Stephenson at Science Foo Camp 2008
|Born||Neal Town Stephenson
October 31, 1959
Fort Meade, Maryland, U.S.
|Pen name||Stephen Bury
(with J. Frederick George)
|Occupation||novelist, short story writer, essayist|
|Genres||speculative fiction, historical fiction, essays|
|Literary movement||cyberpunk, postcyberpunk, maximalism|
Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American author and game designer known for his works of speculative fiction.
He has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system, and is also a cofounder of Subutai Corporation, whose first offering is the interactive fiction project The Mongoliad. He has also written novels with his uncle, George Jewsbury ("J. Frederick George"), under the collective pseudonym Stephen Bury.
Born on October 31, 1959 in Fort Meade, Maryland, Stephenson came from a family of engineers and hard scientists; his father is a professor of electrical engineering while his father's father was a physics professor. His mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, and her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, in 1960 and then in 1966 to Ames, Iowa. He graduated from Ames High School in 1977.
Stephenson studied at Boston University, first specializing in physics, then switching to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in geography and a minor in physics. Since 1984, Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.
Stephenson's first novel, The Big U, published in 1984, was a satirical take on life at American Megaversity, a vast, bland and alienating research university beset by chaotic riots. His next novel, Zodiac (1988), was a thriller following the exploits of a radical environmentalist protagonist in his struggle against corporate polluters. Neither novel attracted much critical attention on first publication, but showcased concerns that Stephenson would further develop in his later work. The Big U went out of print until 2001, when Stephenson allowed it to be republished after realizing that this book that he considered inferior to his others was being sold at inflated prices for used copies because of its scarcity and collectors' value.
Stephenson's breakthrough came in 1992 with Snow Crash, a comic  novel in the late cyberpunk or post-cyberpunk tradition fusing memetics, computer viruses, and other high-tech themes with Sumerian mythology, along with a sociological extrapolation of laissez-faire capitalism and collectivism. Snow Crash can be considered to be the first expression of Stephenson's mature style. Stephenson at this time would later be described by Mike Godwin as "a slight, unassuming grad-student type whose soft-spoken demeanor gave no obvious indication that he had written the manic apotheosis of cyberpunk science fiction." In 1994, Stephenson joined with his uncle, J. Frederick George, to publish a political thriller, Interface, under the pen name "Stephen Bury"; they followed this in 1996 with The Cobweb.
Stephenson's next solo novel, published in 1995, was The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, which introduced many of today's real world technological discoveries. Seen back then as futuristic, Stephenson's novel has broad range universal self-learning nanotechnology, dynabooks, extensive modern technologies, robotics, cybernetics and cyber cities. Weapons implanted in characters' skulls, near limitless replicators for everything from mattresses to foods, smartpaper, air and blood sanitizing nanobots, set in a grim future world of limited resources populated by hard edged survivalists, an amalgamation hero is accidentally conceptualized by a few powerful and wealthy creatives, programmers and hackers.
This was followed by Cryptonomicon in 1999, a novel concerned with concepts ranging from computing and Alan Turing's research into codebreaking and cryptography during the Second World War at Bletchley Park, to a modern attempt to set up a data haven. It has subsequently been reissued in three separate volumes in some countries, including in French and Spanish translations. In 2013, Cryptonomicon won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.
The Baroque Cycle, Stephenson's next novel, is a series of long historical novels set in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is in some respects a prequel to Cryptonomicon. It was originally published in three volumes of two or three books each – Quicksilver (2003), The Confusion (2004) and The System of the World (2004) – but was subsequently republished as eight separate books: Quicksilver, King of the Vagabonds, Odalisque, Bonanza, Juncto, Solomon's Gold, Currency, and System of the World. (The titles and exact breakdown varies in different markets.) The System of the World won the Prometheus Award in 2005.
Following this, Stephenson published a novel titled Anathem (2008), a very long and detailed work, perhaps best described as speculative fiction. It is set in an Earthlike world (perhaps in an alternative reality), deals with metaphysics, and refers heavily to Ancient Greek philosophy, while at the same time being a complex commentary on the insubstantiality of today's contemporary society.
In May 2010, the Subutai Corporation, of which Stephenson was named chairman, announced the production of an experimental multimedia fiction project called The Mongoliad, which centered around a narrative written by Stephenson and other speculative fiction authors.
