Dante or Beowulf?

Neal Stephenson answered some questions on Slashdot recently, and made a point about “Dante” writers versus “Beowulf” writers. Dante writers are beholden to patrons such as universities and fellowship grants, are more likely to be part of the establishment, and have to adhere to external expectations. Beowulf writers, on the other hand, write whatever the hell they want and might find a mass market along the way, critics be damned. In business terms, they’re high beta folks, high variance. As Stephenson puts it:

… people on the Beowulf side may never have taken a writing class in their life. They just tend to lunge at whatever looks interesting to them, write whatever they please, and let the chips fall where they may. So we may seem not merely arrogant, but completely unhinged.

I think there’s a parallel to entrepreneurial finance here: do you take Dante money for your company from an establishment source (VC, Angels, etc…) and allow them to dictate your behavior somewhat, or do you Beowulf bootstrap and follow your own destiny? Food for thought.

If you’re not interested in efinance, read the Slashdot stuff anyway, as there’s a particularly cool bit about a LNG tanker. Excuse me while I perform some Red Lotus incantations.

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