Neal Stephenson, one of today’s most acclaimed writers of science fiction, joins the Bookmonger SevenevesThe Bookmonger for a 10-minute conversation about his palindromic new novel, Seveneves, which begins this way: “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”

We also discuss his worries about space debris and near-earth objects, his nostalgia for manned space exploration, and his interest in NASA’s upcoming fly-by of Pluto. Finally, Stephenson explains why his books are so darn long (Seveneves is 867 pages) in an age of allegedly decreasing attention spans.

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There are 19 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Just 867 pages?

    Moar Neil Stephenson!

    • #1
  2. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    Stephenson? Good get. I look forward to listening.

    If I were an interviewer (or if Neil lurks and reads this post), I would ask him a followup question on this article,; the seeming atrophy and decline of the rate of technological progress in American society, and if he feels the same way today.

    http://www.wired.com/2011/10/stephenson-innovation-starvation/

    • #2
  3. Kr5s Inactive
    Kr5s
    @Kr5st5

    John – thanks so much for this interview.   I second the two comments above.  These are great books …. the characters and story lines are not easily forgotten.  For members who would like to try Stephenson w/o committing to an 800 pg book, try “Snow Crash” or “The Diamond Age.”

    • #3
  4. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Seveneves is pre-ordered from Audible and will be delivered to my library tomorrow.  It will join the vast number of hours of Stephenson already there.  I love his books.  Thanks for the interview.

    • #4
  5. user_442638 Inactive
    user_442638
    @JohnPresnall

    Stephenson says something to the effect that eugenics, “as you know,” involves allowing certain people to have babies and certain others not to have babies. This novel allows the seven women to have choice. How is this still not eugenics?

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @WardRobles

    I just preordered the book before listening. Thanks John! It might have been days before I discovered there was a new Stephenson out.

    • #6
  7. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    I saw his book launch last night. I have video of him disparaging the high aspirations of A.I. I hope to put this up on a post tonight.

    This is my third or fourth launch for one of his books and they are always interesting. He’s about the hippest nerd in the American geek world. I love how his mind works and I love his book plots, his fantastic characters and wonderful humor throughout the books.

    He talked a little about how he has changed over the years with regard to his relationship to the profession he has chosen. He said that he has experienced extremes in self-regard and pits of certainty that he’s a fraud and dilettante. He says that now he just wants to write and think and move forward. And I’m all for that. I’m looking forward to reading this but I have one book ahead of him in my queue at the moment but I can’t wait to get started.

    I will try to remember some of the questions he was asked and put those in my post tonight. He was asked about a movie for one of his books and he says that nothing has been forthcoming yet from Hollywood. I remember that he said a few years ago that he wasn’t willing to give up control to the extent that some of the movie-makers wanted and I think this is at the root of the problem. But, he is thinking of doing something himself — he said (I couldn’t tell if he was messing with us or not). My favorite of his books is Anathem and that should go to HBO and they should do a 6 or 12 part series right now.

    He made several references to Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin last night. Funny quips.

    Here’s a very short review I did in 2011 for his Reamde launch. The comment sequence seem screwed up as usual.

    • #7
  8. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    I read Cryptonomicon. What should I read next?

    Are some of his books sequels to Cryptonomicon, or just share characters?

    I was under the impression there was some kind of time travel that makes them sequelish.

    • #8
  9. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    captainpower:I read Cryptonomicon. What should I read next?

    Are some of his books sequels to Cryptonomicon, or just share characters?

    I was under the impression there was some kind of time travel that makes them sequelish.

    Stephenson was asked about a sequel to Cryptonomicon and he hedged around a bit. He said that there might be something coming but that it would not be with the same characters and would be different in some unspecified way. Maybe.

    If you like Sci-Fi, I would recommend Snow Crash (where he invents Google Earth) and then Anathem in that order and you will see how he has changed. Both are excellent.

    Otherwise, read Reamde.

    Or start off with his Baroque Cycle trilogy.

    I really enjoyed his Mongoliad series (group novel but it really works well). Incredible characters and a plot that is truly gripping and exciting.

    • #9
  10. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    captainpower:I read Cryptonomicon. What should I read next?

    Are some of his books sequels to Cryptonomicon, or just share characters?

    I was under the impression there was some kind of time travel that makes them sequelish.

    If you have plenty of time on your hands, you could begin the Baroque Cycle.  It’s sort of a Cryptonomicon prequel/digression/history lesson.  It’s broken into three books in the print edition and eight in the Audible edition.  I can’t believe I listened to the whole thing.  I also have a great deal of affection for Snow Crash, which first got me hooked on Stephenson.

    • #10
  11. Tuco Member
    Tuco
    @Tuco

    The Kindle addition was delivered this a.m.  I can’t wait to read it.  I’ve read all of his books except Some Remarks and In the Beginning was the Command Line and have enjoyed them all.  It is quite clear that he has an impressive mind and imagination, and an equally impressive ability to put his ideas on paper.

    Larry, I look forward to your post on the book launch

    • #11
  12. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    I love Cryptonomicon:

    Isoroku Yamamoto spent a lot of time playing poker with Yanks during his years in the States, smoking like a chimney to deaden the scent of their appalling aftershave. The Yanks are laughably rude and uncultured, of course; this hardly constitutes a sharp observation. Yamamoto, by contrast, attained some genuine insight as a side-effect of being robbed blind by Yanks at the poker table, realizing that the big freckled louts could be dreadfully cunning. Crude and stupid would be okay — perfectly understandable, in fact.

