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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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vCity 1.0, in its entirety, is copyright Dr. Adam L. Gruen 1995. It is made available freely to the readers of Mindjack Magazine on a limited time basis.

vCity 1.0
by Adam L. Gruen


I wrote vCity 1.0 from December 1994 through August 1995. This was a very fertile period for the development of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), a process with which I was familiar but one in which I did not materially participate in any way. Ditto on U.S. legislation attempting to restrict content on the Internet.

At times during this writing period I came close to despair; it seemed that every time I finished a chapter containing some (self-defined) fantastic innovative idea or issue, I would see a headline on it the following week. I now know what it feels like to be second in line at the patent office. Anyway, my despair was largely related to the creeping feeling that by the time this novel did get published, my ideas would not only be considered old hat, but also a cheap rip-off. Or, as the alien once summarized in Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, "Big Deal. So What?" There is no greater terror for a writer than to be perceived as a hack. With the possible exception of waking up one morning and self-perceiving hackness.


It's very hard to parody modern culture before it turns around and embraces you in its iron-hard marketing death grip. I chose the vCity 1.0 title back in January 1995 for two reasons. First, because English-speaking marketing departments throughout the world seem to have gone bonzo about capitalization. Second, because nothing ever seems quite finished any more, to the point that corporations (and, regrettably, individuals and legislatures) now routinely release crap knowing that they will have to fix it later.

It's parody, people. P-A-R-O-D-Y.

Unfortunately, I think this will probably disappear in the mists of time, and it will not be long before publishers take to labeling editions of textbooks, cookbooks, and works of fiction with the despised N.N format. Is this a brand marketing thang, or have we just reached a state of such an appalling lack of imagination that we cannot come up with new names for works of literature and art?


vCity 1.0 is a story about a twenty-day period in the life of a virtual city simulation set in the year 2002 A.D. But it is also the history of that simulation told from the point of view of 2002 A.D. looking backwards towards 1997, when the simulation was first brought on-line. In sum, this novel has a lot in common with others of a similar genre including Edward Bellamy's Looking Backwards, 2001 to 1887, B. F. Skinner's Walden II, and Ernst Callenbach's Ecotopia. Namely, the reader might not know what the heck is going on.

Ostensibly, the story is about a crisis that erupts when someone places virtual reality pornography in the vCity. In fact, this is a book about why vCities should exist, not merely how.

So in the course of writing this novel, I found myself trying to swim a race and pull my trunks on at the same time. Of course it's fun to stick to merely a straight narrative, and dog-paddle through two hours of mindless entertainment. But I felt (perhaps wrongly) that I could not merely throw the reader into the middle of the pool ala Stephenson's Snowcrash. Instead, I decided to mix the narrative with more thematic chapters describing how the vCity worked and why it looked the way it did.

You may not like the results: the novel does have a narrative flow, but it is stop-and-go, a bit like driving in rush-hour traffic.

It may be that years from now, readers coming back to vCity 1.0 will marvel at its stupidity, explaining such things as PC mode, HMDs, downloads, kiosks, scapps, and steamrolls. All I can say is: forgive him. The man who wrote this novel was trapped in the amber of his timeline.


In the old days, "pacing" was almighty, writing was sequential, peeking ahead to the end "ruined" the novel, and in general, you went where the author wanted you to go and that was that, because basically authorship was dictatorship. But now, after the Glorious Revolution, things are more democratic. Just because I wrote this novel in order doesn't mean you have to read it that way.

So if you want to follow the main narrative and skip the rest, like a bloodhound with its nose to the ground sniffing out a trail, then you would do best to read the following chapters in this order: 2, 4, 7, 11, 15, 17-20, 24, 26-33.

Then go back and read the other chapters at your leisure. Or do whatever you want, actually. But remember: with freedom to choose, comes responsibility to choose wisely. When you learn that lesson, you become an adult.

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