Interview with Tad Williams

This Interview has been provided by, and is printed with their permission.

Gamesdynamite: Tad, we have read your books and especially enjoyed Otherland very much, and we love massively multiplayer online games, also known as persistent worlds – or virtual reality. You seem to be the perfect guy to discuss how virual reality is becoming real…

Otherland was first published in 1996. If you look back on the years which have passed since, do you feel that your fiction is becoming true sooner than you thought?

Tad Williams: Some aspects, yes, certainly.  People frequently send me news stuff with comments like, “Look — an Otherland moment!”  And I’ve seen articles about Bill Gates and other rich guys funding research into life-extension.  And of course the reality TV stuff that I satirize in the Netfeed segments just barely existed then, whereas now it’s inescapable.
Gamesdynamite: Is there anything in the development which suprised you, which strook you, which impressed you or which depressed you more than you had anticipated?

Tad Williams: I’m worried that people don’t seem to ask the same kind of questions about politics that they do about things like advertising.  Here in the States we’re seeing articles about how the Bush Administration thinks (as does Governor Schwarzenegger in California) it’s perfectly reasonable to send out prepared “news” items propagandizing the government’s point of view, without labeling them as such — and no one except a few left-wingers and liberals seem to think this is scary.  Thus, as media becomes more and more not something we simply watch or listen to, but the environment in which we live, I worry about people finding it harder and harder to distinguish between — or care about the difference between — real news and corporate and government hard-sell.
Gamesdynamite: When you see how Renie’s brother is absorbed by the net in “Otherland”, however, you want to scream and tell him there is a real life out there – even before you know what happens later on… And I have to admit, while I am completely fascinated by massively multiplayer online games – I write about them, I have done PR and marketing for one of them – it sometimes frightens me to see how people are drawn into these games and I wonder when they find their way back to reality … if ever …

Tad Williams: I wonder if there are more people like that today, because there are more media in which to lose oneself, or whether the people susceptible to these things in the past found other ways to escape from a reality they didn’t care about that much.

I was just reading Peter Carey’s WRONG ABOUT JAPAN, which describes a trip he took there with his 12 year old son, and I couldn’t help wondering if the difference Carey describes between what interests him (history and philosophy, the outdoors, old stuff) and what interests his son (indoor environments, video games, manga) was simply a maturity/youth thing, or personal to their family, or indicative of a larger split between the old -Homo Sapiens- and the new -Homo Media-.
Gamesdynamite:  So far, it seems that there is a huge technological leap forward in massively multiplayer online games, but the virtual worlds are basically all just adapting themes we know from books and movies. The creative development is still driven by classical media. When
will massively multiplayer online gaming start to develop its own themes? When will they start to become creative?

Tad Williams: If someone wants to give me a couple of million bucks, I’ll make a world like that tomorrow.  I’d love to create an environment with its own stories that would continue to evolve.  I’ve thought about it a lot. I even tried to start such a thing a few times, but I still haven’t found people who both understood it AND had the resources.
Gamesdynamite: So you would you like to add one more job to your long list?

Tad Williams: Yes, I’d like to create an entire environment that would be so real, so unique, and so engrossing that people would never want to leave it.  (Although I hope they would, at least long enough to shower and eat and sleep occasionally.)
Gamesdynamite: Do you spend much time on the Internet yourselves?

Tad Williams: I’m on the internet a lot, although I’m always fighting the lure of bopping around and browsing interesting sites. I have my own website ( and do a lot of research and read more than a few online media sites.  That said, I find it interferes with work and parenting if I’m not careful, and (to rephrase an old joke) I don’t think anyone is ever going to be on their deathbed, looking back on how they spent their life and saying, “I wish I’d spent more time messing around on the internet.”
Gamesdynamite: Are there books from the past which affected you?

Tad Williams: I can’t count all the books which have had an influence on me, but certainly when I was young Tolkien and Ray Bradbury, and when I was a little older (teenage years) you could add PK Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, and some others.  And since then, Thomas Pynchon, Hunter S. Thompson, Russell Hoban, and Anthony Burgess, to name a few more.
Gamesdynamite: Do you think that printed books will still have a future in an electronic age?

Tad Williams: It will be a while before printed books go away.  They’re very cost-effective (cheap to replace) and they pack a lot of information in a small, manageable package.  We’re not ready to say goodbye to them yet.


Thank you very much for your time and the interview.

Interview: Anja Gellesch and Andreas Lober for

Read the whole interview with questions about MMORG using this link to

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