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Ask Neal Stephenson

Roblimo posted more than 9 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-gilded-age dept.


Our latest Slashdot interview victim... err... guest... is Neal Stephenson, author of (among others) Snow Crash, CRYPTONOMICON, the much-discussed essay, In the Beginning was the Command Line, and more recently a series of books he calls The Baroque Cycle. (Last month Slashdot reviewed the series' third volume, The System of the World.) Now you can ask Neal whatever you want. As usual, we'll send him 10 -12 of the highest-moderated questions and post his answers verbatim when we get them back.

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A prediction, please (5, Interesting)

erick99 (743982) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493799)

Science fiction writers are my favorite sources of predictions for the futre of technology. So, if you had to make one predicition related to technology - something we don't entirely have now but will be ubiquitous ten years from now, what would that be?

10 years from now... (5, Interesting)

Marnhinn (310256) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493901)

Not only what will we have 10 years from now - but what major item will be gone? [Cars? TVs?...]

Also as a science fiction author - when you write, do you try to paint a realistic picture of the future or simply one that will suit the needs of your story?

gmail invites (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10493808)

Re:gmail invites (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10493831)

Don't open the google files unless you wanna puke.

Genres of future works? (5, Interesting)

Control Group (105494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493810)

First off, thank you for your writing - I read a lot of books, but very few have brought me as much satisfaction as yours.

In any event, the question: the first book of yours I read was Snow Crash, followed by Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon. This earned you a spot in my head as an excellent author of techno/SF/cyberpunk (for lack of a more definitive, preferably singular, term). While I've enjoyed the Baroque Cycle (though I admit to not having read the The System Of yhe World yet), I also look at a novel like Snow Crash with an almost wistful nostalgia. With all that said, do you have any plans to write anything else in that genre/style, or do you feel you've explored it as far as you're interested in doing?

What were you thinking? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10493824)

Hiro Protagonist and Y.T.

What was going through your mind at that moment?

right to keep and bear code (5, Interesting)

arashiakari (633150) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493829)

Do you think that hacking tools should be protected (in the United States) under the second amendment?

more detailed explanation... (5, Interesting)

arashiakari (633150) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493917)

Do you think computer hacking tools should be protected (in the United States) under the second amendment? Our right to "bear arms" is designed to defend against internal tyranny as much as external invasion. With the world built around information and its interpretation, to certify accountability it will remain necessary for individuals to have the ability to subvert (when necessary) the gatekeepers to popular exposure if those gatekeepers are to be kept honest.

If as much license were applied to the second amendment as has been claimed under the first, we would all be packing hand-held nuclear weapons. Is a port scanner or code disassembler too much to ask?

Re:more detailed explanation... (1)

latroM (652152) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494170)

Those are cracking tools.

Just one question (4, Funny)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493837)

Neal, what's your Slashdot account name?

Re:Just one question (-1, Offtopic)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493955)

Okay, let's see...Slashdot story description reads:

Now you can ask Neal whatever you want.

I ask:

Neal, what's your Slashdot account name?

I get modded:

(Score:0, Offtopic)

I might just be dumb, but I can't understand the logic behind this moderation. I could see someone maybe moderating it as overrated -- maybe they're not interested in whether or not Neal uses Slashdot (I'm curious, but I could see them not caring). But moderating it Offtopic is just silly.

Re:Just one question (2, Funny)

metlin (258108) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494124)

The name is Cowboy, kiddo.

Cowboy Neal ;-)

Sad news, Christopher Reeve dead at 52 (1, Offtopic)

Offtopica (413375) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493840)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Superman star Christopher Reeve was found dead in his New York home yesterday. There weren't any more details yet. I'm sure we'll all miss him, even if you weren't a fan of his work, there's no denying his contribution to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

Book endings (3, Interesting)

scumdamn (82357) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493844)

Do you ever wish you'd ended any of your books differently? Your books are usually fast paced, but as you reach the last 5-10 pages a reader begins to panic. The thought that always goes through my head is "He doesn't have enough book left to explain it all!" and usually I'm right.
I mean, I don't want to know that Princess Nell had two kids and lived in a trailer park for the rest of her life finally dying of emphezema, but it'd be kinda nice to get just a bit more detail before being dropped off with only a bare explaination of events.

