April 27, 2017
New William Gibson novel will convincingly imagine time travel and Hillary Clinton as president
by Chad Felix
Science-fiction luminary William Gibson’s new novel, Agency, due out in January 2018, imagines Hillary Rodham Clinton as POTUS #45. But that’s not all.
Gibson, the author of Neuromancer and The Peripheral who is credited with the coining of the term “cyberspace” and creating the phenomenon known as “cyberpunk,” has long been regarded as the Serious Seer in a genre that has often tended toward pulp. British documentarian Adam Curtis’s latest film, HyperNormalisation, credits Gibson, alongside avant-garde Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker, Solaris), as someone who identified the coming surreality of human life, stranded on planet Earth and subject to terrestrial politics, long before its catastrophic climax in the democratic election of Donald Trump.
Surely, then, Gibson can convincingly imagine the United States of America under a second President Clinton, a reality most of us spent a great deal of 2015 and 2016 imagining. No surprise, Gibson takes his project one step further. The novel, writes the Guardian’s Danuta Kean,
will travel between two periods: one in present-day San Francisco, where Clinton’s White House ambitions are realised; and the other in a post-apocalyptic London, 200 years into the future after 80% of the world population has been killed.
In the present-day strand of Gibson’s story, a shadowy military organisation develops and tests artificial intelligence on a young woman named Verity. The parts set in the distant future show that time travel has been discovered and used to create a “stub”, a way of interfering to create an alternative future, starting in 2017.
In a recent conversation about Agency, Gibson, a mega-fan of neither Trump nor Clinton, spoke with the New York Times’ Alexandra Alter about the “really weird and powerful sensation” he felt after the election. He also said, very casually, “Every imaginary future ever written is about the time it was written in… People talk about science fiction’s predictive possibilities, but that’s a by-product. It’s all really about now.” Which is awesome.
As it turns out, that “now” nearly passed Agency and Gibson by. Having initially completed the novel before Trump’s victory, with a Clinton triumph in mind, the author had to seriously rework the novel in the election’s dark wake: “It was immediately obvious to me that there had been some fundamental shift and I would have to rebuild the whole thing.”
Same, William Gibson. Same.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.