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Reading for Writers: Writing About the Virtual World

Published on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by

Hedda’s Hot Picks – Reading for Writers

961834_glasses___Well, I am trying to get back into the blog routine again after a several week hiatus while selling my belongings, sorting what’s left and packing up to move. I have missed all my virtual writing friends and activities. I won’t be back up to speed yet for awhile but I want to get some blog posts out to you all.

I know a lot of us have talked about using Second Life® experiences in our writing so I thought I would try to research any novels that have been written using a virtual world setting.

Of course probably the most recent and well-known is Virtually Dead (2010) by Peter May which I reviewed in an earlier post on Second Life® Fiction Authors. His book is definitely the one to turn to as a model of incorporating the virtual world with the real world in an exciting mystery that involves a great deal of suspense in both worlds. I hope to encourage many in the Virtual Writers group inworld and on the forum to read this book for an upcoming discussion. We will be discussing the book on the Hedda’s Book Club thread at http://forum.virtualwritersinc.com. Please join us for a lively discussion of how Peter May used Second Life® as a setting for his novel and what we as writers might take from his example.

Moving on to other books for virtual world settings, I found Killobyte (1993) by Piers Anthony. This book has mixed reviews and actually overall a pretty good rating on Amazon. Reviewers did not consider this among Piers’ best works but readers seemed to enjoy it. In a virtual reality game called Killobyte. Walter Toland, a former policeman, and Baal Curran, a diabetic teenage girl, meet each other through the game. As part of the game they are supposed to rescue a princess from a castle. However they become trapped in the game by a hacker named Phoney Phreak. Their virtual characters are not endangered but with Baal having diabetes and Walter having a bad heart they are at risk in the real world. There is some criticism that the author did not have credible medical research behind his plot.

Next there is Simulacron-3 (1964)by Daniel Galouye which has recently become available on Kindle. A movie The Thirteenth Floor was based on this novel. Main character Doug Hall works for Reactions, Inc. a company developing a new simulation populated by virtual people. Hall travels into the simulated world where he finds he is being controlled by someone in the real world. The boss of the company has plans for using the simulated world for political purposes. It is described as having some strong similarities to The Matrix.

True Names (1981) by Vernor Vinge was the precursor to Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (2000). All of these authors presented the idea of the metaverse which later translated into our present Second Life®. In True Names there are stories of avatars having homes and lives in the virtual world. This was the beginning of the cyberpunk age. Of the three, many reviewers feel Neuromancer is the best written and it did win three prestigious awards. It appears that these titles are the classics for sci-fi writers.

The Otherlands series by Tad Williams is another series of virtual world thrillers. It begins with City of Golden Shadow (1996). Renie, a professor of computer science begins to discover that children are lapsing into comas after visiting a virtual world on the internet. The story is a cross between science fiction and fantasy and is set in 21st century South Africa. There are three more volumes to the story and all have good reviews.

A more recently published title, World Leader Pretend:A Novel (2007) by James Bernard Frost relates the story of 32-year-old Xerxes Meticula, a Realm online game player. He faces a struggle with situations both online and in his real life because of his split-identity. I think this plot line will look familiar to some of us.

I did read reviews of several more titles, a few young adult level, but chose to mention only those with reasonably good reviews. My exploration into searching for novels covering virtual life experiences leaves me with a sense that this is a theme which needs more development. The crossover between life in the virtual world and real world can be such a rich theme for novels. Many of us writing in the virtual world now could add so much more to this genre. The virtual world theme should go beyond sci-fi and cyberpunk and certainly Virtually Dead approaches a mainstream mystery genre. The success of this book shows that writing about the virtual world can extend into any genre. So let’s get those virtual life novels out into publication!!

***An additional note is the following call for submissions that I came across recently.

www.navaronebooks.com/submissions.php WE ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING:

– books based on virtual worlds settings or storylines, fiction or nonfiction for our Avatar Books Imprint.  Books set within or about Second Life®, WOW, Eve Online, or any other virtual worlds are perfect for our Avatar Books Imprint.

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