Same feeling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10493979)

Read Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. And in both cases when approaching the last pages I wondered if my copies had pages missing. My sister agreed on Snow Crash case, and decided to ignore Cryptonomicon as soon as I said it was similar. Maybe we should collect some money so we can buy some extra paper for Neal, or more floppies o bigger HD, IMHO he is always rushing the endings (or slowing the beginings).

Re:Book endings (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494140)

I was going to post a question specifically asking about the ending of Diamond Age (something like "What, did you just get bored of it?"), but I see I was beaten to it - several times, in fact :-)

That spoilt the book a little for me; it doesn't so much conclude as just end. I almost feel as though there's supposed to be a second volume, or another few dozen pages or something...

Editor (0, Troll)

GoNINzo (32266) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493850)


I love your work. But will you be getting an editor anytime soon? Please?



Cryptonomicon Sequel (4, Interesting)

metlin (258108) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493852)

Do you ever plan on writing a sequel to Cryptonomicon?

I did not think you would get into the sequel thing, since most others have trouble pulling it off. However, you did a brilliant job of it in the Baroque cycle.

Personally, I thought Cryptonomicon ended wehere it had to, and the Baroque Cycle provided a nice view of the history behind the origins of the characters. However, I'm more curious about how you would take Cryptonomicon in the future, if you were to do so.

Also, I'd asked you this in person when you had given a talk at Georgia Tech - about the endings of your books, to which you had replied that you were quite happy with them the way they were.

But -- if you could have ended them differently, what kind of alternate endings do you think you would have come up with?


Add to the question about book endings!!! (3, Interesting)

Strange_Attractor (160407) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494148)

Also, I'd asked you this in person when you had given a talk at Georgia Tech - about the endings of your books, to which you had replied that you were quite happy with them the way they were.

But -- if you could have ended them differently, what kind of alternate endings do you think you would have come up with?

Moderators and editors - PLEASE add this thought to the highly-moderated question earlier about Neal's endings. I'd rather hear this followup, rather than waste one of of 10-12 questions on a reiteration of "I'm happy with them the way they are".

The lack of respect... (5, Interesting)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493853)

Science Fiction is normally relegated to the specialist publications rather than having reviews in the main stream press. Seen as "fringe" and a bit sad its seldom reviewed with anything more than condecesion by the "quality" press.

Does it bother you that people like Jeffery Archer or Jackie Collins seem to get more respect for their writing than you ?

What are you writing now? (4, Interesting)

kpost (594219) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493861)

Can you give us any details on what you're currently writing and a guess as to when we'll see it?

What are your writing plans after Baroque cycle? (5, Interesting)

shadowlight1 (77239) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493864)


A lot of us fans loved it when you were in the world of pure sci-fi, though we appreciate the Baroque Cycle, we were wondering if you are going to get back into the world of cyberpunk, or future worlds, or what have you, like in The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon. What are your writing plans when the Baroque Cycle is complete?

Enoch Root (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10493866)

Enoch Root - WTF?

Re:Enoch Root (5, Interesting)

-cman- (94138) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494105)

Okay, clear this up for us. I Enoch Root one man in both Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle or several? In Cryptonomicon Enoch talks about his "religious order," and I posit that "Enoch" is some sort of (mortal) atificial construct with mind that can be transferred when that "body" wears out/is killed or what have you - a clone perhaps.

Are you ever going to clear up this mystery in another book or are you going to let us twist in the wind forever?

