Degrees of Separation

For some reason lost in the fog of weblandia, I get The New York Times, “The Morning” delivered to my email.  By carefully not clicking the links I can get my day’s worth of fear and paranoia for free.  Not all the news is bad, of course, and I’d be glad to pay if circumstances had been different.  After giving all the sorrow that’s fit to print, “The Morning” ends with an Arts and Ideas section.  By then I’m usually cradling my head in my hands but I look up to see the positive side of humanity.  The other day the article on the Metaverse included this line: “In its simplest form, the term — coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash’ — describes an online universe that people can share together…” and I realized probably the closest I’ll ever get to the Gray Lady.

I am, as many of my regular readers know, Neal’s brother-in-law.  He mentions me in the acknowledgements to Snow Crash, something that was discovered by someone at work fairly recently, and which probably did more for my stature than my many long hours daily.  When it comes to degrees of separation, fate, I suppose, plays a role worthy of the Joker.  Neal hadn’t written Snow Crash yet when I met his sister.  Her somewhat unlikely friendship with me eventually led to our marriage and it was in the context of a family gathering that the conversation Neal mentions in Snow Crash took place.  Outside publishing, and in particular academic publishing, acknowledgements are seldom read.  I always read them, though, looking for unusual connections.  I’m often rewarded for doing so.

Asherah was, unbeknownst to me at the time, undergoing a resurgence of interest.  My Edinburgh dissertation was published the same year as a more prominent one by Cambridge University Press.  Just a year later, another came out.  Then another.  The internet was really an infant in those days and we learned of such things through printed resources and printed resources are always in arrears by months, if not years.  Of the many Asherah books mine had the distinction of being the most expensive.  Some things never change, I guess.  Suffice it to say, Asherah was on my mind as Neal and I drove to the store to pick up some baby supplies.  I had nothing to do with his coining the word or idea “Metaverse”—he’d already worked that out.  It was Asherah that ended up in the novel.  I was on my way to a short-lived romance with academia at the time.  Family, however, is so much more than degrees of separation.

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