Briefly Noted: Commercial Appeal


William Gibson, the novelist who coined the term cyberspace in a 1982 short story, has been hailed as an Internet-age prophet. His early work so thoroughly built the linguistic landscape of the digital era that he finally gave up science fiction to write contemporary novels. The future had caught up with his ideas.

Frequently overlooked is Gibson's penchant for describing societies driven by the dual forces of mass commerce and individual aesthetics. He didn't merely predict a world in which everyone was online. He also foresaw one in which everybody had something to sell.

Gibson's newest book, Zero History, is a high-tech thriller constructed out of information-age detritus: secretive social networking, obscure couture, high-end marketing firms, and military contracts. Gibson's present, like his future, is in the details. When he describes the traits of a professional trend spotter, he could be describing himself: "The ability to distinguish one thing from another. The eye for detail. And knowing where to sell it."