A brace of interviews: Richard Morgan and Neal Stephenson

It’s just like buses; you wait ages for a decent in-depth author interview, then two come along at once. Not that I’m complaining, mind you!

First up is a chat with Neal Stephenson on the Barnes & Noble website, which is mostly about Stephenson’s latest breezeblock novel Anathem, but contains other goodies too:

JM: You write with a fountain pen.

NS: Yes.

JM: Have you always done that?

NS: No. I started that with the Baroque Cycle. Cryptonomicon was the last thing I wrote with a word processor. What I was noticing was that I’ve become such a fast typist that I could slam out great big blocks of text quite rapidly — anything that came into my head, it would just dribble out of my fingers onto the screen. That includes bad stuff as well as good stuff. Once it’s out there on the screen, of course, you can edit it and you can fix the bad stuff, but it’s far better not to ever write down the bad stuff at all. With the fountain pen, which is a slower output device, the material stays in the buffer of your head for a longer period. So during that amount of time, you can fix it, you can make it better, you can even decide not to write it down at all — you can think better of writing it.

How many bad or boring blog posts would have been avoided if we all had to blog with fountain pens? Actually, no, don’t answer that… 🙂

Next up is Richard (K) Morgan, who provides what must be the longest article io9 have ever run, interview or otherwise. If you’ve read any of his fiction, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that Morgan has strong opinions regarding politics and governance and human nature, and there’s plenty of that sort of thing in between the more fiction-focussed material:

One of the great things about American culture is that it’s a great borrower. America sees something it likes and says, “Oh yeah, we’ll have that. How much money do you want to reproduce that for us?” Leone came in with what is a very Catholic vision of the American West. And was able to sell that template. In that sense the Western never looked back. And you see a similar second wave of revisionism with Unforgiven in 1992, and the same thing. What’s been taken apart is Leone’s mythology of these lightning fast guys with guns that can produce a Colt and shoot the pits off of an apple. And of course Unforgiven comes along and says no, no. There’s something very cleansing about that, about taking something that’s been mythologized and saying, “Let’s give this a wipedown and see what’s really underneath.” Part of the brief I gave myself [with The Steel Remains] was, let’s see if we can’t do a Sergio Leone on the Tolkien landscape.

Anyone in the Futurismic audience read Anathem yet, by the way? Or The Steel Remains? Both are still buried deep in my to-be-read pile, but they’re rising steadily…

[The Stephenson interview deserves a hat-tip to Big Dumb Object; in the interests of complete transparency I will point out that Richard Morgan is one of my clients.]

4 thoughts on “A brace of interviews: Richard Morgan and Neal Stephenson”

  1. Anathem is my top sff novel of the last 10-15 years or so since Use of Weapons which is still my top sff novel of all time. I bought an arc in August and read it the first time in 3 days and then reread it 4 times since once you get the jargon the book is actually a page turner adventure and its topics – consciousness, Multiverse, lifelong learning, observing and thinking about the Universe – appeal to me a lot and I am a big fan of Roger Penrose whose magnum opus, and that is hard book btw, not Anathem, The Road to Reality is my top nonfiction book of the last ten years or so and is clearly an inspiration for Anathem alongside some classical and modern philosophy.

    I’ve read TSR too and while it’s good though not great, the hype and reinventing fantasy thingy propagated online lessened a lot my enjoyment. It is probably about the 10th fantasy novel of the year for me and I am interested in the sequels, but it’s not particularly original nor inventive. Dark, lots of swearing and sex, but these days quite a lot of epic fantasy is doing that and there are much better series out there like Sarah Monette’s Mirador one that tackle homosexual protagonists and their love life so even in that TSR is far from unique.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Liviu; anyone who rates Use of Weapons as one of their top novels deserves to have their opinion paid attention to. 🙂

  3. Yup, read them both.

    Anathem is a must-read, and it’s very provocative. It suffers from some of the same problems (and attractions) as the Baroque Cycle, with some huge and rather indigestible ideas presented in a bizarre format. I don’t really buy the overall theory behind it, but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the book. Destined to be a classic.

    I reviewed The Steel Remains myself [contains spoilers]. If you like Morgan’s other stuff, you’ll like this. I am looking forward to the next in the series.

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