On “Network Realism: William Gibson and New Forms of Fiction,” by James Bridle

On “Network Realism: William Gibson and New Forms of Fiction,” by James Bridle

In the blogpost “Network Realism: William Gibson and New Forms of Fiction,” James Bridle offers his thoughts on William Gibson’s novel Zero History, and posits the book as an example of what he calls “Network Realism.” Network Realism, according to Bridle, is “writing that is of and about the network” (n.p.). According to Bridle, Gibson’s novel fits the bill because it is timely, realistic, and media-saturated. He situates the novel in the media stream of Google and Twitter, and claims that this necessitates a different genre distinction.

Full disclaimer: I haven’t read Zero History myself, although I am a Gibson fan. (It’s on the list…) So I can’t really comment on whether this particular Gibson novel is doing something radically different than other contemporary fiction. But it seems to me that Bridle’s definition of “Network Realism” encompasses a rather large swath of books: anything realistic that is self-conscious about the Internet and current technology. As far as the networked bit goes, which Bridle suggests describes a novel as “liv[ing] in a place that’s that’s enabled by, and only recently made possible by, our technological connectedness” (n.p.), what novel is not networked in this sense? What established piece of fiction has not been researched via the web, commented on over social media or online news outlets, and indexed and made available through Internet book sellers? The uniqueness of Network Realism as a genre is a bit of a hard sell, although perhaps that was less of the case in 2010 than it is today, in 2017.

 

Work cited 

Bridle, James. 2010. “Network Realism.” BookTwo. http://booktwo.org/notebook/network-realism/

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