Saturday, August 14, 2004

This Week's Homework

Oh man.  After the easy one last week, Scalzi gives us this:

>>Weekend Assignment #19: Tell us about an entry in someone else's AOL Journal or blog that really left an impression on you in the last year. Why does it stand out for you? Include a link to it within your entry (come back here and link to your entry in the comments).

Remember: It has to be the Journal or blog of someone else -- no pointing to your own entries (we'll get to that later). Also, logically, the entry itself should be from the last year if at all possible. Don't feel limited to just citing AOL Journals if a blog outside of AOL really moved you in the last year. The whole idea here is to share the writing that inspired, challenged and moved you over these months -- and made you want to write more.<<

And I can't answer it.  I absolutely can't.  Not to say that entries haven't left impressions on me -- many have.  But not in the way I can point to it as something I've ever wanted to go back and read again, or share with others as something they ought to read, or anything like that.

And while I was skipping down this line of thought, I realized there is one thing I once read that fits the bill.  Which is to say, it was a journal entry that "inspired, challenged and moved" me.  Although it isn't in AOL, it wasn't in the past year, and -- when you get right down to it -- was, sorta, fiction.

Still, homework is homework, so I gotta give what I've got.

I have made mention, I'm certain, of the summer (2001) I spent playing the web game based on the movie A.I.  Before the movie game out, some nice people (at Microsoft! -- can you believe it?) put together a huge, online, free(!) gaming experience.  It was "immersive fiction."  It mostly involved websites, but the game also incorporated telephone calls, faxes, newspaper ads, and so forth.  But for our purposes, what's important are that some of the websites in which the game was played out were written in the form of journals.

One journal in particular -- one entry in that journal -- changed the way I look at the internet forever.  Because I wept when I read it.  And I sat at my computer, through my tears, realizing that if a piece of fiction written for an interactive game had moved me this much, I really had no clue as to the power of this medium I'd been playing around with.

The game players made an archive of the game, so I can link you to the journal entry in question.  You'll need a little background...

The journal is that of Martin Swinton.  If you remember the movie A.I., David (the little robot boy) has an older (human) brother, Martin.  This is his journal, when he's all grown up.  He is an architect, who designs houses which each possess their own artificial intelligence.  He lives in a house of his own design, named Brutus.  (Martin quotes Shakespeare a lot.  It's part of his charm.)  Brutus communicates with Martin through pictures he posts on a screen -- so Martin's journal entries frequently recount conversations with Brutus in which Martin speaks and Brutus responds with pictures. 

(And many of Brutus's pictures really are worth 1000 words.  Although, if you need help with the meaning of one, right-click to read their "properties," as they are given titles that summarize what they're supposed to mean.)

The introductory part of the journal entry is story-specific, so you can just ignore it.  But about halfway down -- right after the picture of two people sitting back-to-back in the sunset -- Martin's journal goes someplace amazing.  The story takes place on the day of the "Mann Act II" vote -- where humans are going to decide whether to give artificial intelligence equal rights or whether to keep treating them as slaves (there's a reference to "Belladerma" -- a company that manufactures robots for sex toy purposes).  And Martin realizes there's something he has to say to Brutus...

That's an awful lot more set-up than I thought this would take.  Anyway, you can read the entry here.

(In the interest of full credit, we subsequently learned the game was written by science fiction author Sean Stewart.)

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