Monday, June 24, 2013

It's a GOOD Life

About a year ago, Anthony had gotten mad at her, because she’d told him he shouldn’t have turned the cat into a cat-rug, and although he had always obeyed her more than anyone else, which was hardly at all, this time he’d snapped at her. With his mind. And that had been the end of Amy Fremont’s bright eyes, and the end of Amy Fremont as everyone had known her. And that was when word got around in Peaksville (population: 46) that even the members of Anthony’s own family weren’t safe. After that, everyone was twice as careful.
Jerome Bixby's short story "It's a Good Life" is a gripping tale of a three-year-old boy with the ability to do anything he wishes to anything or anyone. People in his small town of Peaksville, Ohio are rightly terrified of him because if for some reason he were to become irritated with them...

Despite his powers, Anthony Fremont isn't an evil child-- and that's what makes Bixby's tale so gripping. He's an otherwise normal child with a normal three-year-old's emotions and understanding-- that is to say, he's far from mental and emotional maturity. One wouldn't want to live in Peaksville. In fact, those who do live in Peaksville desperately desire escape-- but there is no escape because their world ends at the city limits signs. They're unsure whether Anthony moved Peaksville off somewhere by itself or whether he destroyed the rest of the world. Scary.

In 1970 the Science Fiction Writers of America voted "It's a Good Life" one of the twenty best science fiction short stories ever-- and it appears on other short lists of best stories.

"It's a Good Life" was first published more than sixty years ago in paperback by Ballantine Books. Star Science Fiction Stories No. 2. would be difficult to find, and probably expensive if you could find it, but fortunately you can read Bixby's story here.

The late Rod Serling had a great eye for powerful fiction, so it's no surprise he picked Bixby's story for the third season of his television show The Twilight Zone. Starring a young Bill Mumy as Anthony, and with Cloris Leachman as his mother, it's a great episode.

Click READ MORE to see how and why "It's a Good Life" played an important role in the early years of Second Life.

When Anthony experiments with animals ("I ain't never seen a three-headed gopher before, Anthony!") or turns one of Peaksville's residents into a jack-in-the-box monstrosity, his mother asks him to send the unfortunate results to the cornfield on the edge of town-- and he does.

Second Life's Cornfield sim was where, in the early days, misbehaving residents were banished. They were sent there and couldn't leave until their suspensions ended.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to be locked up with SL's first crop of griefers, bigots, and scammers; rather like Robert A. Heinlein's Coventry, I imagine. Or, as Sweetie puts it, it was like the Phantom Zone in the Superman comics and movies.

And then, I suppose, the number of suspended avatars grew too large to be housed on a single sim and Linden Lab began to simply suspend  offenders' abilty to log in.

The Cornfield, past its usefulness, no longer served a a prison, but apparently remained on the grid. In past years I've seen it on the map, but I've never been able to actually get to it. Last night was an exception. There it was, on the western edge of the SLB10 sims. I simply walked across the sim boundary and into SL history.

"Damn it, I knew I shouldn't have told Rodvik Linden
he looked like a grown-up Bill Mumy.
Now look where he sent me!"
"Sure, I can tell you why you're here, but it's a long story."

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