For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter's is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you're trying to breathe liquid methane. .
Why Baroque? Because it is set in the Baroque, and it IS baroque. Why Cycle? Because I am trying to avoid the T-word ("trilogy"). In my mind this work is something like 7 or 8 connected novels. These have been lumped together into three volumes because it is more convenient from a publishing standpoint, but they could just as well have been put all together in a single immense volume or separated into 7 or 8 separate volumes. So to slap the word "trilogy" on it would be to saddle it with a designation that is essentially bogus. Having said that, I know everyone's going to call it a trilogy anyway. .
So I’m well aware that there are certain people frustrated with the endings of my books. I can remember at the time I was writing it, I told a friend of mine that the climax ofwas now longer than Moby Dick: There’s a helicopter that gets brought down; there’s a private jet that blows up; some people die; there’s confrontation and a girl goes home with her mom — so it seems like a good ending to me. [audience laughter] Once you write a book or two with controversial endings — and that meme gets going, of “Stephenson can’t write endings” — then that gets slapped on everything that you do no matter how elaborate the ending is. I thinkdoes OK on that score. I’m sure that I’ll be hearing from some of the “Stephenson can’t write endings” people, but I think that it has a decent enough ending. .
As far as culture and politics are concerned, the important theme is long-attention-span vs. short-attention-span thinking. I'm sure that your readers can think of any number of ways in which having a longer attention span can be useful. But I'll name one. Bankers with long attention spans don't lend money to people who can't pay it back. If we had more bankers who adopted a long-term view of their responsibilities, we might not be in the middle of a financial crisis that is blowing away . .
Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done. .
Now, at the little southern black college where I went to school, we had no megadorms. We were cool at the right times and academic at the right times .... Boston University, where I did my Master's ... most students had no time for sonic war, and the rest vented their humors in the city, not in the dorms. Ohio State was nicely spread out, and I lived in an apartment complex where noisy shit-for-brains undergrads were even less welcome than tweedy black bachelors. .
This is a history, in that it intends to describe what happened and suggest why. ... I may have fooled around with a few facts. But I served as witness until as close to the end as anyone could have ... and so there is not so much art in this as to make it irrelevant. .
“,” I said. “The simpler the molecule, the better the drug. So the best drug is oxygen. Only two atoms. The second-best, nitrous oxide—a mere three atoms. The third-best, ethanol—nine. Past that, you’re talking lots of atoms.” “So?” “Atoms are like people. Get lots of them together, never know what they’ll do.” .
And I hadn't even told him the truth. Actually, the shit coming out of Basco's pipes was a hundred thousand times more concentrated than was legally allowed. ... That kind of thing goes on all the time. But no matter how many diplomas are tacked to your wall, give people a figure like that and they'll pass you off as a flake. You can't get most people to believe how wildly the eco-laws get broken, but if I say "More than twice the legal limit," they get comfortably outraged. .
It's the ultimate Boston transportation. On land…all those slow cars get in the way. There's public transit – the T — but if you're in good shape, it's usually faster to walk. Bicycles aren't bad. But on water, nothing stops you and there isn't anything important in Boston that isn't within two blocks of being wet. The harbor and the city are interlocked like wrestling squid, tentacles of water and land snaking off everywhere, slashed with bridges or canals. .
In four years of work, I've idled my Zodiac down every one of its thousands of inlets, looked at every inch of its fractal coastline and found every single goddamned pipe that empties into it. Some of the pipes are big enough to park a car in and some are the size of your finger, but all of them have told their story to my gas chromatograph. And often it's the littlest pipes that cause the most damage. When I see a big huge pipe coming right out of a factory, I'm betting the pumpers have at least read the EPA regs. But when I find a tiny one, hidden below the waterline, sprouting from a mile-wide industrial carnival, I put on gloves before taking my sample. And sometimes the gloves melt. .
Jim and his crew of a dozen or so specialize in loud, sloppy publicity seeking…. Myself, I like the stiletto-in-the-night approach. That's partly because I'm younger, a post-Sixties type, and partly because my thing is toxics, not nukes or mammals. … there are all kinds of direct, simple ways to go after toxic criminals. You just plug the pipes. .
Most of my colleagues go on backpacking trips when they have to do some thinking. I go to a good hardware store and head for the oiliest, dustiest corners. ... If they're really good, they don't hassle me. They let me wander around and think. Young hardware clerks have a lot of hubris. They think they can help you find anything.... Old hardware clerks have learned the hard way that nothing in a hardware store ever gets bought for its nominal purpose. You buy something that was designed to do one thing, and you use it for another. .
