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Virtual Person

"This category [science fiction] excludes rocket ships that make U-turns, serpent men of Neptune that lust after human maidens, and stories by authors who flunked their Boy Scout merit badge tests in descriptive astronomy."
- Robert Heinlein

  A synthetic media personality.  

The word "synthespian" appears in Gibson's work, but was coined by Jeff Kleiser. Kleiser and Diana Walczak created the first digital actor for their 1988 short film Nestor Sextone for President.

The film Final Fantasy is almost entirely populated by digital actors, but has an astonishing realism. The liquid-metal robot for Terminator II is another example.

"What did Blackwell mean, last night, about Rez wanting to marry a Japanese girl who isn't real?"

"Idoru," Yamazaki said... "'Idol-singer.' She is Rei Toei. She is a personality-construct, a congeries of software agents, the creation of information-designers. She is akin to what I believe they call a 'synthespian,' in Hollywood."

From Idoru, by William Gibson.
Published by Putnam in 1996
Additional resources -

See a brief excerpt of Nestor Sextone at about 2:00 minutes into the following video.

"Max Headroom was written and directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (now of MJZ) and they used Matt Frewer in makeup to represent a CG character. We were poking fun at them in Nestor Sextone for President: Nestor is running for president of the synthetic actors guild, and promising that humans in makeup will no longer take work away from synthetic actors." - Jeff Kleiser

This term is somehow reminiscent of Robert Heinlein, for me. It is a portmanteau word combining "synthetic" and "thespian" (actor). See Idoru for additional information.

Compare to Adam Selene from Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966).

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Idoru
  More Ideas and Technology by William Gibson
  Tech news articles related to Idoru
  Tech news articles related to works by William Gibson

Synthespian-related news articles:
  - Emily Lifelike Animation Sets New Standard
  - James Cameron's Avatar Synthespians
  - Synthespian Wannabe: Tron Legacy's Jeff Bridges

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