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Стефенсон, Нейл - Стефенсон - Большое "U" (engl)

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Neal Stephenson. The Big U
Scanned and OCR'd by a loyal fan with a loose sense of ethics. Death to the big-bucks "The Big U" auctions on Ebay! Please submit all changes/fixes to bigwheel@hushmail.com Buy Neal's other (reasonably priced) books.
From a recent (4/29/99) interview:
Lomax: Above, you said that you were "no damn good at writing short stories"

     What about these days? Do you think you will write exclusively in the long

     form? Oh, and what's the deal with the Big U. Will that ever see print

Stephenson: I still find short stories very difficult to write, and I admire

     people who can do that. At the moment, novels are working for me and so I

     think I'll stick with them. Concerning the Big U... It is an okay novel,

     but I'm in no hurry to put it back into the world. There is a lot of other

     good stuff that people could be reading.
v0.9 - First public release. Missing introduction quotes/author info.

     [bigwheel@hushmail.com] v0.9.5 - Bugfix. Recreated proper paragraph breaks, formatted to 78 columns,

     corrected OCR errors, replace 8-bit characters with 7-bit equivalents,

     properly centered what should be, undid hyphenation.

     [kmfahey@toast.net] v0.9.7 - Update. Added introduction, author info and back cover. The newest

     version should be found at http://www.geocities.com/thebigubook

     [bigwheel@hushmail.com] v0.9.8 - Bugfix. Further OCR and formatting errors corrected, run thru

     a spellchecker. [thebigu@w.tf]

The Big U
Neal Stephenson

     --German political figure Adolf Hitler, 1889-1945 (from _Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941-44_, translated by Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens.)
I am indebted to the following people for the following things:
My parents for providing several kinds of support.
Edward Gibbon, for writing _The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_.
Julian Jaynes, for writing _The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind_.
William Blake and William Butler Yeats, for providing Pertinax with inspiration.
Kathrin Day Lassila, for numerous and thoughtful disagreements.
Gordon Lish, for the most productive rejection slip of all time.
Gary Fisketjon, for buying me a beer in Top Hat in Missoula, Montana, on July 1, 1983, and other services beyond the call of editorial duty.


