen since the late 1960s and the salad days of Ballard and Vonnegut. Gibson provided

the template fora whole generation of Si’ writers keen to grapple with how the emerging technologies are going to change our lives.

Idoru. his seventh book. is set in a post-quake Japan in the near future and charts the relationship between the world's biggest pop star and the irloru Rei 'l'oei. who. physically. doesn‘t exist. Throw in virtual cities. Russian mafiosi. teenage fan clubs and sleazy computer hack(er)s and you have a typical (iibsonian slice of future urban noir. which remains at the cutting edge of the genre.

‘l think. in the United States at least. the mainstream of commercial science fiction is still as conservative and hokey and square as when i started writing.‘ says Gibson. ‘What people call cyberpunk has spread out in a sort of colourisalion and i think that‘s only a naturalistic response to what's happening in the world.

‘If you want to construct any believable near future today. you're going to have to draw on something very close to the locality of cyberpunk. liither that or you're going to have to explain how things improved so drastically and radically.‘

lnevitably. Hollywood has sought to tap Gibson's critical cachet. but the only adaptation to make it to your local multiplex. lleetingly. was the much- criticised Keanu Reeves vehicle. .lolimiy .ilnwnmrir.

‘You didn't see the film we made. unfortunately.' says Gibson. ‘When i look at the cut that was released in the UK 1 can see our film screaming silently from within another film that was whipped up out of nothing at the last minute by distrilmtors.‘

Not that this has put him off moviemaking. lle's discussing a couple of movie ideas at the moment. but following an American publicity tour for lrlum. he‘s set to start work on a new novel.

‘lt's still the only medium I've found where i get to be the architect and not the carpenter.‘

Irlm'u by ll’illium (Ii/mm is published by liking u! [16.

Soccer it to


cm ‘it’s about looking for the general in the particular. Football is the particular, the general is life,’ says Graham Joyce, contributor to A Book 0! Tivo Nalves, a new anthology of football short stories.

It’s become a familiar forrnuia - ever since iiick iiornby’s Fever Pitch made an obsession with “The iiational Garne’ trendy. While liornby has gone on to analyse other obsessions, a whole industry of football-as- popular-culture publishing has sprung up in his wake.

flare is another example: poet John iiegiey, over-hyped liibee Irvine Welsh, The Guardian’s Maureen Freely and a whole host of lesser- known writers weaving fiction around their football and weaving football

Graham Joyce: A hilarious account of an iii-advised experiment with beer, cigarettes and raw sausagemt . . .

into their fiction.

mention football, with the


or ridiculous,’ Joyce says.

So what does Joyce say to allegations that all this bandwagon jumping is becoming rather tired? ‘They are probably absolutely right. People say it isn’t highbrow enough, but I just think it is a great excuse to write a football story - we’ve had to keep quiet about football for so long.’

However the collection isn’t that self-indulgent. Some stories are rooted in the unsubtle world of Sunday league battiers, others analyse the surreal millionaire world of star players. Some scarcer

by women writers and the final tale of a woman living in the shadow of the Arsenal ground particularly

‘If you start to take football too seriously you end up sounding pious

story, a hilarious account of how an ill-advised experiment with beer, cigarettes and raw sausagemeat wrecks the chances of a group of

schoolboy players, is just one example.

The majority are surprisingly well- crafted short stories, justifying Joyce’s claim that editor Nicholas lioer has come up with something larger than the sum of its parts.

At the other end of the spectrum is The Space Badet’s Treasury 0! Football Nostalgia 2097. Brought to you by the makers of the Onion Bay, a second division soccer fanzine, it is a one-joke show. The gag is that in the future, people will look back and laugh at football today. Everything will be different then, but strangely the same. They’ve managed to pack 119 pages with variations on the theme, but unfortunately it is difficult to sustain interest for that long. (Stephen iiaysmith)

A Book of Two Nalves, edited by Nicholas Hoyle, is published by Gollancz at £9. 99. The Space Cadet's Treasury of Football Nostalgia 2097, by Derek Hammond and Jex Prins, is published by Mainstream at £9.99.

two stories

The List 20 Sept-3 Oct I996 79