Washington Times (June 28, 1995)
Douglas Coupland, 33, author of "Generation X," the term that
has become a media byword for people in their 20s.
The interview begins in cyberspace on America Online as part of a high-tech
promotional book tour. It ends on the old-fashioned telephone from his
New York hotel room.
ACCOMPLISHMENT: "Microserfs," a novel about a group of geeky
Microsoft employees in search of a life.
aren't you doing cyber-interviews anymore?
did enjoy it, but it got to be too much. It's like accepting a 5,000-word
writing assignment. A lot of [journalists] were paranoid that I was
afraid to do phone interviews because I was trying to control the
interview . . . or that it was someone else pretending to be me, giving
out press- release answers for $1.99 a minute. In the end, it felt
like work, and I didn't like that.
did you get the idea for the plot of "Microserfs"?
went to art school [to study sculpture] in Vancouver [British Columbia],
and everyone who went there now works for Aaron Spelling, Nintendo,
Sony, Tristar. . . . I realized everything around me was going geek.
sort of research did you do for this book?
took a long time to do; it's not like one of those instant Kato Kaelin
books. I spent six weeks at the Microsoft campus [in Redmond, Wash.]
and four months eating pizza with nerds in Palo Alto [in the Silicon
Valley of California]. I also put e-mail on the 'net asking for help
and got 2,000 responses, of which I picked the most entertaining ones.
you heard any comments about "Microserfs" from Bill Gates,
[chairman and founder of Microsoft Inc.]?
people from Wired [magazine] asked him about it. He said to make sure
we put a slug in the book telling people that it's fiction. It's obviously
fiction! They're paranoid we're bashing them, though a lot of people
who work there have told me it's an accurate portrayal. I think a
lot of Microsoft bashing has to do with their being No. 1, but also
because Bill is the anti-Gump. He's so smart. He goes against everything
from the "dumbing of America" fad. The smart backlash gets
back to Microsoft because everyone there is smart. As this sentimentalizing
of stupidity goes on, the bashing of anything smart continues. I think
it's coming to an end now, thank God. As if being stupid is going
to get us out of our mess.
you consider yourself a techo-nerd?
used to do computer programming in high school, but I thought it was
way too linear and quit. The irony is now I'm a writer, which is the
most linear communication mode we have in the entire culture. . .
. Until they come up with an interface that can simulate a bookstore,
electricity doesn't have a ghost of a chance of creeping up on books.
Human beings are still object-fetished. It's just part of their nature.
So I don't worry about the death of the book for at least another
century. It's written in e-mail-speak, complete with misspellings.
recently were quoted in Details magazine saying that Generation X
is "dead." Can you explain that?
in the '80s, people said that yuppies didn't exist. Then they got
wiped out by the recession, and now everyone admits they existed.
For four years we've been in intense X-denial. It's like saying, "Do
fish exist?" I prefer not to label it. But now everyone wants
to be called "twentysomething." That makes no sense because
some of the people I described five years ago are now 30. Jane Fonda
will still be a baby boomber when she's 90. Just be yourself.