The bald fella with the big facial hair is Neal Stephenson, author of many wonderful books including Cryptonomicon – my freshly-signed copy of which he is holding – and Anathem, which is his latest book. He was at Schuler Books and Music on 28th Street yesterday for a reading and Q-and-A session. He was very personable, if quite tired-out from the book tour, which has taken him all over the country in a fairly short amount of time.
During QA, I asked him what he thought the next Age might be, in the context of the ages he described in his early novel, Interface (A run-down of those ages is here). He got a funny look on his face and said “You’re asking me to predict the future.” Then he went on to opine that people nowadays seemed to be increasingly afraid of anything of significant complexity, and they were looking for simpler lives. One way they (we) are doing this is to latch onto people with powerful personalities and let them lead the complicated lives while we follow safely in their wakes. This is an observation toward which I will need to direct some significant thought.
After I finish reading Anathem.