I saw Neal Stephenson (@nealstephenson on Twitter) speak last night at the Sidwell Friends Meeting Room here in DC.
Listening to him speak was food for the soul.
He had a cold and had done 21 (not a typo) radio interviews yesterday, and he apologized for being hoarse. Everyone who got up to ask questions thanked him for talking to us. Even that seemed too little.
He spoke for about 10 minutes about his new novel Seveneves, of which I now own a signed copy, and read an excerpt. The next 50 minutes were solid questions. No one had anything really difficult to ask him, though he did note occasionally that a question was interesting, such as the one a gentleman asked about where and how he saw himself in his own stories, eg, as a character, an observer, or what. Apparently Stephenson had never been asked anything like that before, because his reply was thoughtful yet inconclusive; it seems that he positions himself as an invisible observer more than anything.
I also got my copy of Cryptonomicon autographed. It's the #2 book behind Moby-Dick in my list of all-time favorites, and now it's a real treasure because he added "To Heather" above his name. I asked him if he still did historical fencing, and he said that he does it 3-4 times per week. He has dark, Gaelic looks, yet his eyes are very kind.
I'm also still reading in The Hastur Cycle and waiting to hear if my abstract has been accepted for NecronomiCon Providence.