"Talent was not rare; the ability to survive having it was." -- Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction, which have been variously categorized as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk. He has also written with his uncle, George Jewsbury ("J. Frederick George"), under the collective pseudonym of Stephen Bury.
Stephenson explores areas such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system. Stephenson is also Chairman of the Board and cofounder of Subutai Corporation, whose first offering is interactive fiction project The Mongoliad.
"It is the fate of operating systems to become free.""Most countries are static, and they need to do is keep having babies. But America's like this big old clanking smoking machine that just lumbers across the landscape scooping up and eating everything in sight.""Once a person has all the things they need to live, everything else is entertainment.""One of the most frightening things about your true nerd, for may people, is not that he's socially inept - because everybody's been there - but rather his complete lack of embarrassment about it.""The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent.""The difference between stupid and intelligent people - and this is true whether or not they are well-educated - is that intelligent people can handle subtlety."
Born in Fort Meade, Maryland, Stephenson came from a family of engineers and hard scientists he dubbed "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
The Big U (1984) received very little attention when it first came out, and was subsequently out of print until Stephenson allowed it to be reprinted in 2001.
Zodiac (1988) is an ecothriller.
Snow Crash (1992) fuses memetics, computer viruses, and other high-tech themes with Sumerian mythology, along with an analysis of the differences between ideologies such as libertarianism, laissez-faire capitalism, and communism.
or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (1995) deals with a future with extensive nanotechnology and dynabooks.
Cryptonomicon (1999) is a novel concerned with concepts ranging from computing and Alan Turing's research into codebreaking and cryptography during the Second World War at Bletchley Park, to a modern attempt to set up a data haven. It has subsequently been reissued in three separate volumes in some countries, including in French and Spanish translations.
The Baroque Cycle is a series of historical novels and is in some respects a prequel to Cryptonomicon. It was originally published in three volumes but has subsequently been republished as eight separate books:
Quicksilver (2003) (containing the novels Quicksilver, King of the Vagabonds, and Odalisque);
The Confusion (2004) (containing the novels Bonanza and Juncto);
The System of the World (2004) (containing the novels Solomon's Gold, Currency, and System of the World).
Anathem (2008) is a work of speculative fiction set in an Earth-like world
On July 8, 2009, Publisher's Marketplace released word that a deal had been struck for the publication of REAMDE, a new novel.
Stephenson has also written non-fiction. In The Beginning Was The Command Line, an essay on operating systems including the histories of and relationships between DOS, Windows, Linux, and BeOS from both cultural and technical viewpoints and focusing especially on the development of the Graphical User Interface, was published in book form in 1999. Various other essays have been published in magazines such as Wired.
With the 2003 publication of Quicksilver, Stephenson debuted The Metaweb , a wiki annotating the ideas and historical period explored in the novel. As of April 25, 2007 the metaweb.com site is no longer an active wiki.
In his earlier novels Stephenson deals heavily in pop culture-laden metaphors and imagery, and in quick, hip dialogue, as well as in extended narrative monologues. The tone of his books is generally more irreverent and less self-serious than that of previous cyberpunk novels, notably those of William Gibson.
Stephenson's books tend to have elaborate, inventive plots drawing on numerous technological and sociological ideas at the same time. This distinguishes him from other mainstream science fiction authors who tend to focus on a few technological or social changes in isolation from others. The discursive nature of his writing, together with significant plot and character complexity and an abundance of detail suggests a baroque writing style, which Stephenson brought fully to bear in the three-volume Baroque Cycle. His book The Diamond Age follows a simpler plot, but features "neo-Victorian" characters and employs Victorian-era literary conceits. In keeping with the baroque style, Stephenson's books have become longer as he has gained recognition. (At least one printing of Cryptonomicon is well over one thousand pages long and the novel contains various digressions, including a lengthy erotic story about antique furniture and stockings.)
Snow Crash (1992) — British Science Fiction Association Award nominee, 1993 ; Clarke Award nominee, 1994
Interface (1994) with J. Frederick George, as "Stephen Bury"
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
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 Award
The System of the World (2004), volume III:The Baroque Cycle — Locus SF winner, 2005 ; Prometheus Award winner, 2005; Clarke Award nominee, 2005
Anathem (2008) — British Science Fiction Association Award nominee, 2008 ; Hugo and Clarke Awards nominee, 2009
"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)
"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. ISBN 0-380-81593-1.
" 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 movie 300 and geek culture, The New York Times, March 18, 2007.