Friday, August 29, 2008


"Why do the Vickys have such a big clave?" Nell asked.

"Don't ever call them Vickys," Rita said.


"It's a word that people who don't like them use to describe them in kind of a bad, unfriendly way," Rita said.

"Like a pejorative term?" Nell said.

Rita laughed, more nervous than amused. "Exactly."

"Why do the Atlantans have such a big clave?"

"Well, each phyle has a different way, and some ways are better suited to making money than others, so some have a lot of territory and others don't."

"What do you mean, a different way?"

"To make money you have to work hard-to live your life in a certain way. The Atlantans all live that way, it's part of their culture. The Nipponese too. So the Nipponese and the Atlantans have as much money as all the other phyles put together."

"Why aren't you an Atlantan?"

"Because I don't want to live that way. All the people in Dovetail like to make beautiful things. To us, the things that the Atlantans do– dressing up in these kinds of clothes, spending years and years in school-are irrelevant. Those pursuits wouldn't help us make beautiful things, you see. I'd rather just wear my blue jeans and make paper."

"But the M.C. can make paper," Nell said.

"Not the kind that the Atlantans like."

"But you make money from your paper only because the Atlantans make money from working hard," Nell said.

Rita's face turned red and she said nothing for a little while. Then, in a tight voice, she said, "Nell, you should ask your book the meaning of the word discretion."

- The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson

Readers who are interested the fine details of what Nell and Rita are talking about in 'The Diamond Age' are directed to the book's wiki page.

Briefly ...

The book takes place after the State has been rendered unworkable. Hooray, anarchy! Except that people still need - or at least desire - organization. Thus, people have chosen to divide themselves into Tribes or Phyles. If you're not in a tribe, you're a thete and the lowest of the low.

Vickys' are Neo-Victorians or Atlantans
. Neo-Victorians are a tribe that has rejected the cultural excess of the late 20th early 21st century and turned to a polite and well-disciplined culture, based loosly on the Victorian era. When you have a well-disciplined culture that takes learning, morals and manners seriously, you get a lot done. Thus Atlantans and the Nipponese have a lot of the wealth in that world. Plus they dress really well.

Also, at least partly because of cultural repression, Neo Victorians make excellent warriors.

A clave is where people of a particular tribe live.

An M.C. is a nanotube matter compiler.

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