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Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,732 ratings  ·  267 reviews
#1 New York Times bestselling author Neal Stephenson is, quite simply, one of the best and most respected writers alive. He’s taken sf to places it’s never been (Snow Crash, Anathem). He’s reinvented the historical novel (The Baroque Cycle), the international thriller (Reamde), and both at the same time (Cryptonomicon).

Now he treats his legion of fans to Some Remarks, an e
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by William Morrow (first published February 1st 1994)
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Manuel Antão
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

"Geeking out or Vegging out. That Is The Question: Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson"

I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson for a long time, and I’ve been planning on re-reading him. Now that I’ve just read his very first collection of essays, this need is even greater. The man “touches” a soft spot in me… Not all of the essays are top notch, but the ones who are, oh my.

“Mother Earth, Mother Board” is one of those superlative essays that I re
Aug 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Leave it to Neal Stephenson to publish a collection of essays that cover everything from office furniture to the metaphysical theories of Gottfried Leibniz. (I found the office furniture one more enjoyable.)

The thing about Stephenson is that once he gets interested in a subject, he is going to write the shit out of it and leave no idea unexplored. It’s what makes him unique and his skill is usually enough to get the reader to go along for the ride. But even a fan like myself started getting seri
Jun 27, 2012 marked it as to-read-5-planning-on-it
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
Would I read a collection of Neal Stephenson's best grocery lists? I think perhaps I would!
Once upon a time, in the 90s and early 2000s, I was heavily involved in geek subculture as Stephenson defines it. I taught myself HTML in middle school and read Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C for fun in high school, I got my news from Slashdot (not just tech news but news in general; I first learned about 9/11 when it was splashed across Slashdot's front page), I interned at the EFF because I believed passionately that technology was what would save and transfo ...more
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a really long article - I read it in 4 sittings on my lunch breaks - available online in the Wired archives.

It's dated - it's about laying submarine cables in the mid-nineties - but it's fascinating in the same vein as Cryptonomicon or the Baroque Cycle (if you're a fan of Stephenson's novels, you'll like it).

I'm a fan of both Stephenson and Wired, so I liked it :-)
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm very forgiving of essay collections by my favorite authors. Even though in some ways it feels like cheating, I've often not read the essays, so what do I care if they get the cheap revenue? The Stephenson is not the best essay collection I've read, many of the stories are old and feel dated, but there is enough here by a great writer that it is worth reading for any fan. The vast majority of the book is from Mother Earth, Motherboard. A huge article he wrote for Wired in 1996. Don't be scare ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I have read only two of Neal Stephenson's novels ( Snow Crash and The Diamond Age ) but I loved them both immensely. I would consider them both to be five-star novels. They are, in fact, two of the best science-fiction novels I've ever read. The ideas within them (which even Stephenson acknowledges--in the book I'm commenting on now--is what really counts) are mind-blowing, but the characters are not your average sci-fi novel characters. They're real people, like the kind you'd find in "litera ...more
chris tierney
A lot of the material in this collection can be found online*. (The longest piece is a reprint of Mother Earth, Mother Board, which is not only available online but has also been reprinted in the kindle edition of Cryptonomicon.) The new material is good, but not very long, so whether it makes sense for you to read this or not is going to depend on how much of it you've already read, how much you value the convenience of having all the pieces in one place, and/or how much you enjoy re-reading. I ...more
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Neal Stephenson’s Some Remarks is a highly stimulating read from my favorite living author. This collection of essays and short fiction sheds light on Stephenson’s personal background, writing methods, and modes of information synthesis. As always, we are treated to a very special version of the world––one seen through the eyes of an author who has carefully surrounded himself with some of the most intelligent, curious and capable humans on Earth (and who happens to be one of them himself).

Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I printed this "magazine article" out; it's novella-length (55 pages). I really enjoyed it. It was filled with intensely delightful stories and intensely fascinating and obscure information. Any infrastructure nerd will love it.

