Commentary on Agrippa (a book of the dead)


"The surface of the top case is irregular, distressed, and looks as though it has been unearthed from the debris of some future catastrophe, a kind of relic from the future. Its size and weight do not allow for casual reading/viewing and therefore demand that one recognize its sheer artifactuality. . . ."
—James J. Hodge, "Bibliographic Description of Agrippa"

"The first trace of text from “Agrippa” (the actual poem){1} on the public internet I can isolate is 21 May 1992, 16:05:30 PST, when Tom Maddox—fellow cyberpunk, Gibson confidant, and then USENET stalwart—began including the line “I swear I never heard the first shot” in his message signature file. It was tantalizingly attributed to “Wm. Gibson, ‘AGRIPPA: a book of the dead’.” Pointedly perhaps, his post that spring day was to a thread on rec.arts.books that had arisen in response to some advance publicity for Agrippa, then being erroneously described as a short story. Maddox continued to use the line throughout the summer and fall, but dropped it immediately after the events described below placed the text in general circulation. . . ."
—Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, "Hacking ‘Agrippa’: The Source of the Online Text"

"But we do know that the work is indeed a testament, compendium, or edition of the generalized destructivity of the twentieth century—the first work, as it were, copy-edited by bomb. Nor is the catastrophe over and done with so that we can expect the trauma to be stabilized. A persistent radioactivity of destructivity continues. We first notice it when Ashbaugh’s images (at least as the book was originally conceived) alter in appearance like some picture of Dorian Gray updated to the processes of pixel-rot, gene-splicing, or molecule-creep that are the usual symptoms of cyberpunk’s fetishization of digital, biotech, and nanotech fungibility. . . ."
—Alan Liu, Excerpt from The Laws of Cool