Skip

A Web of Geeks, Every One of Which Knows a Lot about Something
July 13, 2008 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Vegging Out vs. Geeking Out. Romance as the MSG of film. The bifurcated careers of Lucy lawless, Sigourney Weaver, and Hugo Weaving. Characters making smart decisions vs. stupid decisions. Neal Stephenson discusses Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction as a literary genre at Gresham College. (Warning: requires Flash 9)
posted by Navelgazer (29 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neal Stephenson talking for 40 minutes on speculative fiction?

[gleefully goes for bag of popcorn—large bag]
posted by humannaire at 6:37 PM on July 13, 2008


Thanks for this. I actually just started rereading The Diamond Age a few days ago, so it's timely as all hell.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:40 PM on July 13, 2008


His material is excellent, but his delivery is terrible.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:46 PM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


… So rather than trying to salvage anything from the standard model [of genres], I believe that it makes more sense to speak of a bifurcated culture. Of course, the bifurcation isn’t absolute or perfectly clean, but it’s clear that there are two distinct audience groups and that they have different characteristics. One carries swords in elevators and the other doesn’t.

So true.

And I love the bit about the waiter.
posted by Arturus at 7:32 PM on July 13, 2008


Fuuckk yeaaa.
posted by odinsdream at 7:33 PM on July 13, 2008


This ought to be fun! I started reading an advance copy of his new novel Anathem a few days ago, and am still in that dreamy phase of reading any given Stephenson work where I'm wondering what the hell this book is really going to be about. This is a good thing, I think. Thanks for the link!
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:36 PM on July 13, 2008


Just when I was begrudgingly going to wash the dishes, how did you know?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:37 PM on July 13, 2008


Sleep can wait.
posted by Skorgu at 7:40 PM on July 13, 2008


mmm... Idea Porn
posted by Rubbstone at 7:49 PM on July 13, 2008


This ought to be fun! I started reading an advance copy of his new novel Anathem a few days ago,

How?!
posted by sourwookie at 8:05 PM on July 13, 2008


[this is good]
posted by Alterscape at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2008


Use his eyes, most likely.
posted by Dizzy at 8:14 PM on July 13, 2008


Like William Gibson, Stephenson reads his speech.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:10 PM on July 13, 2008


This is good, thanks! Interesting idea about how the crime genre has fused with television while the romance genre has fused with the movies.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 9:54 PM on July 13, 2008


I'm a big fan of Neal Stephenson's books, but the end of the speech seems a little whiney when he gets into post-modern criticism. Why is he going on about literary criticism? He sounds like a kid going out of his way to prove how little he cares what the establishment thinks of him. I'd have much rathered he'd just focused on science fiction.
posted by Loudmax at 10:06 PM on July 13, 2008


Why is he going on about literary criticism?

The same reason that the neovictorians in The Diamond Age are basically right, and that the Mafia is on to something in Snow Crash, and that Randy Waterhouse comes to respect at least some aspects of Douglas MacArthur Shaftoe's and Avi's traditionalism, and why Randy meets those friends who go to a church. The same reason that The Diamond Age starts by introducing us to Bud, who would be the hero in a cyberpunk book, describes what a useless putz he is, and kills him off.

A rejection of at least parts of the post-modern enterprise in favor of at least parts of traditionalism is a staple in Stephenson's work.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:29 PM on July 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


Reminds me of a TED talk. Great link. Thanks!
posted by wastelands at 11:29 PM on July 13, 2008


I've looked around, & I think that more than a few advance copies have gone out. I lucked out too, partially due to having worked on the wiki for the Baroque Cycle. Anathem's a great book, & it's definitely his most alien yet.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:35 PM on July 13, 2008


I don't get the attack on post-modernists, since post-modernists have been fairly complementary to spec fic, for the most part, haven't they? At least sf of the PKD type.
posted by empath at 11:56 PM on July 13, 2008


Awesome - given how rarely he does any sort of speech, this is a gem. And it's fascinating. I fancy diving back into a Stephenson book soon. Which brain-breaking slab of ideas will it be this time? Choices, choices.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:42 AM on July 14, 2008


but the end of the speech seems a little whiney when he gets into post-modern criticism

You mean Stephenson manages to put together something fantastic, only to fuck it up with a shitty ending? color me shocked.
posted by absalom at 5:59 AM on July 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


I fancy diving back into a Stephenson book soon. Which brain-breaking slab of ideas will it be this time? Choices, choices.

Soon?

Anathem.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:49 AM on July 14, 2008


You mean Stephenson manages to put together something fantastic, only to fuck it up with a shitty ending? color me shocked.

You beat me to it. This encapsulates my experience with every Stephenson book I have read.
posted by Ber at 9:37 AM on July 14, 2008


Post-modernism? Post-modernism!

Post-modernism is over ... move along, new things to see elsewhere ...
posted by aldus_manutius at 10:25 AM on July 14, 2008


So, post-post-modernism?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2008


I love Stephenson, although I've been reading Cryptonomicon at work, and apparently I look enough like his photo on the back of the hardcover that a number of my co-workers have remarked on it.

Personally, I don't see it at all.
posted by quin at 12:42 PM on July 14, 2008


There's a longstanding tradition among scientifically inclined folk to bash post-modernism whenever it comes up. It's certainly not unique to stephenson.
posted by Arturus at 7:04 PM on July 14, 2008


Wow, that was really interesting & insightful.

I'm surprised that he mentioned Bruce Sterling, considering their history (find "fight" on that page).

So, Anathem's out in September - that's plenty of time for Happy Dave to dive through some other Stephenson books. It's dense with detail, mostly (if not all) told from the first person, & lacking the usual nonexistent denouement, with the abrupt massive zoom out.

*Cryptonomicon spoiler*
I whinged about the abrupt ending to a friend, who said, "come on, they got the Nazi gold - what more do you want?"
*end spoiler*
posted by Pronoiac at 7:48 AM on July 15, 2008


While acknowledging the abrupt endings of Cryptonomicon, and earlier works...

Good news!

It turns out if he has 3000 pages of build up, Stephenson can put together a non-abrupt, emotionally satisfying denouement. Even better news is that the Baroque books are 3000 very good pages (taken as a whole).
posted by sparkletone at 12:24 AM on July 25, 2008


« Older AP Diary   |   Condensed: 'Care, constraint... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post