Driving High, L.A. Science Fiction Style

As traffic rushes by and images fade and spin and circle in on themselves, the documentary “No Maps for these Territories” reveals to its audience a world made decrepit by modern technology and the media. Who better to show us the harsh and thrilling reality in which we find ourselves than one of the most unsettling science fiction writers of out time, William Gibson. Gibson has acquired cult fame with his novels Neuromancer and Idoru in which he coined the term “cyber-space,” a metaphor for what exists beyond the tangible. Yet Gibson’s writing moves outside of the norms of science fiction (if there can be such norms in such a chaotic genre) and his playful attitude towards literature, drugs, sex, technology and growing older are all set forth in an extremely honest and scrupulous way. And so it is precisely this man with his Southern drawl and languid fingers that constantly play with the cigarette perched adroitly on his lips, who takes us through the winding particulars of what he believes to be a civilized and advanced culture, as he laughs at himself and at this world we call home. Williams answers a serious of questions posed to him by a nameless and faceless void, as he is driven around downtown L.A. in the back of a dilapidated car. There are no limousines here, for things in this documentary are anything but splendid. They are real, they are coarse, and they are strikingly vivid. An excerpt from Gibson’s first novel reveals to us exactly what this documentary has achieved: “In the age of affordable beauty – there was something truly heroic about his ugliness.” Gibson has much to say about the way he lived his life and the way he would encourage future generations to live theirs. On avoiding the draft: “It wasn’t political. My goal in life was to take every mind-altering substance in human existence, and to sleep with all the hippie girls.” On his own literary acclaim: “I was just writing a rock-and-roll book… it has the sex and the drugs.” On being a science fiction writer: “Michael Jackson marrying Lisa Marie Presley definitely makes my job more difficult.” On drugs: “When you have enough of the right drug, it’s groovy to have open heart surgery… well, who wants that?” On living life: “The heart is the master, the head is the servant… if that is not the case than we are in deep, deep trouble.” On death: “We just have to accept that this is not a rehearsal… that this is it… this is the deal. All of those fridge magnets have a kernel of truth.” On religion: “Religion is a franchise, just like a chicken franchise, but just because it’s a franchise, doesn’t mean there’s no chicken.”William Gibson is just so Zen. One can’t help but fall in love with his poetic way of speaking, with his serene eyes that gaze just over the rim of the camera, with the way he gets uncomfortable when he hears his friends talk about how amazing a writer and authentic a person he is. Chris Paine ’81 certainly adores him. It was this Colgate alum’s idea to create “No Maps,” serving as executive director of the piece.Gibson says that writing “is a collaborative act,” because the reader will always “create an inner world, depending on what he brings to the text.” So, too, in watching this documentary, it is hard not to take a part of Gibson into yourself, or to see parts of yourself inside of him. Flying down the highway or going at a snail’s pace deep in the heart of the city, Gibson struggles to define the true essence of this world in which we live. What is most interesting to the viewer though, is how Gibson’s thoughts and expostulations are awash in the color and mystery of cinema. When Gibson talks about the pornography-driven media, vivid pictures of Civil-War era nudes are shown on screen. When he talks of war and explosions, we see a dove flying over the city. And the stunning images of graffiti on urban walls are spectacular, particularly one piece of writing that states in stark white lettering: “imagine finding out that making love could be lethal.” Indeed, what Gibson attempts to share with his viewers in this stunning documentary, as well as his elaborate literature, is the idea that we all might soon find out that what we consider essential to driving our nation, namely technology and media, could in fact be lethal to the very culture which it has created.