Never-Before-Seen ‘Snow Crash’ Manuscript Heads to Auction


An original manuscript of famed novel Snow Crash, along with other digital and physical items related to the seminal work, will be offered at auction by Sotheby’s, the fine art broker announced Thursday. 

Snow Crash, published in 1992 by speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson, is responsible for coining the term “metaverse,” and laying out the concept of a virtual reality-based internet populated by user-controlled avatars. The book has since become a foundational text of the current metaverse movement.  

Bidding on the manuscript will open on Monday. According to Sotheby’s, the draft features copious corrections and annotations made by Stephenson, and will reveal significant additions, changes, and deletions to the novel to the public for the first time. 

“Stephenson not only predicted technologies which we consider mainstream today, but his ideas have since gone on to inspire generations of inventors and entrepreneurs who shape the very fabric of our digital development,” Sotheby’s Global Head of Science & Popular Culture Cassandra Hatton said in a statement. “This one-of-a-kind sale will reveal for the first time the development of Snow Crash, as well as a host of items relating to and inspired by the genre-defining novel.”

Sotheby’s—which raised $17 million in its first NFT auction in 2021—anticipates the manuscript will fetch a price between $40,000 and $60,000 at auction.

The auction will also feature the final draft typesetting manuscript of Snow Crash, and a one-of-a-kind tachi sword, inspired by the weapon wielded by Snow Crash’s protagonist, Hiro Protagonist. That sword, designed and crafted by Wētā Workshop, the New Zealand visual effects company behind The Lord of the Rings and Avatar franchises, is anticipated to sell for between $120,000 and $180,000. It will also come with a one-of-one NFT of the sword.

“This is one of the most important artifacts we have made in our 30-year career,” Wētā CEO Richard Taylor said in a statement. “The hand-forged sword symbolises humanity standing at the edge of a new epoch as we continue to explore new digital frontiers.”

Concurrent with the Snow Crash auction, Sotheby’s will also debut a series of thousands of generative art NFTs inspired by the novel. That series, Infocalypse, was designed by Stephenson in collaboration with artists Sterling Crispin and Tony Sheeder. Sheeder developed art with Stephenson for a graphic novel version of Snow Crash that eventually evolved into its realized form. The NFTs will sell for $250 a piece on Sotheby’s own metaverse.

Stephenson, once agnostic on the subject of crypto—despite, or perhaps, because of its obvious parallels to technologies previously imagined by the author in dystopian, corporate-dominated future societies—has come to embrace it in recent years. Last summer, he revealed his participation in Lamina1, an endeavor to build a “free metaverse” and liberate the term metaverse itself from the iron grip of corporate behemoths.

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