Neal Stephenson


Here, Kelvin seemed to find something interesting in what he'd just said. "That's actually an idea," he said. "If the infection got totally out of hand, we might have to save the world by detonating some nukes in the Harbor. We'd lose Boston but it would be worth it." 225

He is always cheerful but I was never sure if he was happy. Of course, happy is a concept for Americans. Immigrants don't seem to care about happy very much. Healthy, wealthy, and wise, yes, but happiness alone is something their children worry about maybe. 255

Pedestrians and winos applauded. A young six-digit lawyer, hardly old enough to shave, cruised up from ten cars back and shouted out his electric sunroof that I really had balls.

I said, "Tell me something I didn't know, you fucking android from Hell." 5

Contrary to what every bonehead believes, the land surface has been stretched out and expanded by civilization. Look at any downtown city: what would be a tiny distance on a backpacking trip becomes a transcontinental journey. You spend hours traveling just a few miles. Your mental map of the city grows and stretches until things seem far away.


The sand at the surf line has been washed flat. A small child's footprints wander across it, splaying like gardenia blossoms on thin shafts. The sand looks like a geometric plane until a sheet of ocean grazes it. Then small imperfections are betrayed by swirls in the water. Those swirls in turn carve the sand. The ocean is a Turing machine, the sand is its tape; the water reads the marks in the sand and sometimes erases them and sometimes carves new ones with tiny currents that are themselves a response to the marks. Plodding through the surf, Waterhouse strikes deep craters in the wet sand that are read by the ocean. Eventually the ocean erases them, but in the process its state has been changed, the pattern of its swirls have been altered. Waterhouse images that the disturbance might somehow propagate across the Pacific and into some super-secret Nipponese surveillance device made of bamboo tubes and chrysanthemum leaves. Nip listeners would know that Waterhouse had walked that way. In turn, the water swirling around Waterhouse's feet carries information about Nip propeller design and the deployment of their fleets -- if only he had the wit to read it. The chaos of the waves, gravid with encrypted data, mocks him.

Waterhouse did not know until now that his head was damaged, which stands to reason, in that your head is where you know things, and if its damaged, how can you know it?

As they draw closer, the pale eyed Negro speaks to them in perfect German. "My comrade attempts to drown himself," he explains.

"Is that even possible?" asks Kapitanleutnant Beck.

"He and I were just discussing that very question."

Beck checks his wristwatch. "He must want to kill himself very badly," he says.

"Sargent Shaftoe takes his duty very seriously. It's kind of ironic. His cyanide capsule dissolved in the seawater."

Shaftoe's never felt better. What a fucking deal! He's getting morphine out of the Germans in exchange for telling them German military secrets.

Amy on why she decided to run Randy's car off the road: Of course, I know that a lot of guys would just stand back and allow someone they cared about to do something extremely foolish and damaging, only so that everyone concerned could then drive off to a miserable and emotionally fucked up future in perfect, shiny, cars.

"What's your wife's name?"
"I mean, Glory."

Can't you recognize bullshit? Don't you think it would be a useful item to add to your intellectual toolkits to be capable of saying, when a ton of wet steaming bullshit lands on your head, 'my goodness, this appears to be bullshit'?

No dress this time. Randy predicts it will be a few years before he sees Amy in a dress again. Last time he did, his dick got hard, his heart pounded, he literally salivated, and then suddenly armed men were putting handcuffs on him.

Shaftoe has had little direct contact with that Waterhouse fellow during their stay on Qwghlm, but he has noticed that men who have just finished talking Waterhouse tend to walk away shaking their heads--and not in the slow way of a man saying "no", but in the sudden convulsive way of a dog who has a horsefly in his middle ear.

Snow Crash

The world is full of power and energy and a person can go far by just skimming off a tiny bit of it.

Well, all information looks like noise until you break the code.

Besides, interesting things happen along borders--transitions--not in the middle where everything is the same. There may be something happening along the border of the crowd, back where the nights face into the shade of the overpass.

But he wouldn't drive for CosaNostra Pizza any other way. You know why? Because there's something about having your life on the line. It's like being a kamikaze pilot. Your mind is clear. Other people--store clerks, burger flippers, software engineers, the whole vocabulary of meaningless jobs that make up Life in America--other people just rely on plain old competition. Better flip your burgers or debug your subroutines faster and better than your high school classmate two blocks down the strip is flipping and debugging, because we're in competition with these guys and people notice these things.

