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.

new leadership

Along the same vein as my last two posts, but a in slightly lighter domain, world leadership now seems to be heading in a pure fanboy direction. First were the repots of the new (albeit very conservative) Prime Minister of Japan being a serious fan of Manga and now this series of post regarding our new president elect as a real fanboy as well. A cabinet position for J. Micahel Straczynski perhaps?



pod-icon300.jpgDuring these cold winter months I find it difficult to stand at my busstop and hold a book for reading. For the past few days I have instead been listening to listener-supported science fiction short story podcast cleverly titled Escape Pod. I was introduced to this by someone I met once and I only know as Pete, Heather’s friend from the youth group (who was wearing a 4th Doctor Scarf when I met him!). Hopefully I’ll see him again one of these days to thank him. Escape Pod has been running since 2005, providing weekly new stories from across the pantheon of SciFi. The first story I listened to was a hard SF story and, with the exception that it had one very graphic scene (with warning in advance thankfully) that I think was unnecessary, it was very good. The most recent was in the lighter, humorous, super-hero domain. I also have listened to a few others from the archive and from the Escape Pod Classic site, which has a collection of older stories that were considered favorites and all suitable for most ages. The host of the podcast usually has some very insightful introductory and closing comments, related to the story theme. If you are looking for a good escape, I recommend the Pod.

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