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The Quicksilver Metaweb

Neal Stephenson: “Superficially, this site looks like a set of FAQs about a novel that I wrote entitled Quicksilver. As time goes on, we hope that it will develop into something a little more than that. We don’t know how it will come out. It’s an experiment.

Why put the information on such a complicated system, when a simple FAQ is easier? Because we are hoping that the annotations of the book on this site will seed a body of knowledge called the Metaweb, which will eventually be something more generally useful than a list of FAQs about one and only one novel. The idea of the Metaweb was originated by Danny Hillis.”

Having just finished reading Quicksilver (FmH readers will have noted my references to it during the past few months), I found myself reluctant to return* from an immersion in late 17th century European politics, science and philosophy. Because of Stephenson’s erudition (about nearly everything), the length of the book did not make it at all ponderous, despite the fact that much of the plotting is less than compelling and things are left unsatisfyingly unresolved for the main characters (of course, as it is the first volume of a projected ‘Baroque trilogy’). From a review:

The weight of Quicksilver, just less than four pounds, is a jail. Deep inside the 900 pages of Neal Stephenson’s vast new novel can be discerned, pacing the prison yard, a small slim underlit curtain-raiser of a tale whose task it is to warm us up for the real performance to come, the massive drama Stephenson is presumably planning to unfold in stages two and three of what he is calling The Baroque Cycle.



*Does anyone have any recommendations of good historical fiction set in 17th century Europe? Has anyone read Dark Matter, by the (underrated? under-performing?) novelist Philip Kerr?

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Plan to Hit Iraq Began Pre-9/11

Paul O’Neill is one disgruntled former employee, to be sure!

“Former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill charged in remarks released Saturday that President Bush began planning to oust Saddam Hussein within days of taking office and before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Providing firsthand testimony bolstering a longtime contention of White House critics, O’Neill told Lesley Stahl of CBS News for a segment to be broadcast on ’60 Minutes’ Sunday night that preparations to oust Hussein long predated Bush’s articulation of his preemption doctrine in June 2002, when he said the United States must strike looming enemies before the worst threats emerge.” —Washington Post

It is not his contentions that are surprising — I have long believed that the dysadministration was looking for a pretext to go into Iraq from the time they took power — but his gutsiness in spilling the beans. I will be curious to see what is unleashed upon him, in the way of character assassination or worse, in response.

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Jeb Stymied in Precedent-Setting Florida Court Ruling

No Guardian for a Fetus: “A Florida appeals court panel ruled on Friday that the state could not appoint a guardian for the fetus of a retarded rape victim, dismissing what civil-liberties groups complained was an attack by Gov. Jeb Bush against abortion rights.


The ruling does not affect the woman because she gave birth in August. But lawyers who fought the state’s effort said the decision would have a far-reaching impact, because it would keep the state from establishing legal protection for fetuses in the future.” —New York Times

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The Quicksilver Metaweb

Neal Stephenson: “Superficially, this site looks like a set of FAQs about a novel that I wrote entitled Quicksilver. As time goes on, we hope that it will develop into something a little more than that. We don’t know how it will come out. It’s an experiment.

Why put the information on such a complicated system, when a simple FAQ is easier? Because we are hoping that the annotations of the book on this site will seed a body of knowledge called the Metaweb, which will eventually be something more generally useful than a list of FAQs about one and only one novel. The idea of the Metaweb was originated by Danny Hillis.”

Having just finished reading Quicksilver (FmH readers will have noted my references to it during the past few months), I found myself reluctant to return* from an immersion in late 17th century European politics, science and philosophy. Because of Stephenson’s erudition (about nearly everything), the length of the book did not make it at all ponderous, despite the fact that much of the plotting is less than compelling and things are left unsatisfyingly unresolved for the main characters (of course, as it is the first volume of a projected ‘Baroque trilogy’). From a review:

The weight of Quicksilver, just less than four pounds, is a jail. Deep inside the 900 pages of Neal Stephenson’s vast new novel can be discerned, pacing the prison yard, a small slim underlit curtain-raiser of a tale whose task it is to warm us up for the real performance to come, the massive drama Stephenson is presumably planning to unfold in stages two and three of what he is calling The Baroque Cycle.



*Does anyone have any recommendations of good historical fiction set in 17th century Europe? Has anyone read Dark Matter, by the (underrated? under-performing?) novelist Philip Kerr?