Count Zero (William Gibson)


We don’t think of what we do here as Writing. It feels more like assemblage. Pasting together the little bits and pieces of the web and life. An idea best captured in one of my favorite passages (pg. 274) from William Gibson’s Count Zero, originally published in 1986. It is the middle volume of the Sprawl trilogy, which includes Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive.

“She caught herself on the thing’s folded, jointed arms, pivoted and clung there, watching the swirl of debris. There were dozens of the arms, manipulators, tipped with pliers, hexdrivers, knives, a subminiature circular saw, a dentist’s drill … They bristled from the alloy thorax of what must once have been a construction remote, the sort of unmanned, semiautonomous device she knew from childhood videos of the high frontier. But this one was welded into the apex of the dome, its sides fused with the fabric of the Place, and hundred of cables and optic lines snaked across the geodesics to enter it. Two of the arms, tipped with delicate force-feedback devices, were extended; the soft pads cradled an unfinished box.

Eyes wide, Marly watched the uncounted things swing past.

A yellowing kid glove, the faceted crystal stopper from some vial of vanished perfume, an armless doll with a face of French porcelain, a fat, gold-fitted black fountain pen, rectangular segments of perf board, the crumpled red and green snake of a silk cravat … Endless, the slow swarm of spinning things…”

I love the image and I love the idea of an artificial intelligence creating art. In this story, futuristic Joseph Cornell style boxes.

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