Monday, August 14, 2006


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Jeremy Vaught

Great article. Very interesting that Neal is not that interested in the metaverse he envisioned before there was even a world wide web.

But those creative types, you never know. :-)


Maybe Neal would be more interested in SL if we built the Baroque Cycle sim, which is rather steampunk Victoria actually. But it would crash SL under the weight of 549 intersecting plot lines.

Amit Patel

If I had written Snow Crash and you told me someone created some software like the metaverse, I wouldn't be impressed. I would expect lots of people to do that. But if you told me 400,000 people live there, that'd get my attention!

bryan campen

Hey! There is a book store on some of my land in the Keswick sim, so let me know if they are willing to place one there. Would love to do anything to nudge culture in SL.
cyrus huffhines
Also thought you might find these interesting, from the night in question (found them back in June):

Memory Harker

Brand me a heretic and cast me into the outer darkness (or the cornfield?) forever, but I can scarcely remember anything about reading Snowcrash although I read it only ten years ago. What I do recall is that it seemed a typical airport-bookstore thriller all got up on steroids (if steroids could, in novels, produce eructations of The Lastest Cyberpunk Gimcrackery), with little to recommend it in the way of literary acheivement or in matters of "the human heart in conflict with itself," and so it was rather, er, ho-hum.

What novel I've read that vividly recalls "Second Life" to me more than any other novel does is William Gibson's Idoru --- specifically, the scenes with Chia. And it's also one of his three best, generally speaking. (The other two being, IMHO, Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition.)

Anyway, yadda yadda, off to slaughtering more sacred cows and scratching all the dinosaurs in the Bible I go,

~ Mem

Moriash Moreau


Eh, I always thought day-to-day life in SL had more in common with The Big U. anyway.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Hehe... I have never read Snowcrash (yet), but I was always utterly impressed with the lack of interest by SF authors in Second Life, with the (now) exception of Kurt Vonnegut, who refuses the "science fiction author" title anyway...

I used to co-organise international SF conventions in my country for a few years... Shortly after joining SL, I was like "wow cool — this is the very stuff these guys have been talking about for ages, and it's now REAL!". So I dug out all those old contacts for William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Tad Williams, and emailed them. There was no reply, and I was rather disappointed, but I understood that they were probably too busy to take notice, and thus I didn't bother them much. So I submitted an article to Locus instead — Locus supposedly being "*the* SF magazine". It was not only rejected — it was *ignored*. Baffled and puzzled, I was wondering to myself, "what's up with these people? How can they *ignore* the very foundations of the Metaverse/Grid/Matrix?" At that time, I thought that cyberpunk was utterly dead as a literary movement, and I was missing the mark entirely...

So I turned to some of the local movements of SF authors and readers — expecting that I would be get a better reply from them. I blogged, I participated on mailing lists with a few thousand users, I went to webchats, to forums, always spreading the news: "the Metaverse is here! Version 0.01 of it has come out!"

And the reaction was utterly disappointing: everyone ignored me, or they started writing things about "alienation" and "escapism", or, naturally, the usual "we're tired of games, why don't you go away and play them in peace and leave to us to deal with the literary aspects of science fiction?"


Disappointed, I even stopped blogging or participating on the "science fiction community". Somehow, the "visionaries" were "not there", and I couldn't figure out what was wrong with these guys! One would expect almost a degree of fanatism from all those people that have been writing about the future for so long... and instead, there was distance, coolness, indifference, and rejection/denial.

So I turned towards the SL community instead :) It seems that at least here we can truly *understand* (and experience, first-hand) what the Metaverse is about... and why it is so important!

Hah. Science fiction writers! I'm almost *glad* I stopped writing that and focus on SL instead... ;)

Rafe Erlanger

Stephenson's prose in Snow Crash has made me chuckle, chortle, and even guffaw in amusement and admiration. I'm rereading it after about 7 or 8 years and am re-enjoying it immensely. I remember feeling let-down by the ending (tho I don't remember what it was).

Anyhow, good to see that a world inspired by Snow Crash now has a shrine to it.

John Branch

I can think of at least one very good reason for authors such as Stephenson and Gibson to show little interest in the development of SL. If your concern is with technical and social possibilities, whether of the future or (as Stephenson seems lately to have shown) of the past, then today's actualities are, pretty much by definition, not your thing. In other words, what these guys are concerned with today is not today.


I know number 1 is at least somewhat true, because I knew one person who was working on a Metaverse project back in, oh, 2000, and who ran into Neal and had much the same experience.

From what I hear about Neal Stephenson though, he's not that comfortable around people and probably has a little difficulty showing enthusiasm around strangers. Like a lot of uber-geeks and other people who spend a lot of time in solitary pursuits.

Misanthrope Maloney

I haven't really drunk the SL kool-aid yet and from the outside it doesn't look like "The Metaverse." It's cool, sure, but it doesn't approach reality. Human/computer interfaces are still pretty sucky. Screens, keyboards, and mice. Yech.

