Monday, September 8, 2008

Questions from one of my translators

My very conscientious Italian translator, Dario Rivarossa, today asked me what the following phrases mean in Rollback:

"One of my favorite authors once said, `Virtual reality is nothing but air guitar writ large.'"

I'm having a bit of fun there, because the character is quoting me, from my 1995 novel The Terminal Experiment. But as to what the phrase means:

"Air guitar" is what teenage boys who are pretending to be rock musicians do: they make motions with their hands like they're playing a guitar -- but, of course, there's no real guitar. So, it's called "air guitar."

In the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted play air guitar (pretend to play real guitars) whenever their band is mentioned (see photo above).

So, "virtual reality is nothing but air guitar writ large" means "even the best computer simulation is as far removed from the real experience it is simulating as waving your hands in the air is removed from playing a real guitar."

It was a pleasure to be able to read for hours without getting eye fatigue, and without having to put on his cheaters.

"Cheaters" is a slang term for "reading glasses" -- nonprescription eyeglasses used to magnify printed text. But my use of this bit of slang is ironic, on two counts. First, the character in question has just committed adultery (which is "cheating" in English slang).

Second, it refers back to the earlier question the aliens asked, "Should systems be set up to thwart cheaters at all costs?," which lays out the moral question of whether in fact the character should be punished for his transgression.

If there's no comparably ironic term in Italian for "reading glasses," we'll have to just forgo this little touch in that edition. :)

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