In a piece from his non-fiction collection Distrust That Particular Flavor (2012), William Gibson writes:

A friend of mine wrote a short story, a decade ago, in which the protagonists were Soviet equivalents of Predator drones, but literal cyborgs: small fighter aircraft controlled by brain-in-bottle onboard pilots, with very little left in the way of bodies.

The piece ("Googling the Cyborg") was originally written in 2008, which suggests that the said story was written circa 1998. AFAIK, the list of well-known friends of Gibson who happen to be scifi (and mostly cyberpunk) authors includes Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, and Lewis Shiner (among possibly others).

Any idea about which is the story and the author?

Edit: as correctly pointed out in the comments below by DavidW, there seems to be some inconsistency in the inferred dates, since the Soviet Union had been dismantled already since 1991...

  • What in that description makes you think that the short story is cyberpunk?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 23:49
  • 3
    @Valorum The short description sounds (to me at least) like spot-on the cyberpunk tropes of the era, plus the info that the author is a friend of Gibson's; I might be wrong on this though (but again, I am not aware of any formal definition of cyberpunk).
    – desertnaut
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 23:52
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    Note that if it's truly Soviet drones, that would place the story no later than, say, 1992.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 0:22
  • @DavidW that's a nice point (and possibly even earlier, Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991)
    – desertnaut
    Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 0:23
  • 1
    John Shirley had a resurgent Soviet Union in "A Song Called Youth", but I don't remember any "brain-in-bottles" involved Commented Jan 18, 2022 at 12:58

1 Answer 1


Sounds similar to Goliath by Neil Gaiman, written as a tie-on to The Matrix, and collected in Fragile Things. Summary is here: https://matrix.fandom.com/wiki/Goliath_(pilot)

  • Thanks; looks like a nice story, but I don't think it is the requested one.
    – desertnaut
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 10:38
  • 6
    Sorry, but this story is nothing like the story described above.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 11:08

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