And just thanks for all the great writing over the years. Your books are what I pack on long trips and have kept me company in Poland, Russia, California, and an excruciating mid-December move from Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa. I'd like to make a special plug aimed at oter Slashdotters for the Wired article Hacker Tourist: Mother Earth Motherboard [] which kept me fascinated during a long trip up the Pacific Coast Highway in 1996. I'd buy your grocery list, man.

The abrupt endings (3, Insightful)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493874)

Your books always seem to go on forever, and then rapidly accelerate and then just *stop*. What's the deal? I love the prose, love the ideas, and have read all your stuff - but this sudden impact always leaves me a bit... stunned, like a cow who's just been air-hammered between the eyes... when I finish one of your books.

What's next? (1)

PinglePongle (8734) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493877)

Cryptonomicon was fantastic, the Baroque cycle is terrific - what's next?

Cryptonomicon (5, Interesting)

Aristos Mazer (181252) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493882)

Can you detail which pieces of Cryptonomicon's WWII history is factual and which are fiction? How much of the team that did information hiding (leaking the code books so as to have a legitimate reason to change codes) was real?

Re:Cryptonomicon (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494065)

Well, the contents of the cigar box surely are fictional.

Singularity (5, Interesting)

randalx (659791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493888)

What are your thoughts on Veror Vinge's Singularity [] prediction. Is it inevitable? Will humans become a part of it or be left behind by this new "species"?

Re:Singularity (1)

Ignignot (782335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494011)

It is easy to look at data and plot an exponential growth curve. It is hard to find one that actually fits.

MOD PARENT UP: Re:Singularity (4, Insightful)

Cade144 (553696) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494163)

To expand a smidge further: as covered earlier on Slashdot [] , the problem that the singularity presents to futurists is troubling. By definition the singularity is the point at which the rate of technological change is faster than can be imagined.

How does that sort of thing bother you as an author of futurist/speculative fiction? Wouldn't you rather there be a nice crash of civilization to keep the pace of technological advancement slow enough so that predictions in your books get outpaced by the march of technological "progress"?

Of course, given said crash of civilization, you'd best have most of your assets in gold [] . And it might be unlikely that your publisher would continue writing you checks, but that's a different story.

Your Endings (2, Insightful)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493892)

Typically most on Slashdot love your books, but are not happy with your endings, citing how they often come to a very swift, and some may say, abrupt, conclusion.

Do you feel this is an accurate portrayal of your books' endings, and would you like to address this issue?

For brevity, I will cut this question short.

Chronology (3, Interesting)

Digitalia (127982) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493898)

Of your novels, there seems to be a certain chronology. You've written novels set far in the past, like the Baroque cycle; in the present, such as Cryptonomicon; those set a decade or so into the future, like Snow Crash; and a novel set roughly half a century from now, with the Diamond Age.

Do you plan to fill in the gaps? Will we see how the formation of a data haven specifically leads to the abolition of the government as we know it, or are these novels not meant to reference each other?

Enoch (5, Interesting)

sinergy (88242) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493903)


Please give us some more details about Enoch Root. He's quite an amazong character, but you leave us really guessing about him. Is he the same person throughout the years? Is he the embodiment of the biblical Enoch?

Who would win? (5, Funny)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493904)

In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?

Corporate/Political Criminals? (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493905)

I have asked both William Gibson and Hunter S. Thompson a question that seems especially relevant to your work, as you have combined technology with politics in the immanent future in several compelling stories. As corporations move into power vacuums vacated and created by governments, especially globally, who are the new political criminals? Do we already have corporate political prisoners? And how can we change corporatism as we slowly changed politics, to protect the rights of these criminals, and the rights of the rest of us treated as such, without justice? If we hear your answer, I will share the answers from Gibson and Thompson, each as revealing about the writers as about crime.

Re:Corporate/Political Criminals? (1)

Ignignot (782335) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494041)

Oh please tell me now, I simply cannot stand to wait! Oh the humanity! To wait several weeks for you to reveal the deepest secrets of both the makers or electric guitars, the makers of submachineguns, and crime!

