Short Story #1: The Winter Market — William Gibson (1986)
Eventually, technology will exist that can record dreams just like music and video, and there will be a whole new industry — with chart-topping products and recording stars and producers. This is finally beginning to happen, but William Gibson first wrote about it 25 years ago. “The Winter Market” follows one such producer in near-future Vancouver as he waits for his dead girlfriend to call so they can start working on her next album.
While not officially part of William Gibson’s Sprawl series, it has all the hallmarks of his other cyberpunk classics: set in the gritty neon-glow of perpetual urban decay, where hi-tech lo-life’s jack directly into each other’s brains, and dying characters upload their personalities into vast mainframes, this is Gibson at the height of his career, doing his very noir best.
“I disconnected my phone on my way to bed. I did it with the business end of a West German studio tripod that was going to cost a week’s wages for repair,” his protagonist says matter of factly, as he comes back from another bender. Beyond the crisp language, “Winter Market” expertly explores what happens to people in a disposable culture — one of the key characters is an artist sensei who lives in a vast warehouse like The Scrap Exchange, building living critters out of old computer parts and drum machines that destroy themselves.
In the end, the thing that makes this the best short story I’ve ever read, is Gibson knows that technology might change your life, but it won’t change who you are … and it can’t save you from yourself.
You can find “The Winter Market” in Gibson’s exceptional (and only) collection of short stories, “Burning Chrome.” Or, you can read a version of it here: www.american-buddha.com/wintermark.htm