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Female EDM Vocalists You Need To Know

During the dawn of rave music it was common for producers to sample vocalists from popular songs and integrate them into their own beat in creative ways. The rave scene of the late 80’s – early 90’s put more focus on the beat, and any vocals were intentionally blended into the background so as not to stand out as much. But the rave scene has since matured and Electronic Dance Music has reached levels of popularity and production unheard of in the earlier days. While glitchy vocal samples and fully instrumental tracks are still common, these days have seen the rise of talented vocalists who specialize in offering their voices over EDM tracks. Some vocalists are extremely prolific, and feature on some of the biggest EDM anthems of the decade. Unfortunately, it often seems that these prominent voices don’t always receive the spotlight they deserve. More importantly, since EDM is a male-dominated scene (which is definitely changing) it seems as though females in particular have had a harder time receiving recognition for their work. Below is a list of some of the most prevalent female vocalists who have most likely featured on a song you love.


 

Tasha Baxter

 

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Tasha Baxter hails all the way South Africa, but her voice can be heard all over American and European productions. She usually features in more bassy or psychedelic style songs. She’s a frequent collaborator with Jon Gooch (aka Feed Me), a popular English DJ/Producer who has released music under Mau5trap. My personal favorite Tasha Baxter/Feed Me track is ‘Cloudburn’; Baxter’s contribution to this track is what makes it memorable. Baxter has also collaborated with American DJ/Producer Au5 on the song ‘Snowblind’ which currently has over 2 million listens on Soundcloud. Her most recent song feature is  ABIS & Signal – The Wall (ft. Tasha Baxter). Also, listen to Greg Reve – Unveiled (2012) to get a really good sense of quintessential Tasha Baxter vocals.

It only takes listening to one or two tracks featuring Tasha Baxter to be able to quickly recognize her voice in any subsequent songs you listen to. To me her voice has jazzy elements reminiscent of Amy Winehouse. Her knack for bassy and psychedelic productions paired with her high vocal notes makes her best of both worlds in terms of masculine and feminine appeal.

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Anna Yvette

 

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Anna Yvette is a New York-based singer, songwriter, and producer. She’s been active in the EDM scene or almost 10 years. She’s been a prominent vocalist since the beginning of EDM’s meteoric rise in the U.S. Along with Tasha Baxter, she is probably one of the more recognizable names in EDM. Before EDM however she was really into rock, and she even has a rock album called Ships of Theseus from 2009. Her Monstercat Wiki page has a list of her most played Monstercat songs, and shows that she has amassed tens of millions of views within the record label.

Yvette is also very active on social media. You can find her tweeting frequently under the handle ‘Mother Unicorn’. She’s one of the more outspoken vocalists in the community and is partly who inspired me to create this write-up of female vocalists.  

Demonstrating her versatility as an artist, Anna Yvette recently produced a song called ‘Summer Never Ends’ which includes Laura Brehm, another honorable mention in the field of female EDM vocalists.

Music blogging site Nest HQ recently did an Artist Spotlight on Anne Yvette. Check it out for a more in depth look at her recent projects.

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Nevve

 

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Nevve is relatively new to the scene — she’s only been active for a few years, but she already features in some of the best songs by current up-and-coming producers. Some example producers include Illenium, 3LAU, Taska Black, Boombox Cartel, and many other diverse talents spanning the genres. In her short time as an EDM vocalist she’s amassed a million+ plays within Monstercat.

Nevve is also somewhat mysterious. From what I can see she is not active on any social media sites; her Instagram is private and doesn’t appear to have any posts. She’s active on Soundcloud though and already has 20k+ followers. I wasn’t even able to find an image online that I was 100% sure was her. Nevve’s mystery is gradually becoming a topic of discussion within the EDM community; some have even gone as far as suggesting that Nevve is actually a collective, whatever that means. Her frequent collaborations with members of San Holo’s bitbird record label may suggest Dutch origins.

Despite being relatively new to the scene Nevve definitely makes this list due to her rapid rise in popularity, and the fact that every last one of her features so far have been hits.


Veela

 

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Canadian-born Veela has been one of my favorite vocalists since discovering her almost 10 years ago. She has been active for a while, offering her vocals on many of the lesser known (but nonetheless talented) electronic artists like Feint, Maduk, Rameses B, Varien, and Blackmill. One of Veela’s greatest features was on Blackmill’s ‘Let It Be’ which has almost 15 million views on YouTube and practically defines the Melodic Dubstep subgenre. Furthermore, anyone who has downloaded a fresh copy of the music production program FL Studio might remember her as being the vocalist in the sample song shown to users when they start the program up for the first time. Her Monstercat wiki page features millions of views under the record label.

Veela’s solo work includes her Prelude EP, Icy Love EP, 2233 EP, Course, Guide To Get Through It — all of which can be found on Spotify.

Some of her earlier fans may remember that she dated the geek culture rapper None Like Joshua who is known for his anime and video game-inspired raps. Veela and NLJ even did a few songs together.

Aside from her vibrant purple hair and infectious social media presence, Veela has always stood out vocal-wise for her enchanting voice and the fantasy themes of her lyrics and persona. Veela is also a consumer of geek culture and this is reflected in her music. Her stage name after all is inspired by mystical fairies of Slavic folklore, or it could be inspired by the magical creature of Harry Potter lore. Her voice reminds me of how the forest nymphs of ancient myth might sound. Her Canadian accent often-times slips through her songs as well, which — as an American listener with a non-regional dialect — adds to the enchantment of her voice. Veela is a sort of alternative Pop princess living in her own world. She radiates creative energy that seems to attract others of similar mindedness.

Visit Veela’s website for a sneak peek into her world, including merchandise and music.

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Bright Lights aka Heather Bright

 

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Heather Bright (aka Bright Lights) is probably the most high profile vocalist in this list (she even has her own official wiki page, for whatever that’s worth). Originally from South Carolina, she eventually moved to New York to really kick of her music career. Heather Bright has been writing songs for pop stars since 2009. She’s written songs for Ashley Tisdale, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and more. She’s also featured on some of the biggest EDM anthems of the decade. These include: ‘Language’ by Porter Robinson, ‘How You Love Me’ by 3LAU, ‘Follow You Down’ by Zedd, and ‘Never Say Goodbye’ by Hardwell.

Heather Bright features in one of my favorite songs by the electronic trio Savoy titled ‘So Bad’. I actually had the opportunity to see Savoy live in Portland, OR, and Heather Bright opened for them! I thought that she was a great performer. She was her own DJ, and she sang and danced to all of the anthemic songs that I mentioned above. And as a bonus, during Savoy’s set she came out and sang on all of the songs of theirs that she’s featured in. It was an incredibly fun show considering how small it was.

