Simulated reality in fiction
|Accelerando||Charles Stross||2005||A collection of related short stories, assembled as a novel, chronicling the life of a man and his daughter both pre and post-singularity.|
|The Algebraist||Iain M. Banks||2004||Posits a religion according to which 'The Truth' is that our universe is virtual.|
|Amnesia Moon||Jonathan Lethem||1995||On a road trip, two characters set out from a post-apocalypse Wyoming town and encounter a succession of alternate realities, including one shrouded in opaque green fog, another luck-based political system, and it is suggested that these divergent alternate realities emerged to obstruct an alien invasion of Earth. Homage to Philip K. Dick.|
|Breakfast of Champions||Kurt Vonnegut Jr.||1973||Kilgore Trout, an amateur science fiction writer, writes a story that mocks individualism by suggesting that there is only one human man and one God, and the rest of humanity are robots, made to test the man's reactions; hence, a kind of simulated reality.|
|Chronic City||Jonathan Lethem||2009||Several strands relating to virtual reality games and virtual objects, but then events in the "real world" lead the reader to conclude that the "real world" is a simulated reality which is accreting errors and anomalies.|
|The Cookie Monster||Vernor Vinge||2004||The characters come to doubt their own reality. This story was reprinted in several anthology collections, won the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Novella, and was nominated for the 2005 Nebula Award for Best Novella. One reviewer rated the story "A+" and praised "the central mysteries which Vinge so very skillfully unwraps for you over the course of the story itself."|
|Count Zero||William Gibson||1986||The second sequel of Gibson's Neuromancer, the novel continues themes around cyberspace and introduces a computerized device called an Aleph which contains an advanced version of cyberspace that appears as a simulated reality to those that "jack" into it, as well as to digital entities that reside within it.|
|Darwinia||Robert Charles Wilson||1998||By the end of the story it is revealed that whatever happens in the story is really beyond the End of Time and that the Universe, the Earth, and all the consciousness that ever existed are really being preserved in a computer-like simulation known as the Archive.|
|Dead Romance||Lawrence Miles||1999/2004||Part of the Virgin New Adventures series of Doctor Who spin-off fiction, but mostly disconnected from the rest of the series. The novel is set on a version of 1970s Earth within a "bottle universe," invaded by powerful beings from the greater universe beyond. It is suggested that these beings are fleeing their own invaders and that their universe is merely a bottle within a yet greater cosmos.|
|A Dream of Wessex||Christopher Priest||1977||Released in the United States under the title The Perfect Lover. A team of specialists undergoes a sort of computer-monitored group hypnosis to create an alternate England, hoping to improve their dystopian world, but their utopia is endangered by one member with foul emotions and megalomaniacal ideas.|
|The Dueling Machine||Ben Bova||1969||Dueling as a means of settling disputes has been revived by the invention of the dueling machine, which allows two adversaries to have at each other in the imaginary wrld of their choosing, with no danger to either other than humiliation and the loss of the point in dispute—until the Kerak Worlds found a way to kill with the machine.|
|"The Electric Ant"||Philip K. Dick||1969||A man awakes from a vehicular crash, and is transferred to a special treatment facility after being informed that he is a biological robot. He finds that his subjective reality is controlled by a punch tape reel in his chest panel, which he begins to manipulate in an effort to control the world that he experiences.|
|Electric Forest||Tanith Lee||1979|
|Epic||Conor Kostick||2004||The inhabitants of a whole world play in a virtual world for their real income and status.|
|Eternity||Greg Bear||1988||In particular, his introduction of the Taylor algorithms as a means of determining the simulated nature of an artificial environment.|
|Eye in the Sky||Philip K. Dick||1957||After a nuclear accident, seven victims successively pass a range of solipsist personalised alternate universes, including a geocentric, magic-based universe and a hardline marxist caricature of the contemporary United States. Tom Shippey wrote that it might be "a private fantasy world, watched over by a Vast Active Living Intelligence System."|
|Feersum Endjinn||Iain M. Banks||1994||Describes a version of Earth with very extensive virtual reality capabilities.|
|Forever Free||Joe Haldeman||1999|
