The flow of information is about to be disrupted…Colin Laney, sensitive to patterns of information like no one else on earth, currently resides in a cardboard box in Tokyo. His body shakes with fever dreams, but his mind roams free as always, and he knows something is about to happen. Not in Tokyo; he will not see this thing himself. Something is about to happen in San Francisco…The mists of San Francisco make it easy to hide, if hiding is what you want, and even at the best of times reality there seems to shift. A gray man moves elegantly through the mists, leaving bodies in his wake, so that a tide of absences alerts Laney to his presence. A boy named Silencio does not speak, but flies through webs of cyber-information in search of the one object that has seized his imagination. And Rei Toi, the Japanese Idoru, continues her study of all things human. She herself is not human, not quite, but she's working on it. And in the mists of San Francisco, at this rare moment in history, who is to say what is or is not impossible…
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September 14, 2003
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Excerpt from All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson
1. CARDBOARD CITY
THROUGH THIS EVENING'S tide of faces unregistered, unrecognized, amid hurrying black shoes, furled umbrellas, the crowd descending like a single organism into the station's airless heart, comes Shinya Yamazaki, his notebook clasped beneath his arm like the egg case of some modest but moderately successful marine species.
Evolved to cope with jostling elbows, oversized Ginza shopping bags, ruthless briefcases, Yamazaki and his small burden of information go down into the neon depths. Toward this tributary of relative quiet, a tiled corridor connecting parallel escalators.
Central columns, sheathed in green ceramic, support a ceiling pocked with dust-furred ventilators, smoke detectors, speakers. Behind the columns, against the far wall, derelict shipping cartons huddle in a ragged train, improvised shelters constructed by the city's homeless. Yamazaki halts, and in that moment all the oceanic clatter of commuting feet washes in, no longer held back by his sense of mission, and he deeply and sincerely wishes he were elsewhere.
He winces, violently, as a fashionable young matron, features swathed in Chanel micropore, rolls over his toes with an expensive three-wheeled stroller. Blurting a convulsive apology, Yamazaki glimpses the infant passenger through flexible curtains of some pink-tinted plastic, the glow of a video display winking as its mother trundles determinedly away.
Yamazaki sighs, unheard, and limps toward the cardboard shelters. He wonders briefly what the passing commuters will think, to see him enter the carton fifth from the left. It is scarcely the height of his chest, longer than the others, vaguely coffinlike, a flap of thumb-smudged white corrugate serving as its door.
Perhaps they will not see him, he thinks. Just as he himself has never seen anyone enter or exit one of these tidy hovels. It is as though their inhabitants are rendered invisible in the transaction that allows such structures to exist in the context of the station. He is a student of existential sociology, and such transactions have been his particular concern.