Talking to cancer victims never makes me feel righteous, never vindicated. It makes me slightly ill and for some reason, guilty. If people like me would just keep our mouths shut, people like him would never suspect why they got cancer. They’d chalk it up to God or probability. They wouldn't die with hearts full of venom. It is a strange world that Industry has made. Kind of a seething toxic harbor, opening out on a blue unspoiled ocean. Most people are swimming in it, and I get to float around on the surface, on my Zodiac, announcing that they're in trouble. What I really want to do is make a difference. But I'm not sure I have, yet. .
"It might interest you to know that our state is tired of being used as a chemical toilet so that people in Utah can have plastic lawn furniture." "I can't believe an assistant attorney general came right out and said that." "Well, I wouldn't say it in public." .
There was a white man sitting at the kitchen table, warming his hands by wrapping them around a hot cup of tea. He had kind of an oblong face, curly red hair piled on top, a close-cropped but dense red beard, shocking blue eyes that always looked wide open. He face was ruddy with the outdoors, and the way he was sitting there with that tea, he looked so calm, so centered, almost like he was in meditation. When I came in, he looked at me and smiled just a trace, without showing his teeth…" .
He was a peculiar guy. I'd never met him, just seen his picture and heard tell of him from the veterans of GEE's early days… And I’d seen him on film… sitting right underneath a five-ton container of radioactive waste, getting thrown into the sea when it was dropped on his Zodiac… And he was like that even when he wasn't working — a drunk, a bar fighter. But the guy I was looking at was totally different. Shit, he was drinking herb tea. He talked in a slow, lilting baritone murmur, he paused in the middle of sentences to make sure the grammar was right, to pick just the right word. But it wasn't a wimpy Boone I was looking at. I had to remember the action he'd just pulled off, on short notice, on my behalf…. Boone turned and looked at me with his invisible smile again. .
Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass high tech venture capitalism is a late-20th-century California phenomenon needs to read about the maniacs who built the first transatlantic cable projects. The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting. .
Bothand the Internet were established basically for strategic military reasons. In both cases, what was built by the military was merely a kernel for a much vaster phenomenon that came along later. This kernel was really nothing more than a . If you wanted to follow those rules, you could participate, otherwise you were free to go elsewhere. Because the protocol laid down a standard way for people to interact, which was clearly set out and could be understood by anyone, it attracted smart, adaptable, ambitious people from all over the place, and at a certain point it flew completely out of control and turned into something that no one had ever envisioned: something thriving, colorful, wildly diverse, essentially peaceful, and plagued only by the congestion of its own success. .
Both of them have seen many young Western men arrive here on business missions and completely lose control of their sphincters and become impediments to any kind of organized activity. Daily hired Wall because, like Daily, he is a stable family man who has his act together…and they seem to be making excellent progress toward their goal, which is to run two really expensive wires across the Malay Peninsula. They tend to be absolutely straight shooters…. Their openness would probably be career suicide in the atmosphere ofcourt-eunuch intrigue that is public life in the United States today. On the other hand, if I had an unlimited amount of money and woke up tomorrow morning with a burning desire to see a 2,000-hole , I would probably call men like Daily and Wall, do a handshake deal with them, send them a blank check, and not worry about it. .
The world has actually been wired together by digital communications systems for a century and a half. Nothing that has happened during that time compares in its impact to thein 1858. That was so impressive that a mob of celebrants poured into the streets of New York and set fire to . .
Hostility towards Microsoft is not difficult to find on the Net, and it blends two strains: resentful people who feel Microsoft is too powerful, and disdainful people who think it's tacky. This is all strongly reminiscent of the heyday of Communism and Socialism, when the bourgeoisie were hated from both ends: by the proles, because they had all the money, and by the intelligentsia, because of their tendency to spend it on lawn ornaments. Microsoft is the very embodiment of modern high-tech prosperity--it is, in a word, bourgeois--and so it attracts all of the same gripes. .
In your high school geology class you probably were taught that all life on earth exists in a paper-thin shell called the biosphere, which is trapped between thousands of miles of dead rock underfoot, and cold dead radioactive empty space above. Companies that sell OSes exist in a sort of technosphere. Underneath is technology that has already become free. Above is technology that has yet to be developed, or that is too crazy and speculative to be productized just yet. Like the Earth's biosphere, the technosphere is very thin compared to what is above and what is below. .
I use emacs, which might be thought of as a thermonuclear word processor. It was created by Richard Stallman; enough said. It is written in Lisp, which is the only computer language that is beautiful. It is colossal, and yet it only edits straight ASCII text files, which is to say, no fonts, no boldface, no underlining. In other words, the engineer-hours that, in the case of Microsoft Word, were devoted to features like mail merge, and the ability to embed feature-length motion pictures in corporate memoranda, were, in the case of emacs, focused with maniacal intensity on the deceptively simple-seeming problem of editing text. .
