It gave me the idea that you could question anything, that it was possible to question anything at all. You could question religion, you could question your own culture’s most basic assumptions. That was just unheard of—where else could I have gotten it? You know, to be thirteen years old and get your brain plugged directly into Philip K. Dick’s brain!
That wasn’t the way science fiction advertised itself, of course. The self-advertisement was: Technology! The world of the future! Educational! Learn about science! It didn’t tell you that it would jack your kid into this weird malcontent urban literary universe and serve as the gateway drug to J. G. Ballard.
And nobody knew. The people at the high school didn’t know, your parents didn’t know. Nobody knew that I had discovered this window into all kinds of alien ways of thinking that wouldn’t have been at all acceptable to the people who ran that little world I lived in.
I love the idea that SF is so subversive. I experienced it too, around the same age, but I didn’t realise at the time what was happening, and I don’t think I realised it since until Gibson pointed it out to me. There does seem to be a correlation between SF fans and, say, libertarians, who are certainly in the habit of asking more questions about the world than most people. But I don’t think it occurred to me that SF was the *cause*. Perhaps, to an extent, it is.