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.— Neal Stephenson
The most powerful Neal Stephenson quotes that will add value to your life
Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds.
The difference between stupid and intelligent people - and this is true whether or not they are well-educated - is that intelligent people can handle subtlety.
Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game because they almost always turn out to be — or to be indistinguishable from — self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.
This is one of the two great labyrinths into which human minds are drawn: the question of free will versus predestination.
To condense fact from the vapor of nuance.
What are letters?” “Kinda like mediaglyphics except they’re all black, and they’re tiny, they don’t move, they’re old and boring and really hard to read. But you can use ’em to make short words for long words.
Constable Moore had reached the age when men can subject their bodies to the worst irritations - whisky, cigars, woolen clothes, bagpipes - without feeling a thing or, at least, without letting on.
Any property that's open to common use gets destroyed.
Because everyone has incentive to use it to the max, but no one has incentive to maintain it.
Whenever serious and competent people need to get things done in the real world, all considerations of tradition and protocol fly out the window.
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.
The only thing that can effect a big change in personality is something that physically rewires the brain and/or alters the body's chemical milieu.
One of the most frightening things about your true nerd, for may people, is not that he's socially inept - because everybody's been there - but rather his complete lack of embarrassment about it.
Hiro watches the large, radioactive, spear-throwing killer drug lord ride his motorcycle into Chinatown. Which is the same as riding it into China, as far as chasing him down is concerned.
I feel that I am entitled to trample all other considerations into the dirt in my pursuit of a satisfying pun.
All people have religions. It's like we have religion receptors built into our brain cells, or something, and we'll latch onto anything that'll fill that niche for us.
If the item of stolen property had been anything other than a book, it would have been confiscated. But a book is different - it is not just a material possession but the pathway to an enlightened mind, and thence to a well-ordered society.
Which path do you intend to take, Nell?' said the Constable, sounding very interested. 'Conformity or rebellion?' Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded - they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.
It is the fate of operating systems to become free.
I was trying to run something to ground that had come to my attention when I was working on the Baroque Cycle. That series, of course, was about the conflict between Newton and Leibniz. Leibniz developed a system of metaphysics called monadology, which looked pretty weird at the time and was promptly buried by Newtonian-style physics.
I just assume I'm not invisible. I assume I'm wearing fluorescent clothes, and there's a million-dollar bounty going to the first driver who manages to hit me. And I ride on that assumption.
Men who believe that they are accomplishing something by speaking speak in a different way from men who believe that speaking is a waste of time.
Supposing that originally there was nothing but one creator, how could ordinary binary sexual relations come into being?
Nothing is more important than that you see and love the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways.
This made him a grad student, and grad students existed not to learn things but to relieve the tenured faculty members of tiresome burdens such as educating people and doing research.
So a lot of what you see in the Baroque Cycle is me wanting to be one of those guys. In the case of Anathem, I needed something that was more formal, less flashy, as if it had been translated from the classical language of another planet, but enlivened with slang terms that a teenage narrator would enjoy throwing around.
... when I saw any of those kinds of beauty I knew I was alive, and not just in the sense that when I hit my thumb with a hammer I knew I was alive, but rather in the sense that I was partaking of something--something was passing through me that it was in my nature to be a part of.
That to me is the basic message of events like the rise of Nazism, the Salem witch trials, and so on: not that bad people do bad things, but that good people do bad things.
Part of being a sentient human is the ability to anticipate others' mental states - to say "Fred's going to hate this but Jane would love it."
Humans needed water or they would die, but dirty water killed as surely as thirst. You had to boil it before you drank it. This culture around tea was a way of tiptoeing along the knife edge between those two ways of dying.
Software development, like professional sports, has a way of making thirty-year-old men feel decrepit.
As convenient as it is for information to come to us, libraries do have a valuable side effect: they force all of the smart people to come together in one place where they can interact with one another.
Two tires fly. Two Wail. A bamboo grove, all chopped down From it, warring songs.
Clearly Mr. Drkh has had a long career of being the weirdest person in any given room, but he's about to go down in flames.
We see everything from the narrator's point of view, so exposition about the world is limited to what impinges directly on him and the story he's telling. Considering how old the world is, we learn very little about its history, which I think is a good thing.
Middle class prosperity is lapidary; the flow of cash rounds and smooths a person like water does riverbed stones.
Boredom is a mask frustration wears.
Enoch...why are you here? Why has my spirit been incarnated into a physical bodi in this world generally? Or specifically, why am I here in a Swedish forest, standing on the wreck of a mysterious German rocket plane while a homosexual German sobs over the cremated remains of his Italian lover?
A few dud universes can really clutter up your basement.
Hiro is a talented drifter. This is the kind of lifestyle that sounded romantic to him as recently as five years ago. But in the bleak light of full adulthood, which is to one's early twenties as Sunday morning is to Saturday night, he can clearly see what it really amounts to: He's broke and unemployed.
Of persons I will say this: it is difficult to tell when they are running aright but easy to see when something has gone awry.
Interesting things happen along borders - transitions - not in the middle where everything is the same.
I use emacs, which might be thought of as a thermonuclear word processor.
The story is everything, so it always begins with a story.
And research is a kind of scaffolding built underneath the story as I go along. My enjoyment level varies, but in general, I'm writing about topics I find interesting, so I can't gripe too much.
I try to find a style that matches the book.
In the Baroque Cycle, I got infected with the prose style of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, which is my favorite era. It's recent enough that it is easy to read - easier than Elizabethan English - but it's pre-Victorian and so doesn't have the pomposity that is often a problem with 19th-century English prose. It is earthy and direct and frequently hilarious.
That's funny because if anyone actually did prove the existence of God we'd just tell him 'nice proof, Fraa Bly' and start believing in God.
She looked at me like I was crazy. Most of my lovers do, and that's partly why they love me, and partly why they leave
...your Web browser is Ronald Reagan.
I'm strictly a one-project-at-a-time kind of guy.
If I came up with a compelling idea for a different book while working on a project, I'd probably abandon the first project and go with the new idea.
It would be quite unusual for me to get deep into a project and then shitcan it.
One of the advantages of having done this for a while is that I have a better sense than I used to of when something is or isn't working. Until I developed that sense, this was a pretty dicey career for me, both in terms of paying the rent, and emotional wear and tear.