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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Saturday, June 25, 2005 - 09:26 am:   

Slush Writer Appreciation Month continues! Today, I posted a new interview with "Shutdown/Retrovival" (March 2003) author Aaron A. Reed.

In this excerpt, Mr. Reed talks about the primary SF element in his story:

"Shutdown/Retrovival" is set in a future where the middle and upper classes have largely migrated to a series of virtual worlds. It was inspired by the popularity of Everquest in the early years of the decade, and a friend's roommate in college who had dropped out of school entirely to play the game 16 hours a day. His total in-game playtime was close to two years. It blew my mind that something coming to you on a 16", two-dimensional monitor and tinny speakers could be that engrossing, and how different things might become as the technology for immersion in alternate realities improved.

In the past few years, the technology hasn't improved significantly, but the impact of multiplayer online games continues to grow. The economy of Everquest at its peak was larger than that of many real-world countries. People have paid tens of thousands of dollars for virtual real estate in Second Life, and just recently a murder was committed over virtual property.

We're still only able to experience virtual worlds through the most limited of interfaces. When Matrix-style immersion is possible, it can't help but have drastic effects on every aspect of human existence. "Shutdown/Retrovival" postulated that the ability of the wealthy to retreat into a virtual paradise could stretch relations between the rich and the poor to the breaking point. It will be interesting to see how VR and alternate reality experiences inform the prosperity gap.

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