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date: 22 September 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses the allure of virtual dystopias and their connection to the sublime. Normally considered repellant rather than compelling, virtual dystopias owe their attraction to the sublime transcendence they offer. Beauty invokes pleasure and identification, while the sublime, through terror and shock, forces one to grapple with the unknown and with the nature of existence. The sublime has often been associated with nature, but more recently has been connected to the digital world and visions of cyberspace. Virtual dystopias offer a type of sublime transcendence that allows people to confront terror and horror, without “actually” having to experience it. However, the relationship between virtual dystopia and reality is complex and porous. These themes are explored through exemplars from three different media spanning three decades of computer-inspired virtuality: William Gibson’s novel Mona Lisa Overdrive, the film Inception, and the multiplayer online game World of Warcraft.

Keywords: sublime, virtual, dystopia, World of Warcraft, William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Inception, film, cyberspace

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