On time and place:

Internet technology moves fast, so this piece is aware of its coming obsolescence. This is good, because it was written twenty years ago. I would really like to see an update on how various cables described (especially FLAG and SEA-ME-WE 3 (what a name!
Christopher Hellstrom
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Perfect for a fan like me (but you can get most of this material online.)I love "Why I am a bad correspondent" "The quality of my e-mails and public speaking is, in my view, nowhere near that of my novels. So for me it comes down to the following choice: I can distribute material of bad-to-mediocre quality to a small number of people, or I can distribute material of higher quality to more people. But I can't do both; the first one obliterates the second."
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Not sure how I let this slip by in 2012. Only my favorite author, who, though still in his fifties and as productive as ever, will only write a finite number of books, and reading any of them is one of the top 5-10 things I can be doing at any given time. I guess my excuse is that it's not a novel, it's a compilation of essays, short stories, and magazine columns, some of which are 20+ years old. So like, if I was a true completist I'd have already hunted down all of this stuff.

Mostly interesti
Wendy Liu
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I first encountered Neal Stephenson about a decade ago, through his essay In the Beginning...Was the Command Line. At the time, I was a very impressionable 15-year-old who was just starting to get into open source software, and thus his words—brash, idealistic, intelligent—had a deep impact on me.

I'm understating it. I basically thought he was God. I felt the same way about several of the others who wrote about programming and free software at the time: Paul Graham, Linus Torvalds, Eric S. Raymo
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essay-collection
The Best Essay Collection from 2012 Courtesy of Neal Stephenson

Without a doubt, Neal Stephenson may be the most pensive, most expansive, writer of my generation, and these are traits he shows abundantly in his recent essay collection, “Some Remarks”, that also include several terse short stories he has written over the years. Stephenson’s writing is expansive in the sense that it covers many topics at once, which is why, for example, his “Baroque Cycle” trilogy is a compelling fictional explorat
James Stephenson
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nano17prep
Neal Stephenson has a large vocabulary, but apparently the word brevity does not appear in it. He is the author of such forest destroying novels as Anathem and Seveneves, each of which flirt with having the page number hit four digits. Some asshole thought it would be a good idea to hire him to write a magazine article, and that's why we have a magazine article listed on Goodreads. Seriously, don't think you will get through this on your lunch break.

On the other hand, there is a reason why Neal
Paul Gleason
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
From its bland title to what Stephenson admits in his "Introduction," Some Remarks is a very weak collection of Stephenson's short writings.

The collection covers Stephenson's entire career as a writer, and some of its material goes back roughly twenty years. This means that many of the essays are out of date.

Stephenson also makes the mistake of including what I think is an unpublished introduction to David Foster Wallace's book on infinity, Everything and More. (I own the first edition hardback
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Some Remarks by Neal Stephenson is a collection of essays, one sentence from a novel that he never finished, and a few short stories. I’m not the typical audience for this book as I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, nor science-y essays. As a result, I read a bit of the most recent essays in the collection, the introduction, and the short fiction pieces, plus the one sentence to the novel. I can say that I see why he never went further with his novel; it wasn’t very attention grabbing for me, but ...more
Jukka Särkijärvi
Some Remarks was, to be honest, a disappointment. As the foreword implies, it feels like it was published because "it's the thing to do" at this point during an author's career to put out a compilation of their shorter works. The result is an uneven mix of interviews, short stories and some essays.

The problem with tech journalism is that it does not age well, and a full third of the volume is taken up by "Mother Board, Mother Earth", a long article about undersea cable. While I figure that the b
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, at-npl, nextatnpl
Reading Mother Earth , Mother Board a longread from 1996 about data cable infrastructure which is at points tedious but i am being rewarded by paragraphs like these

During the 1980s, when Americans started to get freaked out about Japan again, we heard a great deal about Japanese corporations’ patient, long-term approach to R&D and how vastly superior it was to American companies’ stupid, short-term approach. Since American news media are at least as stupid and short-term as the big corporat
Luciano Zorzetto
Aug 13, 2012 rated it liked it
You can read this rather enjoyable collection
- if you're a fan of Mr Stephenson: you'll be curious to hear him ponder about many an issue, mostly technological. Some older material will be meh, some will be well-rounded and pleasant. He talks with an admiration you can feel about the world of the Baroque Cycle; he sheds a light on his vision of science fiction, or rather speculative fiction as he names it one speech. He edited some of the meh stuff because he cares.
- if you're a geek: Mr Stephen
Geoffrey Benn
Jul 21, 2013 rated it liked it
“Some Remarks,” by Neil Stephenson, is a collection of the author’s short writings and interviews. It is also a bit of an odd starting place for someone who has never read a Neil Stephenson novel – collected works generally being what people turn to after having exhausted all of the novels by a particular author. I read this on the recommendation of a friend, who particularly recommended “Mother Earth, Mother Board,” by far the longest essay in the book. I can now pass on that recommendation – “ ...more
My wife asked me what I was reading at one point when I was in the midst of this book, and I said, An essay collection, and then I explained that I was halfway through a 120-page-long piece about fiber optic cable and what's involved with laying it across oceans. That sounded to her like the most boring topic imaginable, but I loved reading about, and mostly because it was written by Neal Stephenson.

