First edition cover, New York, 1964
|Author||Daniel F. Galouye|
|Series||A Bantam Book, J2797|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Published in English||January 1, 1964|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|LC Classification||PS3557.A42, S56 2000eb|
|Preceded by||Lords of the Psychon (1963)|
|Followed by||A Scourge of Screamers (1968)|
Simulacron 3 is the story of a virtual city (total environment simulator) for marketing research, developed by a scientist to reduce the need for opinion polls. The computer-generated city simulation is so well-programmed, that, although the inhabitants have their own consciousness, they are unaware, except for one, that they are only electronic impulses in a computer.
The simulator’s lead scientist, Hannon Fuller, dies mysteriously, and a co-worker, Morton Lynch, vanishes. The protagonist, Douglas Hall, is with Lynch when he vanishes, and Hall subsequently struggles to suppress his inchoate madness. As time and events unwind, he progressively grasps that his own world is probably not “real” and might be only a computer-generated simulation.
Symbolically, the title term "Simulacron-3" refers to the just-built virtual reality simulator and ostensibly references a third attempt at "simulectronics" (the reality-simulating technology), however, the "3" also refers to the novel’s three levels of "reality," or three levels of computer simulation — if the final, "real" world is simulated. Moreover, "simulacron" is closely derivative of simulacrum, a superficial image representing a non-existent original.
In writing, the Frederick Pohl short story "The Tunnel under the World" (1955) deals with like philosophic themes and satirical criticism of marketing research, although in Pohl's story the described simulated reality is mechanical, an intricate scale-model whose inhabitants’ consciousnesses reside in a computer, rather than being solely electronic. The Philip K. Dick story Time Out of Joint (1959) presents a man who is unaware that he is living his life in a physically simulated town until changes in his (apparent) reality begin to manifest themselves.
In film, Dark City (1998) pictured a population unknowingly living in a physical simulation of an American city under the control of a mysterious group of entities called the "Strangers", whose goal seemed to be the study of human motivation and psychology. The Matrix (1999) described a world whose population is unaware that the world containing their minds is a virtual reality simulacrum.
The novel has been adapted twice into other media, first as the two-part German television film Welt am Draht (1973) (World on a Wire), by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, "staying reasonably faithful to Galouye’s book," and as The Thirteenth Floor (1999) directed by Josef Rusnak.