Adventures in Future Reality no. 2 — Pygmalion’s Spectacles

Anna Eva Kotyza
3 min readFeb 16, 2018

This adventure is one through literature.

It may seem boring, but it is exactly quite the opposite.

Stanley G. Weinbaum’s 1935 short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” tells a story where Dan, a young man, is transported through a virtual world where even smell and touch can be manipulated. Think of VR, but thought of in 1935, folks.

“All is dream, all is illusion; I am your vision as you are mine.”

How can Virtual Reality be both a dream and an illusion?

I always have vivid dreams. Ever since I was a little girl, visualizations of stories, wars, texture, characters and ideas wondered from my unconsciousness and straight into my dream world. But, when I woke up, I knew that I was back in reality. How did I know this? How did I know what I perceive around me wasn’t a dream? Even though my dream had very life-like qualities, reality had to be real.

An avalanche of new questions and insights within Virtual Reality emerge. VR creates a close duplicate of a real environment. People can be transported into different worlds and into dreamlike states, where nothing is exactly real. In“Pygmalion’s Spectacles,” Dan experiences something on the borderline of dream and illusion.

“There was a moment of chaos. The liquid before Dan’s eyes clouded suddenly white, and formless sounds buzzed. He moved to tear the device from his head, but emerging forms in the mistiness caught his interest. Giant things were writhing there.”

Does this sound familiar to some of you? For me, I am transported back to the very first time I tried a VR headset. I did not know what to expect. I felt a mixture of excitement, fear, and anticipation. But, just like Dan, I struggled with this “moment of chaos.” I was amazed by the emergence of forms and shapes actually around me. I was drawn into a world, which back at the time was just short, fictional, VR film.

After I placed the headset on me and began experiencing the film, I began forgetting that an actual headset was placed on me. It also forgot how this Virtual world was entirely pre-programmed. It was just like how the character Galatea mentioned: “nothing [was] unforeseen.” It was like a dream, entirely fictionalized; and yet, it entirely pre-orchestrated. No dream state required.

Sundance Film Festival, 2016

To conclude, what I find the most exciting is how this short story in 1935 is still relevant in 2018, if not more so. For those of you who have not read it, go for it.

Link to book: