Neal Stephenson Interview in Salon

There is an extensive interview with Neal Stephenson in Salon, which you can get to if you watch a long advertisement. I think one of the things that makes Stephenson such a great writer is that he truly tries to understand his subject matter before he writes, especially how things work and how people form their worldviews. You can't explain cryptography, life in cyberspace, banking, the scientific revolution, the birth of liberal philosophy, or data havens to the average reader through a fictional device unless you really understand the details yourself. You can't defend Victorians and Puritans unless you ask yourself, "Why do people hold the Victorians in such low esteem?" and "Why does the word 'puritan' have such negative connotations today?"

[via Instapundit]

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Well, that's all very well,

Well, that's all very well, but it isn't literature.

I havn't read any Stephenson, but this didactic approach is one of the reasons I avoid written SF now. Literature isn't about teaching lessons or defending political positions, although that can happen as a secondary goal. Literature is Art, and Art is about affording wretched mortal men a glimpse of the Transcendent. That's all.

Stephenson is among the

Stephenson is among the least didactic sf writers I've read.

I read sf for its exploration of ideas; I consider that art.