William Gibson described November 9th, the day after the 2016 presidential election, as a “really weird and powerful sensation.” Like many in the science fiction community, he had anticipated that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would beat her opponent Donald Trump. In the months after Trump was elected, he began to explore his feelings as he wrote his next novel, Agency, according to The New York Times.
Agency is set to be released on January 16th, 2018, and it will share a world with Gibson’s 2014 book The Peripheral, which is set between two futures: one in the 22nd century, the other in the near future. Like The Peripheral, Agency will involve a form of time travel, and will play out in a pair of alternate futures: one set in a 2017 in which Hillary Clinton was elected president, and one in a post-apocalyptic 22nd century London.
The New York Times describes Agency as “both a sequel and a prequel” to The Peripheral. Gibson explained that he began writing the novel as a standalone book in 2016, only to find that the presidential election changed his near-future world, and that the entire story would need to be rewritten. “I assumed that if Trump won, I’d be able to shift a few things and continue to tell my story,” he said. Instead, he decided to keep the original sequence of events by turning back to the mechanism he used in The Peripheral: people in the 22nd century have the ability to alter the past and create alternate timelines.
The change highlights a label that Gibson has long tried to ignore: science fiction prophet. While he’s responsible for terms like “cyberspace” and examined the rise of an internet-connected society in books such as Neuromancer, he’s explained that his works are a reflection on present-day anxieties, rather than attempts to figure out what will happen in the years and decades to come.
Agency is due out on January 16th, 2018.