There's a "Jipi and the paranoid chip" story from 1997 that supposedly takes place in the same universe.
Are we allowed to run over people?” Private Wiley inquires, and then mashes the horn button before Bobby Shaftoe can answer
So ten minutes before closing time on Friday afternoon, the doors of many banks burst open and numerous pairs of coolies march in singing, like the curtain-raiser on a fucking Broadway musical, slam their huge boxes of tattered currency down, and demand silver in exchange. All of the banks do this to each other
This ain’t just your regular Friday P.M. Shanghai bank-district money-rush. This is an ultimate settling of accounts before the whole Eastern Hemisphere catches fire
Shaftoe peers up through a blizzard of notes and sees giant bamboo poles soaring and bounding and windmilling toward the waterfront
Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife of a Congregational preacher named Bunyan Waterhouse
Godfrey’s young bride, nee Alice Pritchard, who had grown up following her itinerant-preacher father across the vastnesses of eastern Montana–where air smelt of snow and sage–threw up for three months. Six months later she gave birth to Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse
One noise that troubled him not at all was the pipe organ in the chapel at Bolger Christian College
He was in poor health and required a nimble assistant: Lawrence, who helped him open up the hood of the thing. For the first time in all those years, the boy saw what had been happening when he had been pressing those keys
When Lawrence understood, it was as if the math teacher had suddenly played the good part of JsBach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor on a pipe organ the size of the Spiral Nebula in Andromeda–the
*At this point, all of the responsible adults in Lawrence’s life seemed to arrive at a tacit agreement that the best way to raise him–certainly the easiest–was to leave him alone. *
*The basic problem for Lawrence was that he was lazy. He had figured out that everything was much simpler if, like Superman with his X-ray vision, you just stared through the cosmetic distractions and saw the underlying mathematical *
From time to time, though, he would perform some stunt on the blackboard that would leave his professor weak in the knees and the other students baffled and hostile
Lawrence was awarded an obscure scholarship, endowed by a St. Paul oat-processing heir, whose purpose was to send Midwestern Congregationalists to the Ivy League for one year, which (evidently) was deemed a long enough period of time to raise their IQs by a few crucial points but not long enough to debauch them. So Lawrence got to be a sophomore in Princeton.
Unfortunately, Lawrence was unable to interest anyone at Fine Hall in anything as prosaic as gears, until all of a sudden he made friends with an energetic British fellow, whose name he promptly forgot, but who had been doing a lot of literal sprocket-making himself lately
But Al had been thinking about this subject for longer than Lawrence, and had figured out that computing machines were much more than just labor-saving devices. He’d been working on a radically different sort of computing mechanism that would work out any arithmetic problem whatsoever, as long as you knew how to write the problem down
But on their next bicycle ride–an overnight camping trip to the Pine Barrens–they were joined by a new fellow, a German named Rudy von something-or-other
It got Lawrence to thinking. From an evolution standpoint, what was the point of having people around who were not inclined to have offspring? There must be some good, and fairly subtle, reason for it.
Alan said, “Look, it’s like this: Bertrand Russell and another chap named Whitehead wrote Principia Mathematica
What came out of P.M., which was terrifically radical, was the ability to say that all of math, really, can be expressed as a certain ordering of symbols.”
“Leibniz said it a long time before zen!” protested Rudy
Leibniz invented ze basic alphabet–wrote down a set of symbols, for expressing statements about logic.”
“Well, I wasn’t aware that Herr Leibniz counted formal logic among his interests, but–“
“Of course! He wanted to do what Russell and Whitehead did, except not just with mathematics, but with everything in ze whole world!”
I was actually thinking of Gödel.”
Riemann showed you could have many many different geometries that were not the geometry of Euclid but that still made sense internally,” Rudy explained
It appeared that way, Lawrence, but this raised the question of was mathematics really true or was it just a game played with symbols? In other words–are we discovering Truth, or just wanking?”
Then he showed, really through a very simple argument, that if formulas really can refer to themselves, it’s possible to write one down saying ‘this statement cannot be proved.’ Which was tremendously startling to Hilbert and everyone else, who expected the opposite result
“It’s me,” Alan said. “But Rudy’s joking. ‘Turing’ doesn’t really have an umlaut in it
Your machine–not the zeta-function calculator, but the other one. The one we’ve been talking about building–“
“It is called Universal Turing Machine,” Rudy said.