|Get Real: A Philosophical Adventure in Virtual Reality||Philip Zhai||1998||A philosophical speculation on the ontological status of the extreme form of virtual reality that combines with teleoperation, in comparison with what we perceive as the "actual" or "physical" reality. An array of thought experiments is constructed for the purpose of philosophical investigations.|
|The Girl Who Was Plugged In||James Tiptree Jr.||1974|
|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy||Douglas Adams||1979–2009||Earth was designed by an alien supercomputer called Deep Thought to find the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything (the Ultimate Answer already established as 42), using organic life as part of its operational matrix. However, early on in the first book Earth was destroyed just before the critical moment of read-out, leading to the events of the rest of the series. Later, part of the action takes place in a synthetic universe.|
|Idlewild||Nick Sagan||2003||This novel contains a simulated school inside a simulated world.|
|Illusions||Richard Bach||1977||A pilot on the Midwest summer barnstorming circuit meets a messiah who shows him that the world is merely "like a movie" designed by "the Master" to entertain and enlighten humanity.|
|Killobyte||Piers Anthony||1993||Killobyte is a "second generation" virtual reality game that puts players into a three-dimensional, fully sensory environment.|
|The Man in the High Castle||Philip K. Dick||1962||Initially, it appears that Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire won the Second World War in an alternate, occupied United States. However, the I Ching divination tool discloses this as an apparent illusion.|
|A Maze of Death||Philip K. Dick||1970|
|The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect||Roger Williams||1994|
|The Mirage||Matt Ruff||2012||A world where the Middle East is the centre of Capitalism and Democracy and the United States is home to sectarian and terrorist violence. Most of the history of the world is told throughout the book through excerpts from a website called The Library of Alexandria, the world's version of Wikipedia. It is eventually revealed that the timeline is an illusion created by a Djinn.|
|Mona Lisa Overdrive||William Gibson||1988||The first sequel to Gibson's Neuromancer, featuring further exploration of the influence of cyberspace in the future.|
|Moongazer||Marianne Mancusi||2007||A post-apocalyptic underground society pacifies its citizens by plugging them into a simulated version of New York City before the war, meanwhile telling the people that they are actually traveling to an alternate reality where they can escape their constricted lives.|
|Neuromancer||William Gibson||1984||In this future, cyberspace has taken on the attributes of virtual reality.|
|Old Twentieth||Joe Haldeman||2005||A group of immortal humans sets off on a thousand-year voyage to explore an Earth-type planet. To amuse themselves, they use virtual reality to take trips to the twentieth century; but when the trips start to go wrong, a virtual reality engineer discovers that the simulated world is ruled by a self-aware computer... who may be running a more complex simulation than they can ever imagine.|
|Omnitopia Dawn||Diane Duane||2010||Features a MMOG called Omnitopia that contains multiple player-built worlds that can compete for popularity, earning real-world money.|
|Permutation City||Greg Egan||1994|
|Phase Space||Stephen Baxter||2003||Includes several short stories pertaining to simulated realities, particularly in reference to their solving of the Fermi Paradox. Most notably the framing story "Touching Centauri," but also "Poyekhali 3201," "Glass Earth, Inc." "Tracks" and "The Barrier," which explores the Zoo Hypothesis.|
|"Princess Ineffabelle"||Stanisław Lem||1965||A story-dream The Wedding Night of Princess Ineffabelle from the story-in-story The tale of Zipperupus, king of the Partheginians, the Deutons, and the Profligoths from the short story The Tale of the Three Story Telling Machines from The Cyberiad.|
|The Reality Bug||D. J. MacHale||2003||Is set on a world destroyed by simulated reality.|
|Realtime Interrupt||James P. Hogan||1995||Is set in the near future, a cyber reality with its creator trapped inside.|
|REAMDE||Neal Stephenson||2011||Though not set within a simulated reality, the novel stars the creator of a hugely popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game and discusses many of the behind-the-scenes operations in its creation and success.|
|The Remnants series||K. A. Applegate||2001||Set on a ship that creates virtual landscapes|
|The Restoration Game||Ken MacLeod||2010||A mysterious anomaly leads to the revelation that the characters are living in a simulated world, which is in turn embedded within another simulated world.|
|"The Seventh Sally"||Stanisław Lem||1965||The Seventh Sally or How Trurl's Own Perfection Led to No Good, from the Cyberiad|
