The Peripheral


‘He seemed genuinely mild, amiable, but also singularly alert, in some skewed way, as if there were something else looking out, around corners, swift and peripheral…..
And the peripheral thing was right there, peering around some inner angle, taking her measure.’ Zero History p.70 & 71

has become…

‘Ash, earlier, had explained that peripherals, when under AI control, looked human because their faces, programmed to constantly register changing micro expressions, were never truly still. In the absence of that, she’d said, they became uniquely disturbing objects. Flynne was now providing the peripheral with her own micro-expressions, a very different effect. “It’s fine,” he heard himself say, though wether to himself or to her he didn’t know. This was all much stranger than he’d anticipated, like some unthinkable birth or advent.’ The Peripheral p.179

The backwards and forwards time travel plot creates a looking glass world in the future for the novels Alice, called Flynne Fischer. Gibson creates another female central character, to follow, Cayce Pollard, Hollis Henry, and lots feels familiar to the kind of accidental trilogy of Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. The web is awash theory and analysis on Gibsons fiction and themes, from ‘transrealist manifesto’s’ – Rudy Trucker, the web is itself a version of his cyber punk and cyberspace, and recently augmented reality and Oculus. The Oculus feels just like the locative artists in Spook Country. The future London in 2100’s feels more victorian and historical than now, older and more old fashioned. The near future southern rural america of 2030 I have no reference for but seems much newer. Both of course are broken.

As a fan, it is a fast tumble of a read, and I am going to reread slowly. Just enough to hook you, big enough blanks for your imagination to fill in.

Worryingly I seem to imagine all his heroines now look like the girl from the cover of Idoru. For the collage the nearest I could get was a cover by Barry Windsor Smith, I was going to use an image of Oyama Yuriko from Uncanny x-men 205 1986, which is just beautifully drawn, but the cyborgs are just too fierce. Peripherals seem to be more as their name suggests, ‘situated on the edge’, ‘able to be attached to and used with a computer, though not an integral part of it’, ‘a peripheral device’. BWS’s drawing has something of the uncanny valley that a peripheral must have. Mashiro Mori came up with the idea in the 1970, where he argued that if robots become more lifelike, eventually the subtle imperfections make them eerie. But I think thats what the little passage I quote from the book tries to overcome, because Flynne is creating the peripherals micro-expressions. As she controls the peripheral its becomes real.

Anyways, its still just a looking glass world

A boat beneath a sunny sky, Lingering onward dreamily In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near, Eager eye and willing ear, Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky: Echoes fade and memories die. Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise, Alice moving under skies Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear, Eager eye and willing ear, Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream— Lingering in the golden gleam— Life, what is it but a dream?