“The whole point of that gizmo is to separate provable from nonprovable statements, isn’t it?”
He could not collect his thoughts, and then he was distracted by a false sunrise that lit up the clouds off to the northeast
he was dazzled by a low fence of quiet steady flames that ran across a part of the horizon
Looking off to the sides was more interesting anyway: the table-land was marked at wide intervals by the largest buildings he had ever seen, cracker-box structures built by Pharaohs, and in the mile-wide plazas between them, gnomons of triangulated steel were planted in wide stances: the internal skeletons of pyramids. The largest of these pierced the center of a perfectly circular railway line a few hundred feet in diameter: two argent curves scored on the dull ground, interrupted in one place where the tower’s shadow, a stopped sundial
Did you solve the problem?” Alan asked him.
“Well you can turn that Universal Turing Machine of yours into any machine by changing the presets–
So I guess there’s some point in being human after all!”
Alan looked pleased until Lawrence said this last thing, and then his face collapsed. “Now there you go making unwarranted assumptions.”
“Don’t listen to him, Lawrence!” Rudy said. “He’s going to tell you that our brains are Turing machines.”
Soon, Alan got his Ph.D. and went back to England. He wrote Lawrence a couple of letters
He walked straight out of college into the waiting arms of the Navy
They gave him an Intelligence Test
Lawrence immediately saw that it was a trick question. You would have to be some kind of idiot to make the facile assumption that the current would add or subtract 5 miles per hour to or from the speed of the boat
Then the time bell rang and the papers were collected. Lawrence managed to hang onto his scratch paper. He took it back to his dorm, typed it up, and mailed it to one of the more approachable math professors at Princeton, who promptly arranged for it to be published in a Parisian mathematics journal
The ship had a band, and the Navy had given Lawrence the job of playing the glockenspiel in it, because their testing procedures had proven that he was not intelligent enough to do anything else
“I have a fingerprint for you,” Randy says.
Randy stares at the palm of his hand, on which he has written a string of numbers and letters in ballpoint pen. “AF 10 06 E9 99 BA 11 07 64 C1 89 E3 40 8C 72 55.”
“Got it,” Avi says. “That’s from Ordo, right?”
But Intramuros was annihilated by the Nipponese in 1945,” Avi continues. “Systematically. All of the business hotels and office buildings are in a new neighborhood called Makati, much closer to the airport.”
“So you want to put our office in Intramuros
You want to work out of Intramuros because it was systematically annihilated, and because you’re obsessed with the Holocaust,” Randy finally says, quietly and without rancor.
“Yeah. So?” Avi says
Randy fires up a piece of software that is technically called Novus Ordo Seclorum but that everyone calls Ordo for short. It is a fairly strained pun based on the fact that Ordo’s job, as a piece of cryptographic software, is to put a message’s bits in a New Order and that it will take Centuries for nosy governments to decrypt it
The subject heading of Avi’s first message is: “Guideline 1.”
We look for places where the math is right. Meaning what? Meaning that pop. is about to explode—we can predict that just by looking at age histogram—and per capita income is about to take off the way it did in Nippon, Taiwan, Singapore. Multiply those two things together and you get the kind of Exponential Growth that should get us all into Fuck You Money before we turn forty
The second message, sent a couple of hours later, is called “Guideline 2.”
Two: pick a tech where no one can compete with us. Right now, that=networking. We’re kicking the crap out of everyone else in the world when it comes to networking
Another principle: this time we retain control of the corporation. That means that we keep at least fifty percent of the shares—which means little to no outside investment until we’ve built up some value.
“You don’t have to convince me,” Randy mumbles to himself as he reads this.
This shapes the kinds of businesses we can get into. Forget anything that requires a big initial investment.
He is in Manila. He takes his passport out of his shirt pocket. It says,
RANDALL LAWRENCE WATERHOUSE
This is how Epiphyte Corporation came into existence:
“I am channeling the bad shit!” Avi said.
The number came through on Randy’s pager while he was sitting around a table in a grubhouse along the coast with his girlfriend’s crowd
Buy a ticket to Manila,” Avi said.
“I have to talk it over with Charlene first,” Randy said.
“You don’t even believe that yourself,” Avi said
“At Manila, they have a whole lane just for returning OCWs!”