He is the supreme leader of finding the fascinating minutiae of technology and conveying his inte
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: collections
An interesting collection of articles, essays, interviews, reviews and short stories showing the range of the author's interests. I enjoyed Stephenson's 'Anathem' which I found reminiscent of 'A Canticle for Leibowitz'. I slogged through 'Cryptonomicon' which I found interesting but less engaging. Some Remarks is eclectic. I found Stephenson's ideas on two main kinds of writers intelligible. The essay on Leibnitz was thoroughly engaging for me -- a geek out experience. I found the series on the ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of some previously published articles by Stephenson, essays, lectures and a few fiction pieces as well.

It's a trek through the Stephenson mind, where one is never sure what's around the corner. He touches on politics, writing, sci fi as mainstream, and the future of literature and publishing. I particularly enjoyed his mini-fascination with an prolonged disagreement between Newton and Leibniz.

One of the longer pieces describes his adventures following several companies busy
Mar 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A fun, mostly unremarkable read. Full of Stephenson's typical deep (deep deep) introspection and ranging in topics: fiction about private currency that sounds astoundingly like Bitcoin; analyses of how historical theories about the nature of the universe hold up to (or are supported by) modern science; a one-sentence story about a serial killer on the loose in Tolkien's Shire; excerpts of interviews; a five page description of the author's epic battles with William Gibson, etc. etc.

His commentar
Regina Nunley
Aug 08, 2012 marked it as to-read
I just saw Mr. Stephenson at Skylight Books in Los Fe, he is a marvelous commentator on our unreal reality and technology and being a (now cool) nerd/geek...I related to his view of people like myself who used to be despised and now are cool, because FINALLY smart is good...plan to read it after I finish plowing through the last 2 novels I purchased to read over the summer...can't wait...he is very astute and hilarious!! I am a teacher, and find I love being read to by talented authors such as h ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-2015
A really lovely collection of essays and short stories. A really nice collection tells its own stories over the course of its pages. Much of the middle of this book is taken up by an epic article, essay, thing?, about laying down undersea cables. Which is a notable and great piece of writing. One forgets that the Internet, and all of these ideas, are grounded in the physical and the messy. That essay pays homage to that.
Ric Glowienka
Aug 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Having read a number of Neil's books, its fun to hear his voice come out in this collection. I learned about Leibniz and Ames Iowa, both of which I knew a little bit about. There is a particularly long section in the middle about the laying of new transcontinental data cables - fiber optic. It's amazing how something so critical to 1990's telecommunications can seem so quaint 20 years later. On to the Baroque Cycle!
Florin Pitea
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A riveting collection of essays, short stories and articles by a very appreciated science fiction writer. From Leibniz's philosophy to telecom cable laying, from interviews to book introductions, from short stories to the role of science fiction in Western civilization, "Some Remarks" covers a variety of issues in a style which is both accessible and entertaining. Recommended.
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Aanrader voor zowel hardcore Stephenson fans als voor wie geinteresseerd is beschouwingen over hedendaagse cultuur. Terechte erkenning voor nerd-ness, echte fans, en al die schrijvers die gewoon kunnen leven van hun werk. Maar voor de meesten net zo buitenbeeld als de tieners die massa's fans op Youtube hebben.
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Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
“Our cultures used to be almost hereditary, but now we choose them from a menu as various as the food court of a suburban shopping mall. Ambition, curiosity, talent, sexuality or religion can draw us to new cities and cultures, where we become foreigners to our parents. Synthetic cultures are nimbler than old ones, often imprudently so. They have scattered so widely that they can no longer hear each other and now some have gone so far afield that they have passed through the apocalypse while the rest of us are watching it on TV.” 4 likes
“The Victorian era was an age of superlatives and larger-than-life characters, and as far as that goes, Dr. Wildman Whitehouse fit right in: what Victoria was to monarchs, Dickens to novelists, Burton to explorers, Robert E. Lee to generals, Dr. Wildman Whitehouse was to assholes. The only 19th-century figure who even comes close to him in this department is Custer.” 3 likes
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