My Writing Update

Coming later today, some thoughts, as promised, on Libertarianism and Marxism.

The two of you that read my blog may have noticed that my word count up there in my novel progress hasn’t moved in some time. Not since I started grad school! The interesting thing is I’ve calculated that in the last three or four months I’ve written over 50,000 words for class papers. But that’s the final result. That’s not counting various drafts and revisions (of which there have been many!) and “works cited”s/bibliographies, etc. So, I’d estimate that I’ve written over 250,000 words for classwork this semester. Not that I’m really complaining! I really enjoy writing for class, it’s hard work! But I enjoy it. I just really want to get my novel written.
Now, what am I going to be doing over the intersession? Writing a conference paper for the International Association for the Fantastic in the Art’s 28th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Yes, I will be presenting a paper at the conference! *glee* I’m really excited! Presenting a paper at a conference is one of the three big things a grad student can do to really increase their chances of getting into a good PhD program, along with publishing a scholarly book review and most especially, publishing a journal article in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. I guess I can mention I’ve been commissioned by a refereed journal to write a book review. =) I’ll mention what and where after it’s actually approved for publication.

But what is my conference paper that I’ll be presenting in loverly Ft. Lauderdale, Florida next Spring? Well, here’s the abstract:

I will be examining the ways in which Philip K. Dick’s description of half-life in the novel Ubik (1969) is an analog for current online role-playing games and environments such as “Second Life,” “EVE: Online” and “World of Warcraft.” Given nearly the same ability to mold and create unique environments for themselves and others in “Second Life,” the participants of this virtual world have created a culture steeped in the same socioeconomic ideology in which mirrors the actually existing conditions of global capital. Just as in Ubik, items that represent Lack (as Lacan would put it) in “real life” are created in the virtual realm to satisfy a desire that can not be sated in the objective reality. An economy and society based on commodity exchange exists in the virtual realm where practically anything is possible. This limitation extends to the “real world” in both Ubik and the virtual online worlds as well. As in Dick’s Ubik, only words can pass through the veil into and from half-life (such as player dialog or the language of software code,) no material objects, and such is also the case in contemporary virtual worlds. Through will and words, existence changes, is modified, is reformed. While Ubik is most certainly not an attempt of Dick’s at precognition, there is little denying it may be a result of the inexorable collusion of technological, economical, and sociological developments of the western world. The works of such authors as William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson and their versions of “Cyberspace,” “Metaverse,” et. al. may be the customary writers and virtual constructs one thinks about when considering the connections between fiction and real-life virtual reality, and that lineage should and will be acknowledged. However, as Dick is the accepted “grandfather” of the cyberpunk genre and Ubik is arguably the earliest novel to deal with this familiar nature of the power of words to affect both constructed virtual reality and objective reality, this investigation will focus on the direct connections of Ubik to the current development of virtual environments and commodity exchange. Where in the story of Ubik the effects of the trading of signifiers can have both beneficial and disastrous effects on corporate interests as well as the individual, in present reality words have created transcending  commodities that can in a sense reach out from the virtual and affect the real.

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