Both of them knew that this was complete bullshit; Avi was a family man and had no firsthand experience whereof he spoke. Randy didn’t call him on it, though. As long as Avi retained this extemporaneous bullshitting ability there was a better than even chance of all of them making Fuck You Money
See? The Philippines is innately hedged,” Avi said. ‘You know how rare that is? When you find an innately hedged environment, Randy, you lunge into it like a rabid ferret going into a pipe full of raw meat
As long as the Philippines don’t have their shit together, there’ll be plenty of OCWs. They will want to communicate with their families–the
As long as that’s the case, there will be a big market for Pinoy-grams
But if the Filipinos do get their shit together, then we see explosive growth in telecoms, as in any other Arday
Charlene heard him, and glowered. Randy was still thinking about innate ferocity, and did not see it in her face; only a schoolmarmishness common among all of her friends. My god! I have to get out of California, he realized
He thinks that he has never seen, and will never see, anything as terrible as those stone-faced Chinese women holding their white babies, not even blinking as the firecrackers explode all around them.
Until, that is, he looks into the faces of certain Marines who stare into that crowd and see their own faces looking back at them, pudgy with baby fat and streaked with tears. Some of them seem to think it’s all a joke. But many of the Marines who march out of their empty barracks that morning sane and solid men, have, by the time they reach the gunboats waiting for them at the Bund, gone mad
Shaftoe scans the group looking for someone tall and bulky, and picks him out easily. Goto Dengo’s waving to him
The Last Patrol had been a wild trip. But it was over and they were back in Shanghai now, the safest place you could be in China, and about a hundred times more dangerous than the most dangerous place you could be in America
It had to be some kind of optical illusion. The fish must have been precooked in the back room
One of his buddies, Rhodes from Shreveport, noticed him looking. He dared Shaftoe to go in there and sit down at that bar. Then another private, Gowicki from Pittsburgh, double-dared him
A cluster of them, back in one corner, were paying attention to one fellow who was apparently telling a joke or story
When Shaftoe stepped over the threshold of that Nip restaurant, he passed into the realm of legend
But Shaftoe had seized the initiative before the others could do any such thing and gone in by himself as a sniper scout was supposed to do. It was not just because be was a sniper scout, though. It was also because he was Bobby Shaftoe, and he was sincerely curious about this place, and if he could, he wanted to spend a few calm minutes in here and learn a few things about it before the fun started
He was reading poetry! Shaftoe had no idea what he was saying, but he could tell, by the sound of it, that it must be poetry. Didn’t rhyme though. But the Nips did everything queerly
Shaftoe had been trained to eat insects, and to bite the heads off chickens, so he figured he could handle this. He picked the morsels up in his fingers, just like the Nips were doing, and ate them. They were good
For perhaps ten seconds, between the taste of the fish and the sound of the poetry, he actually felt comfortable here, and forgot that he was merely instigating a vicious racial brawl
Shaftoe wasn’t a boxer. He was a wrestler. This was to his advantage. The other Marines would put up their dukes and try to fight it out–Marquis of Queensberry style–no match for chop-socky
Shaftoe found himself going up against an opponent who was at least as tall as he was, which was unusual. This one had a solid build, too. Not like a sumo wrestler. More like a football player–a lineman, with a bit of a gut. He was a strong S.O.B. and Shaftoe knew right away that he was in for a real scrape. The guy had a different style of wrestling from the American, w
He ended up lying on the sidewalk, helpless and paralyzed, staring up into the chubby face of his opponent. This was (he realized) the same guy who’d been sitting in the corner of the restaurant reading poetry. He was a good wrestler for a poet. Or maybe vice versa
and so, for the small cost of a few broken ribs and digits, Bobby Shaftoe got a preliminary course in the particular type of chop-socky favored by Goto Dengo, which is called judo
In return, Shaftoe taught Goto Dengo how not to throw like a girl
A disciplinary proceeding is hastily called. Shaftoe is found guilty of being courteous (by shining Frick’s boots) and defending the life of a Marine (himself) from a crazed attacker
Manila, the Pearl of the Orient, early on a Sunday evening, the 7th of December, 1941
So. Glory has decided to play this one by the book. The Pascuals have been alerted. A few hours of socializing now stand between Bobby Shaftoe and his girl. But a Marine is never fazed by such setbacks
The extraction of Glory from the Pascual residence was a simple matter for a highly motivated China Marine and a squadron of saucy nursing students
Look down,” Glory says, and taps one miniature foot against the first tread of the staircase. It is a single great big huge slab of granite
Sirens are blowing somewhere
“It’s war, baby,” he says.