Keep a look out for Heather Bright’s debut solo album, which doesn’t appear to have a name or release date yet. Also visit her Official web page for links to all of her major performances, songs, and merchandise.

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Honorable mentions: London Thor, Laura Brehm, Kerli

 

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Album Review: ‘Worlds’ – Porter Robinson

It’s been almost four years since Porter Robinson dropped his Worlds album and I still hear the ripples of its influence all across EDM today. In 2014, the then 21-year-old Porter Robinson switched the game up by abandoning his heavy-hitting DJ sets to instead chase video game and anime-infused nostalgia tunes. And to accompany his album, Porter Robinson’s vision for dance music was fully realized with his Worlds live tour. This groundbreaking album and tour completely changed the tone of EDM, and many up-and-coming artists today have found inspiration from the young producer.

I still remember the first time I listened to this album. Someone, somewhere on the Internet had posted a link to NPR’s First Listen channel which is a site where you can listen to select albums a few days before they are officially released. The big feature on this day was Porter Robinson’s Worlds. I had seen chatter about this album for months up to this point and had also listened to and enjoyed the singles ‘Flicker’ and ‘Sad Machine’, but I still wasn’t prepared for the full album experience.

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The Tracks

The album begins with ‘Divinity’ featuring vocals by Amy Millan. This track is perfect for setting the tone for the rest of the album. It includes all of the ingredients that define Worlds: heavy drums, ambient build ups, dream-like vocals, retro video game sounds, and the overall feeling of floating in some sort of digital oasis.

Next up is the iconic track ‘Sad Machine’ which was one of the original four tracks released as singles before the album release. ‘Sad Machine’ is known for being the first ever track to feature vocals from Porter Robinson himself. It is also one of the first tracks to really begin the storytelling of the album. The lyrics to this song suggest the awakening or rescuing of some sort of virtual entity. It reminds me of any video game that requires a hero to venture out into the world to rescue a loved one.

The third track on the album, ‘Years Of War’, continues the melodic motif of the previous songs, but this time lyrically takes us back to the years of being children with vibrant imaginations. ‘Years Of War’ is a playful retelling of the experience of children at war, either between each other or with the authorities that be. The uplifting tone in conjunction with the melodic motif of the previous two songs reveals its message of innocence. ‘Years Of War’ is another nod to the fantastical, but this time delivered through the memories of children gearing up for a role-playing game, whether it be physical or virtual.

Track four is another album single called ‘Flicker’. This is still one of my favorites. While staying true to the overall vibe of the last three tracks, ‘Flicker’ also incorporates Porter Robinson’s interest in Japanese culture. ‘Flicker’ features random samples of Japanese phrases that he pretty much designs to sound like a rap of sorts. Overall, ‘Flicker’ is an upbeat, funky tune. I’ll admit that I’m an unapologetic bass fiend, so it was a pleasant surprise when a little after the halfway point of this song it drops into a glitchy, somewhat heavy breakdown that somehow manages to retain its Worlds vibes. Even more pleasant is how this song’s position in the tracklist basically primes the listener for the next track, ‘Fresh Static Snow’, which leads with one of the heaviest Electro basslines on the album. ‘Flicker’ received its own music video right around the album release. The video portrays one of the major themes of the Worlds project: the blurring between the physical and the virtual.

The first four songs on the album (‘Divinity’, ‘Sad Machine’, ‘Years of War’, and ‘Flicker’) seem to have been intentionally placed to ease the listener into the virtual fantasy that is Worlds. Each track on its own conveys a specific aspect of Porter Robinson’s new style. Every track on the album is of course unique, but they mostly act as extensions to the themes set in place by the first four. In fact, like all great albums, Worlds in its entirety can be seen as a self-contained story. By the time the album nears ‘Sea of Voices’, the third-to-last song, it becomes clear that we are nearing an end to an epic journey. The last three tracks on the album, ‘Sea of Voices’, ‘Fellow Feeling’, and ‘Goodbye To A World’ in my opinion act as a three-song outro. And this brings me to my all-time favorite song on the album, ‘Fellow Feeling’. This track is more experimental and acts as a sort of meditation or recap of Porter Robinson’s sound design and overall direction. I also think that it’s a call-to-action and a statement about the state of EDM during that time, as suggested by a line in the song, “now please, hear what I hear”, before dropping into a distorted and jumbled bassline; one of the most unexpected things to hear on such a refined album. The live version of ‘Fellow Feeling’ was definitely a moment to remember as well. After ‘Fellow Feeling’, tensions ease as ‘Goodbye To A World’ literally bids the listener farewell.

I don’t pretend to like every song on the album. ‘Hear The Bells’ for instance has a pretty epic crescendo, but overall it sounds a little generic to me, almost as if it were intended for an indie rock radio segment. Also, ‘Lionhearted’ — while being one of the signature songs on the album (complete with its own music video) — took me a long time to appreciate. It didn’t strike me as anything original at first, and instead reminded me of older songs by MGMT. ‘Polygon Dust’ off of Worlds was a similar song, but less Pop-y and more inline with what I thought about the rest of the album. Many people seem to enjoy those two songs though. And I have come around to enjoying the chorus of ‘Lionhearted’ a little more, but mainly just the melody.

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Porter Robinson’s Worlds changed the state of EDM by infusing it with honest and substantial emotion that challenged conceptions of masculinity, femininity, and noise vs. beauty in regards to music. Where before we had producer after producer creating random singles that are only listenable when mixed into a DJ set, Porter Robinson invites his listeners into an immersive world-building experience. He also proved to be even more relatable by revealing his love for video games and anime, two interests of mine that have increasingly become more accessible and popular in Western culture.  Since the release of Worlds I’ve noticed a profound change in the EDM landscape. All of us bass heads were suddenly reminded why we love electronic music in the first place. Whether consciously or not, it seems many producers have borrowed the themes and sound design of Worlds for their own purposes. I wouldn’t even go as far as calling these producers copycats. Instead I think they are inspired, and many up-and-coming artists seem to have directly absorbed Porter Robinson’s sound to their own art direction. His influence doesn’t end with the album either. The Worlds Tour live show itself is the second bomb that was dropped on the EDM scene.

