Low-city life, this month’s Futures tale in Nature Physics, sees the return of David G Blake. David’s first Futures story, To my father, appeared in the Futures 2 e-book anthology, and his story A kite for Sarah was published in Futures last year. You can learn more about David’s activities at his Facebook page. David very kindly agreed to explain what inspired his venture into simulated reality (warning, contains spoilers, so read the story first):
Writing Low-city life
My interest in simulated reality started with the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation. You could go anywhere and do — be — anything. The most memorable examples of that for me were the Moriarty episodes “Elementary, Dear Data” and “Ship in a Bottle” and later the episode “Descent” in which Data plays poker with Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. There were better episodes, of course, but those touched on that limitless quality to the whole concept.
It continued from there into MMOs. The Realm Online, Ultima Online, EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, Eve Online, Star Wars Galaxies and The Secret World to name a few. They all took that feeling of going anywhere and doing anything, and ran as far as they could with it. If I learned anything from playing MMOs, it’s that virtual-reality games will be extremely addictive, everything you love about them will be cut days before release, you won’t be able to log on for the first two weeks, and you’ll have to remind yourself to search what’s left of that mutant bunny rabbit you just crushed for coins or, if you’re lucky, a fresh pair of boots. Somehow, it’ll still be a blast.
That brings us to literature. I’ve read and enjoyed far too many novels and short stories dealing with simulated reality to list them all, so I’ll just mention my most recent favorite: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s after reading it that I realized my interest in simulated reality had turned into an urge to explore the concept for myself, to make it my own in some small way.
In Low-city life, Terra takes no notice of other people at street level or of the high-city traffic until the vendor brings that into her reality. On the walk home, she doesn’t notice the people avoiding her as she crosses the street cramming the hot dog in her mouth or the neighbour in the yard watching her get sick. When her brother activates the grid to find her, only her location is glowing, and she doesn’t consider that he might’ve filtered the results to match her genetic profile. None of this registers on a conscious level, but it feeds Terra’s fear all the same, which profoundly affects the nature of her epiphany at the end. When writing flash, you have so few words to work with that the story you tell by what you don’t show becomes even more important than normal, especially if you want to utilize those limits to help explore the limitless.