It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.
Douglas Spaulding, twelve, freshly wakened, let summer idle him on its early-morning stream. Lying in his third-story cupola bedroom, he felt the tall power it gave him, riding high in the June wind, the grandest tower in town. At night, when the trees washed together, he flashed his gaze like a beacon from this lighthouse in all directions over swarming seas of elm and oak and maple. Now . . .
Those of you who hung around Metaplace may recall that one of the guest speakers we brought in to the lecture series was science fiction writer Tobias Buckell, author of Halo: The Cole Protocol (there, your obligatory videogame connection).
I’ve always been more interested, though, in his original science fiction work. In particular, his Xenowealth novels Crystal Rain,Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose. They feature fast-paced action in a space opera sort of setting, sure, but with a unique flavor that comes from Toby’s Caribbean background. (You can read my brief review of Crystal Rain here — Toby himself describes it as “steampunk Aztecs invading a Caribbean lost colony world”).
Well, the publishing industry being what it is, the Xenowealth books are no longer forthcoming as traditional big publishing books. (You can read a bit about why here; Toby blogs a lot about the business of writing).
That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for those of us who want to read more in the Xenowealth universe, though! Today Toby announced The Apocalypse Ocean by Tobias Buckell — Kickstarter. That link has a preview trailer — and at the end of the trailer, a video from Toby that explains the Kickstarter project. The plan includes eBook and hardcover editions, as well as extra perks for higher pledge levels, like being written into the book as a planet or a spaceship name.
This sort of thing seems like a highly logical alternative for a writer with a devoted following and enough tech chops to get out there independent of major publishers. Since we seem to be heading for a future where all artists in all media will likely have to be “on tour” to support themselves, you may as well get a jump start on it now and support this Kickstarter, because darn it, I want to know what Pepper does next. 🙂
The basic premise is that realities are realities — just because one is a relatively crude construct doesn’t mean it isn’t a full-blown reality. Therefore, those who create said realities are gods.
By the time it gets to creating AIs that are self-aware but not knowing whether they are creations, we’re into fairly familiar territory. But it goes beyond that into the notion that perhaps you could create afterlives for these AIs, or allow them to visit your plane of reality using “waldoes” of a sort — a notion that resonates with Ted Chiang’s wonderful novella “The Lifecycle of Software Objects.”
Lately it has been hard for me not to see recent trends ranging from gamification to the increasing prevalence of robots in the household as a sign of the way the real world is starting to imitate a virtual world.
We’re adding friends lists via well, everything
And bots via robots
and reputations via LinkedIn
and auction houses via eBay
and secure trade via Craigslist
and profiles via Facebook
and virtual currency with Facebook Credits
and quests via serious games
and points for meaningless grinding via gamification
and strategy guides via Quora
and guild chat via status updates
And stats to ourselves via ‘quantified self’ approaches
And classes and skills via the march of specialization in job roles
Now, you may say that all of these are things that existed before. Yes, and we then built adapted versions of them for the virtual world that accommodated the fact that they were being simulated in a virtual space. And now those adaptations are being ported back to meatspace. We could call these three stages of development:
Now, you know I am biased, because not only is Cory a friend, but I even supplied a blurb for the book’s back cover. I also reviewed the manuscript for him and supplied gaming advice. That said, this is a book that people into MMOs and virtual worlds should read.
Why? Because it isn’t about what happens inside the worlds, it’s about what repercussions they have outside them. The story is sort of a large-scale version of his short story “Anda’s Game” (which was collected in Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present and also published on Salon.com), in which guilds are organized on multiple sides of the gold farming wars: a guild to kill gold farmers to protect the game, a guild to defend them so that they can earn their subsistence wage…
In For The Win all this is taken to a larger scale. Essentially, it extrapolates gold farming into a multinational corporate phenomenon, and looks at what this means for the lives of the people on the front lines — kids, usually, living in India or China, looking to make money but finding that the act of grinding gold “for the man” becomes all too literal in sweatshops. And the upshot is that they organize. As in unions.
As in unions modeled explicitly on the Wobblies, in fact. The novel wears its politics on its sleeve, certainly, and that may be a turnoff for those who don’t see unions as a natural stage in the evolution from free-for-all robber-baron economics to a more mature model. That said, the book comes down pretty hard on all forms of totalitarianism
The in-game stuff is dead-on. But as I said, the book is more about the ripples the games cause, than about the games themselves, because that is where the real psychological action is. It is more about the relationship between a gamer kid in San Diego and his parents who don’t understand his hobby, than it is about the stuff he does inside the game (which does include a pretty awesome boss battle near the beginning). It’s about the ways in which running a guild teaches a girl who barely has any education how to organize large groups of people in real life. In the end, the book argues a point similar to Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds: the characters come to know themselves better because of their hobby, and it enables them to take real steps into adulthood.