If you outlaw falling gnomes, then only outlaws will have gnomes

I meant to blog about this last week, and by now it's hit a lot of major sites, so you may have seen this already. But last week a gold farming site came up with an ingenious way of advertising - they wrote their URL on World of Warcraft using gnome corpses. (See a YouTube video.)Apparently there is some client-side bug in WoW that lets you teleport up into the air. Where you fall. And this site exploited that to create dozens (probably hundreds) of gnomes and flung them to their deaths, using each individual gnome corpse as a pixel in a letter. As the video notes, the M uses 24 gnomes.

While I think gold-farmers are a bad influence on the games, and the last time I played WoW the constant whispers, ads, and shouting were very annoying, I have to give credit where credit is due - this was brilliant. I laughed when I first read about it.

But that's not what I really want to link tonight, that's just backstory. What I really want to link is this: an essay by Charlie Stross about how you can't even explain this to somebody living in 1977. He works through what you would have to explain, and then asks:

Your question: at which step in this narrative would my
1977-era audience first say "you've got to be shitting me!" ... and
when would they start moaning and holding their head in their hands?

There are thirty years' worth of future shock condensed into this
one news item. And the reason I'm writing about it is that I don't
think I could get away with putting such an conceptually overloaded
incident into one of my novels; it would take too much set-up and
require so much infodumping
that many readers would lose interest. This Russian doll of a news item
contains some rather scary pointers to where we're going, and a harsh
warning about the difficulty of accurately portraying plausible futures
in literature.

It's a fantastic point. If you invert the example, imagine a Science Fiction author in 1977 (mind you - the year of Star Wars' original theatrical release) and try to picture him or her writing about this. It's bad enough to assume they foresaw the internet and online gaming. But foreseeing the upgrowth of virtual economies, foreseeing eBay, and predicting the inter-relationship meaning you can establish a reasonable dollar to WoW gold piece exchange rate? That's insane.

So if you're writing sci-fi, can you reasonably claim to be predicting the future? That's thirty year example, so can you even guess at the recreational activities of 2037? Probably not. Interesting stuff to think about.

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