IF YOU ARE ACCUSTOMED to reading works of speculative fiction and enjoy puzzling things out on your own, skip this Note. Otherwise, know that the scene in which this book is set is not Earth, but a planet called Arbre that is similar to Earth in many ways. .
Do your neighbors burn one another alive?” was how Fraa Orolo began his conversation with . “Do your shamans walk around on stilts?” Fraa Orolo asked, reading from a leaf that, judging by its brownness, was at least five centuries old. Then he looked up and added helpfully, “You might call them pastors or witch doctors.” “When a child gets sick, do you pray? Sacrifice to a painted stick? Or blame it on an old lady?” “Do you fancy you will see your dead dogs and cats in some sort of afterlife?” .
"Ylma is having you work it out in the most gruesome way possible...so that when she teaches you how it's really done, it'll seem that much easier....Like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer—it feels so good when you stop." This was the oldest joke in the world, but Barb hadn't heard it before, and he became so amused that he got physically excited and had to run back and forth across the kitchen several times to flame off energy. A few weeks ago, I would have been alarmed by this and would have tried to calm him down, but now I was used to it, and knew that if I approached him physically things would get much worse. .
"Describe worrying," he went on."What!?" "Pretend I'm someone who has never worried. I'm mystified. It don't get it. Tell me how to worry." "Well...I guess the first step is to envision a sequence of events as they might play out in the future." "But I do that all the time. And yet I don't worry." "It is a sequence of events with a bad end." "So, you're worried that a pink dragon will fly over the concent and fart nerve gas on us?" .
There’s no way to get from the point inwhere we are now, to one that includes pink nerve-gas-farting dragons, following any plausible . Which is really just a technical term for there being a coherent story joining one moment to the next. If you simply throw action principles out the window, you’re granting the world the freedom to wander anywhere in Hemm space, to any outcome, without constraint. It becomes pretty meaningless. The mind...knows that there is an action principle that governs how the world evolves from one moment to the next—that restricts our world’s path to points that tell an internally consistent story. So it focuses its worrying on outcomes that are more plausible... .
"I guess that people like to think they are not only living but propagating their way of life." "That's right. People have a need to feel that they are part of some sustainable project. Something that will go on without them. It creates a feeling of stability. I believe that the need for that kind of stability is as basic and as desperate as some of the other, more obvious needs. But there's more than one way to get it." .
“Give me an adventure. I’m not talking about some massive adventure. Just something that would make getting fired seem small. Something that I might remember when I’m old.” “I can’t predict the future,” I said, “but based on what little I know so far, I’m afraid it has to be a massive adventure or nothing.” “Great!” “Probably the kind of adventure that ends in a mass burial.” .
[T]he work that people did had been broken down into jobs that were the same every day, in organizations where people were interchangeable parts. All of the story had been bled out of their lives. That was how it had to be, it was how you got a productive economy. But it would be easy to see a will at work behind this: not exactly an evil will, but a selfish will. The people who'd made the system thus were jealous, not of money and not of power, but of story. If their employees came home with interesting stories to tell, it meant that something had gone wrong: a blackout, a strike, a spree killing. The Powers That Be would not suffer others to be in stories of their own unless they were fake stories that had been made up to motivate them. People who couldn't live without story...had to look somewhere outside of work for a feeling that they were part of a story, which I guessed was why S .
"Quantum interference—the crosstalk among similar quantum states—knits the different versions of your brain together." "You're saying that my consciousness extends across multiple cosmi," I said. "That's a pretty wild statement." "I'm saying all things do," Orolo said. "That comes with theinterpretation. The only thing exceptional about the brain is that it has found a way to use this." .
Neither of us said a word as we picked our way down the path for the next quarter of an hour, and the sky receded to a deep violet. I had the illusion that, as it got darker, it moved away from us, expanding like a bubble, rushing away at a million light-years an hour, and as it whooshed past stars, we began to see them. .
"I can hardly believe we are talking about a possibility so inconceivable as that other universes exist—and that the Geometers originate there!" In this, Zh'vaern seemed to speak for the entire table. Except for Jad. "The words fail. There is one universe, by the definition of universe. It is not the cosmos we see through our eyes and our telescopes—that is but a single , a thread winding through ashared by many other Narratives besides ours. Each Narrative looks like a cosmos alone, to any consciousness that partakes of it. The Geometers came from other Narratives—until they came here, and joined ours." Having dropped this bomb, Fraa Jad excused himself, and went to the toilet. "What on earth is he going on about?" Fraa Lodoghir demanded. "It sounded like !" .
"Those who think through possible outcomes with discipline, forge connections, in so doing, to other cosmi in which those outcomes are more than mere possibilities. Such a consciousness is measurably, quantitatively different from one that has not undertaken the same work and so, yes, is able to make correct decisions in anwhere an untrained mind would be of little use." .
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