The Pe­riph­eral Re­turn Of The King

Wil­liam Gib­son is back with his first fu­ture- set novel in 15 years

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Red alert - The Pe­riph­eral is pub­lished on 27 Novem­ber.

After pi­o­neer­ing the Cy­ber­punk

genre with 1984 clas­sic Neu­ro­mancer, it ap­peared that Wil­liam Gib­son had left fu­tur­is­tic sci- fi be­hind him with the con­tem­po­rary lo­cales of his re­cent Blue Ant tril­ogy. But now the in­flu­en­tial au­thor is re­turn­ing to fu­ture fic­tion with a vengeance. “Well, it was def­i­nitely time,” he tells Red Alert. “The last time I at­tempted an imag­ined fu­ture was 1999, so I hadn’t ac­tu­ally done it in the 21st Cen­tury.”

The Pe­riph­eral rep­re­sents Gib­son’s first foray into the of­ten- tricksy ter­ri­tory of time travel. But although the two main char­ac­ters con­nect across sep­a­rate time pe­ri­ods, there’s no TARDIS here. “It isn’t pos­si­ble to time travel in the uni­verse of the book, or if it is it hasn’t been per­fected yet,” ex­plains Gib­son. “But some­one – we never learn who – has de­vel­oped some sort of server that is able to send and re­ceive dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion to and from the past. Ex­cept that each time some­one does it for the first time, they cre­ate an in­di­vid­ual con­tin­uum that is headed away from their par­tic­u­lar present, which won­der­fully frees the au­thor from all the cus­tom­ary time travel para­doxes!”

The char­ac­ters in­habit Pe­riph­er­als, au­tom­a­ton- es­que drones in­spired by Bruce Ster­ling and Louis Shiner’s 1985 short story “Mozart in Mir­ror Shades”. “It has the same con­cept, which is if you go to the past, it’s not your past, it’s some­one else’s past,” says Gib­son. “Since I first read it, it’s been one of my favourite time travel sto­ries but I didn’t want to do it phys­i­cally like they do. So I sep­a­rately ar­rived at the two bits that make time travel func­tion and then put them to­gether.”

Although his pre­vi­ous nine books have in­ad­ver­tently formed a trio of trilo­gies, Gib­son in­sists that there won’t be a follow- up to The Pe­riph­eral. “Be­cause there’s the overt pos­si­bil­ity of a mul­ti­verse go­ing on, with any di­rect se­quels the dan­ger of real and se­ri­ous genre cheesi­ness gets stronger,” he laughs. “But re­gard­less of what I write next, read­ers will be con­stantly won­der­ing if they’re read­ing about another stub of the con­tin­uum from The Pe­riph­eral, so how would we know?”

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