Conspiracy Afoot, or Snow Crash Ate MY Hard Drive

Elizabeth Rodwell

Snow Crash totaled my computer...

I'm issuing a warning to all my classmates, to sci-fi fans everywhere: This book is dangerous. Friday night: I was merely re-reading p. 72 in my edition, trying to discern whether the bit-map crash scene/ vulnerability of the hacker theory had any factual basis. In other words, whether Snow Crash could work. No luck, not that I expected any. It was, after all, Friday night, and my roommate was barely speaking to me. What kind of karma does that imply?

I re-read the Da5id scene a few times, got tired, and conked out. The book was next to my head on the pillow, and I slept for quite a while. If computers are modeled after the human mind, than reading is akin to downloading a file into your system. So the info., the description of Snow Crash had been loaded into my mind in excruciating detail thanks to four or five consecutive readings of the same damned passage. There was a lot of stuff going on in my dreams, including a very vivid white-noise image that wouldn't leave me, despite its irrelevance to many of my dream-sequences. With Stephenson's Snow Crash on the pillow next to me, I was loading and loading in my sleep, and the material was permanently imprinting itself on my subconscious. That's what dreams are, you know. Subconscious. So this Snow Crash stuff was in there deep.

Now the virus wasn't meant for the human mind, at least so far as I know.The mind was merely a vehicle (though I am fearfully awaiting a brain meltdown and the advent of my new native toungue: )

i ge en i ge en nu ge sa tur la fa me no i ge en nu lu

So maybe the computer goes first, and the mind next; such was the case with Da5id. Only he was hooked in mind-and-avatar to the Metaverse, and I'd only been wearing headphones connected to my CD-ROM that fateful night. Doesn't seem relevant. Besides, that was after a mere two readings of the aforementioned HIGHLY DANGEROUS passage. Obviously not enough exposure.

When we sleep we send out all kinds of crazy dream fuzz/ electronic waves. Our minds are active and off in a place only drugs can take us in our waking hours. So my mind was rampaging around the room, fully satiated on Snow Crash, and I believe it attacked my computer. Not my mind as a tangible thing, like Pac Man, eating up memory, but rather in the form of high-frequency electronic waves. Waves that can permeate the oh-so fragile membrane of my cheap-o computer. So what if I'd actually remembered to shut the computer down? The virus hadn't cared that I was sleeping, and it obviously didn't care that the computer was either. ATTACK!

So I woke up and attempted to boot up my Dell Optiplex GS+... shitty computer, meant for office use. Surprise! It had crashed like a blindfolded driver on I-95 (um). In fact, according to the dialogue box that appeared on the screen twenty minutes into my panic attack, the computer had eaten it's own hard drive. "Snow Crash!" I cried, leaping from my computer to hurl the book from my dorm window onto unsuspecting sunbathers below. "Damned if you'll mess with my dream-waves again!" My computer was virtually melting. Ah, it all made sense. The Brown University Bookstore woman, winking at me as she slipped Snow Crash: the book into a plastic bag. Harmless enough in appearance, this middlewoman, just like those crazy Falabalas in the novel. She didn't say much to me, but she knew what she was helping to distribute. And Bantam Books- they, too must be in on it all. Crazy electro-dream waves, transmitting material, fed to the sleeping mind. Snow Crash IS Snow Crash.

Medieval Bible-thumpers knew what danger lies in books, and so I join with them in the age-old campaign to annihilate literature as we know it. Perhaps all writing should be committed immediately to the digital form so we might scan it for viruses before reading.

Yes, so by writing this I am committing a Very Good Deed. I am helping to push writing out of the material world and into the digital. We're better equipped there, because the human mind is weak. We can create magnificent things, but we can't improve human nature.

The Burbclaves of Brown

Colleges are ahead of their time. We've got dorms here like the Burbclaves and franchises of Stephenson's fantasy world. (Casting aside freshman altogether), like-minded students here band together and attempt to secure primo. real estate. Each suite, each off campus house has its own philosophy, it's own flavor, whether implicit or apparent. Frats and Sororities in particular- in fact most theme houses, are like White Columns or New South Africa or Metazania. You've gotta have the right code to secure admissions to these fine neighborhoods. Either you need connections, or you've gotta have a card that Works, something like the bar code on Y.T.'s chest that gets her into Bigot Paradise- (White Columns). So our Brown cards are enabled in specific ways- to keep us off the turf we don't belong on and to protect those who live in the space. More generic housing, the Grad Center for example, is Burbclavic to a lesser degree, but the different types of campus housing all work on similar principles. I think that makes Res.Life the Mafia.

Stephenson succeeds in creating a wholy credible world for his reader in Snow Crash He's able to mix reality, and to parody American society with more success than many sci-fi writers. The landscape of this novel is not unfamiliar, rather it is at least 2 parts reality based for every 1 part fantasy. It's easy to imagine American culture taking this turn. Stephenson is careful to keep us grounded, by making references to cultural touch-points, such as the FBI and McDonalds, and reminding us that we're still in America. For another great example of reality parodying, I recommend William Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum." I also think the back of my Snow Crash edition (Bantam 1993) sums the essence of this technique well:

Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous... you'll recognize it immediately.

[To other discussions of Snow Crash by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]

Theory Cyberspace OV Website Overview