[MUD-Dev] Advance book review

Koster Koster
Mon Oct 12 10:35:25 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998


This weekend Bruce Sterling slipped me a proof copy of Julian Dibbell's
forthcoming book _My Tiny Life_ and I spent Sunday morning reading it.
Quite good, quite powerful, and with some very interesting topics to
serve as a springboard for discussion.

The first chapter is essentially "A Rape in Cyberspace"--but the book
itself is an autobiography of Dibbell's characters on LambdaMOO,
combined with musings about the nature of the space, plus a huge dollop
of quite fascinating portrayal of LambdaMOO's history. Along the way,
issues raised include sexual identity online, the nature of "space", the
omnipotence of the guy who runs the machine, the perils and pitfalls of
a player-governed mud, the nature of currency and economics in a mud,
and the impact on RL of online relationships. In a cute twist, all
events in RL in the book are portrayed as mud logs, and all VR events in
regular text.

A prize moment comes at the end of the book, when the_Author (the
real-but-mud-log version of Dibbell is getting a tour of Pavel Curtis'
home, which served as the model for the core rooms of LambdaMOO. They
reach the Master Bedroom, and the_Author blurts out "this bed is where I
first had MOOsex!" only to get very frosty stares from Curtis and his
wife... ;)

Looks like it'll be published by Henry Holt sometime fairly soon.
Definitely keep an eye out for it. Dibbell's prose is occasionally
purple, and at times the book feels uncomfortably confessional (he makes
the point that tinysex never reads as interesting to anyone reading a
log, then proceeds to tell us about it anyway) but in the end, it really
works. The book ends at a nice point in the political arc of the story
(wherein a particularly obstreperous person is about to get @toaded off
of LM for merely being spammy and speaking her occasionally paranoid
mind) and also at the point at which Dibbell decides that two lives are
too many--and he chooses to live in the real world instead. And not
coincidentally, when the Web first gained prominence, and LM started to
seem dated. I found myself wondering how much of the book would even be
comprehensible to the average Netizen these days, in fact.

Keep an eye out for it--I'm very glad I got to read it early, and I
think Bruce was a sucker for giving me his only copy before reading it!
;)

-Raph




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