Were the giant mutant sewer rats really necessary? (0, Troll)

swm (171547) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493909)

I mean, really?

Here's a question. (2, Funny)

falzer (224563) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493925)

Do you read Slashdot?

Progress (1)

essreenim (647659) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493927)

Hello Neal,
You have made a point of studying aspects of the history of science and scientific thought. Would you aggree that with the onset of ARPANET (the world wide web..) much of our great minds are constrained themselves to a subset of potential breakthroughs based on our mimicing of real world metaphors via the web as opposed to genuinely original work?

Physics and Physicality (5, Interesting)

timothy (36799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493928)

(On behalf of my brother, who first started pushing your books at me years before I finally read any ...)

Mr. Stephenson:

In some of your books, your action scenes are far detailed (and better informed) than are those of many authors, who gloss over the ways that actual physical objects, including people, interact at close range (including skateboarding, diving, fighting, and the awkwardness of in-car sex with Amy Shaftoe).

This leads me to ask, Are you a skateboarder? Surfer? Martial Artist, and if so of what variety? (Or Rock climber, spelunker, etc.) If Yes in a general sense, how often do you participate in such things now?

More generally, what physical activities that you find especially invigorating mentally?


the end (1, Flamebait)

spoonyfork (23307) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493930)

You must be aware that some of your fans are disappointed with the way you consistently flake out at the end of a really good story. Can you shed some light on your process for ending a novel?

wheeeeee (3, Interesting)

robochan (706488) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493931)

First off, a hearty thank you! In The Beginning Was The Command Line was what initially got me to try Linux back in 1998 - I wanted a free tank! :o)

It would sem that your father was a big inspiration for Command Line. What has inspired you for your other works? I've always been fascinated by the inspirations of an author's particular works, as they usually give a deeper insight to the work than just the included text.

What was it like... (1)

Sensible Clod (771142) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493936)

you know, before the command line?

Spacesflight (4, Interesting)

Harbinjer (260165) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493937)

I'm curious about your take on the commercial spaceflight. First, would/will you go up to space? How do you think this will impact Sci-fi writing. Its been a prominent theme in sci-fi for quite a while, but in reality, very slow to take off. So do you think it will push more stuff to looking at a "star trek" like future? Or do you think its already overemphasized in the literature?

Re:Spacesflight (1)

justforaday (560408) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494139)

Well, considering he was (is?) a consultant for Blue Origin [] (Jeff Bezos' space flight company), I'd say he's pretty into the idea...

Going from human to silicon (3, Interesting)

macshune (628296) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493944)

Dear Neal, If given the chance in the future, would you go from being a 100% biological human to a cyborg? If the technology was available would you consider transforming yourself into a fully non-biological entity?

Also, do you think that going from human to non-biological entity would be like going from an LP to a compact disc in the sense that just the platter and fidelity would change and not the tune, or would a person's humanity be replaced with something entirely different? Thanks,

Undersea Cables research, and inspiration (5, Interesting)

farrellj (563) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493975)

I recently re-read your article "Mother Earth, Mother Board" in WIRED magazine, and it seems that a lot of research that you did for that article inspired you greatly. Many things that are touched upon in that there crop up throughout CRYPTONOMICON and the Baroque Cycle, are you planning on ever publishing a revised or expanding that article? I would love to about the research that went into the backround/backstory of those books.


More future novels? (1)

joeldg (518249) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493977)

I notice most of your work is actually in the past/present and of note, Snow crash and The diamond age are the ones that stick out for me of your works as my personal favorites.
I have to admit that I enjoy reading works set in the future to see how an author envisions the future at our current pace.
Obviously nanotech is an interest of yours and I admit I would like nanotech books (primers ala diamond age) for any future kids I might have.
Are you planning on continued work in the alternative past/present or do you have any plans for future-based works?


