Name and location of repository
Level of description
Martha Millard Archive of William Gibson Collection
- 1977-2002 (Creation)
Name of creator
William Gibson is one of the most important writers of late 20th- and early 21st-century science fiction. Gibson and his postmodern/postindustrialist aesthetic have had major cultural and literary influence on the development of modern science fiction. Gibson is noted for his imagery and themes involving such topics as the often-intimate impact of computers on humans, the refashioning and development of capitalism in the shadow of an increasingly technological and computerized society, and how people live and interact within near-future urban environments.
Gibson is one of the founders of the cyberpunk literary sub-genre. As one commentator as put it, cyberpunk might be summed up as "low life, high tech", based around stories that combine advanced scientific concepts such as cybernetics, vast communication networks, and artificial intelligences, with characters who are social outsiders, misfits or outcasts and live in a thriving and heterogeneous underground society. These concepts and characters meet in plots often centered around conflicts between hackers or other people involved in information technology, and late-capitalist megacorporations. Cyberpunk stories usually take place in contemporary or near-future urban settings with dystopian flavors. Cyberpunk tends to oppose the traditionally utopian or progressive vision in futurist science fiction in favor of darker, pessimistic societies dominated by corporations and/or communication networks that reach into all areas of human existence.
William Gibson's literary career began in 1977, with the publication in Unearth of the short story "Fragments of a Hologram Rose". For the next few years he continued to focus on the short story genre, with stories that include "Johnny Mnemonic" (1981, later made into a film in 1995); "The Gernsback Continuum" (1981); "Burning Chrome" (1982), which introduced the term 'cyberspace'; and "New Rose Hotel" (1984). His early stories were collected into the volume _Burning Chrome_in 1986.
In 1984 Gibson published his first novel, Neuromancer. The book was immediately successful and critically hailed, becoming the first novel to win all three of science fiction's highest awards: the Nebula, the Philip K. Dick, and the Hugo. Set in the "Sprawl" universe that Gibson first described in "Burning Chrome", Neuromancer tells the story of ex- computer hacker Case, who lives in the dystopian underground of Chiba City, Japan. Case and augmented cyborg Molly Millions investigate a shadowy figure named Armitage, and thereby stumble into a plot involving a super-advanced artificial intelligence.
Gibson continued to explore his "Sprawl" universe with two additional novels: Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988, winner of the 1989 Aurora Award). In the 1990s, he wrote another trilogy of novels (the "Bridge" trilogy), this one set in a near-future San Francisco and Tokyo that face the emergence of new and transformative technologies after having both been devastated by earthquakes. This series, also popular with readers as well as criticially acclaimed, includes the novels Virtual Light (1993, winner of the 1995 Aurora Award), Idoru (1996), and All Tomorrow's Parties (1999).
In 1990, Gibson collaborated with fellow cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling to write The Difference Engine. Set in an alternative Victorian England where Charles Babbage's invention of the computer has profoundly transformed British society, the novel is an early and prominent example of steampunk, an offshoot of cyberpunk typically set in an industrialized historical setting such as Victorian Britain or the American West (or a fantasy world that employs similar motifs), and which often features societies driven by steam-powered machinery (or gear-centered machinery, in the offshoot-of-an-offshoot genre "clockpunk").
In the early 2000s, Gibson produced yet another trilogy, the "Blue Ant" series of novels, consisting of Pattern Recognition(2003), Spook Country (2007), and Zero History (2010). The Blue Ant novels were the first of Gibson's works to take place in the present day. His most recent novels include The Peripheral (2014) and Agency (2020), set in a near-future world and including time travel and multiple timelines.
Gibson has also written several works of non-fiction. The most notable of these has been the semi-autobiographical electronic poem Agrippa: a Book of the Dead (1992), which is famous for having been produced on a 3.5" floppy disk and embedded in an artist's book (art by Dennis Ashbaugh). The disk was programmed to encrypt itself after a single reading and thereby be unreadable forever after, and the art was treated with photosensitive chemicals that would cause it to begin fading upon the first exposure to light. Gibson and Ashbaugh produced the work in order to demonstrate the ultimate ephemerality of electronic media and, indeed, of text itself.
Gibson was born on March 17, 1948 in Conway, South Carolina, and spent much of his childhood in Virginia. In his youth he wandered throughout the country and became involved with 1960s counterculture, eventually moving to Canada in 1967 with the vague intent of avoiding being drafted into the Vietnam War. Gibson has resided in Canada ever since. In 1972 he and his wife Deborah moved to Vancouver.
William Gibson was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008. Besides the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Philip K. Dick Awards, he has also won two Auroras, one Ditmar, one Seiun, and one Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award. In 2019 the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America gave Gibson the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.
Content and structure elements
Scope and content
This collection was originally assembled by Martha Millard, the literary agent of noted science fiction author William Gibson. The collection contains correspondence between Millard and Gibson, agency business correspondence to and from Millard concerning Gibson's publishing career, assorted photographs, and an agency publicity file that includes publicity materials, files of Gibson's book reviews, interviews with Gibson, and articles about Gibson and/or the cyberspace and cyberpunk phenomenons.
Of particular note are a number of Gibson's original writings, which are also housed in the collection. These writings include such important Gibsoniana as his original 1981 outline for what would become Gibson's first novel Neuromancer; a 1984 outline for a never-completed novel, The Log of the Mustang Sally; an outline for Mona Lisa Overdrive(1986); a chronology and notes for The Difference Engine(1987); and copies of Gibson's screenplays for Alien III(c. 1990, unused) and Johnny Mnemonic(1992, 1994).
The Martha Millard Archive of William Gibson is a important collection for exploring not only the development of Gibson's writing career, but the ways in which an author, his agent, and his publishers interact with one another, working together to create and publicize a final literary product. The collection also provides numerous examples of the cultural impact that Gibson, as the coiner of the term 'cyberspace' and founder of the cyberpunk sub-genre of science fiction, has had on his colleagues, fans, and contemporaries.
System of arrangement
Alphabetical by folder content, and thereunder chronologically.
Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
These materials are stored offsite and require additional time for retrieval.
Conditions governing reproduction
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Languages of the material
Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
Acquisition and appraisal elements
Immediate source of acquisition
Acquired by purchase from James Cummins, Bookseller.
Related materials elements
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
The Millard Archive also includes many books autographed by Gibson. Those materials have been moved to the closed stacks of Cushing Library.
Description control element
Rules or conventions
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