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Five Fascinating Facts about William Gibson

Interesting William Gibson facts

1. William Gibson popularised the term ‘cyberspace’ in a short story of 1982. Defined as ‘the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs’, cyberspace first appeared in fiction in William Gibson’s 1982 story ‘Burning Chrome’ (no relation to Google Chrome, we’re told), a story about a couple of freelance hackers. (Before it was published, Gibson read this story out at a science fiction convention – to an audience of four people.) But contrary to a widely held belief, William Gibson did not actually coin the term: it had originated, surprisingly, back in the 1960s when two Danish artists styled themselves as Atelier Cyberspace, after ‘cybernetics’, a term invented by Norbert Wiener way back in 1948 in his book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. (‘Cybernetics’, by the way, comes from the Greek meaning ‘steersman’ or ‘pilot’.) Gibson, however, helped to bring the term ‘cyberspace’ to a much wider audience, especially after the success of his smash-hit cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer, in that uncannily dystopian year, 1984. Read the rest of this entry

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Five Fascinating Facts about Plutarch

Fun facts about a pioneering ancient writer

1. Plutarch effectively invented the genre of biography. Plutarch’s innovative approach to biography was to take two important figures – one from Greek civilisation and the other from the Roman empire – and compare and contrast their characters, fortunes, and outlooks. This is the basis for his most famous work, the Parallel Lives.

2. As well as being a serious biographer, though, he was also something of a gossip. Plutarch loves to home in on an individual story that sheds some light on his subject – an anecdote, a moral tale, a quirk or distinctive character trait. And this is why we at Interesting Literature admire Plutarch so much: he saw the importance of trivia, and the fact that it isn’t always as trivial as it might first appear. His Greek Lives and Roman Lives (of which there are two very good selections by Oxford World’s Classics) show the individual personalities of the great statesmen and cultural figures he discusses, their quirks and foibles, their eccentricities. Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Wilkie Collins

Fun facts about the Victorian novelist

1. A novel written by Victorian author Wilkie Collins when he was 20, titled Iolani and set in Tahiti, was eventually published in 1999. Written in 1844 but not published until 110 years after his death, Iolani: Or, Tahiti as It Was was Collins’s first ever attempt at writing a novel. Collins knew next to nothing about Tahiti, but that didn’t stop him from having a go at writing about it.

2. Wilkie Collins’s 1860 novel The Woman in White was so popular it spawned stage-plays, perfumes, hats, cloaks, and even a waltz. The Woman in White was the novel that made Collins a famous name and helped to establish the vogue for sensation fiction, a genre that would enjoy its heyday in the 1860s. Collins would be able to demand substantial sums for his subsequent novels as he became hot literary property: he received £5,000 for his novel Armadale in 1866, a huge sum for the time. Read the rest of this entry