Neal Stephenson is touring in support of his new book of essays, Some Remarks. Last night he was in Toppings in Bath, and I managed to get away from work to see him. (I paid for it later by doing 2 hours work after I got home.)
I don’t think the crowd was quite what Neal was expecting, though the shop was packed, which was good. His chosen reading was from a lecture he gave at Gresham college a few years ago. Basically it eulogizes geekdom. That would have been wonderful at a convention, but the Toppings crowd was not really very geeky. Heck, Stuart Barnes was there. And if that means nothing to you, imagine a Stephenson reading at Borderlands in San Francisco and discovering Steve Young in the audience.
I’m also not sure I agree with Stephenson on this, though I should read the whole speech before forming an opinion. Fans have been describing themselves as Slans for decades, and it hasn’t made them better people.
Anyway, there were questions, most of them were OK if a little basic. I won’t say anything about the woman who opened by saying that she doesn’t read SF and then asked Neal what his least favorite Doctor Who villain was, save to opine that she probably works for a tabloid newspaper.
Stephenson will be in Bristol tonight, where he should get a much geekier crowd. Hopefully he’ll have a better time of it.
Now if only I could work out how Toppings got such a good crowd, and arrange for a repeat at each of their autumn SF events (Iain Banks, Paul Cornell and Peter Hamilton).