The Live Show

By the time Worlds came around I was already familiar with Porter Robinson’s Spitfire EP which was an eclectic mix of classic EDM bangers (fun fact: it was also the first project to be released on Skrillex’s very own OWSLA label). I had never seen Porter Robinson live and didn’t believe I was missing out on much due to the over-saturated nature of DJ sets around this time (circa 2012-14 was definitely the peak of EDM’s rise in the U.S.). However after my first listen to Worlds I was suddenly intrigued by this producer whom I’d only associated with high-octane EDM sets before. This new Porter Robinson resonated much more with me, so I decided to buy tickets to the live show.

Lucky for me, the Worlds Tour came to my city just a couple of weeks after the album release. By this point I had listened to the album front-to-back multiple times. I had heard some opinions about the show from people who had seen it in prior cities. A couple people mentioned how low tempo it was, almost to the point of making them fall asleep, and others talked it up as being one of the greatest shows they’ve ever been too. Given my reaction to the album I was almost positive that I would love the show. Based on screenshots and video clips I saw online I also already had a good idea of the stage setup.

With the Worlds Tour, Porter Robinson wanted the live show to be just as immersive as the album. He decided to go completely clear and transparent with his equipment table in order to make the visuals behind him more visible. This helped to take emphasis off Porter Robinson himself and add more focus to the visuals that help tell the Worlds story.  It also became apparent that this show would be special when he brought out the various instruments he’d use during the show; these included a drum pad and a couple of other MIDI devices such as keyboard and microphone. The typical EDM set usually consists of nothing more than the DJ, his/her controller, and whatever visuals the artist’s team decides to throw on at a given moment. As the Worlds show progressed, Porter Robinson could be seen live mixing songs and occasionally singing on his microphone and playing the keyboard live. The most epic moments of the show however were when he’d grab his drum sticks and start jamming out on his drum pad. His drum pad was of course mapped to some heavy Electro percussive synths, so every once in awhile the crowd was treated to a unique and aggressive jam session that stood in stark contrast to the more serene and melodic sections of the show. All in all the Worlds Tour was a rollercoaster of emotions backed by anime and 8-bit video game visuals as well as Porter Robinson’s sentimental performance.

 

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The Worlds Tour was one of the first EDM shows (that I’ve seen) this decade to really push the DJ and the controller to the side and focus on a traditional and organic live show. Nowadays I’m seeing more EDM producers integrating live instruments into their performance. This is the synthesis of digital and analog that I believe EDM has been working towards since the beginning. It’s no surprise that one of the major themes of the Worlds album is how the line between the virtual and the physical are blurring.

Soon after the first time I saw the Worlds Tour live show (I think I ended up seeing it 4 or 5 times) I created an 8 minute compilation of some footage from it. Watch it below for a taste of what was experienced!

To my surprise, there is much more I can say about Worlds and Porter Robinson’s projects in general, but for the sake of being concise I think it best to draw this post to a close. I would be doing everyone a disservice however if I did not at least recommend listening to the Worlds remix album after becoming familiar with the original. For the remix album, Porter Robinson selected very specific artists who must’ve met a certain criteria of his, and every song on the original album got a remix. What I love most about this remix album is how every selected artist brilliantly adds their own signature sound while retaining the essence of the original track. This is something that takes tons of skill, otherwise the original song has no relevance to whatever beat the remixing artist is trying to add to it. It’s no surprise that the Worlds remix album is almost as good as the original; every artist chosen was already proven to be amazing at what they do. Listen to Worlds (Remixed) on Spotify. I also want to use this as an opportunity to recommend Porter Robinson’s newest project Virtual Self. I recently wrote about it here. Expect more posts about Virtual Self from me soon!

New Music Video: ‘Ghost Voices’ – Virtual Self

Hopefully by now the many fans of Porter Robinson have caught on to his side project Virtual Self. The self-titled EP was released in November 2017 and has ignited the dance music scene with early 2000’s rave nostalgia. Almost every track has received remixes, and new artists are emerging who seem to have been inspired directly by Virtual Self. Today, Porter Robinson has released the official video for arguably the most popular track off the EP, ‘Ghost Voices’.

The video for ‘Ghost Voices’ sees Virtual Self lore come to life as we witness the physical awakening of the project’s leading characters, named Pathselector and technic_Angel. These characters seem to be the dual artificially intelligent (AI) egos of Porter Robinson’s ‘virtual self’. They even have their own Twitter accounts which were used to promote the project initially.

My favorite part about this video release is the inclusion of the two Virtual Self AIs in the YouTube comments. Porter Robinson (or whoever moderates Pathselector and technic_Angel’s YouTube accounts) chose to do a sort of AMA for fans; the AIs basically invited fans to ask them anything. The AIs mainly chose to answer questions related to their identity and purpose. For example, the AI’s revealed that they are each responsible for the creation of specific songs:

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I found this to be extremely interesting and I look forward to seeing how these separate entities reveal themselves musically in future works.

Other comments made by the dual AIs were more cryptic and hinted at a larger lore being created:

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These are all terms and phrases that have been mentioned sporadically across Virtual Self’s social media and songs (and there’s much more not mentioned here). Porter Robinson is clearly trying his hand in some serious world-building with his Virtual Self project. It will be cool to see how the pieces fit together as Virtual Self’s multimedia catalog grows.

‘Ghost Voices’ is not only my favorite song thus far, but it also seems to be a fan favorite in general. Watch the video for ‘Ghost Voices’ below!

Reasons to seriously address Light Pollution

Since the dawn of humanity our ancestors have been able to look up at the night sky in its untainted entirety with respect and awe. The night sky must have been the biggest source of guidance, comfort and storytelling to those accustomed to only having campfires as a source of light. We may owe much of our cultural evolution to the night sky. Religion and civilization in general are likely the results of our wonderment over various astronomical events. Imagine a world where every sentient being has had an equal opportunity to view the splendors of the night sky unaltered. Today this is not a possibility. Many people in modern times haven’t had the chance to travel anywhere remote enough to view the sky without being inhibited by what is known as light pollution, or “skyglow”. Nowadays, we walk outside of our city homes on a crisp, clear night and see only a handful of stars. Light pollution is the byproduct of our modernized world. The technological advancements which have provided us so much security and visibility may actually be disconnecting us further from our natural selves. Not everyone has the time or inclination to drive so many miles outside of the nearest city just to see a more wholesome night sky; even when in a seemingly remote area, light pollution from large cities still tends to dampen the sky to a degree. The loss of our night sky could result in our downfall, but to bring back its undiluted brilliance could mean a boost in our sense of self and fascination in the natural world.

