Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maybe it was obvious, but wow...

Is William Gibson ever smart.

Virtual Light
, his San Francisco novel published way back in 1993, drops a casual couple of references to the upscale future of China Basin, which is more or less that former rail yard with the cranes in the picture I posted last night, and also the rawly new Jacques Tati academic-residential development that I was talking about the other day over here.

Gibson's San Francisco bike messenger character thinks of China Basin when the story carries her to a fancy development in LA:
"...It was real upscale too, kind of like China Basin, with those sane kind of people, like you mostly saw in the financial district, or in malls..."
Gibson wrote that sentence five years before the memorable day in real-life San Francisco when they kicked out a whole village of campers and their huts and tents and trucks and recycling collections and dogs and functioning barbecue grills from the north bank of Mission Creek by the Fourth Street bridge. Already the site of that village has been long ago securely redeveloped. It's all condos and stylish concrete-block esplanade leading up to AT&T Park. Even a branch public library there, which is actually a very fine thing and no complaints about it. But, wow, years and years since anybody cooked themselves breakfast in the open on that block and I still blink and boggle every time I go by.

Maybe even in 1993 it was obvious China Basin would be redeveloped someday, but nearly twenty years after Virtual Light was written the job still isn't done. It took a pretty good mind to imagine that area of all places being headed for the top. (And meanwhile to think of the Haight-Ashbury as headed for decline, which was very likely on the money too.) Per the acknowledgments in Virtual Light it sounds like Gibson had been talking with local landscape architects and real bicycle messengers who were cluing him in with what they knew and suspected. But also he knew what to pick.

Just impressive. That's all.

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