Talk:Neal Stephenson

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Separation of Work[edit]

Currently Mr. Stephenson's work is divided into two sections - Fiction and non-Fiction. A great deal of his non-fiction works are articles from Wired, the New York Times and other sources. Is this distinction enough that his "works" section should be divided into Fiction (books), non-Fiction (books) and then articles? What standard has been applied elsewhere? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nightsoil (talkcontribs) 17:54, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Characters added to style section[edit]

Just a suggestion: Should not a breakdown of Stephenson's style include a mention of his typical characters - e.g. strong independent female, intelligent levelheaded male? --Anon 1

Those females, yeah (Eliza; the future vice president in Interface, etc) -- and also the introvert, socially inept hacker types, unable to play the game which is the plot of the story (all Waterhouses, Casimir in The Big U, etc).
Another archetype seems to be the eccentric, extrovert and intelligent people in power, who find ways to use the system for good purposes. --Anon 2

More style section comments[edit]

Also, a discussion of Mr. Stephenson's works should mention his amazingly blunt endings. I know most people enjoy some sort of postscript, but Mr. Stevenson leaves the reader to speculate far too often. To the point where it can be quite frustrating. The reader is left feeling as if the book is incomplete. With so much attention to detail and long buildups, one feels that a conclusion is deserved.

True enough. Not sure how to make this NPOV, but it seems to me that Quicksilver was not an exception to this rule, but The System of the World had an unusually satisfying conclusion, so the Baroque Cycle as a whole (now that we've seen all three volumes) actually fares better--Matt McIrvin 12:05, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)
/\ Heard some of these comments on the recent interview with slashdot.


Anyone happen to know why Stephenson insists on calling all things Japan "Nipponese"? I've seen this in Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon. I've also heard it's kind of an offensive thing to say, so does anyone know the story? --Twinxor 22:08, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

"Nippon" is close to the traditional Japanese term for "Japan". I am not so sure about "Nipponese" - my Japanese-speaking friend says that the term is not valid. I am told that the term itself is not offensive, but it is the root of the shortened derogatory term "Nip" used in World War Two. --Armaced 22:54, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
If you watch Japan compete in the Olympics or any other international competition, the fans will cheer like so: "Nip-pon clap clap Nip-pon clap clap". The word "Nippon" in some cases tends to have some connotations of Nationalism and in some usages reminds Japanese people of the war. -- 04:06, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

I've spent some time studying Japanese language and living there. "Nippon" and "Nihon" are two names that Japanese people themselves use to refer to their country. A Japanese person is "Nihon jin", possibly also "Nippon jin" but I have never heard the second term in use, probably because "Nippon" is considered somewhat archaic. This would lead me to conclude that Stephenson is trying to anglicize a Japanese word, creating an additional way to refer to Japanese, a way that is less ambiguous than "Japanese" as it can refer to both language and people. -- Jasna, Jan 6th 2006

I reckon it's something to do with the subtle alternate-timeline thing Stephenson is doing in all his books. Japan could easily be known as Nippon in the West if we'd gone down a different leg of the Trousers of Time Pthag 13:52, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Reading Snow Crash, I assumed Nipponese was used because it happens to be hip in the near future. But finding the term also in Cryptonomicon and spanning different eras, I was forced to conclude the latter takes place in an alternate timeline (where people as a rule say Nipponese). A-giau 19:35, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

I would be quite surprised if no one has ever asked Stephenson about this. His answer might be worth including. A-giau 19:37, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

I believe I read somewhere that it's a north-west (i.e., Seattle) thing, at least according to Stephenson. Wyatt Riot 00:42, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
I have lived in Seattle off and on for almost 20 years. Came to Neal's article partially to pursue the same question... I've never heard it here. Brodo 02:31, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
I assumed that is it some kind of cyberpunk in-joke, I think William Gibson used it Neuromancer, maybe as a way to make Japan seem more exotic. Tomgreeny (talk) 00:00, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

See Japan#Etymology for details. -- Quiddity 00:45, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

It's explained in Cryptonomicon - The marines who served in Asia before WW2 called them nips the army and those who served in europe called them japs. This is in the section where Robert "Bobby" Shaftoe is interviewed in Washington and posted to Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse's group.Nitpyck (talk) 05:38, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

... the Command Line[edit]

How about more on Stephenson's In the Beginning ... Was the Command Line? It's (along with Snow Crash the work which gained him credibility among hackers, and it's also an important/influential work on the command line/GUI conflict, and other matters. No other authors (SF or otherwise) AFAIK, have shown that much intererest in in the history and current state of computing. (But see the linked Slashdot interview for his current views on that work.)

