I admire Neal Stephenson for honesty. He begins his collection of essays and stories — Some Remarks — with the admission that some of the pieces may not hold up so well over time and that he feels a bit odd as a published novelist to suddenly pull together his essays and shorter ideas into a book format. And while I didn’t find all the pieces worth reading through ’till the end, I didn’t feel all that guilty about abandoning a piece, either. I think Neal would understand.
That said, there are some intriguing pieces in here in which Stephenson — whose Snow Crash is still one of my favorite cyberpunk novels but I could not get into his System of the World series — explores technology and culture from an introspective and inquiry angle, and Stephenson the informational writer is fun to read. He brings a lot of voice and wit to the page. Two pieces that come to mind are the one about China and how technology innovation is changing China’s (and Hong Kong, and Taiwan) role in the world and the longer (a bit too long, perhaps?) piece about the laying of the longest undersea wire system in the world that later became one of the main pathways for the world’s data information flow.
There are a couple of interview transcripts, too, that are interesting to read, particularly as you realize how Stephenson grapples with the label of science fiction writer in the literary world. And I did enjoy his final piece, in which he explains to the reader why he does not take time to respond to readers, noting that if he replied to emails and letters and spoke at more conferences, he would have less time to write his novels. And, he explains, he would rather be a writer than a “correspondent.” Nice done.
Peace (in the article),