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book reading

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Brian Greene in Austin, March 2005

P640 Brian Greene in Austin in March of 2005, promoting his book "The Fabric of The Cosmos".

On March 7, 2005 Brian Greene, a string theorist and author of "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of The Cosmos", gave an interview at a Barnes & Noble in Austin. He was interviewed by Jeff Salomon from Austin-American Statesman and took questions from the audience.

The topics involved: What kind of experiments can possibly verify string theory? How and why would you look for astronomical evidence of strings? Would it make sense to look for confirmation of string theory in the possible violations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? What is Brian Greene's own interpretation of quantum entanglement? What does it mean that space and time are not fundamental? In what sense is space-time analogous to temperature? What's next for physics after TOE? Will there be anything left to do, or will science come to an end? And, umm... does Brian Greene feel a need to reconcile psychic phenomena with the unified physical theory?

The talk also revealed some things you would not immediately think of Brian Greene. By his own admission, he finds physics hard and visualisation helps him enormously to understand physics concepts. That's one reason why he never condescends to his audience. (Another may be that he is simply a nice person.) Also, did you know that Brian Greene's books can cause people to quit drinking and start reading?

Note: I could not hear everything that was said or write it down verbatim, so I paraphrased some places the best I could. Most of them are in angle brackets.

Neil Gaiman at Book People in 2005

CIMG0794 Neil Gaiman signs autographs at Book People in Austin in 2005

On September 25, 2005, Book People, an independent bookstore in Austin, TX, hosted a meeting with Neil Gaiman, a phenomenally popular author. Gaiman read an excerpt from his new novel "Anansi Boys", answered questions and signed books.

Gaiman is so funny it's suspicious. Each of his answers to the audience's questions was like a mini stand-up comedy. He cracks a joke in every other sentence. Can he really improvise that well? Or did his agents plant people in the audience with pre-approved questions? :-)

More pictures from this event can be found in this photo album.

Neal Stephenson in Austin, October 4, 2004

p249 Neal Stephenson at Book People in 2004

On October 4, 2004 Neal Stephenson was at Book People in Austin, TX, where he read an excerpt from his latest book, "The System of the World" (the third and the last one in The Baroque Cycle), gave a talk and signed books. Here are the questions the audience asked him, and his answers:

Q1. How do you your historical research?

Q2. Can you comment briefly on your perception of status of science and philosophy in the current education system?

Q3. Do you have any plans to write more nonfiction?

Q4. What are you reading now?

Q5. The future of metaweb, and is it a good forum to explore how can we get Enlightenment to start again?

Q6. Now that you've been through this process, do you see yourself engaging in the long, long form again?

Q7. You spend that much time just setting the stage for the final conflict. Your prose, your writing style alone is what keeps people coming back. Is that daunting to your publisher?

Q8. When you were here last October, you talked about how you explored history for Cryptonomicon, and the Baroque Cycle. Do you think you reached the end of that?

Q9. Some people are dissatisfied with endings of Neal Stephenson's books...

Q10. Can you talk about Waterhouse and Shaftoe characters, why they appeal to you and why they showed up in the last 4 books?

Q11. I was just wondering if < some author of historical fiction and/or his book> caught your eye while you were writing this.

Q12. Did you develop a lot of material for "Cryptonomicon" and the Baroque Cycle that's not included in the final versions?

Q13. What are your favorite books of all time?

Q14. Are you still a speed metal fan?

Q15. On Neal Stephenson's view of history and how it informs his understanding of current events; and how come current political realities don't play a significant part in his fiction?

Neal Stephenson in Austin, September 25, 2008

P1020202 Neal Stephenson at Book People in Austin, TX in 2008

On September 25, 2008 Neal Stephenson gave a reading from his latest novel Anathem, signed books and answered audience's questions. This is Stephenson's third reading and Q/A at Book People over the last 4 years. Some of the questions haven't changed much from year to year. Are his projects getting bigger and bigger? Is he ever going to write something short? Which is the favorite of the novels he has written? Why does he prefer to do his research in books, as opposed to search engines? Hint: serendipity. Are there new technologies he is excited about? Other questions are new. Does he have any ideas on posthumanism? Has he been making something cool in the workshop lately? Why is Anathem set on an imaginary world, not Earth?

William Gibson in Austin, June 11, 2008

William Gibson at his reading at Barnes & Noble in Austin in 2008

William Gibson gave a reading, answered audience's questions and signed books in Barnes & Noble on June 11, 2008. He started by saying he was glad to be back in Austin, a city that 14 years ago was ground zero for the "so-called" cyberpunk movement. Then the microphone failed. The irony of this happening right before the speech of a writer who pioneered a new attitude towards technology in science fiction did not escape the audience. After a few attempts by B&N staff to fix the microphone, Gibson gave up and said he'll do a reading a capella. "I don't let technology get in my way," he said. "People have been reading books aloud for centuries. I'm gonna do it the way Byron did it, the way Dylan Thomas did it, except sober." And he read part of the first chapter of his latest novel, "Spook Country".

Then Gibson answered audience's questions. A few of those questions were specifically about "Spook Country", and they didn't make much sense without having read the novel. Others were about writing and Gibson's view of the world in general. Here are a few questions and Gibson's answers. Does he consider his works to be dystopian? Does he create his characters deliberately, or do they spontaneously generate themselves? The latter is definitely the case, as in an example of a character that grew out of a white room. Is there really such a cultural phenomenon as cyberpunk? Last, not knowing much about technology can enable a SF writer to see the forest for the trees.

Pictures available in my photo gallery.