REAMDE, a novel, was released on September 20, 2011. The title is a play on the common filename README. This thriller, set in the present, centers around a group of MMORPG developers caught in the middle of Chinese cyber-criminals, Islamic terrorists, and Russian mafia.
On August 7, 2012, Stephenson released a collection of essays and other previously published fiction entitled Some Remarks : Essays and Other Writing. This collection also includes a new essay and a short story created specifically for this volume.
Stephenson recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for CLANG, a realistic swordfighting fantasy game. The game uses motion control to provide an immersive experience. The game will contain a distinctive world and plotline. The campaign's funding goal of $500,000 was reached by the target date of July 9, 2012 on Kickstarter, but funding options remained open and were still taking contributions to the project on their official site. The project ran out of money in September 2013. This, and the circumstances around it, has angered some backers. There has even been talk, among the backers, of a potential class action lawsuit.
He is currently working on a multi-volume work, that will "have a lot to do with scientific and technological themes and how those interact with the characters and civilisation during a particular span of history". He expects the first two volumes to be released in mid-to-late 2014.
Stephenson has also written non-fiction. In The Beginning Was The Command Line, an essay on operating systems including the histories of and relationships between DOS, Windows, Linux, and BeOS from both cultural and technical viewpoints and focusing especially on the development of the Graphical User Interface, was published in book form in 2000. Various other essays have been published in magazines such as Wired.
With the 2003 publication of Quicksilver, Applied Minds debuted The Metaweb, an online wiki annotating the ideas and historical period explored in the novel. The project was influenced by the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, and its content included annotations from Stephenson himself.
In his earlier novels Stephenson deals heavily in pop-culture-laden metaphors and imagery and in quick, hip dialogue, as well as in extended narrative monologues. The tone of his books is generally more irreverent and less serious than that of previous cyberpunk novels, notably those of William Gibson.
Stephenson's books tend to have elaborate, inventive plots drawing on numerous technological and sociological ideas at the same time. This distinguishes him from other mainstream science fiction authors who tend to focus on a few technological or social changes in isolation from others. The discursive nature of his writing, together with significant plot and character complexity and an abundance of detail suggests a baroque writing style, which Stephenson brought fully to bear in the three-volume Baroque Cycle. His book The Diamond Age follows a simpler plot but features "neo-Victorian" characters and employs Victorian-era literary conceits. In keeping with the baroque style, Stephenson's books have become longer as he has gained recognition. For example, the paperback editions of Cryptonomicon are over eleven hundred pages long with the novel containing various digressions, including a lengthy erotic story about antique furniture and stockings.
- The Big U (1984)
- Zodiac (1988)
- Snow Crash (1992) – British Science Fiction Association Award nominee, 1993; Clarke Award nominee, 1994
- Interface (1994) with J. Frederick George, as "Stephen Bury"
- The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (1995) – Hugo and Locus SF Awards winner, 1996; Nebula, Campbell and Clarke Awards nominee, 1996
- The Cobweb (1996) with J. Frederick George, as "Stephen Bury"
- Cryptonomicon (1999) – Locus SF Award winner, 2000; Hugo and Clarke Awards nominee, 2000; 2013 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award
- Quicksilver (2003), volume I:The Baroque Cycle – Clarke Award winner, 2004; Locus SF Award nominee, 2004
- The Confusion (2004), volume II:The Baroque Cycle and winner 2005 Locus SF Award
- The System of the World (2004), volume III:The Baroque Cycle – Locus SF Award winner, 2005; Prometheus Award winner, 2005; Clarke Award nominee, 2005
- Anathem (2008) – Locus SF Award winner, 2009; British Science Fiction Association Award nominee, 2008; Hugo and Clarke Awards nominee, 2009
- The Mongoliad (2010–2012)
- Reamde (2011)
- "Spew" (1994), in Hackers (1996)
- "The Great Simoleon Caper" (1995), TIME
- "Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of Tribes of the Pacific Northwest" in Full Spectrum 5 (1995)
- "Jipi and the Paranoid Chip" (1997), Forbes
- "Crunch" (1997), in Disco 2000 (edited by Sarah Champion, 1998) ("Crunch" is a chapter from Cryptonomicon)
Other fiction projects
- Project Hieroglyph (2012)
- "Smiley's people". 1993.