That's a good idea. I think there is a related article (Computing minimalism is possibly the one I am thinking of) started to deal with the GUI/CLI debate. You sound like you know what you're talking about and are interested, so may I suggest you go improve them? --maru (talk) Contribs 23:54, 5 January 2006 (UTC)

Baroque Cycle: 3 vs. 8 volumes[edit]

The Baroque Cycle is published in 3 volumes in the U.S. and 8 in other places. Since Stephenson is a U.S. author, I think the Manual of Style would suggest preference towards U.S. publishing formats, just as it does towards U.S. spelling. Or maybe mention of both? Ideas? Wyatt Riot 13:57, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

The novels are being re-issued in the United States as a series of 8 volumes ([1], [2], [3], ...). XSG 05:46, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
I also don't like that you reverted my change without discussion. I'd prefer that you follow the more polite procedure of bringing the point of contention up for discussion, reverting my changes only after a reasonable time for discussion has been made, unless my changes contain factual errors.XSG 06:01, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
And finally, Wikipedia is already too U.S.-centric. While I know that Stephenson resides in the United States, I think I could successfully argue that he writes for an international audience, and therefore in consideration that the first issue of The Baroque Cycle was anomalous in the United States alone, mentioning that the Baroque Cycle is actually a series of eight novels rather than a trilogy is more appropriate. I've modified the page to try to placate both sides of this argument. XSG 06:01, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
Here's why I reverted as I did: quite honestly, your edit was (and currently is) incorrect. The Baroque Cycle is not 8 volumes, but 8 books. It is published in the U.S. in 3 volumes, not editions, which are not necessarily hardcover. (Mine are softcover, so I know this not to be the case.) That, in addition to the lack of an edit summary, I think, was reason enough to revert without discussion. I also believe the U.S.-centrism of Wikipedia doesn't matter much in this instance. If you want to include publishing formats of other parts of the world, I think that's great. It just needs to be done correctly. Wyatt Riot 10:02, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
I can agree with this. I can handle being wrong and corrected. I have much more difficulty swallowing when, by reverting my alteration, someone tells me that my effort was worthless because it wasn't completely accurate. I believe you'll find Wikipedia's policy is generally to never revert unless changes were an act of vandalism. XSG 09:15, 16 July 2006 (UTC)
I honestly didn't intend to imply that your efforts were worthless and I'm sorry if it came across that way. I try to assume good faith in most cases, and it was clear that your edit was not vandalism. Sure, I could have been more tactful, as I could have in my response above.  :) But as far as reverting goes, while it is usually reserved for cases of vandalism, per Help:Reverting it is allowed in the case of a "less-than-great edit". Essentially, I looked at it this way: I could revert your entry or add volume/book information. It's my opinion that, while the name of the books are important, it's a level of detail best left for the Baroque Cycle entry or entries on the books themselves. (I feel the same way about the Tolkien/LotR entries: breaking down the name of the individual books in the LotR entry is great, but probably too detailed for the Tolkien one.) Since others apparently want that level of detail here, that's fine. So ultimately it was revert to an article that I thought was decent, or add to create a level of detail that I disagreed with, and I made a decision. Wyatt Riot 14:06, 16 July 2006 (UTC)
I've edited the relevant section to make the comparison to the original publication mode for LOTR (which it author saw as either one work or 6 novels but which was published as 3 volumes), and to make it clear that the general first publication (not just in the US) was in 3 volumes. I've also added reference to the republications of Cryptonomicon in multiple volumes (including in translation). Mtpt 10:20, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

Magnum Opus?[edit]

The sidebar says that Stephenson's magnum opus was/is Cryptonomicon. In light of well over two thousand pages worth of Baroque Cycle, can this be considered accurate? This seems like unverifiable opinion. Is there a source somewhere with Stephenson saying something to the effect of "I consider Cryptonomicon to be my magnum opus?" —Preceding unsigned comment added by SebastianI (talkcontribs)

Yup, unqualified opinion, now removed. ˉˉanetode╦╩ 20:03, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Current Information?[edit]

Is there anywhere on the Internet for more up-to-date Stephenson information beyond the horribly outdated official pages? Maybe Wikipedia is it... - 04:09, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

Did you try the wiki Stephenson set up to discuss his Baroque Cycle? Manned by fans, I'd figure, and who better to ask than the fans? --maru (talk) contribs 04:19, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
Last time I looked there it didn't seem very up-to-date. --Byron Farrow 15:28, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, the Metaweb has been shut down and now only exists in archived format. Too bad, I liked the idea of a user-annotated book site. -Armaced (talk) 18:54, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
Stephenson is going to executive produce a 6 hr limited series of Diamond Age for the Sci Fi Chanel with George Clooney. No word on any new books tho, unfortunetely.

