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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Neal Stephenson and Robert Anton Wilson

I tend to think of Neal Stephenson as the most important libertarian writer to emerge since Robert Anton Wilson. I mean libertarian in a broad sense, not "I pledge allegiance to Ayn Rand."

Perhaps that's a connection that exists only in my own mind, but there is an interesting parallel between the two that I though I might mention.

ILLUMINATUS! was Robert Anton Wilson's breakthrough novel. Later, he wrote the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, which features characters who are apparently the ancestors of the characters in ILLUMINATUS -- Sigismundo Celine, for example, is the apparent ancestor of Hagbard Celine, and there are other names who fans of ILLUMINATUS will recognize.

Cryptonomicon was Stephenson's breakthrough novel. It's one of my all-time favorite novels. And Stephenson went on to write a series of historical novels, the Baroque Cycle, set in Europe a few decades before the time of Historical Illuminatus, which features the ancestors of the characters in ILLUMINATUS! — Daniel Waterhouse, for example, is the ancestor of Lawrence Waterhouse and Randy Waterhouse.

In the case of both writers, the device helps tie different works together, and the earlier protagonists help illuminate the characters of the books in the more modern setting.

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