88 Names podcast episode 8: Simón Rojas & Amir Ebrahimnia

In this bonus episode of the 88 Names podcast, we talk to Simón Rojas and Amir Ebrahimnia, co-founders of the Toronto-based ad agency Derooted Immersive.

This was our only podcast interview to be recorded during quarantine. We discuss the impact of the pandemic on current business and speculate about how it may affect the future of VR and other technologies that allow people to connect remotely. We also talk about the risks of conducting guerrilla marketing campaigns in a nervous world. (Pro-tip: If you’re going to stage a mock pirate ship battle in a big city harbor, make sure to let the cops know about it in advance.)

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Lovecraft Country teaser trailer

In a series of tweets this week, Misha Green, Jordan Peele, and J.J. Abrams hinted that HBO was about to drop a trailer for Lovecraft Country. Sure enough, it’s here!

I know people are going to have a ton of questions about this, so here’s a quick Q&A:

What is this?

An HBO series based on my 2016 novel of the same name. You can read more about the book here.

Are you excited?

I’m bouncing off the walls with excitement. Can’t you tell?

Have you seen the show yet?

No. I read a draft of the pilot script, and visited the film set a couple of times, but this footage is as new to me as it is to you.

How faithful is the series to the novel?

Since I haven’t seen it yet, I can’t really say, but it’s a safe bet that, as with any adaptation, there will be changes, some large, some small.

How do you feel about that?

I’m fine with it. I already have my version of the story; I don’t need an exact copy. As it is, watching the trailer is like getting a glimpse of a parallel universe—one whose elements are familiar to me, but still different enough to feel fresh: There’s the Winthrop House; there’s the white citizens’ brigade who want Letitia out of the Winthrop House; there’s Hippolyta’s orrery; oh, wow, there’s the Braithwhites’ pet shoggoth. It’s a translation, for sure, but it’s cool.

Is there anything else people should know?

Online references to the show rightly credit executive producers Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, without whom this wouldn’t be happening, but they sometimes fail to mention Misha Green. As the series’ showrunner, Misha mapped out the season, wrote or co-wrote all of the scripts, and oversaw the day-to-day production. More than any other individual, the series’ success rests on her shoulders (no pressure, Misha!), so it’s only right that she should get credit too.

When will the show air?

August. I’ll let you know the exact date once HBO announces it.

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88 Names podcast bonus interview: Amber Osborne

Today on the 88 Names podcast site, we have a written interview with Amber Osborne, an award-winning VR and AR marketing strategist (somebody my protagonist John Chu would get on well with, I think). She tells us how she got her start in the industry, talks about the challenges of promoting a technology that isn’t fully developed yet, and shares some thoughts about the future. You can check it out here.

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88 Names podcast episode 7: Noah Nelson

On this episode of the 88 Names podcast, we talk to Noah Nelson, the founder of No Proscenium, a website and podcast devoted to “everything immersive,” though as the name implies, there’s an emphasis on theater and other types of immersive live performance that blur the line between actors and audience.

For me, this was the most eye-opening of the podcast interviews, touching on whole categories of experience that I’d never even considered in connection with 88 Names. By the time we finished talking, I was eager to check out some immersive theater for myself, and Noah generously offered to be my guide when I came to L.A. on book tour. That plan was derailed by the coronavirus, but all is not lost: On the website, Noah writes about how the immersive theater community is trying to adapt to the pandemic, and a frequently updated post lists immersive and interactive experiences that are available online.

A programming note: This is the last “regular” episode of the 88 Names podcast. We have one more special episode that will be dropping shortly, another written interview (with VR marketing consultant Amber Osborne), and then Blake and I will be offering some final thoughts. Stay tuned!

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88 Names podcast bonus interview: Bishop D.J. Soto of VR Church

Today on the 88 Names podcast site, we have a written interview with Bishop D.J. Soto, lead pastor of VR Church, “the first church to exist entirely in virtual reality.” (Services are conducted on multiple online platforms, but the visitor guide on the church website recommends that first timers come to the one on AltspaceVR.)

Like all forms of religious innovation, this one gets a certain amount of side-eye from more traditional clergy, but I think it’s a perfectly valid, fascinating idea, and Soto himself is a really interesting guy. Be sure and check out the links to the online baptisms in the interview. And you can read more about D.J. Soto and VR Church here.

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88 Names podcast episode 6: Joanna Popper

On this episode of the 88 Names podcast, we talk to Joanna Popper, Hewlett-Packard’s Global Head of Virtual Reality for Location-Based Entertainment. Joanna’s division of HP works with arcades, theme parks, movie theaters, and other venues that host VR experiences. (For a sense of what a dedicated LBE site looks like, here’s a short video about The VOID, and a longer review/discussion of Spaces’ Terminator: Salvation experience.)

On our next episode, we talk to No Proscenium founder Noah Nelson.

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88 Names reading and Q&A in AltspaceVR this Friday

This Friday, March 17, I’ll be reading from 88 Names and taking questions on Microsoft’s AltspaceVR platform. The virtual venue opens to the public at 5:30 Pacific Time and the reading will start at 6:00.

Although Altspace supports virtual reality headsets, you don’t need one to attend the reading—there’s a “2D mode” that lets you log in using a regular PC and keyboard. All you need to do is download the app from the AltspaceVR homepage, sign up for a (free) account, and go through a brief set-up process/tutorial to create your avatar and learn how to move around on the site. Once that’s taken care of, you can RSVP for the event here.

See you on Friday!

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88 Names podcast episode 5: Michael Madary

On episode 5 of the 88 Names podcast, we talk to philosopher and ethicist Michael Madary. Madary is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Pacific, and the co-author, with Thomas Metzinger, of “Real Virtuality: A Code of Ethical Conduct. Recommendations for Good Scientific Practice and the Consumers of VR-Technology.” The question of good behavior in cyberspace—what the rules should be, and how to get people to follow them—is one of the main themes in 88 Names, so this was a fascinating conversation for me, all the more so because Madary, as an academic, comes at it from a completely different angle than I do as a novelist.

On our next episode, we talk to Joanna Popper, Hewlett-Packard’s Global Head of Virtual Reality for Location-Based Entertainment.

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Virtual Memories: COVID-19 edition

Last weekend I made return visit to the Virtual Memories Show podcast. Host Gil Roth and I first met three years ago, when he came to my house in Seattle to talk about Lovecraft Country and various other topics. Gil prefers to conduct interviews face-to-face, but like everyone else, he’s been forced to adapt to the coronavirus, so this time we chatted long distance, via Zencastr.

You can listen to our conversation here.

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88 Names podcast episode 4: Mariana Acuña Acosta

On today’s episode of the 88 Names podcast, we talk to Mariana Acuña Acosta, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Glassbox Technologies, which creates virtual production software tools for use in filmmaking, video game design, and the creation of VR experiences. Join us for a fun and wide-ranging conversation about VR tech and the responsibilities that come with it, a callback to the days when computer memory was measure in kilobytes, and an explanation of why, even if you’re not in the middle of a global pandemic, you might want to think twice about sharing your VR headset with strangers.

On our next episode, we talk to philosopher and ethicist Michael Madary.

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