What are you reading these days? (5, Interesting)

IvyMike (178408) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493978)

Since you're Neal Stephenson, I suspect the answer could be something like "surveys of ancient Sumerian accounting systems".

If that's the case, please include a work of modern fiction or two in your list; something you think that a fan of your work might also enjoy. :)

Cryptonomicon Future Timeline (5, Interesting)

adesm (684216) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493985)

Neal, In interviews I have read you have stated that during the writing of Cryptonomicon you discarded a third 'future' timeline. Is there any possibility of someday bringing that timeline to light? Do you feel that the contents of that timeline still pass muster given the changes in Cryptography and official power concentration since you wrote the novel?

What's the deal with "Nipponese"? (2, Interesting)

jeblucas (560748) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493990)

I've read most of your books, and in each of them (I believe) you refer to "Japan" as "Nippon" and "Japanese" as "Nipponese". Is this purely an affectation, or do you seriously walk around around day to day and say, "Dang, those Nipponese cars sure have swell handling." Do people look at you funny when you toss that around? Is it an icebreaker? What's the deal?

Re:What's the deal with "Nipponese"? (2, Interesting)

kikensei (518689) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494048)

My wife, who is from Japan found that the use of "Nipponese" was quite bizarre and affected. At first blush, considering "Japan" in japanese is "Nippon", it seems more PC, but I can't imagine that was the inspiration for its use.

storygramming (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#10493991)

You programmed computers before you wrote novels. Greg Egan shares that hyphenated career, and continues to illustrate his stories with Java applets [] . Do you still program, possibly targeting the same subjects with your word processor as your compiler? As _Snow Crash_ was originally designed as an interactive game, and such landmarks as _Myst_ have regenerated as (usually bad) novels, do you see the arrival of a truly multimedia story, delivered simultaneously in multiple media, anytime soon? By whom, specifically or generally?

Idempotent mentoring (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494000)

Neal, I would rather simply read your books than to try to independently model your brain through ontological questioning; however, if you were to suggest some unusual reading to a much younger version of yourself, what would it be?

Money (5, Interesting)

querencia (625880) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494001)

One of the major themes in Cryptonomicon that carried over (in a big way) to The Baroque Cycle is money. You introduced some "futuristic" views of currency and of where money might be going in Cryptonomicon, and you skillfully managed to do the same thing, while explaining some of the history of modern monetary systems, in the most recent books.

You've obviously spent a lot of time thinking about money lately. Is there anything going on in the modern world with monetary systems (barter networks, for example) that you find particularly interesting? What do you see on the horizon with respect to money?

PS -- thanks for the great books!

BeOS (5, Interesting)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494005)

When you wrote "In the Beginning was the Command Line" you were very much in love with BeOS. As nice as BeOS was, it is now mostly gone. Do you still use BeOS 5, or have you aquired YellowTab from Zeta? Or, instead have you embreaced the new UNIX based MacOS X as the OS you want to use when you "Just want to go to Disneyland"?


Snowcrash & Christianity (5, Interesting)

soth12 (820984) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494013)

I thought it was really interesting in Snow Crash how Juanita (a Catholic) doesn't believe the story of Jesus's resurrection. She claims that it was the Church's attempt to wrest back control of the religion. I'm not Christian but the very idea is really intriguing. Was there a particular source or research for this theory? What about your perspective on religion in general?

Dark atmosphere to modern sci-fi (5, Interesting)

revscat (35618) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494015)

Classic era science fiction (Heinlein, Asimov, etc.) was notably more humanistic and positivistic in tone. In works from that era, the future was bright, challenges were overcome by clever individuals, and technology and science led humanity towards ever greater accomplishments. Now, however, science fiction tends to paint a much bleaker picture of the future (and present). Why do you think this is, and do you think this is an accurate representation of potential futures?

