US-born writer, in Canada since 1968, when he moved north after being rejected by his draft-board. Gibson began publishing science fiction with "Fragments of a Hologram Rose" for Unearth
in 1977, and by 1983 had produced most of the fiction later assembled in Burning Chrome
(1986); some of these tales, like "Johnny Mnemonic" (1981), were set in the Neuromancer universe, and were early examples of what would soon become known as cyberpunk.
Gibson did not invent cyberpunk, nor has he ever claimed to have done so. Bruce Bethke's story "Cyberpunk" (1983) supplied the name, and Gardner Dozois, in a 1983 article, defined the movement as works set in computer-driven, high-tech near-future venues inhabited by a slum-bound streetwise citizenry. In terms of traditional US science fiction, this was heresy, and Gibson's enormous success must have seemed an ominous harbinger of the death of traditional science fiction.
The Neuromancer trilogy — Neuromancer
(1984), Count Zero
(1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive
(1988) — is all about escaping the flesh. The protagonist of Neuromancer
— which won the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards — is a matrix cowboy hired to link his mind into cyberspace itself (cyberspace being a worldwide computer matrix of information experienced as an infinitely complex virtual-reality labyrinth) to steal data. The outside world of the book is a near-future USA (although never named as such) dominated by Japanese corporations, one of which may be his employer. The story eventually moves from Earth into near space, where complex orbiting arcologies house the AIs which, perhaps, secretly run the world; but the protagonist does not covertly long to run the world in their stead. His longing is to transcend the flesh which pulls him back from the bliss of cyberspace.
Gibson's 1990 novel The Difference Engine
, co-authored with Bruce Sterling, became central to the steampunk subgenre. Gibson's later works are not overtly science fiction, but continue to explore issues of sociology, technology and rapid change. Two of his stories have been made into films: Johnny Mnemonic
(1995), and New Rose Hotel
Mona Lisa Overdrive
All Tomorrow's Parties
New Rose Hotel