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Mirabai Knight

The concept of the cloister as a place where similar-minded brainy types can sit alone and work without worrying about the outside world is very attractive to a lot of science fiction fans. One of my favorite scenes in all of SF is in A Canticle for Liebowitz, when Brother Francis Gerard sits down with a fresh sheet of vellum and painstakingly illuminates an old circuit diagram. But a lot of people I know wish that they could keep the meditation and isolation of the cloisters while throwing out the dogma and the obedience to a supreme authority. In your books you've consistently brought up religion in complex ways but haven't explicitly stated your own opinion on its worth or necessity. Not knowing how much religion there is among the characters in Anathem, I want to ask: do you think that the idea of the cloister is inevitably compromised or distorted when you remove the concept of God?


I'm thrilled to see that once again, you are changing gears -- not that I didn't love the historical fiction of your last four books. One of the things I appreciated by the end of The Baroque Cycle was its subtle commentary on science vs. politics that applied as easily to the modern world as it did to Newton's alternate history. And now with Anathem, admittedly based on vague summaries, it seems like you're making a similar commentary from the standpoint of an alternate future. What inspired you to move into the post-apocalyptic setting that Anathem, according to early reports, seems to take place in? And do you see yourself writing another book that takes place in our overanalyzed but very real present day?


Will there be Shaftoes and Waterhouses in the new book? How about Enoch Root?

Torley Lives

Who did the cover art, what does it mean, and and why did you choose it amongst the possible candidates?

Sort of a Fan

Will this book be edited? Neal Stephenson books which are edited (Cryptonomicon, Diamond Age, etc.) are quite good, while those which are entirely untouched by an editor's hand (Baroque Cycle) are terribly bad. So the question is simple: will this book be edited, or not?


I second crazymonk: Will Anathem feature any "incarnation" of Enoch Root or his buddy Solomon?


Do you have any rituals you perform after finishing a novel?


Sort of a Fan: What a douchy question. I'm pretty sure that the Baroque Cycle had an editor, and like all published books, Anathem has one, too. And in any case, the Baroque Cycle is probably my favorite Stephenson book, so not all parties agree.


Is there sex? If so, have you seen anyone about your erotic prose difficulty? Because I had to stop reading "Quicksilver" for that.


Baroque Cycle rocked! Far more accessible and entertaining than Diamond Age - sorry, Neal.

The themes in Stephenson's works always revolve around the evolution of our understanding of "the mind". I'm curious on his take about Ray Kurzweil's concept of the "singularity" and Kevin Kelly's (and others) view on our growing technological culture and the possibility of evolving not just toward a merger of body & machine or mind & mechanics but also the merger of minds around the globe as our technology brings us all closer than McLuhan's vilage and instead arriving at a singularity of our own - a single consciousness of group thought.

Utopian and freaky, yeah - but what about it, Neal?


adam gallardo

I'm currently reading David McCullough's "John Adams" and was surprised to see that, while in France, he was assisted by a young man named Benjamin Waterhouse. I was just wondering if you were aware of this (somewhat) historic Waterhouse when you chose the name of your historic family. I also thought it was interesting that this very real Waterhouse exists on the periphery of events, much like the Waterhouses that you created.


I loved your books because they explored many esoteric fields and vocations (e.g. cryptography, nanotechnology, cyberspace, etc).

With the recent explosion of information accessibility via the Internet, did you find any challenges this time around in working with esoteric themes? Do you think you were able still keep them fresh and surprising? Was it more difficult to remain one step ahead of the curve?

David Banham

When are you going to clone yourself into an author army so that we don't have to wait so long between books?

Jeff Beeler

How will "Anathem" change the world as we know it?

Do you think these changes will be for the better?


Are dogs smarter than cats, or will it be mice that rule the world?

Orville Helmsley

I see that's an analemma on the cover. Is this something that the cover artist just threw in there or does it have something to do with the story?


Would you be up for some of your loyal fans restarting the Metaweb/Quicksilver Wiki?


Great to hear about the new book. I know you do copious research for each project. Which unlikely paths have the winding ways of study taken you on the journey for this novel?

David Ratnasabapathy

Another vote for the Baroque Cycle. That totally rocked! Not as good as The Cryptonomicon, but only just barely.

When will the book be out in .LIT ebook form? I want a complete collection on my pda!


To answer Torley, the cover art contains three visual elements: a monk, a building reminiscent of a monastery, and a representation of a solar year (each circle is the maximum height of the sun in the sky on a given day; over the course of a year, this forms a figure-8 pattern). So it's suggestive of monastic orders and science. As for why it was chosen, to sell books. (Neil almost certainly didn't choose it outright but rather selected it from a set of options from the designer. But maybe not.)

As for questions, one cheeky, one not:

1) Since your audience now consists of people willing, even eager, to read cinder block-like slabs of text, is a video really the way to go here?

2) More seriously, given the rumours about the post-apocalyptic scenario and the obvious hints about monasteries and science, are you inviting comparisons with "Canticle for Leibowitz"?

Kind regards (and thanks for your patient answer to a dumb question of mine in the "Crptonomicon" Q&A),



Good work Neal!
Is your publisher going to release the book as e-book right away?


"Neil". D'oh. Sorry about that, Neal.

Critical fan from The Netherlands

The real SF element of the synopsis of Anathem is that you postulate an outside or “saecular world”. In the contemporary world an outside or refuge seems less and less possible, since every emancipatory impulse is at its origin immediately neutralised by and immersed in the dominant informational coordinates (economic, social, scientific, political), that is to say, it is interiorized, counted, rendered unemancipatory. If good futuristic SF is really a commentary on the present, is then this Sanctuary in Anathem a literay instrument to comment on the problem of the impossiblity of finding such Sterling-esque Islands in the net, like the datahaven in Cryptonomicon? Do you think an outside is possible in the world we live in today, a world that more and more seems to fit the computational view of the universe you use in your books? To put it succinctly, is the New only possible by creating an outside, something that is ANATHEMa to the inside? It this not fantasy (and by fantasy I mean the psychological term AND the literary genre)?


I am wondering if Neal has ever heard of Asperger's Syndrome also known as "Little professors' syndrome" or Geek Syndrome. One expert describes places of learning as sheltered workshops for Aspergers.

It would be interesting to do a book about Hans Asperger and the study of the brain in general (eg Oliver Sacks) ie where psychology overlaps with neurology and philosophy.

I will buy this book, I like all your books. Will you, Neal, be returning to Australia any time soon? In Oz: Spring, Autumn or even Winter - much warmer than Seattle but not as roasty toasty oven baked as Summer (or early Autumn).

Diana, thank you for the forum.

Jeremy Frank

What works (be they print, film, or any other) would you say that you have drawn on most for inspiration when writing your new book?

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