The incredible work of Neal Stephenson first came to my attention in an unusual fashion, as a promotional treat bundled with a new video game. Were it not for Specter VR, one of relatively few games available for the Macintosh platform at the time, an item so weird in mid nineties Kansas it had to be special ordered to lay hands on a copy, I might not have learned of Stephenson until years later. When the game arrived I was surprised to discover that inside the strange triangular packaging was a dense paperback tome entitled Snow Crash. Reading this novel was a revelation. I had no idea fiction could be like this. Never before had I experienced novel so filled with exciting ideas. A fascinating ingenuity and profusion of novel concepts permeated the thing and yet Stephenson did not balk at pursuing the most outrageous flights of fancy. Reading this book left my mind humming with an intense excitement about the almost magical possibilities of the technology. The future was almost here and it was going to be incredible.
Twenty years have passed since the original publication of Snow Crash. I recently read it again and although its cyberpunk vision of the metaverse bears little similarity to the internet we know and love, it’s still a fantastic adventure. Long after the bursting of the dot com bubble, techno-utopian visions seem a bit quaint. Fortunately for the longevity of Mr. Stephenson’s book, Snow Crash is neither utopian, nor purely dystopian. The details may not have aged well, but the story has withstood the changing context of time.
Earlier this summer a collection of Stephenson essays and other writing was released under the title Some Remarks. For fans of the author it is not to be missed. Others may be a little perplexed how a one sentence fragment of a short story about CSI: The Shire can occupy the same volume as a 118 page exploration of the history of intercontinental telecommunications and undersea cable projects. This is a perfect example of the remarkable breadth of Stephenson’s craft.
In other Neal Stephenson related news, today marks the release of the second volume of The Mongoliad, a seven author collaboration project including among its contributors, Mr. Stephenson. I’m eager to find what it holds in store, but as frequent readers of this blog may remember from my earlier post about the first volume, it may be best to wait until the third and final volume is released on February 26.
-Aaron K. Brumley