The future of prediction: speculating on William Gibson's meta-science-fiction
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Ever since famed science fiction (SF) author Ursula Le Guin insisted that SF is ‘not about the future’ but rather ‘about the present’, critics of SF narratives have largely rejected the genre's popularly held associations with the function of ‘prediction’. Recent celebration of ex-cyberpunk William Gibson's Pattern Recognition as ‘artistically ambitious’ SF, notwithstanding its ‘present-day’ setting, thus appears to mark the inevitable conclusion to Le Guin's claims for the allegorical function of future-based fictions. Taken together, these events or trajectories may provide an opportunity to explore the question of the place of ‘prediction’ not only in contemporary SF and SF studies, but also in what Bruce Sterling has called our ‘truly science-fictional world’. For in a string of largely unremarked upon novels Gibson published throughout the 1990s, the function of prediction seems displaced from the level of narration and onto particular objects and characters appearing within the novels' diegetic world. The narratives thus take on a strange kind of metafictional quality, speculating on the very activity of prediction that is sometimes imagined to define the work of SF. Examining Gibson's ‘Bridge’ stories with a metafictional eye to how they imagine the future of prediction, therefore, may enable us to pursue a speculative engagement with cultural discourses on futurity – thereby reconsidering not only routine denunciations of SF's predictive sheen but also the ‘worldly’ uses of SF's visions of the future.
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