William Gibson says the future is right here, right now.
“In the 1960s I think that in some sense the present was actually about three or four years long,” he said, “because in three or four years relatively little would change.”
That stood in sharp contrast to late 2010, he said, when big changes had become a daily occurrence.
“Now the present is the length of a news cycle some days,” he said in an interview with BBC News.
That ferocious rate of change made writing about the present day exciting, he said, and explained why his current novel, Zero History, is set around about now.
“The present is really of no width whatever,” he said.
Given that, he said, it was becoming hard to use the tricks employed by earlier generations of science fiction writers, which involved extrapolating current technology trends to see where they would go.
Doing this with current technologies was impossible because real world events were likely to overtake anything a writer could conceive long before a book was finished and on the shop shelves.
For instance, he said, the flying drones depicted in Zero History and used for surveillance have the potential to inflict big changes very quickly once they become cheap and ubiquitous.
“They are actually going to change the landscapes of cities,” he said.
“People in tall buildings, particularly in cities like New York or Chicago, have been living lives of utter privacy quite unconcerned that anyone might be looking in the window.”
“That’s just not going to be the case anymore,” he said.