Guest Blog

Guest Blog: Death and the Avatar

This week YAPS! has been hacked by Conor Kostick, the mind-altering author of ‘Edda’, a fast-paced futuristic fantasy set in a virtual world full of avatars, magic and mythical beings. We were hoping to bring you the latest results from the Trend-O-Matic, but somewhere in a dank basement in Dublin, Conor Kostick went clackety-clack-clack at his computer and the following post appeared instead. Even now he is conducting a one-man cyber-war against Young Adult blogs everywhere! Watch out for him, and watch out for ‘Edda’, the final part of his acclaimed ‘The Avatar Chronicles’, which is available in all good book shops!

Writing about the drama taking place in electronic worlds is a lot of fun, especially because the rules are so very different. In our world, for example, once someone is dead, well, that’s it. If there’s a battle going on between two characters and one of them kills the other, it’s over. And even if you are writing a fantasy book about werewolves or vampires, so you can get around this a bit, the person who died and came back has changed quite a lot (they now go all furry come the full moon, or have a strange aversion to light).

But in electronic worlds, you can kill someone’s avatar a hundred times over and so what? They just create a new one. Victory in a conflict has to mean something else. Perhaps it becomes more about groups of people striving together to change the rules.

Having said that, if you play these kinds of games enough, you do get attached to your favourite avatars, but even then, death doesn’t have to mean the end. You could be backed up at some save point; the game could allow resurrections; or perhaps all that happens is you move to a safer area.

In Epic, the fantasy world of the first book in The Avatar Chronicles Trilogy, the game itself is so sophisticated that it is becoming sentient. One of its most powerful, intelligent and dangerous Non-Player Characters is the Vampire, Count Illystivostich. But the count makes a serious mistake on first dealing with the human players of Epic, because he doesn’t grasp their nature and says too much to characters he assumes he will slay in the immediate future. Count Illystivostich is a quick learner though and he starts to wonder about how you could remove a human from his world, permanently.

In Edda, the situation is rather the reverse, with the one human player, Penelope, brought up to know no other world than Edda and no other people than the various manifestations of Edda’s sentient ruler, Lord Scanthax. Now fifteen, Penelope has to understand what it means to be human and the true nature of Lord Scanthax in order to escape her isolation and reconnect to societies created by millions of living people.

For now my interest in this area is on hold, as I finish a history book – a very different type of writing – on Strongbow. But I’m thinking of returning to the dramatic possibilities of virtual worlds with a series of stories about beings who are self-conscious avatars living in the far, far future. And what do the people who are free from material concern, who can teleport, transmute their forms, back themselves up and thus avoid permanent death, etc. do? Why… they party! It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Conor Kostick lives in Dublin and, when not vandalizing the Internet, teaches medieval history at Trinity College and is the author of several critically-acclaimed books including Epic, Saga, Move, as well as The Book of Curses for younger readers. Conor was the recipient of a Special Merit Award at the Reading Association of Ireland Awards in 2009 for his book Move, and for his contribution to science-fiction writing in Ireland. He has achieved international success with Epic and Saga.

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