I'm about halfway through William Gibson's Spook Country, and I'm really enjoying it.
For those dim bulbers old enough to remember Madonna on vinyl, Gibson wrote a book in 1984 called Neuromancer in which he invented the term cyberpunk and a genre of fiction/futuristic envisioning melding people with reality-altering technologies.
Movies like Blade Runner and the Matrix trilogy built upon it, as did a number of lesser-known flicks and books. More importantly, Gibson was a proto-father to all of the geek-cool who weren't content sitting in a garage inventing someday-global corporations, but wanted to believe that they had the power to change reality itself.
His future imagined corporations, brands, and technology all blending into this surreal soup of everywherenowhereness. The plots were sometimes a little hard to follow, but I heartily recommend Neuromancer and its sequels, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive.
Gibson's latest novels are similar in many ways to his earlier work, only he has shifted his narrative to the present day. Gone are the tech-toys that don't really exist, only they've been replaced by items, services, and people that absolutely could already exist. For him, the future is now.
So Spook Country, and Pattern Recognition before it, are all about intelligence, information, and the various ways we human beings use our minds to shape and control our physical reality.
What's particularly relevant to marketers is that he seems very intrigued by the role of branding and advertising, so in Spook Country a major plot theme involves a secretive firm called Blue Ant -- sleek offices and underground garages full of exotic cars hidden away in purposefully low-rent borrows in Los Angeles, Moscow, Beijing -- that explores marketing strategies such as no-awareness awareness (the lack of information, like negative space in artwork, is still information).
There’s also always an artist or strange, new medium intersecting the marketing plotline, and in this case it involves artists who use GPS locators to superimpose virtual images of historic events on real spaces in something called locative art...so you could chance upon River Phoenix dead on the sidewalk outside of the Viper Lounge, presuming you wore the right glasses, and the artist had been able to hack the right nearby wireless networks.
It's a Big Idea to ponder the future as a constantly shifting element of the present, and Gibson has managed to express such experience in his latest work. Spook Country may flop as credibly fiction before I'm done with it, but I've already really enjoyed its set-up, and the context around/behind the narrative.
So I'm putting it on my Dim Bulb Reading List.
Perhaps Gibson's latest books will prompt others, and a little genre will be born? If so, it needs a catchy label now: my idea is to call it Alt.now fiction .
OK, maybe not. Let's just call it a good read for fellow dim bulbers.