Douglas Coupland


From The Washington Times (June 28, 1995)

by Cesar G. Soriano

PERSONALITY: Douglas Coupland, 33, author of "Generation X," the term that has become a media byword for people in their 20s.

THE SCENE: 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.

MOST RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENT: "Microserfs," a novel about a group of geeky Microsoft employees in search of a life.

Why aren't you doing cyber-interviews anymore? I 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.
Where did you get the idea for the plot of "Microserfs"? I 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.
What sort of research did you do for this book? It 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.
Have you heard any comments about "Microserfs" from Bill Gates, [chairman and founder of Microsoft Inc.]? The 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.
Would you consider yourself a techo-nerd? I 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.
You recently were quoted in Details magazine saying that Generation X is "dead." Can you explain that? Back 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.