Grounders, by Jonathan McGoran

June 27, 2008

Listen to it at Variant Frequencies.

I don’t know why, but I tend to dislike stories that play on ‘gimmicks’ or current events. I’m sure these will be fascinating to anthropologists in centuries to come. But if there’s something that doesn’t interest me right now, then chances are I’m not going to be interested by a story about it, either.

When I realised that this story was going to be about a Second Life/MMORPG, I groaned. I didn’t manage to get through Save Me Plz at Escape Pod, either. But, I figured I’d stick this one out. This is Variant Frequencies, after all: I consider VF to be the bastion of quality audio speculative fiction online. I have yet to be disappointed by one of their offerings. Actually, that’s not entirely true, as Saint Darwin’s Spirituals didn’t do much for me, but the ideas behind it were so awesome that I actually fault myself rather than the story.

Anyway, back to the review at hand. Despite my expectations, I actually really enjoyed this story. The reason is pretty clear to me. Instead of writing a story about an MMORPG, McGoran wrote a story involving an MMORPG. Yes, the setting is vital to the plot, but it does not dominate. The characters are what keep it interesting and the plot itself is what keeps the story going, not the fact that it’s set in an online game.

The plot itself was pretty impressive. It must have been tempting to take this case of true online escapism and turning it into a full-blown novel. I think that it really benefits from its brevity–the reader is presented with an interesting setting and a very interesting problem. We aren’t presented with an answer, but that’s okay. Any possible answer would have probably fallen short, at any rate.

So far, this is the only story I’ve ever encountered that handles MMORPG-settings well. I’m still not crazy about the ‘genre’, if you can call it that. But it’s good to know that quality fiction really can come from anywhere. It’s even better to know that when such fiction does pop up, it finds its way to Variant Frequencies.

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One Response to “Grounders, by Jonathan McGoran”

  1. ekspekt Says:

    interesting post, will come back here, bookmarked your site

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