Ad Astra, and Even Further, Maybe

by Alphaville Herald on 01/04/05 at 12:00 am

by Budka Groshomme

Second Life is in many respects an alternative life, a dimension one step away from the mundane reality that marks our daily grind. In here, in this expansive, magical world, there are lions and tigers and, oh my, such wonderful things to see and do.

It occurred to me that perhaps I was not the only SF writer who might have an interest in SL. Perhaps I could find a kindred soul who, like me, longed to escape the world and be charmed by the fantasy SL offers daily.

Bud Sparhawk, kindred soul

After a careful, scientific selection process of asking twenty SF writers I know if they would be willing to be interviewed, I selected the one respondent who agreed to be interviewed: Bud Sparhawk. I asked him to try SL for a few hours before the interview.

Budka: What did you do when you finally got there? Did anything strike your fancy?
Sparhawk: Well, that’s certainly a different place. Not at all like the game world I was half expecting. I was fascinated by the variety of people moving around and the different appearances they took on. I haven’t seen so many weird get-ups since the last SF convention I attended (laughs).

Budka: Before we talk about SL why don’t you say a little about your writing? Most of your work appears in magazines, correct?
Sparhawk: Yes. I generally write “hard SF’ short fiction. Which is to say that it deals more with the scientifically plausible than the outright fantastic. I write very little about science per se, more about the characters involved, such as a future miner on Europa or a sailor on Jupiter. I also have a collection of humorous stories about a grafter named Sam Boone who gets into all sorts of scrapes with outrageous aliens. Sam would be right in his element in Second Life.

Budka: Do you think SL could be useful to you in your writing?
Sparhawk: Based on what you’ve already told me, what I’ve read in the Herald, and some of those references you gave me [yesterday], Second Life looks like it has considerable potential. I could see it being a laboratory to determine how people would react to having so much freedom.

Budka: I assume that since you are used to dealing with alien cultures, and fantastic inventions SL would be a wonderful place to visit. Isn’t it like visiting a fantasy world, a different planet?
Sparhawk: At first what I experienced was overwhelming – too much, oto soon, and too distracting. Being able to fly was pretty amazing, although I kept bumping into invisible things [Ed: Sparhawk uses a Macintosh and was experiencing lag.]

Budka: I wrote an article a while back about how SL might represent the world of the far future, when we’ve eliminated most of our material needs.
Sparhawk: Well, there’s been a lot written about the Vingean post-singularity world. That’s when the rate of acquisition curve for knowledge and power becomes infinite. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility to believe that might happen – most of us have experienced the steadily increasing rate already. In most stories, the human race becomes something else when everyone has unlimited power and knowledge at their disposal, something we can’t imagine. Other stories concern how people would use their powers to destroy and others – utopias – where everyone turns their interests to the arts, philosophy, or sports – unleashing their creative spirits. Others are less optimistic – think of the 9/11 group with enough power to destroy the world as a real horror scenario.

Budka: Well, every SL resident I’ve run into is highly creative. I haven’t found anyone who isn’t building, constructing, or doing some sort of project. I think SL unleashes that in everyone.
Sparhawk: I think you’re still in the early days when only the creative types, the early adopters, are attracted here. If [Philip] Linden is right about having a million subscribers, how many do you think are going to be interested in creative projects and how many are going to flock to the casinos, skin shows, pornography, and other distractions?

Budka: But won’t the practices and behavior of the current residents affect the newcomers? Won’t we be the examples for others?
Sparhawk: I should point out that you have no “residents.” What you have here is a digital Las Vegas, a Disneyworld, and a gamers’ playground where everyone is a tourist. Second Life will never evolve a culture, society, or real community until it has people living and working here full time. After that it might be considered a model for something in the real world.

Budka: Any final words?
Sparhawk: I think I might get a story or two out of this. Maybe one on how this could benefit shut-ins, paraplegics, or other mobility disadvantaged people. Something with pathos, hope, and a really good cry at the end.

5 Responses to “Ad Astra, and Even Further, Maybe”

  1. boo parks

    Apr 1st, 2005

    I doint think he understands how many hours some players are in the game. There are residents in the game and many players are on the game more than they are in rl.

  2. Steve Burns

    Apr 1st, 2005

    Budka should sure pitched Sparhawk some softball questions . . . is someone getting a kickback here?

  3. Urizenus

    Apr 1st, 2005

    If someone is, I’d better get a taste.

  4. Budka Groshomme

    Apr 2nd, 2005

    Is there no end to your greed, Urizenius? At $.0001 per word I have to find some way to supplement my starvation wages as a reporter.

    BTW, I sent a message to Burns to see if HE would like to be interviewed.

  5. Rose Karuna

    Apr 4th, 2005

    I’ve been following Sam Boone in Analog for awhile and I think that his SF character would make a great SL character. SL is a good medium for illustrating SF and also for observing how certain social freedoms or constraints could play out.

    Interesting interview.

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