CORD: "Give me an adventure. I don't mean a big one, just something that'll make getting fired seem small."
RAZ: "I'm afraid it has to be a huge adventure or nothing."
MOYRA: "He doesn't believe in the existence of time."
PAPHLAGON: "I don't recommend we get sidetracked on the question of whether time exists."
ARSIBALT: "Avoid the ends of the poles, they're hot."
JESRY: "Hot as in radioactive?"
ARSIBALT: "No, hot as in ouch. That's where it radiates its waste heat."
ARSIBALT: "But they're also radioactive."
OROLO: "So you're worried that a pink dragon will fly over and fart nerve gas on us?"
LIO scuffles with a man and takes a gun from him.
BARB: "He carries a gun. It is a local tradition. They don't consider it threatening."
LIO: "I'm sure he won't feel threatened by my carrying this one, then."
That vein of imagination, though, led to a different place. It is reasonably easy and pleasant to speculate about cinema adaptations of Stephenson's works because Stephenson is of an era where things like that are common, and to a certain extent is incapable of writing things that are unfilmable. This is less true of other authors: I have in mind Roald Dahl.
Dahl comes to mind this way: there have been two adaptations of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, as well as several other adaptations of Dahl's work. But I didn't imprint on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a lass: I imprinted on Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, a deeply weird work that is an immediate sequel to CATCF. CATGGE is a work that I would consider, in the cultural/economic matrix that we live in, genuinely unfilmable. It starts off in the cheery tone of CATCF channeled through political satire, and then it takes a hard right and becomes Roald Dahl's Aliens for a while. They
It is worth noting that CATGGE was first published in 1972, and the Gene Wilder adaptation of CATCF was released in 1971. The movie so angered Dahl that he refused to license film rights to CATGGE; one can't help but suspect that the narrative acquired a certain amount of Take That towards the idea of a cinematic adaptation in the process.
Continuing in this vein, we find The BFG, which I'm kind of surprised never found a mainstream American cinematic adaptation. When farts are a major plot point of a work, you have to kind of expect that the Hollywood scum will be all over it. On the other hand, the covert, enormous child-eating giants might be enough nightmare fuel to keep it from profitability; I'm fine with that.
Could you guess that the protagonist of Matilda resonated strongly with me? I bet you could.
The point here, to paraphrase Stephenson, actually, is that Roald Dahl was a deeply weird guy (see his autobiography, whose first half is basically a litany of British boarding-school child abuse) and that that is impossible to separate from his works. That inseparability is the same reason that even though Dave Sim wrote some brilliant comics, the fact that he's a complete scuzzbucket of a human being makes one reluctant to approve of Cerebus. In a similar way, I anticipate that, Neal Stephenson being who he is, it's only a matter of time until we see adapatations of his canon. Myself, I strongly fancy Snow Crash and The Diamond Age as anime, while Zodiac, Cryptonomicon, and Anathem would make engaging normal cinematic works. Still haven't gotten around to the Baroque Cycle. Someday.
What do you think is unfilmable - and what do you think should stay that way?