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A comparison of the view of the night sky from a small rural town (top) and a metropolitan area (bottom). Light pollution dramatically reduces the visibility of stars. via Wikipedia

The fact that the vast majority of the human species can no longer view the night sky in its entirety is detrimental to our spirituality. If it is true that human civilization was founded upon astronomical events, then it can’t be good that we are potentially cutting ourselves off from these roots. A disconnection from the starry night could mean a disconnection from ourselves and our curiosity. Seeking to understand the stars and our place in the universe has been one of the primary motivators of scientific progression and cultural evolution.

Aside from the suspected spiritual detriments light pollution may cause, there are more obvious problems as well. For one, it’s going to be increasingly harder for astronomers to study celestial objects as urbanization and mega-cities become more prominent. Scientists will have to resort to solely building space-based telescopes which are currently expensive to launch and come with their own inconveniences, like the difficulty of repairing them or the allocation of usage. This is not only true for professional scientists: amateur, or citizen scientists, will have an even harder time aiding in discoveries as well. When we can no longer analyze the sky we lose out on inspiring the youth and the general public. We may also miss out on important discoveries such as near-Earth asteroids, supernovae, or extra-planetary asteroid impacts. Additionally, light pollution is actually known to cause disruptions in ecological systems. Studies show that certain types of artificial lighting can cause physical and psychological problems for humans and other animals. We humans have existed in the same biological form for tens of thousands of years, meaning that our psychological health may be attuned to our ability to view the night sky. Similarly, improper light exposure has been known to throw off our circadian rhythm.  

Efforts to restore the magnificence of the undiluted night sky range from implementing policies, to unique lighting technologies and petitions for “lights off” days. Businesses, neighborhoods, cities, and national governments can all implement policies ranging from minimal light requirements at certain hours of the day, to restricting the use of certain types of lighting that emit a troublesome ambiance. Some people have gone so far as to petition for widespread days of no lights, which would require cities to restrict light usage for some arbitrary time frame — maybe even just two hours out of the night — so that citizens can reap the benefits of absolute minimal light pollution. These anti-light events could be timed during notable astronomical events like major meteor showers or auroras. We would no longer have to rely on enhanced digital media to see what the universe has to offer.

This is not to say that technological advancement and urbanization is a wholly bad thing; we can continue making our way towards mega-cities. We just need to stop neglecting collateral damage. If you are interested in ways that you can help combat light pollution, a good place to start is naturally the internet. The Dark Skies Awareness organization is dedicated to the fight; there are ways for anyone to donate to their efforts or to become a subscribed member which offers certain benefits. Search for petitions online that are calling for days of no light, or that are calling for action and policies against skyglow. Refit your homes and businesses with lighting that doesn’t emit sub-optimal levels of light pollution, and spread the word! We must treat light pollution with the same disdain that we view environmental pollution and climate change. Losing the night sky destroys us spiritually while losing the biosphere destroys us physically.

If we can restore the brilliance of the night sky in some way, who knows what sort of cultural changes will take place. As a civilization we may have forgotten something about ourselves, and the reintroduction of the night sky could inspire revolutionary thinking to the same degree it inspired religions and the birth of civilizations. It would cause a spiritual revolution. Looking upon the stars is actually looking upon ourselves. Like many scientists have said: we are made of stardust; we owe everything about our existence to those floating points in the sky. When you look at the band of the Milky Way across the sky, you’re really looking at the center of our galaxy edge-on. Grasping this perspective would be a profound experience to someone unfamiliar with an optimally unpolluted sky. Maybe all it will take are enough people to really understand our place in the cosmos in this way for humanity to really take space exploration seriously.

Space colonization through adaptation

Featured image: http://scottr5680.deviantart.com/art/Biodome-375817102

As appealing as the idea of deep space exploration sounds, we as humans may not actually be at the most advantageous point in our abilities to undergo exploration at a larger scale. Not only is space travel technologically challenging, but we humans in our current biological form aren’t necessarily equipped to handle the conditions of space or the celestial bodies we wish to explore. We are susceptible to the harsh radiation in the vacuum of space, we cannot respire in most atmospheres, and we probably couldn’t handle some of the unfamiliar physical conditions on most planets such as variations in gravity, or extreme variations in temperature. This however should not stop us from thinking creatively about how we approach space travel. There are many alternative “modes of transportation” for example, and there is always the possibility of  uniquely altering ourselves in preparation for conditions that are not familiar to us.

One way in which we already do most of our space travel is through robots. We’ve sent countless probes throughout the solar system to act as extensions to our biological senses. Through these probes we’re able to gauge everything from atmospheric conditions to unique geological features. Robots act as proxies until we can muster the resources to actually send humans to distant locations, but sending humans to remote places in space involves much higher costs and risks. For now, robots may be our best ticket into space. It may not seem like the ideal avenue, but consider some modern-day technologies that could make this more exciting. We are now living in the age of virtual reality (VR). Many people today have had the chance to experience what it’s like to be fully immersed in virtual worlds. As graphics processing improves, the immersion will only become more realistic. VR has the potential to give individuals the ability to experience someone else’s life, whether that be a fictional video game character or an actual person with a camera attached to their head in some way. Anyone will be able to strap on a VR headset and know what it’s like to be someone on the other side of the world.

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Image: http://au.pcmag.com/virtual-reality/42848/news/behind-the-scenes-creating-a-vr-space-game-with-nasa

This VR technology feature could be expanded for use with various space probes and robotic rovers that we have stationed throughout the solar system. One day we could retrofit a space probe with a 360 degree camera and send it orbiting around all of the Jovian planets. People back on Earth could connect to these probes and experience what it’s like to float over Saturn’s rings in high-definition. Rovers stationed on Mars could give Earthlings a panoramic view of the Valles Marineris.

Saturn's Ice Rings by Gamersan

Saturn’s Ice Rings: http://gamersan.deviantart.com/art/Saturn-s-Ice-Rings-404873963

Robotic rovers today are mostly designed to operate like vehicles, but looking further into the future, we may begin building humanoid robots. Robots that are modeled after humans will open up the possibility of an even more immersive and unique exploratory experience. Using a combination of VR technology and haptic feedback gear, a human operator could jack into a humanoid robot stationed on some distant world and take complete control of it. Instead of only being a passive observer limited to what a camera is showing them, people would now be able to take full control of the humanoid robot and move around on their own free will. With the haptic feedback devices and motor sensory apparatus, the operator could feel the ground beneath them, and walk the robot vast distances. This would be very useful for scientists who are looking for more flexibility and control over which objects-of-interest to investigate. This sort of “mind transfer” technology is similar to what James Cameron showed us in the movie Avatar, but instead of inhabiting a living body, it’d be a machine body being inhabited through telepresence. Avatar-like technology would most likely be limited for use by high-ranked scientists or astronauts at first, but soon-after this technology could be developed for commercial use. One day it may be possible to purchase your very own avatar robot for off-world use. Instead of sending ships full of humans to distant celestial bodies, we may just pack shipping freights full of avatars set to go online whenever the Earth-based operator logs in. From there you could navigate around any permissible zone designated for your avatar to use. It would be akin to logging into a massively multiplayer online game like World of Warcraft or Second Life, but instead of logging into a virtual world you are logging into a physical world far away.

