I began to wonder as I was reading Snow Crash about the type of person who could have created such an unusual, bizarre, and uncannily eerie piece of fiction in 1992. How was this man able to forecast with such accuracy the concepts of Avatars and the Metaverse (virtual reality)? I decided to start researching the background of the author and was not surprised to learn that he was raised in a family that was well-educated specifically in Engineering, Physics, and Biochemistry. He graduated in 1981 with a BA in Geography with a minor in Physics from Boston University. His true love was Physics but he was allowed more time on the mainframe computing system in the Geography department.
His first novel, The U was published in 1984. It was a satire of college life and “written in a hurry by a young man” as quoted by the author. Snow Crash was his first big hit. The original goal was to publish a computer-generated graphic novel, however graphical computing capabilities had not yet gotten to the level that the author desired so he actually spent many hours writing image-processing code that was eventually never utilized…..and then Snow Crash was written. The author also has a strong interest in history that inspired him to blend ancient Sumeria with the computing world of the future where Hiro Protagonist is a warrior prince hunting down a computer virus that is striking hackers in the Metaverse. An interesting interview with Neal Stephenson concerning his opinions on whether hacking tools should be protected can be found here:
Little did the author know that his own work would eventually become victim to the same type of virus (spam) that he prognosticated in Snow Crash. His novel Cryptonomicon was actually stolen from an unauthorized site online and literally torn into literary pieces that were embedded into spam messages presumably with the intent of bypassing any type of filtering or protective software.
Neal Stephenson also completed a prolific trilogy entitled Baroque Cycle that was written by hand. The following pictures show some of the manuscript as well as the stacks of papers that comprised the three volume set.
There is an interview with Neal Stephenson concerning his inspiration for the creation of Baroque Cycle located at the following link:
The inspiration for the trilogy came unexpectedly from his work on Cryptonomicon. It had been his desire to include the history of computing and the impact that the technology has had on society in Cryptonomicon. Stephenson, like most of us, had been led to believe that the first computing machine was developed by Alan Turing. He read a book by George Dyson entitled Darwin Among the Machines. Dyson explores the history of Gottfried Leibniz and his contribution to the field of computing. Leibniz developed the first mass produced calculator but more importantly he refined the binary number system which is still the “brain” of the modern day digital computer’s central processing unit. It was this revelation that inspired the trilogy which is set in the 17th century. He was entranced with the amount of griping history that occurred during the time of Newton and Leibniz including the Siege of Vienna by the Turks, Barbary Pirates, the scientific revolution, the plaque and other events that provide material for Baroque Cycle. The series is definitely now on my reading “to do” list.
Anathem was published after Baroque Cycle and is based on the story of Fraa Erasmas a young avout living in the Concent of Saunt Edhar which is a sanctuary for mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers. Stephenson’s latest novel, Reamde, was just released in September. This does not have a supernatural element yet does include interesting characters who possess luck and grace.
Neal Stephenson is a prolific writer with tremendous creative genius and intellectual genius which has led him to become a New York Time’s bestselling author and much beloved by his fans. He has been called prophetic by many but his humility is revealed in this YouTube clip.