Neal Stephenson at MIT

ImageI didn’t have it in me the other night to get in line for the microphone during the Q&A with science fiction author Neal Stephenson after his discussion at the Tech Review Science Fiction event the other night. If I had I would have asked him something to the effect of “How can you possibly take the time to sit here and talk with us and still manage to keep putting thousands of pages of densely written prose into each book?”. While Stephenson is certainly a page-prolific writer, he was a soft-spoken man of remarkably few words in the hour-and-a-half-long session. He did have a number of really good sound bites though… In response to the question of why all of his bad guys are men and his women always good he responded that maybe it was because he likes women. Also when talking to the rapid change in technology he quipped that we used to put up with Mac screens with 512×342 pixel displays and now we use that resolution for icons. He was remarkably humble when asked about his predictive capabilities. He says that he feels the whole “predicting thing is rigged” in that it is more of a shotgun approach where all of the incorrect predictions are forgotten. For instance he admitted that he did not see “the whole social thing coming” art all. He went on later to talk about how he feels that the the internet and upcoming alternate reality technologies will be nothing like what was represented in his seminal novel, Snow Crash. He went off on two tangents that were both interesting and fun, one about his passion for lost European sword-play battle art forms and the other for his new-found health improvement technique of doing everything while standing and/or walking. He now uses a specially designed treadmill when reading, writing and presenting. I’m not sure why he kept saying things about us not understanding that he would be tedious…the audience was full of fans of of his writing after all. You can read the MIT Tech Review piece on this event here.

On a side note, the blackboards in MIT 10-250 were arranged in a 3×3 grid, each with some cryptic equation, diagram  or series or glyphs all relevant to the worlds he has created or written about. At least one attendee seems to have cracked some of it.

2 Responses to Neal Stephenson at MIT

  1. Aaron Fuegi says:

    Was also there. Sorry I missed you. I left quickly right at the end.

    • zosa says:

      I saw you there from my seat up in the back but I got into a conversation with someone else at the end before I could find you to say “hi’.

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