Deep-space travel and extra-planetary habitation may also be more practical if we humans master genetic engineering and alter our own biology. Today when it comes to extra-planetary colonization, like on Mars for example, the most commonly proposed strategy is to terraform the planet, which is a process by which humans alter a planet’s climate to such a way that it eventually becomes more suitable for human habitation. While this idea is tantalizing, many opponents see this as another example of humanity’s anthropocentric tendency to modify everything into something suitable for humans. Some environmentalists think that since humans tend to do more harm than good to their own planet, it may be best if we don’t go around changing other planets in ways that may be detrimental to the planet in the long run. Instead, it has also been proposed that instead of adapting a planet to humans, humans adapt to the planet itself. Genetic engineering provides the opportunity to do so. Like the Ousters in Dan Simmons’s Hyperion Cantos, humanity may expand into a variety of different forms which offer unique, adaptive ways to survive on seemingly inhospitable planets. We could alter our metabolic pathways to allow us to survive off different nutrients. We could alter our respiratory system to allow us to breath in different atmospheres. We can alter our muscles and skeletal systems to allow for comfort on varying levels of gravity. Humans would be able to choose where they want to live and adapt accordingly. In the distant future we may see dazzling diversity in human sub-types. Humans with wings optimized for drifting through clouds on a very low gravity planet; humans with lungs living in water worlds; people with genetically augmented skin meant to help them survive extreme cold or heat. The possibilities are endless. Some groups of humans may decide to isolate from the rest of humanity, and future encounters with these groups might have them mistaken for actual aliens! Fortunately, a quick genetic test would place them rightfully back on the human evolutionary tree.

Genetic manipulation may not be the only way in which we alter ourselves as a space-faring civilization. Instead of remaining biological, we may choose to augment ourselves with technology. Swapping out certain organs for machine counterparts may prove just as effective if not more so in optimizing us for specific conditions. In a more extreme case, we may be able to manufacture special exosuits that supply all the variation needed to survive on a certain planet. This suit might be able to rapidly adapt to changing conditions in real-time. This multi-functioning suit could eliminate the need to radically alter humans in their current form.

In the end however, it could be that of all of these options will be available to us. Depending on your preferences you might be able to choose one or a combination of all of these adaptations that would allow you to travel just about anywhere in space you desire.

Getting humans into deep space will be tricky business. Colonizing the solar system and eventually other star systems will very likely involve non-traditional methods of travel and adaptability. While some of the ideas discussed here may seem implausible or very far off, others seem within our current capability. Using robots as proxies for instance is basically what we already do, but with existing technology such as VR, we already have the recipe for some very engaging exploration via Avatar-like telepresence. Also, augmenting our current biology with inorganic technological components may be more ethical and within reach than radical genetic manipulation. Still, it’s exciting to think about all the ways in which we could explore space. With such a variety of potential avenues – many of which were not even discussed here – space exploration has never seemed so doable.

Why we need to prioritize space exploration

We need to focus more on space: exploration, colonization, and the planetary sciences need to be a higher priority of the general public. Humanity’s future depends on how dedicated we are to exploring the solar system and other stars. The benefits to humanity are immeasurable, but we can imagine what some of those benefits might be. We already know what benefits our current space industry has produced. Many technologies and medications used in space decades ago have already trickled down to everyday humans on Earth. This trickle-down effect bolsters our economy and jump-starts technological innovation. There are also the more intangible mental effects space exploration has on us as a civilization. Exploring space has altered and expanded our cosmic view. The various types of space telescopes and robotic probes represent an extension to our biological senses. Through these instruments we are constructing a more complete picture of the cosmos and our place within it. Studying the various asteroids, planets and moons in our solar system also help us to know how we came to be and where we should go in the future. We can even see how our current understanding of the cosmos affects culture. Artists from various disciplines tend to include modern space science concepts, terminology and themes in their works; it is also a sign of how much the desire to learn more about space is embedded in our DNA.

 

The handful of lucky humans who have already gone to space are altered in a special way. Many astronauts describe what is called the “orbital perspective” which is basically a psychological phenomenon caused by viewing the Earth from space. While in low-Earth orbit, humans are imbued with a sense of unity and fragility; it increases their respect for Earth and promotes aspirations for peace and environmental conservation. As commercial spaceflight continues to develop, more and more humans will begin entering space. When a large fraction of humanity acquires a taste of the orbital perspective, we may see a revolution in interest towards space colonization in general, and even more miraculously, we may see increased action to end war, poverty, and anti-environmentalism on Earth.

 

Once enough humans are motivated to colonize space, the industry will boom. There will be increased funding for large-scale projects like space hotels and colonies. The ultimate vacation get-away could be orbiting Earth for a few weeks. These hotels can have attractions of their own, such as swimming pools with panoramic views of Earth, and maybe even highly controlled space walks! In the movie Passengers, a massive Generation Ship on its way to another solar system possesses these exact amenities. Trips around the Moon and other celestial bodies will become commonplace. New jobs will be created to fuel this industry, and artists will have new subject matter to add to their body of work. Imagine photographers, poets, painters and journalists who are able to visit first-hand some of the marvels of our solar system. What wonderful works of art will they be inspired to create upon returning to Earth?

 

For those obsessed with money and enrichment of the economy, space affords the most promising path to prosperity. Strung throughout the solar system are massive rocks called asteroids which are actually giant conglomerates of all sorts of material, including precious metals and material needed for manufacturing and fuel. Mining expeditions to just a few of these asteroids could result in trillions of dollars in revenue overtime to whichever companies capitalize on this prospect. As we begin seeking these treasure troves we will need bases to house all of the miners and travelers zipping to and fro. Space colonies can be built at strategic points near these asteroids which could accommodate hundreds of thousands to millions of people. It may even be possible to carve out the bigger asteroids, like Ceres, into makeshift abodes. These mining expeditions will supply Earth with materials needed for more advanced interplanetary vessels and for space colonies to be built at various other points within the solar system. The looming threat of over-population could be easily solved when you consider the idea of building thousands of space colonies throughout the solar system. Not to mention bases on the various moons orbiting other planets, and massive cities that can be built on terrestrial planets like Mars, or floating cities in the atmospheres of Venus and the gas planets.