Clean Up?[edit]

This needs to be cleaned up. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Julesrules989 (talkcontribs)

What specifically? --Gwern (contribs) 18:06 29 November 2006 (GMT)

Fantastic Fiction biography[edit]

I removed the Fantastic Fiction biography of Neal Stephenson (available at: [4]) as it is both unencylopedic and possibly a copyright violation. The 'quote' which had been placed in the article was actually the entire biography from the website, and the website states this is 'Copyright © 2007'. Moreover, while it's baroque style makes it an amusing read, it's a bit out of place here. I'm hardly going to die in a ditch over this, but the whole thing shouldn't be added, and there needs to be a good reason for adding a section. --Nick Dowling 23:57, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

Actually it comes off of the dust jacket of an edition of "The Baroque Cycle", the Fantastic Fiction site just slapped their copyright on it out of ignorance. I don't really feel that it's "unencyclopedic" enough to warrant its deletion, since I appreciate the homey flavour. But I have no idea what the copyright status of an "about the author" blurb is, so best to leave it out until we can pin that down. Eleland 00:02, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Oh, I thought that it looked familiar. I imagine that its copyright status is the same as any other one para quote from a book (eg, perfectly fine to reproduce if it's attributed). I still don't think that it's encylopedic though - perhaps uploading it to wikiquote would be more suitable? --Nick Dowling 00:47, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Original research?[edit]

"This penchant for complexity and detail suggests a baroque writer. His book The Diamond Age features "neo-Victorian" characters and employs Victorian-era literary conceits, and perhaps could be considered as falling into the steampunk genre. [...] Characteristic of his style is the "breakdown in events", typically about three quarters into the novel. This is an acceleration in plot development, accompanied by chaos, confusion, and often violence, and an abrupt ending with no conventional denouement and many loose ends. This pattern holds for all of Stephenson's books, including (when taken as a whole) The Baroque Cycle."

Well. Says who? --R. Wolff 14:41, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

I'd say you've got a point with a few of those statements, such as "suggests a baroque writer" and "perhaps could be considered as falling into the steampunk genre". But as for the others, I'd say the novels themselves are sources. He specifically writes about Victorianism/Neo-Victorianism in The Diamond Age, for instance, and his style in general ("breakdown in events" endings, violence, etc.) are clear from reading the novels. By the same token, nobody would question Mark Twain being called a humorist or Stephen King a writer of horror, because all one has to do is open a book or three and find this to be true. But that's just my $0.02. Wyatt Riot 20:46, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
I think most of the "Style" section reads like original research, or at least desperately needing citations. I would sharply disagree with the statement that the fact that "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 word, "inventive" sounds a lot like an opinion to me--how do you factually verify that a piece of literature is inventive just by reading it? The idea that other science fictions have a narrower scope is something that would need some backing--what other science fiction authors are we talking about? I would also second all of the parts pointed out by Wolff above. Most of the statements there could easily be the thesis of an essay about Stephenson.
The line about "breakdown in events" particularly struck me as original--I've never heard that term used before and to me it just sounds like a fancier way of saying "act break." A quick Google showed that this page is the top for that term, followed by a bunch of other pages that seem to have lifted from this page wholesale. Unless one of those pages was actually the original source (in which case it needs to be cited), I'm definitely thinking that that's original research and have tagged it accordingly.PotatoKnight 20:03, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
It's a polite way of saying "he writes himself into a ridiculous corner and pulls a deus ex machina in the last twenty pages." Eleland 20:41, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
Polite or not, that's a thesis that would need arguing, not a self-evident fact. If you can cite an external source which says that, fine, but as is it reads like original research. PotatoKnight 21:54, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
I don't disagree with you — it is original research. I'll go hunting around for book reviews or something which argue it, so we can re-incorporate it as a properly sourced POV opinion. Eleland 22:09, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

