Saturday, April 22, 2006

Neal Stephenson interview

Wherein I'm thinking of changing the name of this blog to "bill has his head so far up Neal Stephenson's ass, he chews Neal's food"

Stumbled across an older interview with Neal Stephenson I had never seen. It takes place before The Cobweb is published and includes the information that someone else had written a script for Snow Crash. Neal though Roland Gift would be a perfect Hiro and Patrick Stewart for the Librarian. Obviously, nothing ever happened, but that's still a script I'd love to read.

I'll quote two questions and answers:
You obviously don’t see nanotech as being the solution to our every problem because otherwise you’d have to write about post-scarcity utopias where there aren't any problems left and it's terribly terribly boring...

Like Star Trek? Yeah! Well, there's a really fundamental split there, in one's attitudes about human nature. The Star Trek attitude is that the only reason we're nasty to each other is because sometimes we run out of stuff and that if we stopped running out of stuff we would all stop being nasty to each other and then our only problems would occur when our spaceship inadvertently ran into a tachyon storm out in the middle of nowhere! And I don't buy that view, I don't see any reason to buy that view of human nature.

I mean we're very close to a post-scarcity future right now - at least in my country. There's poverty but there's not starvation, except in really odd places, and there's disease but there’s not plague, there's not people dying in the streets and there's homelessness but most people can find a place, can find a roof over their heads if they need it - it may be in a homeless shelter or something nasty but anyway it’s something - and it certainly hasn't stopped people being nasty to each other. I mean look at OJ - he wasn't lacking for anything, nobody in that sick sub-culture in LA was lacking for anything but all it did was remove all the limit from how tawdry they could be to each other. That's all post-scarcity did for them, break down the barriers that kept them from being as grotesque as they could theoretically be. So I guess one of the points that's being made in The Diamond Age and it's kind of a sledgehammer point, is that you've got this group of people, the thetes, who have everything they need in the way of food, shelter and even information and they're still miserable wretches, just like Dickensian miserable wretches.

Moving on to Interface, the novel you wrote with your uncle, is the marketing of politicians in that book based on anything in particular?

It’s very simple straightforward observation of reality in the United States, slight exaggeration and out comes a novel. They came very close to doing this with Reagan in his last election campaign, they actually had a real-time polling system hooked up during one of his debates and the results were being telephoned to Ed Meese who was standing about six feet away from Reagan just off stage and the only thing that kept them from closing that feedback loop was the six-foot distance between Meese and Reagan so it’s hardly science fiction or even fiction to talk about closing that loop.


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