Oct 02 2010
I realize that this post is nearly a week overdue, and it does not behoove me to neglect mentioning it. Last Sunday was the book signing for William Gibson's latest novel, Zero History. Rather than one of the bookstores a bit closer to home, it was held at Politics and Prose, a small-ish bookstore square in the heart of northwestern Washington, DC. It's reasonably easy to get to by Metro, though you should keep in mind that you'll have a bit of a hike ahead of you. From the Metro station it was about five blocks uphill, not so bad if you're traveling light but I was wearing my favorite leather jacket (to ward off the rain that had been coming and going all morning) and hauling a couple of books and Windbringer in my backpack. Note to self: If I don't have to carry forty pounds of kit, for pity's sake don't.
The store was already standing room only by the time I walked in the front door. I was supposed to meet Seele there but couldn't find her in the crowd (though by texting and forth I knew that she was somewhere near the front row opposite the front door). Close enough for government work, I figured.
For the occasion I wore a certain t-shirt purchased especially for that day from memetictees.com that caught the eye of a few folks in the audience as I picked my way over to one of the few open chairs remaining in the audience. Politics and Prose isn't a very large store so I think I got lucky. Gibson walked in a few minutes after I did, and after a short introduction he took his place behind the podium to warm us up and read from Zero History.
His writing style is much the same even if the subject matter isn't the far future anymore, or even the relatively near future; it's fair to say that his style has matured and aged well as he's honed his craft. More and more he seems to be looking at the very recent past for his material rather than the future and it shows. Here and there in Zero History you can find allusions to Twitter and some of the strange and wonderful (and sometimes painful) things that he's stumbled across (and inflicted upon the public at large). He also works a lot with the practical omnipresence of things that we take for granted anymore; his fascination with the Apple iPhone and how it's used in the novel kept catching me out. I still find myself faintly surprised that, for even some of the most unusual and specialized things you can probably find an app for two that'll do whatever you need. There was a bit of spoiler fail from the audience, and at one point I found myself wondering if he ever got frustrated with all of the questions about Neuromancer and so few about his latest novel (for appropriate values of 'latest'). He also fielded the inevitable question about the latest Hollywood treatment of Neuromancer making the rounds (you have a better chance of having lunch with Elvis aboard a UFO than seeing it happen).
After the reading and q-and-a were over, the crowd moved as one to queue up for the book signing part of the afternoon.. and stretched from the table at the back, around the side of the store, around the front past the doors, and down around the opposite side. I have no idea how many people turned out, only that it was an impressive crowd, and one that probably deserves its own haiku (a task which I will leave for someone else). I stood in line with Seele and someone whose name I can never quite recall from the HacDC crowd for the better part of an hour. By the time we got within visual range we'd already discussed most every scandal happening at the time, debated the relative fail of our respective daily commutes, crabbed about work, and discussed a few of the finer points of Zero History. By the time I got up there it looked like he was still on his first wind; we chatted a bit about travel and I thanked him for a certain something in Zero History that made me cackle with glee (the first time ever in one of his novels, incidentally) and asked if he would be kind enough to autograph Windbringer, seeing as how I'd deliberately left a space open on the keyboard for just such an occasion. He did.
I just realized - I should have given Gibson a HacDC sticker or two. Dammit.
After the signing was over Seele headed downstairs to the cafe' for a cup of coffee and time to catch up (because we haven't really seen each other since her wedding). I filled her in on changing jobs and what I've been doing lately (aside from running myself ragged), and she and I talked about academia and what it's like trying to survive it as a major part of your life. When our respective coffees were done and it was time for us to head back to our respective homes she was kind enough to give me a lift back to the Metro station to save me a bit of shoeleather.
You can see the pictures here.