Recently author David A. Ross paid a visit to The Four Bridges Project Book Club in Second Life, a VW (Virtual World) to celebrate the choice of his novel, The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans, as the club's premier book selection. The Four Bridges Project is a virtual sustainable global community founded on the four principles of respect for nature, universal human rights, economic and social justice, and a culture of peace, and Four Bridges founder, Amy Cross (AKA Millay Freschi in Second Life), admits openly that she is the 'real life' incarnation of Ross's character, Fizzy Oceans.
The gathering was sizeable and the discussion was lively. In attendance were representatives from the Advanced Language Studies Program at the University of Maine, as well as writers, poets, media educators and other virtual lifers.
Below you can read the transcript of the question and answer session conducted by Millay Freschi with author David A. Ross.
Q: What inspired you to write this novel? Had you come into the VW's, or did you come in to research?
A: I came into Second Life as a result of a CNN story by Christie Lu Stout. I immediately saw that the SLers were engaging in a symbolic and a metaphorical existence where the limitations of the literal world were blown apart. As one who already lives his life largely in those dynamics, both in my writing and in everyday activities, Second Life offered a world in which I felt quite comfortable. I loved the ideas that imagination prevailed over physical limitations, that ideas were far more important (and valuable) than money, and that personal expression was not only tolerated but encouraged. So, I came into VW's prior to conceiving of Fizzy Oceans, and of course prior to writing the book. Once I was writing it however, I made frequent trips into SL for research. But not all the events in the book are derived from experiences in SL or other VW's. Many, if not most, come from my own imagination, or my own personal experiences, as well as from history. Just like SL, the book is a blending of dimensions and dynamics.
Q: What are your thoughts on VW's? Have you explores others and where do you see it going?
A: Virtual worlds are already a part of everyday existence for half the people on the planet. In fact, it has become so integrated into our routines and habits that we seldom stop to think about it, or marvel at it as we once might have. I have no doubt that VW's will become evermore complex and play a greater and greater part in everyday existence. What I see coming (probably sooner than we might imagine) is 3D avatars that think critically (AI) projected as holograms right into the physical world, at our will and command mostly, but perhaps in other ways too. This has huge implications, one of which is 'virtual' immortality.
Q: Do you have favorite places in Second Life?
A: Right here. B4 is extraordinary, virtual living at its most productive, I think.
Q: Was Fizzy fashioned after someone that you know?
A: Ah, a question that had to come up. To be honest, Fizzy Oceans is 100% my alter ego. Although, Millay, as we've already discussed between us, you could certainly play the lead role in any VL movie.
Q: Do you have plans for a sequel or another book based in VW's?
A: Not sure. The last line of the book is "See you in Meta Life (Don't worry; it's not an insurance company)", which leaves the door open for a sequel. The two big questions in my mind are 1) Does anybody really want a sequel? and 2) Could I actually write an entire book from a dimension that, for lack of a better term, I might call the "after life"? I've actually played around with it a bit, but the ideas become so comp0lex and so entangled so fast that I'm just not sure I could carry it through. Let's just see if enough people demand an encore...
Q: I read that you feel that this book was what you've been trying to write for years. How has the book been received and how does that affect your feelings towards the project?
A: A writer somehow knows when he touches his own potential. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans was, for me, that work. It is my eighth published book. However, the public does not always see it as the writer does. To date, it is certainly not my best selling book. Maybe that will change over time - I hope so, because I feel it is my best work as a writer. However many copies sell, or however many are read, the work stands on its own. Like everyone else, I need to buy the groceries and pay the light bill, but the work, I hope, will outlive me and my humble needs. I think it is actually a book that, as one reviewer put it, might go on to be recognized in the future as 'essential reading'. All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with the book, and I'm also hopeful for its longevity.
About The Four Bridges Project
Four Bridges is a virtual sustainable global community model founded on the four principles of respect for nature, universal human rights, economic and social justice, and a culture of peace.
We are a community of individuals, defining and finding ourselves in this universe of change. We are a people of one voice, rising together, lifting one another, and sharing our gifts and our strengths.
We belong to one another and to this, our place in the universe."
The Four Bridges Project is a shining example of how we can use the virtual world to connect internationally to the issues most pressing to this global community. We bring understanding about the roles each of us play individually to the formation of this community and the future that we are creating. We provide ways to facilitate and encourage small changes that evoke a larger purpose and we’re doing it together. There is no separation between what we do inworld and what happens through our efforts in the physical world. We bring awareness, community, and hope to the world.
Four Bridges founder Amy Cross (Millay Freschi) discusses The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans with author David A. Ross
A lively discussion at the launch of The Four Bridges Project Book Club with author David A. Ross
Four Bridges founder Millay Freschi
About the book...
Meet Fizzy Oceans—archivist, researcher, environ- mentalist and adventurer. On her travels she witnesses The Exodus, the Battle of Gettysburg and Hurricane Katrina, as well as many other historical and real time events. She meets notable individuals including Gandhi, Mark Twain, Jacques Cousteau, The Dalai Lama, Saddam Hussein and even a new species called the Quinngen.
Such unique experiences and encounters spanning the world and time as we know them would not be possible for a single individual—especially not for a woman named Amy Birkenstock who works as a medical clerk in Seattle, Washington—but Fizzy Oceans, Amy’s digital alter ego, is not in Physical Life. She lives, works and travels in the virtual world where the dead are very much alive, places like ancient Babylon and Pompeii have been reconstructed, and with the click of a button—WHOOSH!—one is transported throughout the Ages to events and destinations that make up our human history.
Even as Amy’s physical life existence is challenged by encroaching environmental disaster, economic instability, and societal breakdown, Fizzy’s virtual world offers instant realization of vision and inspiration. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans imagines the bridging of two worlds—the literal and the metaphorical—and questions what it is we have created, what has been lost, and what might be possible for us as individuals and for the Human Race.
David A. Ross reads "The Land Where Lost Things Go" an excerpt from The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans
FIZZY OCEANS GOES TO COLLEGE?
Unlikely as it seems, because I am a high school dropout, I am off to college this fall. It seems that DR's book starring Yours Truly has been selected for the curriculum of the Pop!Tech course sponsored by the Advanced Language Studies Program at the University of Maine. Mind you, I never enrolled, and in fact nobody ever asked me (that's the trouble with being a character in a novel; nobody asks your permission for anything, the writer just does whatever he wants), but I have to admit that Pop!Tech is pretty cool. You should visit their web site: http://poptech.org/.