Tuesday, November 04, 2014

In Rural North America, the Future Looks a Lot Like... Now

I have read everything Vancouver-based author William Gibson has written, and remember excitedly watching his cameo in the 1993 mini-series Wild Palms (where he is introduced as the man who coined the term "cyberspace"). I even got to meet him at a book signing in Ottawa and have a signed copy of his classic Neuromancer - the book which introduced cyberspace.

So I'm excited about his new science fiction novel The Peripheral. His last few novels have been set in the present, or a facsimile of it, but the plot of the new book takes place in the near future and in a farther future, more than 100 years out.

A feature on Flavorwire interviews Gibson and describes The Peripheral. I was intrigued by the writer's description of the part of the novel set in the near future:

The Peripheral’s first future, which occurs a few decades from now in the rural American South, features mega-versions of Walmart, 3D-printed meth, and new, pernicious forms of post-traumatic illness that stem from ever more technologically advanced military combat.

Living in rural Ontario where villages and towns have lost many of their manufacturing jobs and there are few family farms left, near New York's North Country which is even less prosperous, I can attest that this near future sounds a lot like today: Walmart, meth, and PTSD. The New York Times said that “to read Gibson is to read the present as if it were the future,” so I'm sure that, like all good science fiction, The Peripheral will tell me a lot about today as well as tomorrow.

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