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Neal Town Stephenson (born October 31, 1959) is an American writer, known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk genre with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff Bezos) developing a manned sub-orbital launch system.

Born in Fort Meade, Maryland, Stephenson came from a family comprising engineers and hard scientists he dubs "propeller heads". His father is a professor of electrical engineering whose father was a physics professor; his mother worked in a biochemistry laboratory, while her father was a biochemistry professor. Stephenson's family moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1960 and then to Ames, Iowa in 1966 where he graduated from Ames High School in 1977. Stephenson furthered his studies at Boston University. He first specialized in physics, then switched to geography after he found that it would allow him to spend more time on the university mainframe. He graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Geography with a minor in physics. His first novel, The Big U, was published in 1984. The Big U received very little attention when it first came out, and was subsequently out of print until Stephenson allowed it to be reprinted in 2001. Since 1984 Stephenson has lived mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in Seattle with his family.

Stephenson, at least in his earlier novels, deals heavily in pop culture-laden metaphors and imagery, and in quick, hip dialogue, as well as in extended narrative monologues. The tone of his books generally is more irreverent and less self-serious than in previous cyberpunk novels, notably those of William Gibson.

Stephenson's books tend to have elaborate, inventive plots drawing on numerous technological and sociological ideas at the same time. This distinguishes him from other mainstream science fiction authors who tend to focus on a few technological or social changes in isolation from others. This penchant for complexity and detail suggests a baroque writer. His book The Diamond Age features "neo-Victorian" characters and employs Victorian-era literary conceits, and perhaps could be considered as falling into the steampunk genre. In keeping with the baroque style, Stephenson's books have become longer as he has gained recognition. (At least one printing of Cryptonomicon is well over one thousand pages long and the novel contains various digressions, including a lengthy erotic story about antique furniture and stockings.)

Characteristic of his style is the "breakdown in events", typically about three quarters into the novel. This is an acceleration in plot development, accompanied by chaos, confusion, and often violence, and an abrupt ending with no conventional denouement and many loose ends. This pattern holds for all of Stephenson's books, including (when taken as a whole) The Baroque Cycle.

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