Neal Stephenson's Some Remarks, a remarkable essay collection


21 Responses to “Neal Stephenson's Some Remarks, a remarkable essay collection”

  1. royaltrux says:

    Amazon is currently reporting that the “Brilliance audio MP3CD unabridged audiobook” is temporarily out of stock, which is kind of amusing.

  2. Michael Wiik says:

    I remember 199TK well.

  3. Andrew Clark says:

    Cory,  a few years ago I’d adopted your “tk” from “Writing in the Age of Distraction” and I teach it to my students. Amused to see one of them slip through.


    Ordered on sight.  Like Charles Stross, Stephenson includes actual science and tech in his novels where lots of authors substitute hand waving and glossed over electrical near-magic without going into the practical issues.  I can’t wait to read these essays.  Thanks for the recommendation, Cory.

  5. MrJM says:

    a kind of Moby-Dick for undersea cabling

    “To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”  

  6. Michael Wiik says:

    Just an fyi,  In the Beginning Was the Command Line is available free and legal here

  7. EggyToast says:

    I find Stephenson’s use of discursive, non-fiction elements frustrating since he often edits/modifies them to fit his narrative. For comparison, Junot Diaz’s “…Oscar Wao” is significantly non-fiction, telling the story of Trujillo and the DR, but it doesn’t alter facts for the sake of fiction.

    A lot of Stephenson’s longer uses of non-fiction remind me of the climactic scene in Inglourious Basterds, only it’s not as obvious what the change is. His digressions into Sumerian history in Snow Crash left me wondering “OK, what did he research and what did he make up?” I lost trust in him for the non-fiction elements (which was fine since the book ended entirely in fiction-space), but I don’t like the feeling of not trusting an author. It’s why I often avoid memoirs or biographies (especially biographies of unfamous or semi-famous people).

    • Amelia_G says:

      Great way of putting that. I don’t have any answers, but I’d lerv to listen to people chat who are working out answers to such historian questions. In “Foucault’s Pendulum,” for example, Umberto Eco kind of touched on the way conspiracy theorists combine improv’s “yes and” with history writing. One clue is that the limited number of historical facts you have are *all relevant*.
      Looking forward to this essay collection! I enjoyed Gibson’s and Rucker’s recent nonfiction, so thank you BB yet again.

    • Amelia_G says:

      If we knew more history facts, we wouldn’t have to wonder when reading stories where people play with it. But I was led into majoring in history by reading fiction (Eco). My redneck school district had only one history class, to retain/beschäftigen a basketball coach.

    • jijitsu says:

      The use of Sumerian myth in Snow Crash was creative and entertaining. I had never read anything like it before or since…

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I’m sympathetic to you to a point – changing facts for no reason at all is something that never fails to infuriate me (favourite example: Die Hard 2, with “This is a Glock Seven.  It’s a porcelain gun made in Germany, and it can pass through a metal detector”.  Wrong in every possible way, for no reason at all). However there’s a difference between that and coherently altering something much more complex in order to hang a narrative on it; it’s a piece of writerly craft as valid as building a character or setting.  Basically, you HAVE to be able to alter facts for the sake of fiction, otherwise all fiction would include nothing real at all.

      Similarly, maybe you found yourself wondering what of Snow Crash was research and what he created, but ultimately, why does it matter?  Whether it’s real or not, and whether you later look it up or not, the story remains what it is: a story, created for entertainment.  If it inspires you to go and learn about Sumerian mythology, that’s great; I really don’t think taking fiction as fact is particularly sensible, though.

  8. Thanks Cory …also available on for those who use it.

  9. Avram Grumer says:

    I could use a Stephenson essay on Leibniz’s metaphysics. I did some reading on it when Leibniz showed up in The Baroque Cycle, and man, I can’t see how that whole “windowless monads” thing could possibly have seemed like a good idea. 

  10. Any DRM-free digital options for purchase?

  11. David Thomson says:

    The undersea cable article was appened to the digital version of Cryptonomicon I bought for the Kindle a few months ago. 

  12. Marky says:

    Never understood why “Mother Earth Mother Board” wasn’t reprinted as a book. It’s long enough, and I’m sure Neil had a few more pictures to add.

  13. Oren Beck says:

    Writers are the #deity of all that they incarnate Ab Nihilio – to a point.  There’s a need for using references external to the created realms or the reader’s learning curve detracts from enjoyment. The genius that Neil shows is in expanding our horizons, by his references being teasers to do our own research.

    That essay on CLI stands as a touchstone work on it’s own merit.

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