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Neal Stephenson

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Neal Stephenson

Courtesy Neal Stephenson.

Birth:

Neal Stephenson was born October 31, 1959, in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Neal Stephenson’s Background:

Neal Stephenson, born into a family of engineers and scientists and raised in Illinois and Iowa, graduated from Ames High School in 1977 and studied geography and physics at Boston University.

Neal Stephenson’s Writing:

Neal Stephenson’s first two novels -- The Big U, a satire about life at a large Midwestern university in the 1980s, and Zodiac, about the Boston-based exploits of a young eco-warrior -– got little attention prior to the publication of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash (1992).


Snow Crash is the near-future story of Hiro Protagonist, a “burb-clave” dwelling pizza-deliverer for the Mafia-controlled Cosa Nostra pizza chain and a hacker extraordinaire who spends much of his time “jacked-in” to the “Metaverse.” Snow Crash put Stephenson on the map and immediately established him as one of the leading authors in the cyberpunk genre, as though William Gibson himself had handed him the baton.


Stephenson continued in the cyberpunk vein with The Diamond Age, a longer and more intricate work set further in the future and focused on the possibilities of nanotechnology as the scientific base to a thriller revolving around a young girl’s super-computer academic primer.

With Cryptonomicon, Stephenson rewound not just back to the present-day, but also into the recent past in an epic exploration of cryptography and the early days of information technology set around World War II.


The author evidently took naturally to historical research and works of epic proportions because his next three books, Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of The World, comprise a trilogy collectively known as The Baroque Cycle, a 2700 page historical fiction set all around the world in the 17th and 18th centuries.


In 2008, Stephenson published Anathem, a return to science fiction on an Earth-like planet called Arbre, where monastic scientists and mathematicians are cloistered within concent (convent) walls in the pursuit of knowledge over centuries, while the outside world rises and falls through various national and religious power struggles.


In 2011, in a departure from all his previous novels, Stephenson published Reamde, an action thriller in which a Chinese hacker's computer virus sparks an international incident. Reamde is a sprawling novel full of diverse characters and set upon a sweeping global stage meticulously crafted by the author. It is in this world-building aspect of novel-writing that Neal Stephenson has shown unusual prowess, to the extent that he has elicited comparisons to authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Umberto Eco.

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