My super quick notes about William @greatdismal Gibson's "Zero History"

As discussed in his speech at the Cadogan Hall, few days ago (see write-up here), William Gibson's work is grounded into three interesting principles:

  • His approach to science-fiction is not about trying to predict the future, it's rather about the present.
  • He doesn't write about a distant future anymore. Instead he writes about the the contemporary present, which is more and more interesting to him.
  • The narrative is less important (and hence prominent) than the idea of "telling about society" (as Howard Becker - the american sociologist - would frame it). Gibson's book can be seen as a report about our society. A postmodern society to put it shortly.

With this in mind, reading "Zero History" made a lot of sense and I enjoyed spending time with Hubertus Bigend, Hollis Henry and other characters. I was certainly less impressed by the plot itself, but as mentioned above, it was something I expected.

The whole thing revolves around marketing strategies, trends evolution, the conquest of cool and the commodification of stylish fringes (which in this case corresponds to military outfits). Page 22 and page 216 offer a quick example of the topic at hand, showing how product design has been turned into storytelling and building narratives:

Also, my feeling about the book was certainly influenced by the fact that I read it exactly in some of the places described (London, Paris). For example: "he walked on shortly finding himself in what an enameled wall-signed informed him was the rue Git le Coeur. Narrower, possibly more medieval (...) He saw a magical-looking book-shop, stock piled like a mad professor's study in a film, and swerved, craving the escape into text. But these seemed not only comics, unable to provide his needed hit of words-in-row but in French as well"... which corresponds to one of my favorite book-shop in Paris:

As usual with Gibson, I liked the way he expresses things about this postmodern society of ours: "harshly tonsured child-soldiers, clad in skateboarding outfits still showing factory creases" or "eye that peered from face suggestive of gas-station taxidermy", "her Waiting for Godot outfit", "some complex electrotechnical Tesla-node no designer had even had to fake up", "he seemed to exist in his own personal time-zone" or "he looked like something that had gone wrong a computer screen". These quotes are amazingly well-put and manicured. Of course it's less stunning than the Sprawl trilogy but it's still enjoyable.

Beyond this, there are also some interesting perspectives and advices which always echo with my own activities and feelings: "when you want to know how things really work, study them when they're coming apart. Another comment that I liked was the following:

"Some very considerable part of the gestural language of public places, that had once belonged to cigarettes, now belonged to phones. Human figures a block down the street, in postures utterly familiar, were not longer smoking.""

(A picture of a friend which I found in line with the quote above)