Interview with Neal Stephenson about his new novel and the state of the internet

Originally published at:


Is this supposed to be this or this?


Could we get a link to the interview?

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What I REALLY want to know is why the first third of the book was so good and the last third was so awful.


Link to interview

I once knew a grizzled old veteran of that '60s space program who said that the Apollo moon landings were communism's greatest triumph. So that's how that all happened. And it happened way earlier than any kind of rational economic argument could be made for it, and I still think it's the case that if we're going to do things in space, it's more for psychological reasons than it is for money reasons.

That’s gonna go over real well with Reason subscribers.


I have to ask, to which book are you referring?

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Sounds like Reamde which did indeed start well but finished as some sort of sub Tom Clancy effort.

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Unlike Seveneves, which turned sour even before the halfway point, so that I just gave up on it. Too many cliché characters.

This is my question. He sets up such interesting ideas in that first part, but it just gets abandoned part way through.It was a real let down.


Stephenson seems to have trouble with endings. I’m okay with it though; I am a huge fan of his work regardless.


I didn’t hate the last third of Fall, it was clearly just Stephenson riffing on fantasy quest tropes as a metaphor for human endeavors. I’ve read better metaphorical quests, though.

But the whole Utah through Ameristan section was so electrifying, I dearly wish he’d spend some more time exploring that setting and those concepts.

The digital afterlife part of the book is pretty blurry for me now, but I’m literally still losing sleep over Ameristan.

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Also, my God were those some cringey interview questions.

“What do you think about Mars, Neal? Wouldn’t it be cool if Robert Heinlein’s libertarian space paradise were real? Are cryptocurrencies still awesome? It’s cool that most of your fans are white men, right?”

Stephenson’s answers are mostly interesting, but yikes.


I’m convinced I am capable of engaging in an incredibly good and unique interview with William Gibson, should I be afforded this opportunity. It kills me how banal so many interviewers of cyberpunk luminaries are, when there’s such good territory to mine.


I know eh? You’d think that in a digital afterlife one could spend time having fun and flying and having sex and etc, and instead you get an Ayn Randian distopia with serfs laboring and toiling and fighting. I can’t tell if this is how Stephenson thinks a digital heaven should be, or if he just thinks it wouldn’t make for interesting writing and it’s his pessimistic reflection of humanity.

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This was my feeling as well. I really wanted to live in that post Moab world for a bit. Hell, I wanted the entire story set there. That post Moab world was so fucking terrifying and fascinating and real. As I was reading the book I was excitedly telling any human with a pulse who would listen about the ideas that come from the setup to and after Moab. He half convinced me that he is some sort of prophet sharing us our terrible and fucked up future (which has it’s shinny fun spots, in a libertarian sort of way) as I was reading it.

And then he dropped that thought and wrote a fantasy novel. A perfectly good and enjoyable fantasy novel… but a fantasy novel.

Neal Stephenson. I love you man. But please, just go write a fantasy novel and get it out of your system. Go nuts. You don’t need to explain anything. You can use magic. Just let it all out. I promise I will buy and enjoy it. Get it out of your system.

Then please, I beg you, go back and pull that string you were pulling on before you wrote that fantasy novel. I really want you to finish the thought you started with Moab and the post Moab world.

Wait until they find out what kind of neofeudal digital afterlife the Libertarian VC villain of the piece (or at least his id) has in store for the peons.

Absolutely agree. He puts in enough chunky ideas at the beginnings of his book that I can forgive his petering out into standard action-adventure or (in this case) fantasy blockbuster movie endings. This book was no exception.

They all imagine they’ll get to be the villain.


I’d never thought of Stephenson as a particularly pro-libertarian author, but now I think about it, I can imagine that if you have the lack of critical reasoning skills necessary to be a libertarian, you’ll probably fail to notice any of the criticisms in his books.
I’d not realised that the publication was pro-lib, but now it makes some of his answers more amusing. Especially when he’s asked about how a lot of his books feature a small group of clever people defeating a large bureaucracy, and replies that it’s because that’s what makes a good story, it’s not necessarily realistic.