Wednesday, March 16

Neal Stephenson

I've been wanting to check out the Reason interview that kottke linked for a long time. I must say, I came out of it even more favorably disposed toward Mr Stephenson.

Two quotes:
Speaking as an observer who has many friends with libertarian instincts, I would point out that terrorism is a much more formidable opponent of political liberty than government. Government acts almost as a recruiting station for libertarians. Anyone who pays taxes or has to fill out government paperwork develops libertarian impulses almost as a knee-jerk reaction. But terrorism acts as a recruiting station for statists. So it looks to me as though we are headed for a triangular system in which libertarians and statists and terrorists interact with each other in a way that I?m afraid might turn out to be quite stable.
and
It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn?t care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don?t belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.
Now I'm not sure about this second quote. Sure, there's some distrust, but when science crosses over into business, like the iPod, or Google, we like science pretty well (It's the economy, stupid.). I think this is a little alarmist because Stephenson is someone who loves science. In addition, technology will be our best way of making money in the future. It won't be manufacturing (unless it's orbital ;-) and even some service jobs are now going overseas.

Reading the interview makes me more open to reading the Baroque Cycle. i've been resisting thinking i would like his pure SF more.

Stephenson seems interestingly open to metaphysics (in the classical, philosophical and not the fruity, Barnes and Noble section sense) and Christianity, much more so than your average born-again-rationalist Reason reader (which he sort of alludes to).

This reading sent me over to nealstephenson.com. Some wisdom therefrom (on writing and time management):
Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can't concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can't do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless...

Another factor in this choice is that writing fiction every day seems to be an essential component in my sustaining good mental health. If I get blocked from writing fiction, I rapidly become depressed, and extremely unpleasant to be around. As long as I keep writing it, though, I am fit to be around other people. So all of the incentives point in the direction of devoting all available hours to fiction writing.
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