...I felt that I was trying to describe an unthinkable present and I actually feel that science fiction's best use today is the exploration of contemporary reality rather than any attempt to predict where we are going…The best thing you can do with science today is use it to explore the present. Earth is the alien planet now.
—William Gibson in an interview on CNN, August 26, 1997.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, with about 100 pages of Pattern Recognition written, Gibson had to re-write the main character's backstory, which had been suddenly rendered implausible; he called it "the strangest experience I've ever had with a piece of fiction." He saw the attacks as a nodal point in history, "an experience out of culture", and "in some ways... the true beginning of the 21st century." He is noted as one of the first novelists to use the attacks to inform his writing. Examination of cultural changes in post-September 11 America, including a resurgent tribalism and the "infantilization of society", became a prominent theme of Gibson's work.