    But crude and clever is intolerable; this is what makes those red headed ape men extra double super loathsome. Yamamoto is still trying to drill the notion into the heads of his [Army] partners in the big Nipponese scheme to conquer everything between Karachi and Denver…. Come on guys, Yamamoto keeps telling them, the world is not just a big Nanjing. But they don’t get it. If Yamamoto were running things, he’d make a rule: each Army officer would have to take some time out from bayoneting Neolithic savages in the jungle, go out on the wide Pacific in a ship, and swap 16-inch shells with an American task force for a while. Then maybe, they’d understand they’re in a real scrap here.

    • #12
  13. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    This is what Yamamoto thinks about, shortly before sunrise, as he clambers onto his Mitsubishi G4M bomber in Rabaul, the scabbard of his sword whacking against the frame of the narrow door. The Yanks call this type of plane “Betty,” an effeminatizing gesture that really irks him. Then again, the Yanks name even their own planes after women, and paint naked ladies on their sacred instruments of war! If they had samurai swords, Americans would probably decorate the blades with nail polish….

    They are approaching the Imperial Navy airbase at Bougainville, right on schedule, at 9:35. A shadow passes overhead and Yamamoto glances up to see the silhouette of an escort, way out of position, dangerously close to them. Who is that idiot? Then the green island and the blue ocean rotate into view as his pilot puts the Betty into a power dive….

    • #13
  14. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    They enter the jungle in level flight, and Yamamoto is astonished how far they go before hitting anything big. Then the plane is bludgeoned wide open by mahogany trunks, like baseball bats striking a wounded sparrow, and he knows it’s over…. As his seat tears loose from the broken dome and launches into space, he grips his sword, unwilling to disgrace himself by dropping his sacred weapon, blessed by the emepror, even in this last instant of his life….

    He realizes something: The Americans must have done the impossible: broken all of their codes. That explains Midway, it explains the Bismarck Sea, Hollandia, everything. It especially explains why Yamamoto — who ought to be sipping green tea and practicing calligraphy in a misty garden — is, in point of fact, on fire and hurtling through the jungle at a hundred miles per hour in a chair, closely pursued by tons of flaming junk. He must get word out! The codes must all be changed! This is what he is thinking when he flies head-on into a hundred-foot-tall Octomelis sumatrana.

    I’d post the section where Ronald Reagan makes an appearance, but it’s definitely not Ricochet compliant.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @WardRobles

    I read the Baroque Cycle twice, and thoroughly enjoyed the very long, roundabout disquisition on how and why the Western Civilization went from being threatened with Islam at the gates of Vienna to to essentially ruling the world in the space of one long lifetime. It is a celebration of the open society and the free exchange of ideas, goods, and people. It further comes in handy if you want to know how to isolate chemical phosphorus in your back yard using items purchased at your local garden center (not recommended).

    • #15
  16. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    Larry Koler:

    If you like Sci-Fi, I would recommend Snow Crash (where he invents Google Earth) and then Anathem in that order and you will see how he has changed. Both are excellent.

    Otherwise, read Reamde.

    I never got through Reamde. It didn’t grab my interest 200 pages in, and I quit. It probably had something to do with the fact that I bought a print version for a business trip to Cyprus, and ended up carrying that plus-1,000 page, weighty tome through about 10 hours on the streets of Vienna on a layover.

    Stephenson is definitely a man whose works justify the Kindle.

    Snow Crash was brilliant when it was published. I was actually assigned that to read in a New Media course in the early 2000s, which got me into him in the first place.

    I haven’t gotten to the Cycle, but it’s on my to-do list.

    • #16
  17. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    Scott Abel:

    Larry Koler:

    If you like Sci-Fi, I would recommend Snow Crash (where he invents Google Earth) and then Anathem in that order and you will see how he has changed. Both are excellent.

    Otherwise, read Reamde.

    I never got through Reamde. It didn’t grab my interest 200 pages in, and I quit. It probably had something to do with the fact that I bought a print version for a business trip to Cyprus, and ended up carrying that plus-1,000 page, weighty tome through about 10 hours on the streets of Vienna on a layover.

    Snow Crash was brilliant when it was published. I was actually assigned that to read in a New Media course in the early 2000s, which got me into him in the first place.

    I haven’t gotten to the Cycle, but it’s on my to-do list.

    Read my post from last night on Stephenson’s book launch. It’s still on the member feed 1st page.

    • #17
  18. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    Larry Koler:Read my post from last night on Stephenson’s book launch. It’s still on the member feed 1st page.

    http://ricochet.com/neal-stephenson-and-a-better-world/

    • #18
  19. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel
    @PodkayneofIsrael

    My husband is a fan of  “hard” science fiction, and just finished Cryptonomicon, which he loved. I basically forced him to listen to this podcast, and he was impressed with the quality and depth of your interview. He’s decided to buy the book and subscribe to the podcast, even though you don’t generally review science fiction. Five stars from the House of Podkayne!

    • #19
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