Paris Review has a great interview with what is, in my opinion, one of the great postmodern authors (regardless of if you classify him as a “genre writer” or a literary author). William Gibson has always had this incredible ability to really get at and critique the culture without making it obvious. Under the guise of gritty scifi called “cyberpunk,” was at the core a brilliant indictment of global market capitalism and the schizophrenic cultural logic that emanated from it. His later works, Pattern Recognition especially, is a deconstruction of the current culture we’re in the middle of and are too close to see the overall pattern to make sense of it.
See the documentary interview film, No Maps for These Territories. It’ll really make you think, and see things in a new way.
Here’s the beginning of the Paris Review interview…
What’s wrong with cyberpunk?
A snappy label and a manifesto would have been two of the very last things on my own career want list. That label enabled mainstream science fiction to safely assimilate our dissident influence, such as it was. Cyberpunk could then be embraced and given prizes and patted on the head, and genre science fiction could continue unchanged.
What was that dissident influence? What were you trying to do?
I didn’t have a manifesto. I had some discontent. It seemed to me that midcentury mainstream American science fiction had often been triumphalist and militaristic, a sort of folk propaganda for American exceptionalism. I was tired of America-as-the-future, the world as a white monoculture, the protagonist as a good guy from the middle class or above. I wanted there to be more elbow room. I wanted to make room for antiheroes.
I also wanted science fiction to be more naturalistic. There had been a poverty of description in much of it. The technology depicted was so slick and clean that it was practically invisible. What would any given SF favorite look like if we could crank up the resolution? As it was then, much of it was like video games before the invention of fractal dirt. I wanted to see dirt in the corners.