     -- The Go Big Red Fan --

The Go Big Red Fan was John Wesley Fenrick's, and when ventilating his System it throbbed and crept along the floor with a rhythmic chunka-chunka-chunk. Fenrick was a Business major and a senior. From the talk of my wingmates I gathered that he was smart, yet crazy, which helped. The description weird was also used, but admiringly. His roomie, Ephraim Klein of New Jersey, was in Philosophy. Worse, he was found to be smart and weird and crazy, intolerably so on all these counts and several others besides.
As for the Fan, it was old and square, with a heavy rounded design suitable for the Tulsa duplex window that had been its station before John Wesley Fenrick had brought It out to the Big U with him. Running up one sky-blue side was a Go Big Red bumper sticker. When Fenrick ran his System-- that is, bludgeoned the rest of the wing with a record or tape-- he used the Fan to blow air over the back of the component rack to prevent the electronics from melting down. Fenrick was tall and spindly, with a turkey-like head and neck, and all of us in the east corridor of the south wing of the seventh floor of E Tower knew him for three things: his seventies rock-'n'-roll souvenir collection, his trove of preposterous electrical appliances, and his laugh-- a screaming hysterical cackle that would ricochet down the long shiny cinderblock corridor whenever something grotesque flashed across the 45-Inch screen of his Video System or he did something especially humiliating to Ephraim Klein.
Klein was a subdued, intellectual type. He reacted to his victories with a contented smirk, and this quietness gave some residents of EO7S East the impression that Fenrick, a roomie-buster with many a notch on his keychain, had already cornered the young sage. In fact, Klein beat Fenrick at a rate of perhaps sixty percent, or whenever he could reduce the conflict to a rational discussion. He felt that he should be capable of better against a power-punker Business major, but he was not taking into account the animal shrewdness that enabled Fenrick to land lucrative oil-company internships to pay for the modernization of his System.
Inveterate and cynical audio nuts, common at the Big U, would walk into their room and freeze solid, such was Fenrick's System, its skyscraping rack of obscure black slabs with no lights, knobs or switches, the 600-watt Black Hole Hyperspace Energy Nexus Field Amp that sat alone like the Kaaba, the shielded coaxial cables thrown out across the room to the six speaker stacks that made it look like an enormous sonic slime mold in spawn. Klein himself knew a few things about stereos, having a system that could reproduce Bach about as well as the American Megaversity Chamber Orchestra, and it galled him.
To begin with there was the music. That was bad enough, but Klein had associated with musical Mau Maus since junior high, and could inure himself to it in the same way that he kept himself from jumping up and shouting back at television commercials. It was the Go Big Red Fan that really got to him. "Okay, okay, let's just accept as a given that your music is worth playing. Now, even assuming that, why spend six thousand dollars on a perfect system with no extraneous noises in it, and then, then, cool it with a noisy fan that couldn't fetch six bucks at a fire sale?" Still, Fenrick would ignore him. "I mean, you amaze me sometimes. You can't think at all, can you? I mean, you're not even a sentient being, if you look at it strictly."
When Klein said something like this (I heard the above one night when going down to the bathroom), Fenrick would look up at him from his Business textbook, peering over the wall of bright, sto record-store displays he had erected along the room's centerline; because his glasses had slipped down his long thin nose, he would wrinkle it, forcing the lenses toward the desired altitude, involuntarily baring his canine teeth in the process and causing the stiff spiky hair atop his head to shift around as though inhabited by a band of panicked rats.
"You don't understand real meaning," he'd say. "You don't have a monopsony on meaning. I don't get meaning from books. My meaning means what it means to me." He would say this, or something equally twisted, and watch Klein for a reaction. After he had done it a few times, though, Klein figured out that his roomie was merely trying to get him all bent out of shape-- to freak his brain, as it were-- and so he would drop it, denying Fenrick the chance to shriek his vicious laugh and tell the wing that he had scored again.
Klein was also annoyed by the fact that Fenrick, smoking loads of parsley-spiked dope while playing his bad music, would forget to keep an eye on the Go Big Red Fan. Klein, sitting with his back to the stereo, wads of foam packed in his ears, would abruptly feel the Fan chunk into the back of his chair, and as he spazzed out in hysterical surprise it would sit there maliciously grinding away and transmitting chunka-chunka-chunks into his pelvis like muffled laughs.
If it was not clear which of them had air rights, they would wage sonic wars.
They both got out of class at 3:30. Each would spend twenty minutes dashing through the labyrinthine ways of the Monoplex, pounding fruitlessly on elevator buttons and bounding up steps three at a time, palpitating at the thought of having to listen to his roommate's music until at least midnight. Often as not, one would explode from the elevator on EO7S, veer around to the corridor, and with disgust feel the other's tunes pulsing victoriously through the floor. Sometimes, though, they would arrive simultaneously and power up their Systems together. The first time they tried this, about halfway through September, the room's circuit breaker shut down. They sat in darkness and silence for above half an hour, each knowing that if he left his stereo to turn the power back on, the other would have his going full blast by the time he returned. This impasse was concluded by a simultaneous two-tower fire drill that kept both out of the room for three hours.
Subsequently John Wesley Fenrick ran a fifty-foot tin-lead extension cord down the hallway and into the Social Lounge, and plugged his System into that. This meant that he could now shut down Klein's stereo simply by turning on his burger-maker, donut-maker, blow-dryer and bun-warmer simultaneously, shutting off the room's circuit breaker. But Klein was only three feet from the extension cord and thus could easily shut Fenrick down with a tug. So these tactics were not resorted to; the duelists preferred, against all reason, to wait each other out.
Klein used organ music, usually lush garbled Romantic masterpieces or what he called Atomic Bach. Fenrick had the edge in system power, but most of that year's music was not as dense as, say, Heavy Metal had been in its prime, and so this difference was usually erased by the thinness of his ammunition. This did not mean, however, that we had any trouble hearing him.
The Systems would trade salvos as the volume controls were brought up as high as they could go, the screaming-guitars-from-Hell power chords on one side matched by the subterranean grease-gun blasts of the 32-foot reed stops on the other. As both recordings piled into the thick of things, the combatants would turn to their long thin frequency equalizers and shove all channels up to full blast like Mr. Spock beaming a live antimatter bomb into Deep Space. Finally the filters would be thrown off and the loudness switches on, and the speakers would distort and crackle with strain as huge wattages pulsed through their magnet coils. Sometimes Klein would use Bach's "Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor," and at the end of each phrase the bass line would plunge back down home to that old low C, and Klein's sub-woofers would pick up the temblor of the 64-foot pipes and magnify it until he could watch the naked speaker cones thrash away at in the air. This particular note happened to be the natural resonating frequency of the main hallways, which were cut into 64-foot, 3-inch halves by the fire doors (Klein and I measured one while drunk), and therefore the resonant frequency of every other hall in every other wing of all the towers of the Plex, and so at these moments everything in the world would vibrate at sixteen cycles per second; beds would tremble, large objects would float off the edges of tables, and tables and chairs themselves would buzz around the rooms of their own volition. The occasional wandering bat who might be in the hall would take off in random flight, his sensors jammed by the noise, beating his wings against the standing waves in the corridor in an effort to escape.
The Resident Assistant, or RA, was a reclusive Social Work major who, intuitively knowing she was never going to get a job, spent her time locked in her little room testing perfumes and watching MTV under a set of headphones. She could not possibly help.
That made it my responsibility. I lived on EO7S that year as faculty-in-residence. I had just obtained my Ph.D. from Ohio State in an interdisciplinary field called Remote Sensing, and was a brand-shiny-new associate professor at the Big U.
Now, at the little southern black college where I went to school, we had no megadorms. We were cool at the right times and academic at the right times and we had neither Kleins nor Fenricks. Boston University, where I did my Master's, had pulled through its crisis when I got there; most students had no time for sonic war, and the rest vented their humors in the city, not in the dorms. Ohio State was nicely spread out, and I lived in an apartment complex where noisy shit-for-brains undergrads were even less welcome than tweedy black bachelors. I just did not know what to make of Klein and Fenrick; I did not handle them well at all. As a matter of fact, most of my time at the Big U was spent observing and talking, and very little doing, and I may bear some of the blame.
This is a history, in that it intends to describe what happened and suggest why. It is a work of the imagination in that by writing it I hope to purge the Big U from my system, and with it all my bitterness and contempt. I may have fooled around with a few facts. But I served as witness until as close to the end as anyone could have, and I knew enough of the major actors to learn about what I didn't witness, and so there is not so much art in this as to make it irrelevant. What you are about to read is not an aberration: it can happen in your local university too. The Big U, simply, was a few years ahead of the rest.


     -- First Semester --



... ... ...
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