Tuesday, June 27, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Neal Stephenson


American writer, known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk and chemical generation genres with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, currency, and the history of science.
Neal Stephenson
Hungary, severed from half of the population and most of the natural resources that it had once claimed, had now to practice a sort of economic acupuncture, striving to know the magic nodes in the global energy flow where a pinprick could alter the workings of a major organ. Mathematics was one of the few disciplines where it was possible to exert that degree of leverage, and so the Hungarians had become phenomenally good at teaching it to their children.
Stephenson quotes
"Quantum interference—the crosstalk among similar quantum states—knits the different versions of your brain together."
"You're saying that my consciousness extends across multiple cosmi," I said. "That's a pretty wild statement."
"I'm saying all things do," Orolo said. "That comes with the polycosmic interpretation. The only thing exceptional about the brain is that it has found a way to use this."
Stephenson
"It might interest you to know that our state is tired of being used as a chemical toilet so that people in Utah can have plastic lawn furniture."
"I can't believe an assistant attorney general came right out and said that."
"Well, I wouldn't say it in public."




Stephenson Neal quotes
There was a white man sitting at the kitchen table, warming his hands by wrapping them around a hot cup of tea. He had kind of an oblong face, curly red hair piled on top, a close-cropped but dense red beard, shocking blue eyes that always looked wide open. He face was ruddy with the outdoors, and the way he was sitting there with that tea, he looked so calm, so centered, almost like he was in meditation. When I came in, he looked at me and smiled just a trace, without showing his teeth…"
Stephenson Neal
Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.
Neal Stephenson quotes
Richard resumed reading the T’Rain Gazette, a daily newspaper (electronic format, of course)... which summarized what had been going on all over T’Rain during the preceding twenty-four hours:
Notable achievements, wars, duels, sackings, mortality statistics, plagues, famines...untoward spikes in commodity prices.
Neal Stephenson
Men always made crude jokes about people pissing their pants with fear, but in Sokolov’s experience, shitting the pants was more common if it was a straightforward matter of extreme emotional stress. Pants pissing was completely unproductive and suggested a total breakdown of elemental control. Pants shitting, on the other hand, voided the bowels and thereby made blood available to the brain and the large muscle groups that otherwise would have gone to the lower-priority activity of digestion. Sokolov could have forgiven Peter for shitting his pants, but if he had pissed his pants, then it really would have been necessary to get rid of him.
Stephenson Neal quotes
Don Donald was clearly accustomed to addressing people whose only way of responding was to nod worshipfully and take notes. He did not, in other words, leave a lot of breaks in his testimony to allow for discussion. For the moment, that was fine, since it made it easier for Richard to drink.
Stephenson
As a fantasy writer, he was not highly regarded (“one cannot call him profoundly mediocre without venturing so far out on the critical limb as to bend it to the ground,” “so derivative that the reader loses track of who he’s ripping off,” “to say he is tin-eared would render a disservice to a blameless citizen of the periodic table of the elements”).
Stephenson Neal
The girl in the passenger seat said she had never before been in “a car like this,” meaning, apparently, a sedan. Richard felt far beyond merely old.
Neal Stephenson
There’s no way to get from the point in Hemm space where we are now, to one that includes pink nerve-gas-farting dragons, following any plausible action principle. Which is really just a technical term for there being a coherent story joining one moment to the next. If you simply throw action principles out the window, you’re granting the world the freedom to wander anywhere in Hemm space, to any outcome, without constraint. It becomes pretty meaningless. The mind...knows that there is an action principle that governs how the world evolves from one moment to the next—that restricts our world’s path to points that tell an internally consistent story. So it focuses its worrying on outcomes that are more plausible...




Neal Stephenson quotes
Any property that's open to common use gets destroyed. Because everyone has incentive to use it to the max, but no one has incentive to maintain it.
Neal Stephenson
"Ha ha noob, you are pwned by troll. I have encrypt all your file. Leave 1000 GP at below coordinates and I give you key"
Stephenson quotes
This was always the hard part. If you knew what was normal to the enemy, then everything became easy: you could lull them to sleep by feeding them normal, and you could scare the hell out of them by suddenly taking normal away. But normal to Afghans and Chechens was so different from normal to Russians that it took a bit of work for a man like Sokolov to establish what it was.
Stephenson Neal
The science fiction approach doesn't mean it's always about the future; it's an awareness that this is different.
Stephenson Neal quotes
But he was a quick study. An autodidact. Anything that was technical, that was logical, that ran according to rules, Peter could figure out. And knew it. Didn’t bother to ask for help. So much quicker to work it out on his own than suffer through someone’s well-meaning efforts to educate him—and to forge an emotional connection with him in so doing. There was something, somewhere, that he could do better than most people.
Neal Stephenson
Why Baroque? Because it is set in the Baroque, and it IS baroque. Why Cycle? Because I am trying to avoid the T-word ("trilogy"). In my mind this work is something like 7 or 8 connected novels. These have been lumped together into three volumes because it is more convenient from a publishing standpoint, but they could just as well have been put all together in a single immense volume or separated into 7 or 8 separate volumes. So to slap the word "trilogy" on it would be to saddle it with a designation that is essentially bogus. Having said that, I know everyone's going to call it a trilogy anyway.
Neal Stephenson quotes
The intern had also discovered a vague little article from the late Sixties saying that Basco had put some "junk machinery" on the floor of the Harbor, giving the usual feeble excuse.
"They claim that this junk was going to become a habitat for marine life. You don't buy that?"
Bless her, she did know how to blow my lid. "Rebecca, goddamnit, since the beginning of time, every corporation that has ever thrown any of its shit into the ocean has claimed that it was going to become a habitat for marine life. It’s the goddamn ocean, Rebecca. That's where all the marine life is. Of course it's going to become a habitat for marine life."
Neal Stephenson
If you look at the bottom of a Zodiac, it's not just flat. It's got a hint of a keel on it for maneuverability. Not a proper hull though.
Hull design is an advanced science. In the days of sail it was as important to national security as aerodynamics are today. A hull was a necessary evil: all that ship down under the water gave you lots of drag, but without it the rest of the ship wouldn't float.
Then we invented outboard motors and all that science was made irrelevant by raw power. You could turn a bathtub into a high performance speedboat by bolting a big enough motor on it. When the throttle is high, the impact of the water against the bottom of the hull lifts it right up out of the water. It skims like a skipping rock and who gives a fuck about hydrodynamics. When you throttle it down, the vessel sinks into the water again and wallows like a hog.
Stephenson Neal
Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass high tech venture capitalism is a late-20th-century California phenomenon needs to read about the maniacs who built the first transatlantic cable projects. The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting.


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