The Steam Politics of Nanotech: Energy Entanglements in The Diamond Age

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


This article traces the linkage of Victorian energy regimes to nanotechnology in Neal Stephenson's postcyberpunk novel The Diamond Age (1995) to critically examine the unacknowledged cultural entanglements in techno-optimistic visions of post-carbon futures. By invoking the social relations of the steam age as a foil, the novel problematizes the fantasies of control and stability that undergird the history of modern energy imaginaries. Drawing on the novel's incorporation of thermodynamic metaphors, I illustrate how Stephenson's juxtaposition between conservative and entropic systems invites a critique of (petro)modernity that amplifies imaginations of disruption and energy justice.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53 - 73
Number of pages21
Journal Extrapolation : a science-fiction newsletter / University of Texas, Department of English, College of Wooster ; Kent State University
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

External IDs

unpaywall 10.3828/extr.2023.5
Scopus 85161289570
WOS 000980978400001
ORCID /0000-0002-2612-5456/work/142250942