- "In the Kingdom of Mao Bell". Wired. 1994. "A billion Chinese are using new technology to create the fastest growing economy on the planet. But while the information wants to be free, do they?"
- "Mother Earth Mother Board". Wired. 1996. "In which the Hacker Tourist ventures forth across three continents, telling the story of the business and technology of undersea fiber-optic cables, as well as an account of the laying of the longest wire on Earth."
- "Global Neighborhood Watch". Wired. 1998. Stopping street crime in the global village.
- In the Beginning... Was the Command Line. Harpers Perennial. 1999. ISBN 0-380-81593-1.
- "Communication Prosthetics: Threat, or Menace?". Whole Earth Review, Summer 2001.
- "Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out". Op-Ed piece on Star Wars, in The New York Times, June 17, 2005.
- "It's All Geek To Me". Op-Ed piece on the film 300 and geek culture, The New York Times, March 18, 2007.
- "Atoms of Cognition: Metaphysics in the Royal Society 1715–2010," chapter in Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society, edited by Bill Bryson. Stephenson discusses the legacy of the rivalry between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, November 2, 2010.
- "Space Stasis". Slate. February 2, 2011. "What the strange persistence of rockets can teach us about innovation."
- "Innovation Starvation". World Policy Journal, 2011.
- Fisher, Lawrence M. (April 17, 1994). "SOUND BYTES; Orwell – Class of 1994". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- Stephenson, Neal. "Biography". Neal Stephenson's Site (MobileMe). Retrieved August 7, 2010.
- "Neal Stephenson – Biography". ElectricInca.com. Retrieved August 7, 2010. "He began his higher education as a physics major, then switched to geography when it appeared that this would enable him to scam more free time on his university's mainframe computer."
- Booker, M Keith; Thomas, Anne-Marie, eds. (2009). "Neal Stephenson (1959–)". The Science Fiction Handbook. Chichester, UK ; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 173. ISBN 1-4051-6205-8. OCLC 263498124.
- Grassian, Daniel (2003). "From modernists to Gen Xers". Hybrid fictions: American fiction and Generation X. Jefferson: McFarland & Co. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-7864-1632-5. OCLC 52565833.
- Westfahl, Gary (2005). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders, Vol. 3. Greenwood Publishing. p. 1235. ISBN 0-313-32953-2. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
- Godwin, Mike (February 2005). "Neal Stephenson's Past, Present, and Future". Reason (Reason Foundation). Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- "Neal Stephenson: Cryptomancer". Locus Online. August 1, 1999. Retrieved August 7, 2010. "...a thriller written in collaboration with his uncle, George Jewsbury, under pseudonym Stephen Bury..."
- Eaton, Kit (May 26, 2010). "The Mongoliad App: Neal Stephenson's Novel of the Future?". Fast Company. Retrieved July 4, 2010.
- "Subutai Corporation – Team". subutai.mn (Subutai Corporation). Retrieved August 7, 2010. "Neal Stephenson, Chairman"
- Anders, Charlie Jane (July 14, 2009). "Neal Stephenson Gets Half A Million Dollars, But Did He Have To Switch Genres To Get It?". io9. Gawker Media. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
- Upcoming4.me. "New Neal Stephenson book Some Remarks announced!". Upcoming4.me. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
- Catherine, Asaro (September 1999). "A Conversation With Neal Stephenson". SF Site. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
- McClellan, Jim (November 4, 2004). "Neal Stephenson – the interview". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved December 13, 2010.
- Giuffo, John (October 1, 2004). "Book Capsule Review: The System of the World". Entertainment Weekly. Time Warner. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
- ex: Stephenson, Neal (1999). Cryptonomicon. Avon Books. pp. 1152 p. ISBN 978-0-06-051280-4.
- Kelly, Mark R. "The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees". Locusmag.com (Locus Publications). Retrieved January 18, 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Neal Stephenson.|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Neal Stephenson|
- Official website
- Personal website
- Neal Stephenson at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Works by or about Neal Stephenson in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Works by Neal Stephenson on Open Library at the Internet Archive
- "Science Fiction as a Literary Genre" – lecture by Stephenson at Gresham College, London in May 2008
- Neal Stephenson at authors@Google, September 12, 2008.