|Simulacron-3||Daniel F. Galouye||1964||Also published as Counterfeit World. Adapted as a TV miniseries World on a Wire (1973) and as the film The Thirteenth Floor (1999).|
|Snow Crash||Neal Stephenson||1992||Romanticizing the perilous world of some young hackers, the novel discusses the history and nature of language and virtual reality, among many other topics.|
|Sophie's World||Jostein Gaarder||1991|
|Surface Detail||Iain M. Banks||2010||In which a civilization uses computer simulation and mind uploading to create and populate Hell.|
|"They"||Robert A. Heinlein||1941||A short story that focuses on a man who believes the universe was created to deceive him.|
|The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch||Philip K. Dick||1965||In this future, alternate states of consciousness are mediated by widespread and legal use of hallucinogens.|
|Time Out of Joint||Philip K. Dick||1959||Ragle Gumm is trapped within an artificial reality that resembles small town America in the late fifties. It is disclosed to be a strategic simulation run by a Terran government at war with its separatist lunar colony in 1998.|
|"The Trouble with Bubbles"||Philip K. Dick||1953||In an era where scientific exploration has proven the solar system to be devoid of extraterrestrial life and robots take care of most work, humans pass time by building miniature simulated universes called Worldcraft bubbles.|
|"The Tunnel under the World"||Frederik Pohl||1955||A person accidentally finds out that he lives the day of June 15 over and over again. It turns out that a ruthless advertising executive took over the whole ruins of a city perished in an explosion of a chemical and rebuilt them, together with people, in miniature for testing high-pressure advertising campaigns.|
|Ubik||Philip K. Dick||1969||Several former corporate employees are killed but their consciousnesses remain sentient, albeit decaying, in a simulated shared hallucinatory experience.|
|Utopia||Lincoln Child||2002||Set in a futuristic amusement park called Utopia that relies heavily on holographics and robotics.|
|Valis||Philip K. Dick||1981||In this departure, it is our own world that is stated to be a hallucinatory overlay, produced from a gnostic demiurge that is malignant- although it may also be a visual and auditory hallucination produced by authorial schizophrenia|
|"The Veldt"||Ray Bradbury||1951||A short story from The Illustrated Man, this grim tale describes two children who prefer their simulated-reality nursery to their parents.|
|Automated Alice||Jeff Noon||1996|
|The Wonderland Gambit series||Jack L. Chalker||1995-1997||A trilogy that pays homage to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.|
|Words Made Flesh||Ramsey Dukes||1987|
|"You're Another"||Damon Knight||1955||This short story about a character who finds himself in a bizarre, perhaps movie-based reality was frequently reprinted, and was translated into French as "En Scène!".|
|"Crystal Nights"||Greg Egan||1992||This short story is a tale of a group of scientists that create a simulation of a world to explore evolution and societal development. Eventually they reveal themselves to the inhabitants and are treated as gods, but then their creations realize there is more than meets the eye and plot their escape.|
Animation, anime, light novel, manga and cartoons
- .hack//SIGN, an anime series about a person whose mind is trapped in an online computer role-playing game
- 12 oz. Mouse, an American surreal comedy/thriller minimalist cartoon
- Aeon Flux (1991) took place in a cartoon world
- The Big O, by Hajime Yatate and Chiaki J. Konaka, N.B. the reality in question has not been confirmed as simulated, but it is extremely likely.
- Danger Room, a training simulator from the (X-Men) universe
- Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street'(2002)
- Eternal Family (1997), surreal comedy anime OVA
- Ghost in the Shell (1995), postcyberpunk anime film and series
- Lyoko, the virtual world run by a super computer in the animated series Code Lyoko
- Log Horizon (2013), an anime series on players being transported into the game world after an expansion update.
- Megazone 23 (1985-9), an anime OVA series created by Noboru Ishiguro and Shinji Aramaki based on a simulated reality of Tokyo controlled by a super computer
- Noein, an anime directed by Kazuki Akane and Kenji Yasuda where a simulated reality is created
- Paranoia Agent by Satoshi Kon
- The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996-1999)
- Robotech: The Movie (1986), anime adaptation of Megazone 23
- Serial Experiments Lain, anime series by Chiaki J. Konaka
- Sword Art Online, a light novel series (2009 - ongoing) and the two anime series adapted from the novel (2012 and 2013), about the Massively multiplayer online game players trapped in virtual reality by the creator until they clear the game.
