William Gibson Spook Country Manuscript Collection

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Reference code

US TxAM-C C000584

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William Gibson Spook Country Manuscript Collection


  • 2006-2007 (Creation)


2 items

Name of creator


Biographical history

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.

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Scope and content

This collection consists of two versions of the manuscript for William Gibson's 2007 novel Spook Country, a science fiction technothriller that is the second in his acclaimed "Blue Ant" trilogy. (It follows Gibson's 2003 novel Pattern Recognitions and precedes 2010's Zero History). The trilogy has been defined by Gibson himself as "speculative novels of last Wednesday", that is, novels set in the contemporary world but viewed through a science fictional perspective, showing readers the present through a futuristic lens.

The Blue Ant trilogy centers on the character of Hubertus Bigend, an advertising executive and tech magnate who serves as the series' amoral antihero. Though Bigend dominates the trilogy as whole, Spook Country focuses on the intertwining stories of three characters in particular: Hollis Henry, a journalist hired by Bigend to write a story on the phenomenon of 'locative art'; Chinese-Cuban Tito, a member of a family of criminals who gets bound up in American secret intelligence operations; and Milgrim, a drug addict being held in captivity by a mysterious covert operative named Brown. The novel, set in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and explores the uses and misuses of locative technology, the eversion of cyberspace, and the changed political climate of the United States following the attacks. It was nominated for the 2008 Locus award for Best SF Novel, the 2009 Imaginaire Award, and the 2017 Prix Aurora for Best of the Decade.

Both versions are housed in clamshell boxes within the larger enclosure. The first box contains the autographed typescript of the novel, with heavy corrections and copyedits. The second box holds the autographed and corrected unbound proofs.

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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

  • English

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Immediate source of acquisition

Purchased in December 2023 from Captain Ahab's Rare Books, Stephenson, VA. (2024_0008)


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