Best-selling science-fiction writer Neal Stephenson's works cover everything from cryptography to Sumerian mythology. Ahead of next year's novel Seveneves, he talks about his influences, the stagnation in material technologies, and Hieroglyph, the forthcoming science-fiction anthology that he kick-started to stimulate the next generation of engineers.
The United States entered the Great War with its eyes wide open. The mechanical slaughter in Europe had already left millions dead. In the trenches, men had to contend with lice, rats, sickness, mud, extreme temperatures, human waste, rotting corpses, and boredom as well as the threats of poison gas, explosive shells, and being buried alive. In 1914, Europe went to war with only the dimmest awareness of the horrors to come. Yet Congress voted overwhelmingly for a declaration of war in the absence of any direct threat to U.S.
Is it in any way “important” to read writers from our own country? Is there even any real difference in reading a book from home and a book from abroad? Or to put it another way: when I pick up a novel, is it merely a question of a free-floating