Peter H. Coffin

John Branch has it. SF authors thought about this stuff years ago, and have been living in it in their minds for decades already. It's yet another item on the their list of things that someone finally did, years after it was "cool" to the authors. I'd imagine that at least some of the MUD/MUSH/MOO developers would react similarly, if you told them you had a great shared universe program that allowed talented folks to add on to the environment. "Congratulations! You bolted a GUI on top of an idea I worked on fleshing out 20 years ago, and that requires more graphics hardware than George Lucas owned then. Call me when you have a new idea."

Cat Vincent

"After thinking about it for a while, I realized that one of several things is true. Either:

1. He's been approached by thousands of people saying they've built the Metaverse and is tired of being disappointed.
2. He wrote the book a long time ago, is now bored with the concept and has moved on."

Actually, having also met Neal, the likely answer is,
3. He's very shy.

Charlie Stross

Gwyneth Llewelyn: it's not your fault, but the authors you picked were almost guaranteed *not* to be terribly interested. They're all people who were writing about this kind of stuff about two decades ago: Peter H. Coffin's comment on their attitude is *exactly* right. (Plus, they almost certainly get a lot of email, and yours may well have gotten lost in the noise.)

If you want to pick on SF writers who're chewing over MMORPGs *right now*, then: Vernor Vinge discovered them last year, and is still grappling with the implications. Paul McAuley's latest novel is about crime and MMORPGs. *My* next SF novel is about where I think they're going to be in a decade's time. But again: if you button-hole us over our respective 2005-2007 novels in, say, 2018, we're going to be a little bit noncommittal, because we'll have long since moved on to other things.

As for the publication of SNOW CRASH in SECOND LIFE ... it sounds like a fairly typical half-assed marketing stunt to me, more of a sound bite opportunity than an actual attempt at exploring the textual potential of a VR environment. There's typically some boilerplate in a book contract that says the publisher can use extracts of up to 10% of the book (contents may settle during packing) to promote it in other media. Someone obviously decided that writing a text pager inside SL and feeding it a canned script would be good for a press release. Probably they never even told Neal. After all, why would he be interested?


I really have enjoyed your blog.
I must confess I haven't been able to rejoin Second Life since it was in Beta because I am poor disabled creative guy just struggling to get but perhaps someday I will visit again.
Years ago I finally found a way to get this short story I had wrote in this anthology. I never was able to get published again. I have been always very shy, insecure, and highly critical of my work. I actually wasn't paid much for the work, I got 2 books and 25 bucks for the payment of being published.
I was put in very beginning of the anthology which should have been great honor but I shy, insecure and highly critical of myself could only see the flaws in the story.
Sadly I have discovered the same thing in my gaming struggling to make content and virtual worlds in the other games. I always hit a wall of some sort. I am not much into chatting when I play in the other games I play in, I am thinking or I don't want to impose what really going on inside of me because I am afraid of what the person may say about me behind my back.
I didn't continue trying to get published after the first story was published because I didn't like how it felt at the time. I prefer to be invisible yet there is still part of me that wishes I had been able to achieve my dreams.
Then there are people who do achieve similar dreams being successful inspiring novel writer yet some how they still feel insecure and failures inside but they don't want anyone to know it.

Rob Chansky

As a very nearly published, sort of, SF author, I may have a perspective on Neal's reaction, besides "he's very shy" (which is my next most plausible explanation).

I feel a great ambivalence about the coming virtual world and its possibilities, not for the social upheaval that'll happen, but for purely selfish reasons that as a new father I am forced to place above many altruistic concerns: making a living.

I want to make a living writing SF, and when a popular SF idea becomes real, it sort of out-dates me. I can't drag VR into my world because VR exists now. Instead of being hyper-dreamy SF author, I have to slog around researching VR worlds in order to make sure I've got them right. And just when I managed to engrave into my brain the personal discripline required to write instead of playing games all night.

In other words, VR takes away one of the toys I get to play with as an SF author. And VR has been such a big toy for SF authors lately.

In other other words, we SF authors are just old fashioned.

Talia Tokugawa

Just happened to notice/remember this post whilst commenting on a more recent post.
There are two things I am involved with at the moment that are directly Snow Crash related.
The first is an Art Exhibit by my mate Poid Mavolich at the Princeton Sims. It's in the sim called "Princeton North :: Triptych ::". There are three exhibits in the series (hence triptych ;P) but one in particular is appropriate. Just going to quote the description from the info notecard.
":: (Part 2) Binary ::


Inspired by Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
Chapter 8 - Black Sun Passport - Stepping Through the Stargate

"... in the entire world there are only a couple of thousand people who can step over the line into The Black Sun.''

Hacker mentality, beauty and essence, to crash your mind ?

Scripting aided by Talia Tokugawa"

Well worth checking out if you get a chance.

The second place I don't think you will miss but I can't really say what it's for at the moment, you can probably guess what it was if you saw/remember the group tag I had on when we met at the Tesla Lounge earlier ;P

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