- Zegapain (2006), anime series
|Avalon||2001||Science fiction drama||By Mamoru Oshii|
|Brainscan||1994||Horror science fiction||A science fiction/horror film about a teenager playing an interactive video game; directed by John Flynn|
|Brainstorm||1983||Science fiction||Science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood|
|Brazil||1985||Science fiction||Directed by Terry Gilliam|
|The Cabin in the Woods||2012||Horror comedy||Directed by Drew Goddard, in which to prevent doomsday a group of teenagers must be sacrificed without their realizing what is really behind the horrors they experience. One reviewer wrote that the film "is all about the reality conspiracy."|
|Cargo||2009||Science fiction||Directed by Ivan Engler and Ralph Etter.|
|The Congress||2013||Live action/animation science fiction drama||Loosely based on Stanislaw Lem's novel The Futurological Congress||By Ari Folman and Stanislaw Lem: An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn't consider. A take on the common sci-fi trope of an apparently Utopian future that turns out to be an illusion.|
|Cube 2: Hypercube||2002||Science fiction psychological thriller||Written by Sean Hood|
|Darkdrive||1996||Science fiction||By Phillip J. Roth|
|Dark City||1998||Neo-noir, science fiction||By Alex Proyas|
|eXistenZ||1999||Science fiction body horror||By David Cronenberg, in which level switches occur so seamlessly and numerously that at the end of the movie it is difficult to tell whether the main characters are back in "reality".|
|Good Bye Lenin!||2003||Tragicomedy||By Wolfgang Becker: a Berlin family tries to make the feeble mother believe that East Germany did not fall.|
|Inception||2010||Science fiction heist thriller||Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, in which an extractor invades dreams to steal information and ideas, but is asked to implant an idea instead of stealing one.|
|The Island||2005||Science fiction action drama||Directed by Michael Bay, in which numerous clones of wealthy investors are kept in an isolated facility as to rejuvenate the investors with the clones' organs. The clones' facility is presented as an idealized society and the last safe place on Earth to prevent them from leaving.|
|Jacob's Ladder||1990||Psychological horror||Thriller directed by Adrian Lyne|
|The Lawnmower Man||1992||Science fiction action horror||Directed by Brett Leonard.|
|Lost Highway||1997||Neo-noir, psychological mystery thriller||By David Lynch|
|Mindwarp||1992||Science fiction||Directed by Steve Barnett|
|Nirvana||1997||Science fiction, cyberpunk||Written and directed by Gabriele Salvatores|
|The Matrix series||1999–2003||Science fiction, cyberpunk||By Lilly and Lana Wachowski, in which humanity lost a war against sentient robots, and now are predominately used as bio-electric power for the robots, their minds kept active by populating them in the simulated reality of the Matrix.|
|The Nines||2007||Science fantasy||Written and directed by John August, is focused on the subject of simulated reality.|
|Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)||1997||Psychological thriller||By Alejandro Amenábar (remade as Vanilla Sky, 2001).|
|Paperhouse||1988||Dark fantasy||Directed by Bernard Rose. Based on the novel Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr.|
|Source Code||2011||Science fiction, techno-thriller||An Army pilot is resurrected into a virtual world in order to identify and stop a would-be bomber; a science fiction techno-thriller film directed by Duncan Jones.|
|Strange Days||1995||Science fiction, cyberpunk, thriller||A thriller in which users can experience another person's memories; the film earned director Kathryn Bigelow a Saturn Award for Best Director. Angela Bassett won the Saturn Award for Best Actress.|
|Surrogates||2009||Science fiction, cyberpunk||Directed by Jonathan Mostow, is based on the 2005–2006 comic book series of the same name and stars Bruce Willis as an FBI agent who ventures out into the real world to investigate the murder of surrogates (humanoid remote control vehicles).|
|Synecdoche, New York||2008||Postmodern comedy drama||Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman: an eccentric theatre director creates a replica of New York City inside New York City, complete with a copy of himself making his own replica of New York City.|
|The Thirteenth Floor||1999||Science fiction||Daniel F. Galouye's Simulacron-3||Directed by Josef Rusnak, is loosely based upon Simulacron-3 (1964), a novel by Daniel F. Galouye, and features many characters acting within an uncertain number of layers of virtual reality.|
|Total Recall||1990||Science fiction action||Philip K. Dick's story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"||Directed by Paul Verhoeven, in which the lead character, looking to have the inexpensive memories of a trip to a Mars colony implanted in his mind, experiences an adventure of espionage that leads him to Mars and helps free the colony from an exploitive businessman, but whether these are part of the memory implant or reality is open-ended.|
|Tron||1982||Science fiction||Released by Walt Disney Productions. The film was written and directed by Steven Lisberger. A computer programmer is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer, where he interacts with various programs in his attempt to get back out.|
|Tron Legacy||2010||Science fiction||By Walt Disney Pictures|
|The Truman Show||1998||Comedy drama||In which the titular character unknowingly lives his entire life in a false reality created to make a voyeur television show about him.|
|Vanilla Sky||2001||Science fiction psychological thriller||Remake of Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)||Directed by Cameron Crowe, in which the lead character experiences out-of-control lucid dreaming while having been cryogenicly frozen|
|Virtuosity||1995||Science fiction action||Directed by Brett Leonard|
|World on a Wire (Welt am Draht)||1973||Science fiction||Daniel F. Galouye's Simulacron-3||German film adaptation of the novel Simulacron-3, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.|
|Welcome to Blood City||1977||Science fiction Western||Directed by Peter Sasdy|
|Westworld||1973||Science fiction Western-thriller||Directed by writer Michael Crichton|
- Doctor Who episode "The Deadly Assassin" (1976), written by Robert Holmes.