Enter Randall Lawrence Waterhouse, in a turquoise polo shirt embroidered with the logo of one of the bankrupt high-tech companies that he and Avi have founded, and relaxed-fit blue jeans held up with suspenders, and bulky athletic shoes that once were white
As soon as he got through the formalities at the airport, he perceived that the Philippines are, like Mexico, one of those countries where Shoes Matter
Randy never really believes he’s in a different country until he sees something like Intramuros, and then he has to stand there like an idiot for a long time, ruminating
Avi’s telephone call, some eighty hours ago, arrived in the middle of a major interdisciplinary conference called “The Intermediate Phase (1939-45) of the Global Hegemony Struggle
They stumbled in from Heidelberg and Paris and Berkeley and Boston, then sat around Randy and Charlene’s kitchen table drinking coffee and talking at great length about the Spectacle. Randy inferred that the Spectacle meant the poster furor, but as they went on and on about it, he sensed that they were using the word not in a conventional sense but as part of some academic jargon; that it carried a heavy load of shadings and connotations to them, none of which Randy would ever understand unless he became one of them
Randy had spent a lot of time around these people, and thought he’d gotten used to them, but during those days he had a headache all the time, from clenching his teeth, and he kept jumping to his feet in the middle of meals or conversations and going out for solitary walks
Randy used to be fascinated by software, but now he isn’t. It’s hard enough to find human beings who are interesting
So encryption is definitely a good idea. The question is: how much paranoia is really appropriate?
Avi sent him encrypted e-mail:
When you get to Manila t would like you to generate a 4O96 bit key pair and keep it on a floppy disk that you carry on your person at all times
He has pointed out to Avi, in an encrypted e-mail message, that if every particle of matter in the universe could be used to construct one single cosmic supercomputer, and this computer was put to work trying to break a 4096-bit encryption key, it would take longer than the lifespan of the universe
How long do you want these messages to remain secret?” Randy asked, in his last message before leaving San Francisco. “Five years? Ten years? Twenty-five years?”
After he got to the hotel this afternoon, Randy decrypted and read Avi’s answer. It is still hanging in front of his eyes, like the afterimage of a strobe:
I want them to remain secret for as long as men are capable of evil
A knowledgeable government eavesdropper, noting Randy’s and Avi’s use of a 4096-bit key, will conclude one of the following:
–Avi doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This can be ruled out with a bit of research into his past accomplishments. Or,
–Avi is clinically paranoid. This can also be ruled out with some research. Or,
–Avi is extremely optimistic about the future development of computer technology, or pessimistic about the political climate, or both. Or,
–Avi has a planning horizon that extends over a period of at least a century
It feels bizarrely right. He has not felt this way since Avi and he founded their first doomed business venture twelve years ago
Randy grew up in a college town in eastern Washington State, graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle, and landed a Clerk Typist II job at the library
The ILL office (as Randy and his coworkers affectionately called it) had its regulars–people who had a whole lot of peculiar books on their wish lists. These people tended to be either tedious or scary or both. Randy always ended up dealing with the “both” subgroup, because Randy was the only Clerk Typist in the office who was not a lifer
By the standards of many, Randy was himself a tedious, scary, obsessed character. He was not merely obsessed with science but also with fantasy role-playing games
He was part of a group that would meet every Friday night and play until sometime on Sunday. The other stalwarts in the group were a computer science/music double major named Chester, and a history grad student named Avi
When a new master’s degree candidate named Andrew Loeb walked into the ILL office one day, with a certain glint in his eye, and produced a three-inch-thick stack of precisely typed request forms from his shitty old knapsack, he was recognized immediately as being of a particular type
Andy Loeb’s project was to figure out the energy budgets of the local Indian tribes
*To Andrew Loeb it was an exercise in meta-historical scholarship. To Randy Waterhouse, it sounded like the beginnings of a pretty cool game. Strangle a muskrat and you get 136 Energy Points. *
In order to run a realistic fantasy role-playing game, you had to keep track of how much food the imaginary characters were getting and how much trouble was involved in getting it
His life had changed when Charlene had come along, and now it changed more: he dropped out of the fantasy role-playing game circuit altogether, stopped going to meetings of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and began to spend all of his free time either with Charlene or in front of a computer terminal
And at the computer, he was learning new skills, and he was creating something. It might be something completely useless, but at least he was creating
Anyway, Randy finished his software after a year and a half. It was a success; Chester and Avi liked it. Randy was moderately pleased at having built something so complicated that actually worked, but he bad no illusions about its being good for anything
Not long after this, Avi graduated and disappeared, and popped up a few months later in Minneapolis, where he had gotten a job with a major publisher of fantasy role-playing games. He offered to buy Randy’s game software for the astonishingly large sum of $1000
Andrew, who was the son of a lawyer, treated it as if it were a major corporate merger, and asked many tedious and niggling questions about the contract, which did not exist yet and which would probably cover a single piece of paper when it did. Randy didn’t realize it at the time, but by asking so many questions for which Randy had no answers, Andrew was, in effect, arrogating to himself the role of Business Manager. He was implicitly forming a business partnership with Randy that did not, in fact, exist.