Eventually our entire solar system will be colonized. Humanity will attempt to inhabit every nook and cranny possible. The commercial aspect of solar system colonization will reach new levels. Companies will routinely give customers tours of all of the planets. Imagine taking a slow, scenic flight just above Saturn’s rings; space hotels can also be built in stationary orbits around any of the other planets in the solar system. Thrill-seekers will have novel opportunities to test the limits of what humans are willing to endure. Imagine sky-diving on planets with higher gravitational pulls than Earth’s, or para-gliding from cliffs taller than any others accessible to us today. But humans get bored easily; soon after the solar system is colonized we will have a strong imperative to explore distant stars. Human continuity has always depended on the necessity to create backup plans. If a disaster occurs somewhere, we need another place to go. With all of the scientific progress and harvested materials we’ve garnered in our time within this solar system we may finally be able to quickly travel to distant planets, to start new adventures, and create new spaces for humanity to flourish. As mentioned earlier, Passengers takes place aboard a Generation Ship set for a distant solar system. Vessels like that may one day embark on journeys to hundreds of different candidate worlds throughout the galaxy.

 

This is not to say that the glory and prosperity that can be found in space exploration and colonization will completely eliminate poverty, war, and the other atrocious elements of humanity. As long as we exist in our current biological forms we will always house hate and greed deep in our minds. Conflict between factions may occur at far larger scales than they do on Earth. Perhaps one day we can transcend our negative biological imperatives – maybe through genetic engineering or cyborgization – but this may not happen for hundreds or even thousands of years. But that does not mean we shouldn’t still aim for the stars; the benefits are too good to ignore out of fear or pessimism. In the short-term, prioritizing space exploration will bolster the economy; the trickle-down effect of space technologies will enhance human well-being on Earth. Human culture will be instilled with a deeper spirituality reflective of our understanding of the cosmos, and this understanding will also inspire unimaginable works of art.   

New Music: Top 5 Favorite Track Releases This Week [2/11/18 – 2/16/18]

Taska Black – We Would Never Do

This is the first and only song I’ve heard from Taska Black, but from what I’ve read so far he is taking the EDM scene by storm. Taska Black typically releases music under San Holo’s Belgium record label bitbird, but this new track ‘We Would Never Do’ was a debut release under the popular label Monstercat. That is one good indication of this artist’s rising success.

What blew me away about this song was the monstrous, distorted bass drop about a minute into the track. Taska Black weaves together a unique pattern full of interesting pitch changes that give the track a dark but fun tone. In an attempt to define the style I would probably consider it Hybrid Trap with some Industrial tendencies, but I won’t worry too much about genre technicalities. Featured vocalist Nevve also delivers an enchanting hook as she repeats the title phrase “we would never do”.

Like I said before, I haven’t had a chance to play any more of Taska Black’s tunes but I am excited to do so. He has definitely earned himself another fan with this one.

Play this song loud!

Virtual Self – Particle Arts (1788-L Remix)

Technically this song wasn’t released this week… it was released Friday of last week, but there is too much hype surrounding it for me to let it fall through the cracks. An artist going by 1788-L has seemingly come out of nowhere with a massive, hard-hitting rendition of Virtual Self’s ‘Particle Arts’. Virtual Self, as many may know, is Porter Robinson’s new project which seeks to bring back 90’s nostalgia techno-style music similar to Dance Dance Revolution and many popular Japanese RPGs. Like with many of his past productions, Porter Robinson has undoubtedly spawned a new movement of inspired artists seeking to expand upon his sound. 1788-L is one such artist who seems to have begun this project with direct inspiration from Porter Robinson’s Virtual Self. Thanks to some sleuthing from a writer over at YourEDM, 1788-L has been revealed to be the side project of artist Stonewall Klaxon who has already established a pretty unique and heavy sound. 1788-L has only one other song on his Soundcloud called ‘Replica’ and based on its heavy cyberpunk-inspired electro production we can get a pretty clear sense of the direction the project is headed. Needless to say it has me extremely excited for what’s to come; not only from this artist but from others who seem to be inspired by Porter Robinson’s ground-breaking path.

1788-L’s rework of ‘Particle Arts’ begins just like the original, that is until the 57-second mark where the beat completely changes up and drops into a mind-shattering crescendo of electro brilliance. Listen below:

Reid Speed & Frank Royal – IN 2 U (ft. She Is B)

It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to some good liquid Drum & Bass, so I’m glad I’ve discovered Reid Speed & Frank Royal’s track ‘IN 2 U’. Somehow this track elicits both nostalgia and novelty to me. The serene female vocals and low-tempo DnB beat bring me back to the early days of my EDM discovery. The novelty comes from the psychedelic bass growls that enter the beat around the 1 minute and 30-second mark. Both of these elements combined have brightened my interest in the genre as a whole.

Reid Speed, in particular, is interesting to me because I’ve recently learned that she is actually the founder of Play Me Records, a record label that I’ve loosely followed on Soundcloud for some time. Reading a little into her history I found that she is actually a pioneer in the DnB scene and is known for her ability to stretch the boundaries of genres. ‘IN 2 U’ is indeed a hard song to really classify; it seems to blend the styles of psytrance, DnB, and dubstep at times. I’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on Reid Speed and Play Me Records from now on.

Alison Wonderland – ‘Church’

I won’t say too much about this song because I wrote a dedicated piece about it this morning, which can be read here. I will say though that this song took me a couple tries to enjoy. It stands in stark contrast to her previous release ‘Happy Place’ which was more rowdy and upbeat. But after about the third listen I started to understand the direction Alex Sholler (a.k.a. Alison Wonderland) is going with this one. I now find it to be a simple yet addictive song about empowerment and self-respect. And for the bass-head in me, there is a nice little surprise within the beat of the chorus which really shows itself while listening through some good headphones.

‘Church’ is the 2nd single to be released from Alison Wonderland’s highly anticipated sophomore album Awake. A video was also released at the same time as the song, watch it below and remember to read my dedicated piece about the song and video linked above.