- Matrix computer from the Doctor Who universe.
- Doctor Who (2008) episode "Forest of the Dead", written by Steven Moffat and "Amy's Choice", written by Simon Nye.
- Farscape episode "John Quixote" (2002) places the lead character in a virtual reality game.
- Harsh Realm (1999) was a science fiction television series about humans trapped inside a virtual reality simulation. It was developed by Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files and Millennium.
- The Outer Limits episode "The Sentence" (1996)
- The Prisoner (1967-1968)
- Red Dwarf episodes "Better Than Life", "Back to Reality", "Gunmen of the Apocalypse", "Stoke Me a Clipper", "Blue", "Beyond a Joke" and "Back in the Red" by Rob Grant and/or Doug Naylor with Paul Alexander, Kim Fuller and Robert Llewellyn all feature some sort of artificial reality or "total immersion video game".
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Episode "Future Imperfect" (1990): During an away mission, Commander William Riker loses consciousness; he awakes sixteen years in the future with that period of his memory lost; he is now the now Captain of the Enterprise, is widowed and has a son named Jean-Luc (after Picard); this eventually turns out to be a simulated reality.
- Episode "The Inner Light" (1992): Jean-Luc Picard is rendered unconscious by a probe of unknown origin. Within the span of 25 minutes, he lives the life of a scientist named Kamin from the doomed planet of Kataan whose sun had gone nova 1000 years before. The probe contains the stored memories of Kataan's civilization which Picard relives as Kamin.
- Episode "Ship in a Bottle" (1993): The fictional Professor Moriarty of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories is allowed to exist in a holodeck simulation of the world.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episodes "The Cage" and "The Menagerie", the unaired pilot and later episode (respectively).
- Star Trek: Voyager: Several episodes took place in the holodeck, including "Fair Haven", "Spirit Folk" or the two part episode "The Killing Game".
- Stargate SG-1 episode "The Gamekeeper"
- The Twilight Zone (1959), and its later revivals, feature a number of episodes involving false or simulated realities of some sort. Examples include "Where Is Everybody?" and "Dreams for Sale".
- The X-Files features a number of episodes involving simulated realities of some sort, such as "Kill Switch" and "First Person Shooter", both written by William Gibson and Tom Maddox.
- The U.S. TV series Life on Mars (2008-2009)
- Black Mirror
Computer and video games
- .hack series
- Active Worlds
- Alternate Reality
- Assassin's Creed
- Chrono Trigger
- Custom Robo
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Deus Ex
- Digital Devil Saga
- Enter the Matrix
- Eternal Sonata
- Fallout 3
- Kingdom Hearts coded
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- The Matrix: Path of Neo
- Omikron: The Nomad Soul
- Saints Row IV
- Second Life
- Shin Megami Tensei
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Super Danganronpa 2: Sayonara Zetsubou Gakuen
- The World Ends with You
- Ultima series
- Xenosaga series
- Max Payne
- Kelleghan, Fiona (July 1998). "Private Hells and Radical Doubts: An Interview with Jonathan Lethem". Science Fiction Studies. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Von Ruff, Al. "Bibliography: The Cookie Monster". Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Alexander, Justin. "What I'm Reading #46 - The Short Stories of Vernor Vinge". The Alexandrian. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Shippey, Tom (Aug 17, 2012). "We Can Build You: Tom Shippey reviews Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick, and How to Build An Android by David F. Dufty". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Von Ruff, Al. "Bibliography: You're Another". Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Bradshaw, Peter (12 April 2012). "The Cabin in the Woods – review". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Max hallucinating on Valkyr - [the note reads] You're in a graphic novel & Michelle Payne: [the note reads] You're in a computer game, Max.