Living in Downtime.

November 12, 2017

I've been rifling through old files,trying to make some order. I'm in one of those phases when a dozen projects are in progress, and I lose sight of what I still need to do for each one. Then by accident I find something from the past that I had forgotten about -- a poem, a song, an essay -- that I really should have remembered, because I could have made use of it when I was doing the original planning. That happened today; I discovered an old paper I gave in 1992, titled "Living in Downtime: Speculations on the Implications of Virtual reality for the Future of Religion." I had submitted it to Science Fiction Studies just about the time I became a co-editor, and my co-editors politely suggested it wasn't really about science fiction. (It was the first of a few articles that my own colleagues rejected. You can't say we aren't a scrupulous crew.) A few years later some young German scholars solicited an essay from me for a volume that would eventually be called Hyperkultur: Zur Fiktion des Computerzeitalters, where the piece appeared in German translation in 1996. For years I forgot about it because I thought it was kind of crazy. Looking back, I wish I had had the courage to pursue it. In any case, it's dated. The Jaron Lanier-inspired Virtual Reality craze was in overdrive at the time, but The Matrix hadn't been made yet and Greg Egan's Permutation City hadn't been published. Still, there are a few speculations in it that might not be stale, given the new push for "Augmented Reality" and other new iterations of VR. In any case, it fills in a missing moment in my life, when I had a bit more courage than I do now.




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