In the beginning was the command line... (2, Interesting)

kikensei (518689) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494016)

is going on 5 years old. The books investrigation into the history and utility of the various OS choices seems to have been inspired by your own search for a dependable word processor. Although it was widely reported that you reverted to pen (or quill) and paper for The Baroque Cycle, have your OS preferences and evaluations changed over the last 5 years? What OS do you personally find the most value in today?

A Serious Question (1, Troll)

fizban (58094) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494017)


How do you deal with the tumultuous hordes of fanboys on Slashdot relating their every waking moment to some aspect of your novels? What's it like to have to deal with that amount of slavering attention?

Travel tips for modern primitives? (5, Interesting)

timothy (36799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494019)

Mr. Stephenson:

I greatly enjoy your travel stories, both non-fiction (Mother Earth, Motherboard) and in particular your descriptions of the Philipines in Cryptonomicon.

Can you share some of the ideas you've developed for savvy trav'lin? For instance, how do you deal with carrying sufficent technology (whatever level you deem this to be) while minimizing the risk of theft, breakage, or loss by other means? Do you dress native or carry your entire warddobe? [And broader, do you travel with something close to nothing, picking up necessary items as the need arises? What do you not leave home without?]

Do you carry any sort of self-defense means in some places, and if so What and Where?


Ideal writing environment? (5, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494023)

I've always admired writers whose style implies a certain work discipline, and I may be wrong but it seems as if you have a writing environment that does you wonders. As a world famous author, you have had the opportunity to work in some very interesting places.

My question(s) is(are) this: what is your ideal writing environment? Have you been to anywhere in particular in your travels, or have a writing setup/gig that has compelled you to really get words down, physically, ready for someone else to read?

"Snow Crash"-style writing (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494024)

Do you ever plan to do another book with gritty and over-the-top descriptions, along the lines of Snow Crash? I apologize for not being able to characterize the style used in this book better, but I think you know what I mean...

an update on "In the beginning" (1)

RafeDawg (138303) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494025)

The technology climate has changed dramatically since you wrote In the Beginning was the Command Line in the late 90's. How do recent phenomena (particularly the economic recession) alter the conclusions you drew in that essay?

Enoch Root and Finux... (1)

Bollie (152363) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494027)

There's really only one inconsistency that bothered me in Cryptonomicon, and that is the character of Enoch Root. Do we have enough evidence by now (I haven't yet read books 2 and 3 of the Baroque Cycle) to solve this conundrum? Would it be solvable?

Finally, was there any particular reasoning behind using "Finux" and not "Linux" as a mythical OS in Cryptonomicon? Or is this an alternate reality where Linus Torvalds went to work for Microsoft?

Thanks for a great and entertaining read!

Re:Enoch Root and Finux... (0)

syrinx (106469) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494113)

I believe he said once in an interview that he wanted his story-OS to have some capabilities that real-life Linux might not have, so he decided to use a completely fictional OS, rather than give a real OS fictional capabilities.

Re:Enoch Root and Finux... (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494179)

He's answered the Finux question before. He called it that to make it clear that he didn't want to answer persnickety questions about any differences between Linux in the book and Linux in reality.

What inconsistency are you talking about? Enoch Root is very long-lived.

What happened at the end of Crytonomicon (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494028)

The end of the story just stopped abruptly and suddenly. Do I have some missing pages, or did you just decide to stop writing at an arbitrary point?

Dude, this election is a wash (3, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494032)

How can we coax intelligent, thinking types like yourself and Lessig onto the ticket?

Most important question (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494044)

How do you deal with questions from sycophantic slashdot fanboys drooling all over you?