By the time Randy extricated himself from this conversation, his mind was reeling. He had gone in with one view of reality and been radically challenged by another one that was clearly preposterous; but after an hour of Andrew’s browbeating he was beginning to doubt himself. After two or three sleepless nights, he decided to call the whole thing off. A paltry few hundred dollars wasn’t worth all of this agony.
He had, he now realized, blundered into some serious domestic weirdness involving Andrew’s family. It
Later, he was to decide that Andrew’s life had been fractally weird
In the end, just to cut his losses and get out of it clean, Randy had to hire a lawyer of his own. The final cost to him was a hair more than five thousand dollars. T
When it was all over, Avi sent him a handwritten letter saying, “I enjoyed doing business with you and look forward to continuing our relationship both as friends and, should opportunities arise, as creative partners
Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse and the rest of the band are up on the deck of the Nevada one morning, playing the national anthem and watching the Stars and Stripes ratchet up the mast, when they are startled to find themselves in the midst of one hundred and ninety airplanes of unfamiliar design
Lawrence is able to look into the eyes of the pilot of one of the planes. He notes that it appears to be some sort of Asian gentleman.
This is an incredibly realistic training exercise–even down to the point of using ethnically correct pilots, and detonating fake explosives on the ships. Lawrence heartily approves. Things have just been too lax around this place.
He has gone back to his earlier train of thought regarding societies and their efforts to outdo each other. It is very clear to him, as wave after wave of Nipponese dive bombers hurl themselves, with calligraphic precision, at the ship he is standing on, and as the cream of his society’s navy burns and explodes and sinks, putting up virtually no resistance, that his society is going to have to rethink a thing or two
Waterhouse and his bandmates receive orders assigning them to what would appear to be one of the typing-and-filing branches of the Navy.
Reading from a notebook, he writes out the following in block letters
Around the time that the fourth or fifth number is going up on the chalkboard, Waterhouse feels the hairs standing up on the back of his neck
There’s some talk about an English fellow name of Wilkins, and book called Cryptonomicon that he wrote hundreds of years ago
Within a couple of months he is actually writing new chapters of the Cryptonomicon. People speak of it as though it were a book, but it’s not. It is basically a compilation of all of the papers and notes that have drifted up in a particular corner of Commander Schoen’s office over the roughly two-year period that he’s been situated at Station Hypo, as this place is called
Waterhouse is the first guy to come along who is good enough to (at first) point out errors in what Schoen has written, and (soon) assemble the contents of the pile into something like an orderly work, and (eventually) add original material onto it
The machine perfectly decrypted every Indigo message that the intercept stations picked up, and was, therefore, necessarily an exact functional duplication of the Nipponese Indigo code machine, though neither Schoen nor any other American had ever laid eyes on one
Waterhouse’s security clearance is upgraded about once a month, until it reaches the highest conceivable level (or so he thinks) which is Ultra/Magic. Ultra is what the Brits call the intelligence they get from having broken the German Enigma machine. Magic is what the Yanks call the intelligence they get from Indigo
Something bothers him. He has learned that when something bothers him in this particular way it usually leads to his writing a new paper. But first he has to do a lot of hard mental pick-and-shovel work
Though a member of the U.S. Navy, he is even to be provided with an extra uniform–an Army uniform–in case it simplifies matters for him
The one thing he must never, ever do is place himself in a situation where he could be captured by the enemy. In this sense, the war is suddenly over for Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse
Randy Waterhouse is in merely decent physical condition. His doctor ritualistically tells him that he could lose twenty pounds, but it’s not obvious where that twenty pounds would actually come from–he
One evening when Avi and his family had been over for dinner, Randy had said, “I’m the beard, Avi’s the suit,” as a way of explaining their business relationship, and from that point Charlene had been off and running. Charlene has recently finished a scholarly article, deconstructing beards