What a fucking ratrace that is. CostaNostra Pizza doesn't have any competition. Competition goes against the Mafia ethic. You don't work harder because you're competing against some identical operation down the street. You work harder because everything is on the line. Your name, your honor, your family, your life. Those burger flippers might have a better life expectancy--but what kind of life is it anyway, you have to ask yourself.

...The people of America, who live in the world's most surprising and terrible country, take comfort in that motto. Follow the loglo outward, to where the growth is enfolded into the valleys and canyons, and you find the land of the refugees. They have fled from the true America of atomic bombs, scalpings, hiphop, chaos theory, cement overshoes, snake handlers, spree killers, space walks, buffalo jumps, drive bys, cruise missiles, Sherman's March, gridlock, motorcycle gangs, and bungee jumping. They have parallel parked their bimbo boxes in identical computer-designed Burclave street patterns and secreted themselves in symmetrical sheetrock shitholes with vinyl floors and ill-fitting woodwork and no sidewalks, vast house farms out in the loglo wilderness, a culture medium for a medium culture.

The only ones left in the city are the streetpeople, feeding of the debris; immigrants, thrown out like shrapnel from the destruction of the Asian powers; young bohos; and the technomedia priesthood of Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong. Young smart people like Da5id and Hiro, who take the risk of living the city because they like stimulation and they know they can handle it.

Hiro watches the large, radioactive, spear-throwing killer drug lord ride his motorcycle into chinatown.

All these beefy Caucasians with guns! Get enough of them together, looking for the America they always believed they'd grow up in, and they glom together like overcooked rice, form integral, starchy little units. With their power tools, portable generators, weapons, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and personal computers, they are like beavers hyped up on crystal meth, manic engineers without a blueprint, chewing through the wilderness, building things and abandoning them, altering the flow of mighty rivers and then moving on because the place ain't what it used to be. The byproduct of the lifestyle is polluted rivers, greenhouse effect, spouse abuse, televangelists, and serial killers. But as long as you have that four-wheel-drive vehicle and can keep driving north, you can sustain it, keep moving just quickly enough to stay one step ahead of your own waste stream. In twenty years, ten million white people will converge on the north pole and park their bagos there. The low-grade waste heat of their thermodynamically intense lifestyle will turn the crystalline icescape pliable and treacherous. It will melt a hole through the polar icecap, and all that metal will sink to the bottom, sucking the biomass down with it.

In the Beginning Was the Command Line

One of my friends' dads had an old MGB sports car rusting away in his garage. Sometimes he would actually manage to get it running and then he would take us for a spin around the block, with a memorable look of wild youthful exhilaration on his face; to his worried passengers, he was a mad man, stalling and backfiring around Ames, Iowa, and eating the dust of rusty Gremlins and Pintos, but in his own mind he was Dustin Hoffman tooling across the bay bridge with the wind in his hair.

Nothing is more annoying to sophisticated people than to see someone who is rich enough to know better than being tacky--unless it is to realize, a moment later, that they probably know they are tacky and they simply don't care and they are going to go on being tacky, and rich, and happy, forever...

...somewhere outside of and beyond our universe is an operating system, coded up over incalculable spans of time by some kind of hacker-demiurge. The cosmic operating system uses a command-line interface. It runs on something like a teletype, with lots of noise and heat; punched-out bits flutter down into its hopper like drifting stars. The demiurge sits at his teletype, pounding out one command line after another, specifying the values of fundamental constants of physics...and when he's finished typing out the command line, his right pinky hesitates above the ENTER key for an aeon or two, wondering what's going to happen; then down it comes -- and the WHACK you hear is another Big Bang.

But even from this remove it was possible to glean certain patterns, and one that recurred as regularly as an urban legend was the one about how someone would move into a commune populated by sandal-wearing, peace sign flashing flower children, and eventually discover that, beneath this façade, the guys who ran it were actually control freaks; and that, as living in a commune, where much lip service was paid to the ideals of peace, love, and harmony, had deprived them of normal, socially approved outlets for their control-freakdom, it tended to come out in other, invariably more sinister ways.