Do you believe things will get better ...? (1)

CURaven (629073) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494049)

Do you believe things will get better in our lifetime (or ever) through the use of technology ... or do you think as human beings we will continue to strive against one another? I mean, if slashdotters can rail against a perfectly good OS just because it 'aint perfect/open-source, what hope is there that humans can agree to share food, cure deadly diseases, elect responsible leaders, leave the planet in better shape than we found it and love our fellow man woman xp-user? BTW Thanks for the great reads. Sincerely, Scott EE CU-Boulder '04

Your Endings (2, Interesting)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494050)


First off, thank you for taking our questions; my wife and I are both big fans of your work. The Baroque Cycle is our bedtime reading material du jour, and we're eagerly awaiting your next book.

The endings of your book always seem to strike rather suddenly--once a resolution has been reached, your books simply stop. Setting aside whatever opinions people have about your distinct closing style, could you give us a bit of a glimpse into how you craft the endings of your books? Do you put a lot of work and thought into the final chapter of a book, or does it simply reach a point where you stand up and say, "there, it's done"?

Re:Your Endings (1)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494144)

(P.S. Apologies for the false dichotomy. Feel free to present other possible answers, as well...)

How do you feel about current virtual worlds? (1)

JamesMiller (820988) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494052)

There are a few virtual worlds right now, which are trying to become the "metaverse". The two well-known ones are Second Life ( and There ( Have you tried either of them, and if so, which one do you think does a better job?

Causes, methods. (5, Interesting)

greenglyph (814070) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494053)

Mr. Stephenson,

I have found your works to be both illuminating and invigorating. Having said that, why do you write? That is to say, Is there an overall guiding influence to your craft as a whole, and does that somehow inform what you set out to accomplish in each novel?

Kind Regards, Sergio A. Mora

Any one thing that... (4, Interesting)

anzha (138288) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494056)

Mr. Stephenson,

I have been reading and finding your books interesting. However, I was wondering if there was a prediction that you felt was going to happen, but didn't...and this surprised you to no end. Was there such a prediction and what was it?

Thank you.

Dealing with "Groupies" (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494059)

How do you deal with the groupies? The people who nitpick technical details you missed, or simplified for plot reasons? How many non-spam emails from fans do you get on a normal day? How often are you recognized on the street?

In short, what's it like being a Rock Star to the Nerds?

Writing over programming (4, Interesting)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494062)

Neal, at one point you were a coder. Eventually, you became a writer. There are many programmers on Slashdot -- do you recommend this path to them? How do you find writing English as a profession versus writing code as a profession?

Writing implement? (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494071)

Mr. Stephenson:

I've read that you wrote your most recent books, which have plenty of words, in longhand, with a fountain pen.

What kind of pen (or pens) could you put up with for so long? Did it make you write more slowly? Did you turn in long-hand manuscripts to your editors / publishers, or decant first into a text processor?

I enjoy writing longhand, but even my favorite pen (Lamy Safari) gets a bit much to hold for more than a few hours ...


Are you returning to your "roots"? (2, Interesting)

ajs (35943) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494085)

Earlier in your career, I heard you compared to Arthur C. Clarke for your ability to present the thoughts, fantasies and concerns of the tech-bubble-white-collar in ways that not only entertained but enlightened (where Clarke was doing the same for the aerospace and technology engineers of the 50s). This was abstract and entertaining in Snow Crash, speculative in Diamond Age and bitingly believable in Cryptonomicon.

So my question is this: were the Baroque Cycle books just an excursion away from that synergy that you had with the high-tech common man, or the start of a long-term trend? Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying they were bad books (far from), just wondering how it fits in.

This might not be the right time to ask this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494094)

Will you have my children?

Confidential Proposal, Off shore data haven (5, Funny)

SlashDread (38969) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494095)

Greetings to you in the name of the most high God, from my beloved country Nigeria.

I am sorry and I solicit your permission into your privacy. I am Barrister Leonardo Akume, lawyer to the late Dr. Koffi Abachus, a brilliant Nigerian mathematician.

My former client, late Dr. Koffi Abachus, died in a mysterious plane crash in the year 1994 on the way to a scientific conference to make an announcement of the utmost importance to mankind.

