The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans (published January 6, 2011 by Open Books) is my sixth novel and my eighth book, and it is very different than my previous works. I also think it is my best work to date. In fact, it is the novel I have been trying to write my entire life!
I began writing stories at the age of eight. I just turned fifty-eight a couple of days ago, so that means I have been writing for fifty years now. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans took three and a half years to write, but in truth it is a novel fifty years in the making. Why? Because it documents all I know and all I believe, which makes it a truly honest work of fiction.
So, who exactly is Fizzy Oceans? Fizzy is the alter ego of Amy Birkenstock, a pretty average. down-on-her-luck young woman in Seattle, Washington. But she is also my alter ego. Because she not only lives in the physical world where we all interact each and every day, but in an alternate world - another dimension, if you will - where the dead are very much alive, where dreams and aspirations are manifest at will, and where the future is only a mouse-click away. Fizzy is forever curious, engaging, and prone to outrageous speculations (which she finds she can actualize at will). Yet she is an unlikely heroine, too. She has no super powers (other than her own mind), and in fact, she is very much like you and me. What does distinguish her is her ability to think inside out. And living her (physical) life during a time when the environment is failing and social constructions are falling apart, that ability is her saving grace. And ours, too!
Just before writing this author's introduction, I came across a Facebook page where, apparently, the persona is a fictional character in a popular Hollywood movie. It also refers prolifically to other characters in the movie, as if they were real people with whom I was invited to interact. I have always been fascinated with the idea of changelings - you know, people who appear totally different depending on their mood or when one might encounter them - so the page intrigued me. To be honest, the page was full of very recognizable movie stars, who on the FB page appeared as the characters in the film. This idea suggests to me an alternate reality in which I might participate - a make-believe world, so to speak. Of course Fizzy Oceans knows all about alternate universes, because even as her alter ego, Amy Birkenstock, is more or less ineffectual in the physical universe, Fizzy shines brightly in an alternate one. When we stop to think about it, we all live in multiple universes, even if we do not realize it or acknowledge it. For each of us, our mental (and perhaps spiritual) world is wholly our own. But are the lines between what we call 'real' and what we call fantasy really so finely drawn? Not anymore, I think. Each person who engages in social media like Facebook, or like Second Life, or Farmville or others, exists, for a time at least, in an alternative universe - one where we make up many of the rules and where superhuman activities are possible and easily actualized. And anyone who is even remotely knowledgeable about computer technology realizes that such things as holographic images are not far in our everyday future. How long will it be, for instance, before we can have our favorite fictional character over for dinner? Or how long before we can take a virtual vacation? In some respects all this already exists; it's only a question of quality. Analog life is finished; digital reality is the house of mirrors, the portal into multidimensional living, and we are all invited to the party.
Now, back to Fizzy... The novel, I believe, is a challenge to all who read it to move beyond their personal boundaries. After all, such boundaries are the ones that we ourselves set. It invites all who read it to suspend their allegiance to the literal world and begin thinking in terms of metaphors and symbols, and it further suggests that that world is even more 'real' than the literal one. After all, the literal world seems to be collapsing all around us (environmental degeneration, religious strife, wars, monetary collapse, social chaos - you name it!). Fizzy has discovered a portal, a door into a new way of seeing and interacting, and her 'virtual' life seems more 'real' to her than her physical (literal) life. I know many who read this essay will identify with that concept, because the transition in 'real' life is already well underway. Just consider how many hours per day you spend in the virtual world already. Might it not take over your concept of 'reality' at some point? Maybe it already has to one degree or another. But Fizzy's journey does not end with the virtual world. It moves even beyond that, because through her experiences in virtual life she discovers yet other dimensions in which she (and all of us) live simultaneously: NL (Natural Life); PL (Physical Life); VL (Virtual Life); FL (Future Life) and ML (Meta Life). Still, it is not a one-or-the-other concept; these are worlds (or dimensions) that exist simultaneously for everyone - worlds within worlds, shadow images, reflections of reflections of reflections. I do not take credit for this concept, because I believe it is one that has always existed right in front of our eyes. Only our self-imposed limitations prevent us from living effectively in a multidimensional existence. Fizzy leads us through the haze, not as some sort of guru but as an everyday person drawn to save herself and her friends (and everybody with eyes to see and ears to hear) from a stifling existence and even from extinction as a race.
I know that The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans will not be every reader's cup of tea. The novel asks its readers to think outside boundaries that are often well established. And it can be a little frightening to 'literally' give up the ground you stand on. But for those willing to enter Fizzy's world, the payoff is a perspective that is both expansive and circular in nature. It is also timely as we enter an era when the physical and virtual worlds merge and definitions about what is real and what is fantasy become forever blurred. It is a world predicated on the concept of possibility, and upon 'instant' actualization of ones visions and aspirations. It is the future, except the future is now for those willing to move from literal perception to a metaphorical frame of reference.
I hope you will give this novel a chance. And I hope Fizzy will work her charming way into your consciousness. I hope you will make her your friend, have 'virtual' discussions with her, see through her unique perspective from time to time. That is my hope as her creator, her advocate, and as her 'friend'.
See you all in VL!