Is there a difference between the halucinations of a confined imagination and virtual reality?
This is one thread in Richard Powers’ brilliant historical fiction about 80s VR and politics, Plowing the Dark. Two narrative threads are intertwined in this book: an artist recruited to develop compelling demos for a VR cave being developed at Seattle R&D lab in the mid-80s; and a Lebanese-American who is kidnapped after going to Beirut to teach ESL. The artist reaches back through the history of art (Rousseau, Lascaux cave paintings, and the Hagia Sophia of Byzantium) to create sites for the VR cave. The kidnapped man reaches back through memories until an ex-girlfriend becomes present. Powers reaches back to that moment in the 80s when VR technology was going to be the next paradigm shift.
The first Gulf war brings all this to an end. The war that may have been virtual in popular imagination.
Continue reading Plowing the Dark of Virtual Realities