‘Anima’ by Dalian Hansen – book set in Second Life to hit Amazon?

If you’ve been waiting for me to make a post about Second Life that genuinely intersects with the world of science fiction, your moment has just arrived.

3pointD reports that a gentleman who goes by the name Dalian Hansen in SL is due to release a novel set almost entirely in Second Life, Linden Labs’ virtual world. As they provide no link to the source (it was a personal tip-off, apparently), I shall snip Dalian’s description/synopsis from the 3pointD announcement:

“Ben Tao is the avatar of a fired programmer who hacks Second Life. His goal is to profit from a false intellectual property claim. However, instead of changing the creation date for the items he has stolen, he is actually sending them back in time to the creation of the 3D world. This software exploit opens a wormhole of conflicting realities that unfold in a disjointed nightmare. Ben quickly finds himself controlled by an entity who robs him of all free will. Or is he just going insane? As the digital and real worlds merge in his mental interchange, he uncovers a secret that affects all of humanity. From this bleak future, Ben has only one chance to escape.”

Well, nothing groundbreaking there, at least from an sf-nal storytelling angle. After all, cyberspace was named in ink-and-paper fiction way back in 1984 thanks to Bill Gibson, the concept was arguably being kicked around before that, and there’s been plenty of recent (and forthcoming) novels dealing with virtual worlds and MMOs.

What’s important is that this book is set in a real, extant metaverse platform – if that synopsis is to be believed, it explicitly names Second Life as the arena of action. Whether or not that will encourage people who might not have bothered with ‘some sci-fi rubbish’ to read it remains to be seen … as does Linden Labs’ reaction to having what I assume is a trademark being used in such a way.

What also remains to be seen is whether it’s any good, in novelistic terms. A swift google of the name Dalian Hansen reveals that the man behind the avatar is “[a]n internationally award winning photographer based in Asia”, and an experienced virtual business boffin to boot … but that tells us nothing of whether or not he can write for toffee.

The 3pointD report quotes Hansen as saying that:

“… preview editions will be published as a prim book in SL and as a paperback available from CafePress.com, both due July 7, with a hardcover edition available on Amazon.com as of July 27 …”

It also makes the point that neither Amazon or Cafepress have a listing for the item in question as of yet (and hence is hesitant to report the news as a definite). So I think we can assume it’s a self-publishing job … but again, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be any good. I get the feeling that Hansen is the type who wants to lead with virtual business methods, so maybe it’s as much a proof-of-concept as anything else.

But there’s only one way to find out for certain, and that’s to go straight to the horse’s mouth. So I shall be attempting to get in touch with Av. Hansen in SL later tonight, to see if he’d like to talk about this further.

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