Ghost Town – Modern Tragedy

I was shown Ghost Town a couple years ago by my girlfriend and I immediately loved their fusion of EDM and Rock. Ghost Town has been around since 2012 and they’ve continued to showcase a unique and versatile sound that has attracted millions of listens. After releasing a steady stream of singles in 2017, it was announced that two original members of the band have left and gone their separate ways. While this news was extremely disappointing to me, I kept an open mind as they released another song titled ‘Hell’ just last month. Based on the quality of that song, I feel reassured that Ghost Town will continue with their impressive Rock/Electronic fusion in the years to come.

Following the release of ‘Hell’, the remaining two members of the band released another track earlier this week titled ‘Modern Tragedy’. This latest release proves that despite the loss of two of its founding members, the band still seeks to improve on their established sound. ‘Modern Tragedy’ is heavy on the electro and the lead singer’s vocals are full of energy as he yells empowered lyrics such as “this is who I am!”. This song in particular also features interesting album artwork that has me curious about their new art direction. In the past their artwork was more cartoonish and colorful; the artist Alister Dippner has historically worked closely with the band, but I am uncertain whether he will still be doing future artwork.

The reason I’ve had such a close eye on this band’s latest releases is that I’ve actually purchased tickets to see them in Colorado in just two weeks! It was disheartening to learn of the band’s split after I had already purchased tickets, but the release of ‘Hell’ and ‘Modern Tragedy’ has reassured me that this will still be an exciting show. They will be opening for the band Slaves. Listen to ‘Modern Tragedy’ below, and be sure to watch the video for ‘Hell’.

New Song/Video: ‘Church’ – Alison Wonderland

Alex Sholler a.k.a. Alison Wonderland is back from her happy place to deliver another single from her highly anticipated album Awake. And to accompany the new song, Alex has simultaneously released a video for as well.

‘Church’ stands almost in stark contrast to her previously released single ‘Happy Place’, which was a little more upbeat and rowdy. With that said, it took me a few listens to really understand the vibe Alex is going for in ‘Church’, and I must say it is indeed a very spiritual song. Quite frankly, it FMUOASL.

Alison Wonderland spends the first few lines of the song defending herself against attacks on her character while gradually building into her hook where she eloquently declares “…You better treat me like church”. Basically, Alison Wonderland is demanding some well-deserved respect! Whether this is aimed at critical fans or a past boyfriend, ‘Church’ is mostly an anthem about retaining self-respect in the face of criticism. While the lyrics are relatively simple the song itself is full of honesty and confidence. This doesn’t stray far from her hit song ‘U Don’t Know’ which describes the feeling of being in an abusive, controlling relationship. Of course, being a bass music fan, my favorite aspect of this song are the deep, subtle bass synths in the background of the chorus. You may need good headphones to hear them, but you’ll know what I mean.

The video for ‘Church’ — a tad unsurprisingly — begins with Alison Wonderland in a church sitting in a chair on stage. She looks fed up yet relaxed, which resonates well with the message in her lyrics. Alison Wonderland stands up and begins walking towards the camera just as the hook comes around; all the while a choir of girls can be seen singing and dancing along to her lyrics in the background. To me, her choice of using an all female choir further accentuates the sense of empowerment she is trying to convey. After a cool transition Alison Wonderland can be seen stepping into a station wagon with her choir. The backdrop of this scene features colorful, celestial FX which further the spiritual element of the song. The scene transitions one last time to the troop of girls running down the street towards the camera passionately singing the final iteration of the chorus.

‘Church’ marks the 2nd single to be released for Alison Wonderland’s album Awake. Alex gave fans a surprise last week when she dropped the album art for Awake on social media:
Alison-Wonderland-Awake-CDQ-1024x1022

Watch the new video for ‘Church’ below!

New Song/Video: ‘Alibi’ – Krewella

The sisterly electronic duo Krewella just simultaneously released a song and video titled, ‘Alibi’. This marks the 5th song they’ve released since dropping their EP New World Pt. 1 in late 2017, which means Pt. 2 must be just around the corner! Krewella’s New World Tour appears to be drawing to an end. The new video is mostly comprised of tour footage with scenes of the sisters rapping and singing in various urban settings.

The song itself uses the same ‘ride or die’ trope Krewella has used throughout their New World Pt. 1 EP. The lyrics can be interpreted as undying loyalty to their fans, to a lover, or between the sisters themselves. Whatever you get yourself into, they’ll be your alibi. The beat starts with swelling dark synths that give off a sinister impression at first, but backed by the sisters’ Pop vocals, the song soon builds up and is fully realized as an uplifting Dancehall track. The video takes us through neon-lit cities and concert footage before finally cutting to a scene of an apparently oblivious Yasmine playing a somber tune on the piano. At the last second Yasmine suddenly realizes there’s someone behind her and a vulnerable, awkwardly endearing moment ensues.

Watch the video for ‘Alibi’ below.

 

Book Review: ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline [SPOILERS]

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Read this review on Goodreads!

I just finished reading Ready Player One for the third time (first read-through was in 2013) and figured it was about time to review the damn thing. The impending release of the movie adaptation on March 29th is also a good reason to formally extract my thoughts.  I think it says enough that I’ve even read this book so many times, but for this most recent read-through I tried to be more critical of it rather than enjoy it for the crazy, fun ride that it is. I won’t spend too much time explaining what the book is actually about. This review assumes you are at the least familiar with the fact that this is a sci-fi book about virtual reality (VR), the 1980’s, and takes place in the year 2045. There ya go, I summarized it for you.

I’ll start with everything I love about this book. There’s a reason why everyone who reads it suddenly becomes evangelical about it. It’s fast-paced and fun; never a dull moment. It’s also extremely accessible despite being a sci-fi novel strongly based around video games. I got my girlfriend to read it (go me!) and she enjoyed it even though this was the first sci-fi book she’s ever read, and she’s by no means a gamer. The author Ernest Cline takes his time to explain certain gaming terminology such as ‘PvP’ and ‘NPC’, even though this may be obvious to his core audience, which is most likely comprised of casual and hardcore gamers. Still, the time he takes to explain certain geeky concepts does not over-inflate the story in any way. He only explains what is absolutely necessary for the continuation of the plot. I found this annoying at first, but quickly got over it as I progressed through the book, because it was a very minor annoyance when compared to the overall story. Ultimately I think that is what will make the book a classic: the fact that it treads so heavily in esoteric ‘geekdom’ yet remains accessible.

