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> VR in Print
Virtual reality systems and environments were not born with the advent of computer systems: they are part of something much, much older. Written records, oral storytelling, passive virtual realities have been around for aeons. Even in the modern, cyber-reality worlds, most owe their beginnings, their inspiration, to print.
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Storming the Reality Studio has been contributed to by many of the top authors of cyberpunk fiction ? or dystopian prophecy, as has often been the case. It is a mix of short stories, excerpts from larger, notable cyberpunk works, and non-fiction essays on the directions of technology and life, following cyberpunk memes, by those same authors. All in all, over 40 visionary minds have contributed to this book.
What is Cyberpunk?
Cyberpunk as a term, originates from the novel "Cyberpunk", authored by Bruce Bethke in 1980. It comes from a fusion of the terms 'cybernetic' and 'punk'. In other words, 'Cybernetic Punk', shortened to cyberpunk. Since it's inception, it has taken on a like of it's own,. And has become the single most often used source of inspiration for virtual reality developers ever since.
Bruce Bethke is the writer originally responsible for the creation of the CyberPunk genre. In the early spring of 1980, he wrote the short story ?Cyberpunk?. This was the first ever use of the word ? he coined it for the tale about a gang of teenage hackers.
Author and blogger Julian Dibbell has strayed into VR works on numerous occasions. Two books, half textbook, half novel, stand as testament to his talents in unraveling the complex weave between virtual and physical. He frequently chronicles progression in one world or another, and with physical world parallels.
Tad Williams is almost totally, an author of fantasy novels. All save four of his books fall into the realms of fantasy, sword and sorcery. These four, make up the Otherland series. Otherland marks quite a diversion for this author, as Otherland is from a genre known as Cyberpunk.
William Gibson is considered by many to be the father of the Cyberpunk genre, as his first novel, ?Neuromancer? was the first mainstream-popular cyberpunk novel, despite coming out in 1982, 14 years after the start of the genre.
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All Tomorrow's Parties is the final novel in William Gibson's Bridge trilogy, the other two novels being Virtual Light and Idoru. Like the other Bridge novels, All Tomorrow's Parties is not from the advanced world of Neuromancer, but rather something halfway between that and our world, showing the same dystopian overtones of both.
Burning Chrome is a collection of ten of William Gibson?s short stories. All published before Neuromancer, his first novel; these ten mark his early career as a different type of writer. Whilst not all are cyberpunk, all have that same gritty realism, that make his work so absorbing.
Count Zero was William Gibson?s second novel. Slotting in straight after Neuromancer, it takes place in the same universe, a few years down the track. The work is a literal wealth of technological ideas, beautiful metaphors and breathtaking script.
Bruce Bethke sold the original ?Cyberpunk? story in 1982, where it was buried by the publisher. Cobbled together into a novel in 1989, it was again purchased, and again never made print. As part of our homage to VR in Print, we offer the full novel, distributed as a 1.1mb PDF file.
Idoru is a strange novel in many ways. It is a William Gibson cyberpunk novel, set in the dark days of the near future, written by one of the masters of the genre. The book itself is dedicated to a concept that is not quite with us yet, but may well be here in the near future ? cyberpunk apes reality. Idoru concerns the marriage between a human pop star, and an AI controlled, totally virtual woman.
Mona Lisa Overdrive, penned in 1988, is the third and final book of William Gibson?s Sprawl trilogy, and also, his third book. Following on the heels of Neuromancer and Count Zero, Overdrive is by far the most lightweight of the trio, basing more in reflected glory from the other books, than attempting to stand on its own.
Neuromancer, written in 1984, has managed to stay in print for more than two and a half decades. An impressive achievement for any novel, it reminds us of the power of words, in the gritty, grimy, spiralingly depressing and technologically both wondrous and surprisingly accurate book that gave birth to the cyberpunk genre.
Neil Stephenson?s Snow Crash, a novel of the genre Cyberpunk, is one of two books ? the other being William Gibson?s Neuromancer ? which brought the genre of multiverse, and near future virtual reality into being. Snow crash itself, has been directly quoted by both ActiveWorlds, and Second Life virtual realities as the inspiration for their birth.
The Bicentennial Man was penned by Issac Asimov in early 1976. It is a novella length story, looking at the life of a robot servant who more than anything else, wants to be recognised as equal to a human, with all the rights and responsibilities thus.
The girl who was plugged in, is a refreshing, if tragic short story. It centres around the familiar if not often talked about concept of plugging the human brain into a computer, then using this computer/brain hybrid to control a different body.
Based heavily on Issac Asimov's novella 'The Bicentennial Man', this collaboration between Issac Asimov and Robert Silverberg essentially takes the original novella, and expands it, filling in the detail and depth of plot to create a full-fledged novel. Produced six years before the film, this set the groundwork for that work, adding in the myriad of little details that truly brought the world to life.
The first book of the series is a 240 page graphic novel, and is the material the Surrogates film was based on, although the filrm takes the material and runs into loonyville with it. This on the other hand is hard core science fiction, slowly becoming science fact. It is filled with deep exposition scenes, carefully thought out quirks, and fodder for the brain, based on current trends.
The Ultimate Cyberpunk is a very good collection of short stories. Several of these ? notably ?The Girl Who Was Plugged In?, ?Dogfight?, and ?Burning Chrome? will strike a chord if you have not read them before.
Virtual Light is classic Cyberpunk in every sense: it is dark, and gritty, a surreal near-future world that sets you on edge, and both the main characters have sunk as low as it is possible to go, before attempting to change the world for the better.
We can build You is a very strange tale. As the title suggests, the bulk of the book is dedicated to the integration of simulacra with organic humans, told from a very down to earth perspective. The novel examines in considerable detail, without naming them explicitly, the twin issues of substrate chauvinism and substrate independence.