He was planning to present a paper regarding his extensive work on data storage. It is said the data storage device he had developed, would be roughly ten times more secure compared to the latest quantum excyption techniques. The device was about the size of a steamer trunk, and stored on a privately owned island close to the coast of Nigeria. Dr Koffi Abachus is also the King of the local tribe by heritage...

Oh well.. Should there BE a data haven? If so, where?


Dumas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494096)

Do you have a favorite musketeer?

Writing longhand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494098)

I'm given to understand you wrote the Baroque Cycle entirely in longhand to force yourself to be more succinct.

What are you going to try now? :)

Seriously, can you comment on this experiment? Do you plan to continue it in the future?

+5 Interesting (0)

chegosaurus (98703) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494104)

Do you think Linux is totally awesome?

How do you write? (1)

cmaxx (7796) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494127)

Why do you write the way you do - long-hand, typewritten, word-processed, or dictation?

As a historian (5, Interesting)

The Limp Devil (513137) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494128)

As a historian it has been interesting for me to see you tackle historical subjects (and from my period to boot). Something which often pops up when I debate with my colleagues is the constraints that our profession puts on how we portray history in writing. The demand for concrete sources for everything we write often leaves us unable to put into writing some of our understanding and conceptions of historical societies and events.

So I wonder, how do you see us? Having gone from science fiction to historical novels, how do you view historians and how we write history?

Why do you have such trouble finishing? (1)

mmuskratt (232684) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494132)

It appears to me and many of my friends that you develop this great story and characters, then you pull a "Bladerunner" on us and toss a dove up in front of the Bonaventure and the book is over. Cryptonomicon is better than Snow Crash, but it still relies on the final few pages to pull the 900 pages together in the end. Do you get this kind of feedback ever, or notice it yourself?

Which Comes First (4, Interesting)

Hardwyred (71704) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494134)

Your books always seem to be painstakingly researched. Which comes first, the desire to write the book which creates the need for the research, or the research inspiring you to write the book?

two questions (1)

latroM (652152) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494135)

Neal, what is your favourite non-science fiction book?

Do the books you read affect to your writing and if they do then how?

What is SF worth? (1)

cafn8ed (264155) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494138)

When describing (or defending) Science Fiction to readers of other genres, I often say that Sci-Fi is the only genre (actually, "setting", but that's a digression) in which authors pose the question "What if?" and give readers the chance to look ahead and choose to do or not to do, for fear of an apocalyptic future, or what have you.

In your works of fiction, what lessons do you most hope that we readers will learn?

On the subject of big, scary spear-chucking dudes (1)

Andux (260446) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494141)

Does Yevgeny, by any chance, bear the last name Ravinoff?

Neal as History Authority (2, Interesting)

adelord (816991) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494145)

You are the only science fiction author whose books I buy on sight, in hard cover, price-be-damned. That probably makes me a fan.

Whats books or authors do you consider invaluable to a person's accurate understanding of American history?


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494147)

Who would you have RIPPED OFF if WILLIAM GIBSON never existed?

Best book you ever read? (2, Interesting)

adapt (105738) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494153)

What is the best - or most inspiring - book you ever read?

Follow-up question: what are you reading right now?

Dear Neal, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494161)

How did you like it when I gave you the bone hard and fast last night? I was the one in the sombrero...

Snowcrash: the Movie. When? (2, Interesting)

jeromba (692878) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494164)


How do you avoid writer's block? (5, Interesting)

cmaxx (7796) | more than 9 years ago | (#10494165)

How do you cope with the blank-page problem and times when the story seems to dry up in your mind? Does it ever happen to you?

Asberger's syndrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10494171)

there have been speculations here on /. that you might suffer from certain neurological disorders such as Asberger's syndrome or such. If the question is not too personal, is that true to what extent and do you have any types of autims that you are aware of?
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