Neal Stephenson, the science fiction novelist, has been a idol of mine for a while. I loved reading his Snow Crash, the sci-fi book that introduced the concept of the metaverse (the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected) back in the 1990s. And I happen to be listening to his dense sci-fi novel, Anathem, right now on Audible. So you can imagine my surprise when former Magic Leap chief creative officer Graeme Devine introduced me to Sean Stewart, an alternate reality games expert; Austin Grossman, game developer and novelist; and — yep — Stephenson about an Audible project they were working on.
Their nine-hour audio drama is being published today. It’s called New Found Land: The Long Haul, and it’s something that they conceived while working on a big project on augmented reality at Magic Leap. They had always intended this audio drama, which is like a radio play with actors, to be a standalone Audible experience. But they conceived of the backstory while working on an augmented reality application for the Magic Leap One AR headset. Sadly, the fortunes of Magic Leap did not allow them to finish their AR project, which would have overlaid imagery from two alternate universes on the real world.
I was delighted to interview Stephenson and Stewart about the audio drama and how they worked on it until their division was laid off, when Magic Leap pivoted away from consumer technology and focused on the enterprise. They are all veteran storytellers who came to the project from different directions — sci-fi novels, video games, and alternate reality games.