Background References[edit]

There's lots of good factual information about Neal in the Background section, but none of it is referenced. What is the best way to remedy this? I'm concerned that some of it may be unintentionally mistaken. ThreeE 00:05, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

Vagina Dentata[edit]

I've read in a book, and I'm fairly sure that it's either Neil Stephenson, Greg Bear or Dan Simmons, a Native American legend involving vagina dentatas belonging to three "spider women". I wanted to add this to the Vagina Dentata article. Does anyone know if this comes from Stephenson? Tomandlu (talk) 09:31, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

It was in Snow Crash, and is already mentioned in the Vagina dentata article, though adding a reference to the relevant page number(s) of the book wouldn't hurt that article. --Nick Dowling (talk) 10:40, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
No - I think the snowcrash ref is a different one (it refers to the anti-rape device worn by one of the characters). This is a retelling (or apparent retelling) of a native american myth. A few details - a young brave is outcast from his tribe and, after several adventures, meets 3 beautiful women on a clifftop. Two are evil, one is good, all have dentata. The good one helps the brave kill the evil ones, and then instructs the brave how to remove her dentata, and they become lovers. Tomandlu (talk) 10:58, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't read your message properly before I responded. I've read all of Stephenson's books other than The Big U, and that story wasn't in any of them, so it must have been one of the other authors. --Nick Dowling (talk) 11:01, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
No worries - I suspect it must be Simmons. His latest book (The Fury - highly recommended BTW) has quite a lot of Innuit legends referenced, so it wouldn't be out of place. Thanks for confirming that it's not Stephenson. Tomandlu (talk) 11:32, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

pen name[edit]

Should the Stephen Bury pseudonym have it's own page? If yes, shouldn't their be a couple of sentences regarding this & an obvious link from the Neal Stephenson page? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Kea2 (talkcontribs) 03:46, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Rewrite of intro paragraph[edit]

See what you all think of it. I think that the statement that Stephenson is best known for 'postcyberpunk' is unsupportable now; the Baroque Cycles and Anathem don't obviously fit in that genre, and he's certainly as well known for them as he is for his earlier works. Leoniceno (talk) 06:09, 22 October 2008 (UTC)


In Quicksilver Stephenson refers to Cromwell's son Roger, but the name was Richard and Judge Jeferrys "keeping an appointment with Jack Ketch". Jefferys died of kidney stones whilst in protective custody. I read his account of Newgate Prison, but I now suspect that the prison he refers to in Daniel Waterhouses's childhood was the prison built in 1672, not the pre-1666 one which it should be. he also refers to theBlack Dogge Tavern inside Newgate Prison. however the Black Dog was a tavern in Newgate Market where William Penn was imprisoned in 1670 when there was no Newgate Prison as it was still being rebuilt. What do people think? Should I put these on the substantive article under a "mistakes" paragraph?--Streona (talk) 16:43, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

There's already a section in the article on The Baroque Cycle, so I'd suggest adding it there. Wyatt Riot (talk) 19:53, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

Thanks. Done it.--Streona (talk) 17:38, 6 February 2009 (UTC)


What does it mean to be a maximalist writer? Nitpyck (talk) 06:47, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

Ames, Iowa[edit]

That Stephenson lived in Ames, Iowa from the age of seven until he graduated from high school would seem to explain a couple of bits of regional dialect in Anathem:

  • "parking ramp"
  • "—you're welcome to come with." (pages 508–509)

(The latter uses the English word with in the same way as the German word mit; my suspicion is 19th-century German immigration into the upper Midwest could explain it). Michael Hardy (talk) 21:13, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Neither of those strike me as strange, but then, my family is from Iowa too. :) But seriously, this seems kind of off-topic/forumish. --Gwern (contribs) 23:11 31 October 2009 (GMT)

I'm not sure about the origin of "come with," (which one hears a lot in the midwest), but "parking ramp" is a distinct Wisconsin/Iowa term. Possibly other states as well. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Yourmomlikesmusictheory (talkcontribs) 23:00, 19 January 2012 (UTC)


I've moved the following interviews from the external links section due to WP:LINKFARM concerns:

Please feel free to integrate them into the article using inline citations where appropriate.  Skomorokh  20:22, 6 January 2010 (UTC)


Looks like you guys left off the book Zodiac. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:21, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Nope, it's right near the top of the Fiction section, underneath The Big U. Wyatt Riot (talk) 05:57, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

Recent changes/reverts[edit]

I'd like to address a couple of the more recent changes and reverts to the article which I don't think are particularly helpful.

