The Modern Masters of Science Fiction series is devoted to books that survey the work of individual authors who continue to inspire and advance science fiction.
In the MMSF title William Gibson, author Gary Westfahl writes of the father of cyberpunk: “no other science fiction writer of his generation so strongly displays both a dogged commitment to following his own path in storytelling and keen attentiveness to the demands of the marketplace.”
Gibson set out to push boundaries, not change the genre; in fact, Gibson argued ever after that he sought to use science fiction as a narrative strategy free of the weight attached to keeping within genre traditions. “In ’81,” he said in an interview to promote his book Zero History, “when I really got started trying to do something in science fiction, a big part of my motivation was my distaste for where science fiction had gone.”
Mission accomplished on all counts. Neuromancer broke cyberpunk, mainstreamed the concept of “cyberspace,” and roared out of science fiction—indeed, out of literature. Media across popular culture borrowed and stole Gibson’s genre-bending vision of digital life in a whiz-bang globalized dystopian future. On that level alone, he ranks among the most influential science fiction authors, period, and perhaps the most influential of the last thirty-five years.
Not that Gibson agrees.
“I don’t feel as though I’ve had that central an impact,” Gibson told Westfahl. “It feels, rather, as though I’ve had a fairly big impact on what you might call ‘alternative science fiction.’ I don’t seem to have done much damage to the central shaft.”