07 March 2007

Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson, 1992.

The received wisdom is that Science Fiction has gone a little flat ('soft') financially speaking--that the high prices of yore can no longer be achieved and the collectors are not as plentiful or as acquisitive as before. There are exceptions but fantasy, horror, ghosts, supernatural, occult and weird are altogether now more saleable. There will always be punters for the classics and the highspots,also for the very earliest works especially interplanetary and lost race. We're talking Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century (1873) if you happen have a copy about your person - 3 volumes, anonymous and v uncommon. ( SF ubermeister George Locke calls it 'a speculation of Stapledonian magnitude.')

Today's book has been about the same price for a few years as has that other Cyberpunk classic William Gibson's 'Neuromancer' which is worth a few hundred more than Snow Crash in its yellow Gollancz jacket but is not impossibly scarce.

Neal Stephenson. SNOW CRASH. Bantam, NY 1992.

Current Selling Prices
$850-$1300 / £400-£650

Big hit SF novel from the early 1990s, computers, hacking, cyberpunk pre or ur internet. Stephenson wrote that the title of the novel comes from a term for a particular software failure mode on the early Apple Macintosh computer"when the computer crashed and wrote gibberish into the bitmap, the result was something that looked vaguely like static on a broken television set — a 'snow crash.' " The book made Time Magazine’s 100 All-Time Best Novels list.

The plot is neatly summed up at Amazon thus (note the Mafia connection with yesterday's book):
From the opening line of his breakthrough cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson plunges the reader into a not-too-distant future. It is a world where the Mafia controls pizza delivery, the United States exists as a patchwork of corporate-franchise city-states, and the Internet--incarnate as the Metaverse--looks something like last year's hype would lead you to believe it should. Enter Hiro Protagonist--hacker, samurai swordsman, and pizza-delivery driver. When his best friend fries his brain on a new designer drug called Snow Crash and his beautiful, brainy ex-girlfriend asks for his help, what's a guy with a name like that to do? He rushes to the rescue. A breakneck-paced 21st-century novel, Snow Crash interweaves everything from Sumerian myth to visions of a postmodern civilization on the brink of collapse. Faster than the speed of television and a whole lot more fun, Snow Crash is the portrayal of a future that is bizarre enough to be plausible.

Not a common book in collectable state. Only 600 copies were produced and as always most went to libraries and there are quite a few ex lib copies being offered to bear this out. It has a blurb quote by William Gibson on the front jacket panel and one by Timothy Leary on the rear panel. It should have the price on the dust jacket of $22.00 and the number line on the copyright page from 9 to 1.The spine is lettered in silver.

The equivalent of the internet in the book is the 'Metaverse' said to have been an influence on the founding of Google Earth; the other geek influence is the trivial fact that the top exec (not Bill G) at Microsoft uses Hiro Protagonist as his gaming name. Slightly hard to believe the geezer has time for it.

VALUE? A copy at PBA Galleries made circa $700 last year, described thus: 'Light edge wear overall; some short wrinkles and two short edge tears to jacket, other slight wear; near fine in a very good jacket.' Copies on web at $800 to $1400 in slightly better condition, the dearer ones signed.

Lastly a company called Second Life has announced they’re bringing the metaverse back home, so to speak, by working with publisher Penguin to create a virtual version of Snow Crash. Their last job was to bring Duran, Duran into the virtual world...another world to me, I had thought all this virtual stuff was a tad vieux jeu but it seems it never went away. [ Want level 25-50 Highish ]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As an interesting (frightening) side note: the people at secondlife.com are dedicated to bringing Stephenson’s Metaverse to “life”--and they seem to be succeeding. Also, Gibson tells a great anecdote about a German hacker who stood up in court (he and his gang were on trial for conducting industrial espionage while being paid in hard drugs) and told the judge he’d never understand them unless he read ‘Neuromancer’, and then sat back down and didn’t speak again. Nothing like cyberpunk to cause ripples of life-imitates-art-imitates-life.

Also as a slightly more relevant note, Gibson’s world in ‘Neuromancer’ was inspired by Ridley Scott’s film ‘Alien’--not ‘Blade Runner’ as most people think, that film coming out just after Gibson had finished writing Neuromancer but published around the same time. The first time Scott and Gibson met, they both realized that they shared a common inspiration: a short comic piece published in ‘Metal Hurlant’ in 1976 and ‘Heavy Metal’ in 1977 called “The Long Tomorrow”, by Dan O’Bannon and Moebius (both of whom worked on Alien), which featured a hard-boiled detective in a futuristic setting. So, in as much as cyberpunk owes a debt to writers like Burroughs, Lem and Ballard, it owes a debt to a single work by Dan O’Bannon and Moebius.