  • Sentences about The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon were given separate paragraphs, which I personally think helps the article, as the novels are not related at all. (If we're going to combine paragraphs on somewhat related novels, which I think is a bad idea, then Cryptonomicon should be lumped in with The Baroque Cycle novels. Again, I think this is a bad idea.) Similarly, I think the paragraph on his first three novels should be separated with a paragraph on each, though the content on Zodiac is painfully brief. I'm indifferent about the sentences on Interface and The Cobweb, as they're both brief and related as "Stephen Bury" novels.
  • I still don't like the "Notes" subsection in the References, because we don't (as yet) have any footnotes in the article. I think there's precedence for removing it, as we don't preemptively disambiguate article titles or add (for example) a gallery section in an article without a gallery.

Anyways, that's my $0.02. Ideas or comments? Wyatt Riot (talk) 17:29, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

I went ahead and changed things up in line with your concerns. The paragraphs devoted to fiction are now divided as follows: early novels (The Big U and Zodiac); the two straight scifi novels (Snow Crash and The Diamond Age), with the Stephen Bury novels awkwardly thrown in for chronological reasons; Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle; and the latest and forthcoming material. With such limited amount of text, there is always going to be a tension between avoiding micro-paragraphs and ensuring that the topics covered are closely related. A proper expansion of this section (along the lines of William_Gibson#Literary_career perhaps) should take care of this problem. Thanks for flagging this issues Wyatt, been a while!. Best, Skomorokh 23:39, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
I like it, good work! Cheers! Wyatt Riot (talk) 16:00, 17 January 2011 (UTC)


This article needs more CLANG. I'd say it needs its own article, but right now I'm a bit swamped with other stuff and I'm not very good at starting to write stuff (rather than modifying already existing text) anyway, so... I might be able to get around to writing some stuff, eventually, but there should be others who can fix something a lot sooner (and probably better).
Here's some good sources, if someone else wants to write:
The official homepage (as far as I can tell)
The kickstarter page
Reports in newspapers and such things:
--ZarlanTheGreen (talk) 01:34, 13 July 2012 (UTC)

Information on CLANG should be included. Nemissimo (talk) 00:20, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

More extensive information, than the one sentence, on CLANG is needed; expand section. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wikimafiacapo (talkcontribs) 02:25, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

Diamond Age description is a bit off[edit]

I've read this book a dozen times and am a tad baffled by the para describing it.

The existence of Nell gets no mention at all, though she's a heroic character as, or nearly as significant as John Percival Hackworth, and her life is just as dramatically influenced by one of the creatives referenced in the para as creating the "amalgamation character" JPH. Next to him, Nell is the main other major character throughout the novel.

I also don't understand the characterisation of this novel as being "set in a grim future world of limited resources populated by hard edged survivalists"(!) Only one character in the book experienced this, and it's only referred to briefly and in past tense -- the character has long since left that world behind. The Victorian culture he adopts, and the one that is most prevalent in the story, is quite advanced and certainly not at all "survivalist". (talk) 00:21, 18 October 2014 (UTC)

Information icon Thank you for your suggestion. When you believe an article needs improvement, please feel free to make those changes. Wikipedia is a wiki, so anyone can edit almost any article by simply following the edit this page link at the top.
The Wikipedia community encourages you to be bold in updating pages. Don't worry too much about making honest mistakes—they're likely to be found and corrected quickly. If you're not sure how editing works, check out how to edit a page, or use the sandbox to try out your editing skills. New contributors are always welcome. You don't even need to log in (although there are many reasons why you might want to). Nick-D (talk) 02:30, 18 October 2014 (UTC)


Does someone care to add some information on Seveneves? Currently the latest entry on current projects is "Stephenson 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." Does that refer to Seveneves? Did he switch projects? I'm sure I could ferret it out, but I'm equally sure that some Stephenson fan on here has the info at their fingertips already :) Elmidae (talk) 15:57, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

- Thanks Glv! Elmidae (talk) 08:44, 25 February 2015 (UTC)


I have commenced a tidy-up of the Bibliography section using cite templates. Capitalization and punctuation follow standard cataloguing rules in AACR2 and RDA, as much as Wikipedia templates allow it. Feel free to continue. Sunwin1960 (talk) 06:07, 15 November 2015 (UTC)