Virtual Reality Fiction?

It seems there's a trend going on... Fiction which revolves around some kind of neuronet, virtual reality or reality being virtual. I've looked around some and for what I've seen (which hasn't been too in depth), no one has given this idea a five star worthy whack. So my question is, anyone know why this genre is on the upswing? Anybody more experienced considering capitalizing on this and doing what those few serials did for the Superhero genre? I have considered trying, but the idea next in my queue and near and dear to my heart is something I so humbly think is more better-er, for me at least. That and I'm busy with nonfiction.

So I wanted opinions on this, maybe somebody to fulfill my wish and do it really well. What are people writing anyway, what will you be writing next, have you decided? I tried reviewing unreviewed fiction on the listings but I'm too impatient, picky and nice to read through something I don't want to and then give it a critical review. So I'm on the prowl for something other than my main reading habits, and this subject is interesting.

In short, I'm curious to know if anyone else has noticed or feels the same way about this subject. Also, just to go uberdigress, the One Punch Man anime is fantastic.

Hmmm I'm not sure I've actually seen any serials about virtual reality yet. It does sound interesting, though, I'll have to shop around. Plenty of Alternate Reality Games do stuff with that sort of thing though, if ARGs happen to float your boat.

I had never heard of those before now. Doing research and am very interested by what I see. On the subject of the Virtual Reality genre though, I've definitely noticed a disproportionate amount of them, for it being as uncommon as I've perceived it to have been. I only wonder why its becoming popular, and if it will continue to become more so.

RoyalRoad runs VR-stories like webfictionguide runs superpower-stories.

If you looks closer at a publishing (or in our case a referral) -site you're likely to see a pattern valid for each site.

There are a few - Continue Online, End Online, and the Bathrobe knight (not 100% sure the last one is a serial). There's probably more I don't know about.

I don't really know why the VR genre is popular, but I suspect the 'Sword Art Online' anime series has something to do with it. I also suspect that most of the avid readers of the genre are male and mostly young. :)

It's an age-honoured genre.

Arguably the earliest European novel filling MOST of the attributes for a VR-story is Robinson Crusoe. If you dislike that then Gulliver's travels was published less than a decade later. Even later representative stories would be Alice in Wonderland and Lost World with the former more explicitly making use of a magic gate to wonderland.

From Narnia and onwards the 'transported into another world' subgenre exploded. Simple gate-fantasy ;)

I would classify those as general Fantasy, not VR fiction - VR stories take place in an online multiplayer game, and often (but not always) the main protagonist gets 'stuck' there without being able to log out.

It addresses MMORPG players who wish they could be a badass character in a virtual world instead of just playing one.

Doesn't change that's it's still the typical gate-fantasy we're taling about. And the reason I referred to the older stories is that they predate the fantasy genre by a very wide margin. (add journeys into the underworld and we're talking Greek mythology old).

Hole in the ground, magic wardrobe, white gold ring or neural implant doesn't matter. Demography has very little to do with the story archetype. VRMMORPG is just a way to morph an old story to fit into a changing world. Stories have morphed this way the last three millennia, and will most likely continue to do so in the future.

As for targetting MMORPG players. Those kinds of games (beautifully manifested by Blizzards epic failure) are not very popular in the main target zone for SAO and Log Horizon. For some reason Japanese teenagers seem unable to focus on a game for more than twenty minutes at a time.

Ah. Now I get what you're saying! I wonder what the next step after VR will be, though... probably something we can't even imagine today, it seems everything we already know has been done somewhere in some fashion.

MMORPGs are generally very time-consuming, I can't imagine Japanese teens having that much time unless it's a casual phone MMO like Summoners War - and thus playable on the way to school. Maybe it's a way for them to experience something they wouldn't normally have time for?

Sword Art Online is very popular in the West, and I've seen a number of VR ebooks do quite well in Amazon's US Kindle store. Like this one:

Yeah. What stuns me is that the VR-stories are very popular in Japan where the underlying games are not popular at all. Funny bunch of teens :D

After all SAO made it big 'here' only as a result of becoming a huge hit in Japan. I'm honestly surprised SAO (or whatever it would have been named given my play at alternate history) wasn't produced and published for the South Korean market seeing as how popular WoW is in South Korea. They have a Manhua market and make their own 'anime'. Oh well.

You're hinting at a change btw. VR-games as a setting are a change in themselves. Before WoW made it big you donned your VR-helmet and got caught in the net rather than in a game connected to the net. Maybe we'll see a full circle and have teenagers popping through the reflections on their smartphones in splendid Through the Looking Glass -style ;)

That could totally happen, I think. The new generation of gamers would have to be physically fit to catch them all. XD

I'm a little late to this particular party, but I personally squarely credit Ernest Cline's Ready Player One for the trend. Also the facts that the Oculus Rift is now pretty much a reality, Google Glass and Google Cardboard exist, and VR Filmmaking has been in the news a bit lately, it just seems about right.

And Chrysalis, I'm going to assume that you've heard of Pokemon Go, right? It's an Alternate-Reality Pokemon game being developed by Niantic Labs, (of Ingress fame, if that means anything) that's basically what you were just describing.

If it is trending again, it is a resurgence. Philip K. Dick wrote about it some, and there are tons of movies: Johnny Mnemonic and the Matrix, for some. Tad Williams wrote Otherland as well.

