Alon Preiss: Can Bubbles Spread the Virus, and Will Zoom Usher in My Sci-Fi VR Future?

Readers may wonder, how is Alon Preiss doing? Am I worried whether bubbles can really spread the virus and kill me? Do I have any suggestions for ways that Zoom might usher in a Sci-Fi VR future?

Well, I am pessimistic. But I also have ideas!

Why I am pessimistic

It is impossible to believe that this time Trump will lose the next election, because, last time, it was impossible to believe he would win. And yet he won.

Today, Trump stands in front of the American people and tells them to ingest the deadly and otherwise-ineffective hydroxychloroquine (“What do you have to lose?” he asks) and suggests that he might direct doctors to research whether disinfectants like bleach could be used to clean out our lungs. Do I now believe political pundits who pundicize that this idiocy will result in a huge loss of support among the same American public that shrugged when Trump bragged about sexual assault?

I do not.

For my rightwing friends, I sort of get your objection that the president did not actually urge Americans to ingest bleach, but he did suggest that it could be a cure for coronavirus worthy of study. If one is dying of the virus, and the president suggests that ingesting bleach might save one’s life, a rational citizen might consider it worth a try.

Health in lockdown

I’ve been quarantined for somewhat longer than the rest of you (there is a story there!), and I have lost 15 pounds, and I seem to look much more handsome than I did before lockdown.

Is anyone else noticing this phenomenon?

How to improve Zoom

I’ve been attending a few social events over Zoom, and I know how it could be better (and, I suspect, how it soon will be better).

Let’s say someone invites you to dinner at his house. He sets up a computer screen at the head of his dining room table, you sit at your dining room table, and you all talk while you eat. That works fine. You feel as though you have gone to dinner at a friend’s house.

But if you get invited to a “Happy Hour,” cocktail party or brunch, the ambience of the event is missing. You see a face on the screen. It doesn’t feel like you’re meeting friends at a bar or a café. Zoom should first create virtual setting, with appropriate background noise (meeting friends at a bar isn’t really the same if you don’t have to shout over the music and conversation).

If it’s a cocktail party, you ought to be able to wander through a virtual setting, from room to room, catching up with old friends or making new ones. You should be able to meet friends at a museum, and wander from room to room.

Once that’s in place, migrate it to 3D VR. 20 years ago, the always-innovative [and always underappreciated] Mike Nesmith started working on this kind of thing, in a virtual outdoor concert setting, with his “VideoRanch3D.”

The idea is to make us feel as though we really are going places. To feel as though we really are meeting friends someplace special, even if we are not.

Little things that frighten me, which didn’t frighten me before: Can Bubbles Spread the Virus?

I am sitting in my urban backyard, and from an adjacent backyard, over a sturdy wooden fence, a bubble has just floated on the wind, and I got out of its way. Can those bubbles spread the virus? The bubble, of course, might contain virus-infected droplets, and it could kill me.

The bubbles are multiplying, and it is time to flee indoors.

Why I am pessimistic [Part 2]

I’m a novelist, among other things (those “other things” pay for my novel-writing), and I need bookstores. Not just to stock my books, but to sponsor my shameless self-promotion and tempt potential readers and book-buyers with wine and cheese.

With bookstores gone, I must goad friends and colleagues (and strangers!) to join me in virtual bookstores. To watch me read on an iPhone screen.

But, you know, without the free wine, it isn’t the same.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. In Love with Alice is a very very good book! But if I am to read from it, if I am to perform for you like a trained bear, it’s better in a darkened bookstore. Surrounded by shelves full of books, a glass of red wine warming you inside.

To get back to an America filled with bookstores, we need a lot of testing. And it’s not forthcoming. A competent federal government could get us the tests in a moment. But the cavalry is not on its way.

Where is the end to this?


Alon Preiss is the author of In Love With Alice (2017). Available NOW from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or from ANY BOOKSTORE IN ANY TOWN OR CITY IN AMERICA

Image by Alexas Fotos/Pixabay