Inside the Fiction Factory – Part 9

William Gibson next to Dan Brown

I’ve presented around a hundred lectures on cyber security throughout the last year, while attending a variety of security conferences, roundtables and fireside chats. I like to use my bookcases as my background when doing remote sessions and these have proved popular with delegates. I always take audience questions and do my best to give a sensible answer. Of all the questions I’ve been asked this year, my favourite has to be this comment that came up in the live chat:

‘William Gibson next to Dan Brown?’

For a second it threw me as I had been talking on how I see the cyber threat landscape evolving over the coming year. Then it dawned on me. However, there was no time to answer other than say it was down to random chance. So, this blog post is me providing a bit more context to this, my favourite question of the year and following through on some of the connections I love to discover.

I’m a big fan of both authors. The Gibson books I read at the start of my computing career and helped foster a life long interest in computer hacking and led to my desire to write science fiction. Neuromancer was one of those books that triggered something inside me. Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive confirmed it.

The question above made me realise that my bookcase is random, a lot like my reading. There was no thought putting Burning Chrome by William Gibson adjacent to the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. While writing this I’ve noticed Count Zero has ended up on the shelf below, next to Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance. As I say, it’s all down to random chance.

William Gibson wrote a steampunk novel with Bruce Sterling called The Difference Engine. My love of steam dates from reading this, a book which is regarded as having established the steampunk genre. It was instrumental in me writing my own steampunk series, The Clockmaker Conspiracy which is now due to be published in 2022. Bruce Sterling wrote the non-fiction book The Hacker Crackdown, which I also eagerly devoured.

I’ve read all the Dan Brown novels. I’m not interested in the ‘is he a good writer debate.’ For me he is a great story teller, a rule that is often overlooked in the rules of writing lists that keep appearing online. He spins a good yarn and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading his books. What I liked about the Da Vinci Code was it set me off on a journey to read up on early religion and find out the historical truths for myself. I was inspired to read a biography on Leonardo Da Vinci and attend exhibitions of his drawings in the UK. I travelled to Venice to visit the Da Vinci museum. I’ve been in awe, standing inside Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, and taken in The National Gallery in London. I read many books around the themes he used in The Da Vinci Code along with others dealing with Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol. In fact, I think I’ve just about visited all of the places Brown features in his novels and checked out the architecture and the works of art he references. It’s been an education and still is.

Dan Brown also wrote a techno-thriller called Digital Fortress, where the NSA code-breaking supercomputer comes up against code that it cannot break, code that may become freely available. Again, this is the kind of story I like to read and have written my own techno-thriller called The Kill Chain which is also due out in 2022.

So yes, William Gibson next to Dan Brown. Random chance reads but ones that have entertained, educated and informed me and my writing for many years.

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