I could say that some older books, like Killobyte by Peirs Anthony are easier examples in this genre (1996? - I think there was one called Necromancer with a grittier vibe). I've seen a lot of them translated from other places in the last few years. It just seems to be a sub category that has a lot of room to grow in the serial and published fiction markets.

RoyalRoadL - as painful as it is to suggest, has a ton of VRMMO stories. Most of them are Legendary Moonlight Sculptor (They have a section for actual fan fiction of the Royal Road series) or Ark rehashes. There is very much a different culture of novels presented there than what you see here, or on or elsewhere.

Bathrobe night was a serial at one point. I remember reading chapters as they came forth on the persons website. It might have changed.

Aside from the 'room to write' without rehashing old ideas to death (How many man transported to a fantasy world novels are there now?) - there is another aspect to consider. The possibility of the story involved. If someone were to ask me which is more likely, being transported to a fantasy world where I can cast fireballs, or playing a video game where it's highly immersive (then casting fireballs) - I would say a video game is within reason given a decade or two. If I'm going to chose to follow / read escapism, I would value one that's remotely possible, over one that's sheer fantasy.

When I think of VR stories I've been basically conditioned to think "kids trapped in an MMO" moreso than like, gritty technocratic existentialism. So when I think of who did this genre first I always think of the same thing and the tropes it inspired:

I was a fan of .Hack//Sign, the first anime (though I was mostly into the video game adaptations for the PS2 which were janky but amusing) to do the "we are trapped in this MMO and are stuck playing our characters while our real live bodies are in comas" trope that Sword Art Online cribbed (or at least in the *specific way* SAO cribbed it). I was young at the time, and I was into the nascent korean MMOs like Ragnarok. So there was an appeal there. It was also the first huge transmedia thing I followed, where the anime, novels, mangas and video games all interacted to attempt to create a story between them all. I've tried going back to it a few times for nostalgia but .Hack was just kind of a mess I've found.

I'm very much not into Sword Art Online (to put it extremely lightly) but I will say that where I think it succeeded was in telling a way less ambitious story. .Hack could devolve into surreal, pseudo-intellectual nonsense at times but SAO is just about teenagers facing hardships they can beat if they get good at swords and work together with one another, and then getting the girl at the end. It lets you tell a fantasy story with all the spectacle of fantasy but immediately relatable characters. You don't need to set up any lore or do really believable worldbuilding, because most MMOs don't anyway and the characters are teenagers from Earth like the readers. You can get to the monsters and magic extremely quick.

As far as writing one of these is concerned, it's way outside of my field and I just couldn't care enough about the material to even try to write my own SAO for the popularity points it might garner. I have a few times thought of writing a story where kids play a real-time strategy game to try to become e-sports pros, but I'd rather just write about real warfare without the framing device in the way.

EDIT: By the way, of note is that SAO began as japanese web fiction, published for a contest, and then picked up by a publisher and popularized. The author even used to have erotic fanfiction up on his web page that he scrubbed when it became popular.

Totally forgot about the Matrix! That was definitely an early adaptation of the virtual reality theme. Maybe it inspired much of what came afterward?

Well, if you're referencing Matrix you could as well track it to its source. Gibson's Neuromancer had the same impact on a yet non-existing cyberpunk/VR -sub-genre as Tolkien's LotR had on the equally nonexistent fantasy genre.

I won't say that Neuromancer is the first though. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a borderline problem for such a statement, and TRON isn't even borderline, but I'll argue that TRON had a lesser impact even though it's paradoxally closer to today's VRMMORPG stories.

If there's been a recent uptick, part of the reason is probably that proper VR headsets have entered the public consciousness lately, with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and other headsets being tested and set for commercial release in 2016. Practically everyone's heard of the Rift by now. We recently got a Vive devkit at Alpha Wave -- I've not gotten to try it yet (it's with our coders on the other end of the US) but I'm told it's amazing and feels like you're genuinely there, as good as or better than Oculus.

Thanks for replies, especially Dennis for size. Lots of things I didn't know getting tossed around, and some things I did. Honestly, the E-sport thing intrigues me because it was an idea I'd already had. A sort of competitive drive for the story which was actually as centered on real life as it was the VR. Characters with strong aspirations. It was one of the serials with 'online' in the title that got a good review with the caveat that the real world scenes weren't well developed or played out. I think the idea of 'comes and goes from the VR as they please' hasn't been given a more realistic take that I've seen. The Matrix was great, but I'm being more specific, as a lot of the serials I've seen have been very similar and filled that niche.

"Late twenty first century science fiction revolving around Virtual Reality games." It's a cool idea, which is why I think there are more than three or so serials taking a shot at it. So I should have been more specific. It's probably due to unoriginality, but as nobody has defined the genre yet like TWD did for zombies, I think it doesn't quite qualify yet.

For a different spin on the VR/gaming aspect in a story, see the movie Gamer. (Apologies if someone has already mentioned this; I looked but couldn't see any references!) There were a few similarly-themed movies released around the same time, including the higher-profile Surrogates. These lean more on the psychological aspect of inhabiting an avatar than being trapped in a game-world.

I play a little bit with VR in Starwalker, because the ship's AI has a neural interface that allows people to walk around inside her systems as avatars. There are a few scenes that take place entirely inside her head and it has some fun impacts and implications on her relationships with the people who get inside her head. It's not a major theme of the story, though; most of the time it's the ship being outside of her head as an avatar, interacting with the crew as a hologram, rather than the other way around.