Neal Stephenson’s ANATHEM considered as science fantasy is situated somewhere between LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILION. Most fantasies, whatever their magical system, function with the laws of classical physics (and mathematics) for the non-magical parts of their world’s laws. Tolkien’s dragons may breathe fire and have magical power, but in their flying they obey classical aerodynamics, as do the Eagles. Stephenson has realised the “fantasy” potential in modern post-classical physics and philosophy of mathematics, and has harnessed that to create a world whose underpinnings are stranger-than-fantasy.
However, ANATHEM is much more than a science fiction or science fantasy novel, it is perhaps the most accomplshed example of what non-philosopher François Laruelle has advocated under the name of “philo-fiction”. Philosophically speaking, ANATHEM, like Laruelle’s own NON STANDARD PHILOSOPHY, is to be situated somewhere between Badiou’s LOGICS OF WORLDS and Deleuze and Guattari’s A THOUSAND PLATEAUS.
All four embody ways to implement the project of immanentising Plato. For Badiou mathematics is a scale model of achieving happiness outside neoliberal narcissism, hedonism, and relativism. By his own admission he is making a metaphorical, or qualitative, use of the matheme, as Laruelle does of the quantum.
In ANATHEM the world of Platonic ideas is given a science fiction treatment, immanentised (as in Badiou and Deleuze), but also pluralised. ANATHEM provides us with a vista not only of multiple empirical causal worlds, but also of multiple noetic Platonic worlds. It comes closest to those who advocate “loosening up” or pluralising Badiou by giving category theory primacy over set theory, although it follows also the path of the quantum described by Laruelle.