SF & Fantasy

25 Years of Spectra: SNOW CRASH (1992) by Neal Stephenson


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I really love almost all the books on this list, but 1992 could very easily be my favorite year as far as the novels we’re featuring. Because in addition to Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book, 1992 was also the year Spectra published one of my very favorites: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
(Also, FYI: I was 11 in 1992–in case you were wondering).
While there’s so much to like, such as the hilariously named Hiro Protagonist and the amazing opening pizza-delivery scene, I think the thing that always strikes me is how Stephenson popularized the use of the term “avatar” as we use it today to describe our on-line representations.
I mean, how cool is that?
After the jump, read what Neal’s editor for this book, Jennifer Hershey, remembers what it was like to work on Snow Crash. I find the fact that this was the first book she acquired makes me insanely jealous, and yet also really happy I get to work with her.



Snow Crash was the first book I acquired as a young editor just starting out–just someone’s assistant still, in fact–so every aspect of buying and publishing it is still vivid to me almost twenty years later. It was submitted to my boss, Lou Aronica, who asked me to read it for him. I took the manuscript home over the weekend and was so excited while I was reading that I think I was literally vibrating… the writer was so smart–such an obvious polymath! The novel contained references to stuff like Sumerian mythology and The Origin of the Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind… and yet he had a sense of humor as well, with characters called Hiro Protagonist and Yours Truly. Amusingly, I was not cool enough at the time to get some of the references–for example, what is this music, Grunge? I assumed it was just some new genre that he’d invented for his science fictional world–I had no idea it was a real thing until some time later.

Lou was one of the most generous and supportive people I’ve ever worked with. When I came in that Monday morning overflowing with enthusiasm, I’m sure that most managers would have chalked it up to a tendency of young editors to get excited about almost everything that crosses their desks. But he let me make the offer and the offer was accepted. And then I was overcome with first a sense of fear at the awesome responsibility with which I’d been entrusted, and such a determination to share this book that I loved with the world, that I would have done just about anything to make people pay attention. I’m sure poor Neal Stephenson was quite taken aback by my youth and giddy enthusiasm.

So many other people fell in love with the book in the ensuing months and years… but I was always so grateful to Lou for letting me buy it and to Neal for letting us publish it, and it remains one of my absolute favorite books I’ve ever worked on.


–Jennifer Hershey, former Spectra Editor and current SVP, Editor-in-Chief of Ballantine Bantam Dell

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One Response to “25 Years of Spectra: SNOW CRASH (1992) by Neal Stephenson”

  1. Lianne says:

    When this book first came out, I walked into my favorite SF store (the late, lamented, Ottawa store “The House of SF”). I saw the book on the shelf and thought ‘nice cover’, but the clerk said “Lianne, listen to this!” and started reading the first pages. By the end of the first page I was picking up the trade paperback, and by the time she got to the end of the second page, I was grabbing the hardcover.
    I still have that first edition hardcover, and nothing is getting me to let it go.

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