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.