One of the more unique characteristics of this book is that it is based almost entirely on 80’s pop-culture despite taking place in the year 2045. It is basically an encyclopedia of 80’s movies, TV shows, music, and video games. Ernest Cline clearly wants his readers to appreciate many of the works that he must have enjoyed during the 80’s (much like James Halliday’s almanac in the actual story). In that sense, the book feels like a list of suggestions subtly forced upon us, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I will admit that at least half of the references mentioned in this book I had either never heard of or had never watched, read, or listened to. But because they were all so central to this book, I’ve taken the time to explore many of them in my free time. Since reading RPO I have undoubtedly gained a greater appreciation of the 80’s. I was born in the 90’s and missed out on a lot of that stuff. Overall, it’s safe to say that  I attribute much of my newfound appreciation of the 80’s to this book alone. But while this book may introduce readers to many classic works of art, Cline’s fixation on the 80’s is also what I consider one of the negatives to this book. I will explain why later.

Aside from being an encyclopedia of 80’s pop-culture references, RPO is a great work of science fiction that very convincingly imagines a not-so-distant future where VR is advanced and ubiquitous. If nothing else, RPO is a compelling showcase of VR possibilities. Being a future-minded technophile myself, I’ve been well aware of the advent of VR technology and how it could revolutionize gaming and storytelling. What this book showed me however is how VR could possibly revolutionize all sectors of society, not just gaming and movies. This is what mostly excites me about the release of the movie adaptation. If done right, I think it will show people how VR could impact the world outside of video games alone. Widespread adoption of VR will open endless possibilities in terms collaboration and entertainment, and will further enhance communication and connectivity between people all over the planet. It should be remembered however that like with all technology, VR’s detriments are almost equal to its benefits. It will just depend on how it’s used. Humans are flawed and tend to be excessive. The book does explore this duality in detail.

In addition to exploring VR possibilities, the RPO universe features many other interesting and familiar technological ideas that you may have encountered in other sci-fi books. Published in 2011, RPO does not attempt to depict the distant future, so technologies like fully electric cars and even VR itself will not seem too outlandish.

Now I will discuss the downsides of this novel. I had briefly mentioned that Cline’s fixation on the 80’s is also his undoing. RPO is clearly a reflection of Cline’s own obsession with the 80’s, and by writing this book he hopes that the reader also develops this obsession. The character of James Halliday is the vector that Cline uses to carry out this task. The problem is that this gets exhausting for someone like me who just isn’t that into the 80’s. At some point during the book, I yearned to learn anything else about the current trends of the RPO universe other than that of the “gunters” and their fascination with the Easter egg hunt. With all of this awesome VR tech, what were the vast majority of people in the world using it for? The main character Parzival/Wade does mention that James Halliday’s death sparked an immense 80’s revival, but I highly doubt the entire human population picked up on it, much less the entire gaming population. That being said, it really felt like Cline gave it his all in creating a novel that relied heavily on 80’s pop culture. The undoing that I speak of is that I doubt he will ever be able to create any other type of novel again. He may have just revealed himself to be a one-trick pony. The average reviews for his second book Armada back this notion that RPO may remain his greatest work. To be fair though, this was indeed one great piece of work.

The book also had its awkward moments. One such moment for me was the initial chat room session between Parzival and Art3mis. I didn’t think much of it when I first read the book, but by my third read-through I found it to be mostly cringe-worthy filler material. It might’ve been my increase in maturity over the years that caused me to suddenly find Parzival and Art3mis’ love interest distasteful when compared to my thoughts the first time around. What irked me was Parzival’s desperation. For one, I’ve seen enough episodes of MTV’s Catfish to know that desperately pursuing and falling in love with someone you’ve only met online usually doesn’t end well. His persistence was also a bit off-putting, but what really got me was when Art3mis actually caved and became receptive to these creepy advances all within the same chat session. It struck me as unrealistic. Given the reputation creepy men have online I would’ve assumed that Art3mis would show more resistance, and would wait for more definitive proof that Parzival wasn’t really the proverbial 40-year-old man in his mom’s basement. But alas, this is a fictional story, and it miraculously works out in the end. I just couldn’t help but be reminded that Parzival/Wade is a character who is most likely based on Cline’s own personality type, and that writing Art3mis’ responses to Parzival was based on his own fantasies or expectations with this kind of interaction. It is at this point in the story that I began to see Parzival/Wade as the emotionally unintelligent person that he is, and he suddenly seems like such a kid to me throughout the rest of the story.

Not only does Parzival/Wade become less likable, but I begin to wish the story was instead told from Art3mis’ perspective entirely. All things considered, she was actually the smartest of the top gunters. She found most of the keys and gates herself well before anyone else did. The only thing she lacked were certain skills to complete the challenges, but Cline could’ve easily written this in for her character. It would’ve been interesting to see her knowledge-base and how she arrived at certain revelations. She is also a blogger, so that would’ve been a good opportunity for Cline to add some epistolary material that could’ve allowed Art3mis’ character to shine through her writing. Given the unrealistic nature of Art3mis however, it seems that Cline may just lack the ability to write female characters. And that’s okay! I am in no position to claim that someone should create their work a certain way. It is just my opinion that the story would’ve been much better (and socially progressive) if Art3mis was the main protagonist and was more realistic.

There was one last notable flaw in the book that I found to be a little irritating. It may seem nit-picky, but as an African-American myself I found the lack of references to black works to be a bit annoying. For one, there is no mention of any rap/hip-hop works. The 80’s was the dawn of rap/hip-hop, and by the 90’s this movement was fully realized. From this inception also came new art forms like graffiti, DJing, and break dancing. There is no mention of Public Enemy, N.W.A., Run DMC, or even the Beastie Boys! And aside from music I don’t remember any mention of black TV shows or movies. But maybe I was not paying close enough attention and missed the one or two references there may have been. It’s really not that big of a deal, but would’ve been nice. The reveal of Aech as a lesbian African-American was indeed a welcome surprise. I’ll take what I can get.

When all is said and done, RPO actually has very few flaws in the face of its energetic, nostalgic, and forward-thinking plot. It is a classic rags to riches tale that makes me believe anything is possible with the right amount of passion and dedication. The biggest takeaway for me may have been the notion that knowledge is power, even if that knowledge is seemingly useless facts about the things that greatly interest me. RPO is also great for its exploration of VR technology and how it may profoundly impact society. As I write this, VR is just on the verge of widespread adoption. Currently it is relatively crude and is mostly relegated to a small list of video games, TV shows and movies. But to reiterate — if done right, the movie adaptation of RPO may be the final kick that will make people realize the vast potential of VR. Like mentioned before, I think that this book will become a classic a few decades from now and may even make appearances in English literature classes around the world.