The ability to grow heavy, full beards as a matter of choice appears to be a privilege accorded by nature solely to white males,” she wrote
He realized, when he was halfway over the Pacific Ocean, that all of her work was basically an elaborate prophecy of the doom of their relationship
He is in the habit of doing a lot of vigorous walking
Only two good things came out of Randy’s ill-fated First Business Foray with the food-gathering software. First, it scared him away from trying to do any kind of business, at least until he had the foggiest idea of what he was getting into. Second, he developed a lasting friendship with Avi, his old gaming buddy, now in Minneapolis, who displayed integrity and a good sense of humor
So, you’re the UNIX guru.” At the time, Randy was still stupid enough to be flattered by this attention, when he should have recognized them as bone-chilling words
In the meantime, Avi had moved to San Francisco and started a new company that was going to take role-playing games out of the nerd-ghetto and make them mainstream. Randy signed on as the head technologist. He tried to recruit Chester, but he’d already taken a job with a software company back up in Seattle
. A year after that, the entire enterprise had crashed and burned
Hollywood was merely a specialized bank–a consortium of large financial entities that hired talent, almost always for a flat rate, ordered that talent to create a product, and then marketed that product to death, all over the world, in every conceivable medium
In the view of Hollywood, the techies of Silicon Valley were just a particularly naive form of talent
Thus ended Randy’s Second Business Foray. He came out of it with a couple of hundred thousand dollars, most of which he plowed into the Victorian house he shares with Charlene
Randy was forever telling people, without rancor, that they were full of shit. That was the only way to get anything done in hacking. No one took it personally.
*Charlene’s crowd most definitely did take it personally. It wasn’t being told that they were wrong that offended them, though–it was the underlying assumption that a person could be right or wrong about *anything.
In the Tolkien, not the endocrinological or Snow White sense, Randy is a Dwarf
Dr. G. E. B. Kivistik was, in short, parlaying his strongly contrarian view of the Information Superhighway into more air time than anyone who hadn’t been accused of blowing up a day care center should get
The Information Superhighway is just a fucking Metaphor! Give me a break!” he said.
That’s no excuse for using bad metaphors,” Randy said
the Information Superhighway is a bad metaphor for the Internet, because I say it is. There might be a thousand people on the planet who are as conversant with the Internet as I am. I know most of these people. None of them takes that metaphor seriously. Q.E.D
I strenuously object to being labeled and pigeonholed and stereotyped as a technocrat
The family Altamira is vast enough to constitute an ethnic group unto itself and all of them live in the same building–practically in the same room
Uncle Jack is the last of the Manila Shaftoes, a branch of the family spawned by Nimrod Shaftoe of the Tennessee Volunteers
He remembers Nanking, and what the Nips did there. What happened to the women.
Once, long ago, there was a city named Manila. There was a girl there. Her face and name are best forgotten. Bobby Shaftoe starts forgetting just as fast as he can
Ideas have always come to Randy faster than he could use them. He spent the first thirty years of his life pursuing whatever idea appealed to him at the moment, discarding it when a better one came along.
Now he is working for a company again, and has some kind of responsibility to use his time productively. Good ideas come to him as fast and thick as ever, but he has to keep his eye on the ball
*He walks slowly, partly because otherwise he will suffer heatstroke and fall dead in the gutter. Worse yet, he may fall through an open hatch into a torrent of sewage, or brush against one of the squatters’s electrical wires, which dangle from overhead like patient asps. The constant dangers of sudden electrocution from above or drowning in liquid shit below keep him looking up and down as well as side-to-side. Randy has never felt more trapped between a capricious and dangerous heaven and a hellish underworld. *
Nomicon --2003/11/25 02:32 GMT
OK, see Neal. But he didn't invent the word. Who did? And exactly what does it mean. I'm guessing nomicon is really a suffix.
If I remember correctly, the Necronomicon is a book of the names of the dead, used in certain bits of black magic (like defrosting the fridge without flooding the kitchen). I think it was thought up by H P Lovecraft, i.e. relatively recent fiction, rather than genuine ancient Egyptian made up stuff. I guess Stephenson thought it made sense to encrypt the names...--DannyAyers