A HBO series based on Snow Crash, the 1992 science fiction novel which coined the term “metaverse”, is currently in production.
Snow Crash is a 1992 science fiction novel written by Neal Stephenson. The book has a deeply complex plot touching on archaeolinguistics, religion, simulation theory, philosophy, computer science, and memetics. It was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the most prestigious science fiction award.
The series will reportedly be directed by Joe Cornish, who recently directed The Kid Who Would Be King. The writer is apparently Michael Bacall, who also wrote 21 Jump Street and Project X.
Stephenson will be a producer of the series, alongside Cornish, Bacall, Angela Robinson, Frank Marshall, and Robert Zotnowski.
Last we heard, Stephenson works at AR startup Magic Leap. His official title is ‘Chief Futurist’. He manages a team called the Self-Contained Existence Unit (SCEU). SCEU focuses on content R&D, pushing the boundaries on what can be developed in AR, figuring out best practices, and providing examples to developers.
Despite being released before even Wolfenstein 3D and three years before the Virtual Boy, much of Snow Crash takes place in a massively multiplayer VR world called the Metaverse — a term Stephenson coined. Essentially, the metaverse is the spatial version of the internet. The term Metaverse is popular in VR today.
‘Meta’ means after or beyond, and ‘verse’ is taken from universe. Thus a ‘metaverse’ is a new universe beyond and after the real one.
When the book was written almost 30 years ago, VR headsets were rare. The few which existed cost in excess of $50,000 and had resolutions of just a few hundred pixels on each axis.
The book also popularized the term ‘avatar’ — the virtual character which represents a user in a virtual world. The descriptions of avatars in Snow Crash still apply to proto-metaverses like VRChat today.
Michael Abrash’s Inspiration
Michael Abrash is Chief Scientist at Facebook Reality Labs. That’s the division of Facebook which researches future VR & AR tech. He also reportedly co-leads Facebook’s new AR glasses team.
In 1994, Abrash was working at Microsoft. He had helped develop the core graphics architecture of Windows. After reading Snow Crash, he quit Microsoft and joined John Carmack at Id. Together they developed Quake — one of the first widely popular online multiplayer FPS games. He then worked at companies like Microsoft (again) and Intel until 2011 when he joined Valve to work on AR and VR.
After joining Valve, Abrash wrote a blog post explaining his history. The first sentence: “It all started with Snow Crash.”