How did William Gibson really feel about Blade Runner?

Illustration for article titled How did William Gibson really feel about Blade Runner?

A couple of years ago, Paris Review did a fascinating and comprehensive interview with author William Gibson. At last, the entire thing is online for you to read. There's an especially great section where he talks about what his cyberpunk classic Neuromancer shares with Blade Runner.


The entire interview is absolutely required reading, and delves into everything from Gibson's lonely childhood in the south, to how he fell in love with Canada when he moved there in his late teens. Plus, he discusses all his novels and his artistic influences — and anti-influences, like Philip K. Dick, whom he never really cared for.

My favorite part is when he talks about how he invented the Sprawl, and his feelings generally about cities. This brings up the question of the cities in his first novel Neuromancer, and how he reacted when Blade Runner came out during the writing of that book:


There’s a famous story about your being unable to sit through Blade Runner while writing Neuromancer.


I was afraid to watch Blade Runner in the theater because I was afraid the movie would be better than what I myself had been able to imagine. In a way, I was right to be afraid, because even the first few minutes were better. Later, I noticed that it was a total box-office flop, in first theatrical release. That worried me, too. I thought, Uh-oh. He got it right and ­nobody cares! Over a few years, though, I started to see that in some weird way it was the most influential film of my lifetime, up to that point. It affected the way people dressed, it affected the way people decorated nightclubs. Architects started building office buildings that you could tell they had seen in Blade Runner. It had had an astonishingly broad aesthetic impact on the world.

I met Ridley Scott years later, maybe a decade or more after Blade Runner was released. I told him what Neuromancer was made of, and he had basically the same list of ingredients for Blade Runner. One of the most powerful ingredients was French adult comic books and their particular brand of Orientalia—the sort of thing that Heavy Metal magazine began translating in the United States.

But the simplest and most radical thing that Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner was to put urban archaeology in every frame. It hadn’t been obvious to mainstream American science fiction that cities are like compost heaps—just layers and layers of stuff. In cities, the past and the present and the future can all be totally adjacent. In Europe, that’s just life—it’s not science fiction, it’s not fantasy. But in American science fiction, the city in the future was always brand-new, every square inch of it.


Cities seem very important to you.


Cities look to me to be our most characteristic technology. We didn’t really get interesting as a species until we became able to do cities—that’s when it all got really diverse, because you can’t do cities without a substrate of other technologies. There’s a mathematics to it—a city can’t get over a certain size unless you can grow, gather, and store a certain amount of food in the vicinity. Then you can’t get any bigger unless you understand how to do sewage. If you don’t have efficient sewage technology the city gets to a certain size and everybody gets cholera.

Run, don't walk, to read the rest of this great interview with one of io9's muses. And when you finish, and are dying for more of Gibson's observations on the world — just remember, his next book is going to be far-future science fiction. We can't wait.



The opinion of Blade runner I'd most like to hear is Terry Gilliam's, apparently he hates it. I NEED to know why.