In the aftermath of last year’s presidential election ― which turned out differently than most media outlets predicted ― the questions on a lot of minds seemed to be “How?” and “Why?”
Today, William Gibson ― the American-Canadian science fiction novelist behind the 1984 cyberpunk classic Neuromancer, in which he coined the term “cyberspace” ― is exploring another question in his forthcoming novel: What if?
What if instead of electing President Donald Trump, whose first 100 days in office have in many ways chipped away at the constitutional value of free expression, Hillary Clinton had won instead?
Gibson applied this question to a book he was already working on before last year’s results came in. In an interview with The New York Times, he explained why he didn’t alter his plot after Trump’s victory. “It was immediately obvious to me that there had been some fundamental shift and I would have to rebuild the whole thing,” he said.
The result is a book ― titled Agency and due out in January 2018 ― set on two different timelines: in present-day San Fransisco, but with Clinton as president, and in London 200 years from now, after 80 percent of the human population has been killed off. Those still alive are trying to communicate with 2017, in an attempt to change the past.
Gibson is celebrated for his ability to synthesize what’s happening around him ― especially technological developments ― and take a good guess at what may happen in the near future.
In a 2014 interview with HuffPost about his last novel, The Peripheral, he said, “A shaming crowd, on Twitter, for instance, can feel like something out of Orwell,” predicting, perhaps knowingly, that the platform lends itself to manipulative speech and “very pure crowd dynamics.”