I have admitted many times that I do not, in general, enjoy reading Science Fiction. There are several titles, however, that although based in a world of future imagination, are still valuable explorations into the meaning of being human and the relationships between people and their world. But there are also too many simple “Dick and Jane” stories that have Jack go up the hill to fetch a zero-gravity canister full of anti-matter only to have Jill surprise him with a fully-charged blaster and a one-way ticket on the teleport to the bottom of the hill.
I am reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I’m only flipping double-digit pages but I have to stop and make comment now since I may very well consign my copy of Snow Crash to the garbage disposal (no, it’s not a robotic computer controlled magic garbage disposal but it will do a pretty good job on the average paperback).
So far I am whirling around in a world of locally governed suburban units, 24 hour mafia surveillance, competing highway systems, each with it’s own private Highway Patrol, sentient pizza boxes, skateboards with wheels that analyze the road ahead and adjust for the terrain, ubiquitous computerization (some already out of date), privately operated prisons, and seeking a good time in artificial worlds. In our real lives we already know that privatization is just a scam to increase profits for already super-rich corporations, but Snow Crash carries it out to a future where civilization is controlled by greed, run by technological advances, and still worries about getting a pizza delivered in less than 30 minutes.
I suspect in the next 700 odd pages Stephenson will make some profound observations on life and even if they are cloaked in a lot of heavy-handed techo-fantacy they may stop the reader to test for smoke coming out of their ears; but then again, they may be gussied-up platitudes that were old and tired even for Polonius.
For now I’ll read on and perhaps I will experience something like a Vulcan mind-meld with Stephenson. Actually, that should help me a lot since I have many titles by Neal Stevenson on my book shelves.
Have you read Stephenson? What’s your opinion ( I may be just an old fuddy-duddy, after all)?
Wikipedia provides the following bibliography (edited a little):
The Big U (1984)
Snow Crash (1992) – British Science Fiction Association Award nominee, 1993; Clarke Award nominee, 1994
Interface (1994) with J. Frederick George, as “Stephen Bury”
The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (1995) – Hugo and Locus SF Awards winner, 1996; Nebula, Campbell and Clarke Awards nominee, 1996
The Cobweb (1996) with J. Frederick George, as “Stephen Bury”
Cryptonomicon (1999) – Locus SF Award winner, 2000; Hugo and Clarke Awards nominee, 2000; 2013 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award
Quicksilver (2003), volume I:The Baroque Cycle – Clarke Award winner, 2004; Locus SF Award nominee, 2004
The Confusion (2004), volume II:The Baroque Cycle and winner 2005 Locus SF Award
The System of the World (2004), volume III:The Baroque Cycle – Locus SF Award winner, 2005; Prometheus Award winner, 2005; Clarke Award nominee, 2005
Anathem (2008) – Locus SF Award winner, 2009; British Science Fiction Association Award nominee, 2008; Hugo and Clarke Awards nominee, 2009
The Mongoliad (2010–2012)
“Spew” (1994), in Hackers (1996)
“The Great Simoleon Caper” (1995), TIME
“Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of Tribes of the Pacific Northwest” in Full Spectrum 5 (1995)
“Jipi and the Paranoid Chip” (1997), Forbes
“Crunch” (1997), in Disco 2000 (edited by Sarah Champion, 1998) (“Crunch” is a chapter from Cryptonomicon)
Other fiction projects
Project Hieroglyph, founded in 2011, administered by Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination since 2012. Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, ed. Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer, which includes contributions by Stephenson, was published by William Morrow in September, 2014.
“Smiley’s people”. 1993.
“In the Kingdom of Mao Bell”. Wired. 1994. “A billion Chinese are using new technology to create the fastest growing economy on the planet. But while the information wants to be free, do they?”
“Mother Earth Mother Board”. Wired. 1996. “In which the Hacker Tourist ventures forth across three continents, telling the story of the business and technology of undersea fiber-optic cables, as well as an account of the laying of the longest wire on Earth.”
“Global Neighborhood Watch”. Wired. 1998. Stopping street crime in the global village.
In the Beginning… Was the Command Line. Harpers Perennial. 1999.
“Communication Prosthetics: Threat, or Menace?”. Whole Earth Review, Summer 2001.
“Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out”. Op-Ed piece on Star Wars, in The New York Times, June 17, 2005.
“It’s All Geek To Me”. Op-Ed piece on the film 300 and geek culture, The New York Times, March 18, 2007.
“Atoms of Cognition: Metaphysics in the Royal Society 1715–2010,” chapter in Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society, edited by Bill Bryson. Stephenson discusses the legacy of the rivalry between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, November 2, 2010.
“Space Stasis”. Slate. February 2, 2011. “What the strange persistence of rockets can teach us about innovation.”
“Innovation Starvation”. World Policy Journal, 2011.
Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing. William Morrow. 2012.