We got to talk to Jason Segel about his new YA novel, Otherworld. Check out what he had to say about the story and its future.
Otherworld is a YA novel that tackles the increasingly important topics of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The book, which is the first installment in a planned trilogy, was written by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller. Here’s what Jason had to say about Otherworld.
Hypable: First of all, what piqued your interest in virtual reality?
Jason Segel: I had a chance to try Oculus Rift when I was at Sundance a few years ago and I was amazed at how the technology had finally arrived, that we had been promised since I was a kid. But, I was more taken with the idea that, if you’re not happy with your real life and you can strap this on and go anywhere that you want, why would you ever leave? That’s sort of where the idea started.
H: One thing that I found unique about your virtual reality story, versus some others that are out there, is that you also explored the idea of artificial intelligence within the story, with the Children. I thought that was an interesting touch and I wondered where the idea for that came in?
JS: A lot of that is Kirsten Miller, who’s just absolutely brilliant. She’s the best partner I could possibly hope for. I don’t want to give too much away about what’s going to happen in the sequels, but a lot of it comes from simulation theory. Elon Musk has recently been putting forth the idea that maybe we’re all in a simulation right now. That idea’s sort of where AI spun out from.
H: So, you and Kirsten have written together before. What’s your writing process like, together? What do you each bring to the table?
JS: It’s become a real Venn diagram sort of partnership. Our styles have come to really overlap, in our collaboration. My experience is with screenwriting, which is primarily story and dialogue, and Kirsten is like a landscape painter in these books. She does both of those things really well too, but she writes prose in a way that I could never do.
H: So, you handle the character and dialogue work and she’s more of a world builder?
JS: Yeah, I think we pass back and forth at this point. I think we both do a little bit of everything. The division of labor isn’t as distinct as that. It’s become a pretty great collaboration.
H: In the first installment of the Otherworld series, we got to know Simon pretty well as we followed his journey through the book. But, with Kat, it was more of a “where is she, who is she, what’s going on?” situation. Do we get to know Kat a little better in the following books?
JS: Yeah, we do. There’s sort of a Princess Bride hunt for Kat in the first book and in the second book, our heroes are united, taking on the world, side by side. You get to know everybody a lot better in the second book. I’m really excited for you to see what happens in the third book.
H: It’s planned out that far ahead? You guys know where you’re going?
JS: Yeah, the entire trilogy was sketched out. I think that’s important. I always think you can sense when someone’s sort of making it up as they go along.
H: In Otherworld, the game, there are different places you can go, depending on what your personality is and what you’re looking for from the virtual reality experience. If you were playing the game, which world would you hang out in, whether we saw it in Otherworld, or not.
JS: I’m a liminal spaces kind of guy. Liminal spaces are sort of the “in between” areas. There was a game, when I was younger, called Myst and it was a beautifully rendered –
for the time – virtual reality world. There was game play in the different areas and puzzles to solve, but you could also just wander around, aimlessly. That was always what I did. Same when I go to Disneyland…I didn’t ride the rides as often as I walked around Tom Sawyer’s Island and just imagined.
H: So you’re an open world kind of guy?
JS: I am, yeah
H: What if “How I Met Your Mother’s” Marshall Eriksen was given the pleasure of playing the game? Where would he hang out?
JS: He’d probably do a lot of eating, in Imra.
H: You get to write for other kinds of media as well. Would it be your dream, eventually, to adapt Otherworld for the screen?
JS: It’s not even a dream so much as that it’s totally in my control. I think that’s probably something that I’ll do sooner than later. I always think in terms of TV shows and movies. It’s where an idea starts. I’ve learned that I really enjoy the process of people reading it as a book first. I learned that with Nightmares!. So, I’ll let this exist for a little while and then I’ll probably dig into an adaptation.
H: If, and when, that happens, is there a place you see yourself on the screen? Is there a character you’d want to play?
JS: Yeah, I always write myself a character, but I’ll let you try to guess.
We guessed, he didn’t tell us!