Story Identification:

Our hero buys a machine that basically is sim-earth, sim-city, and the sims all in one. You start with a one dimensional universe, expand to two, three, create the big bang, and then watch things settle down. Eventually planets form, and life begins to evolve. Intelligence and civilizations develop, wars rage, religions rise and fall, all while he watches.

There is an empathy slider that controls how much he empathizes with life on the planet.

In this world a moral dilemma is whether it's okay to publish poetry written by simulated people in a world of your own creation, as if it's your own.

He watches his civilization and their suffering. Eventually he finds a button (which was supposed to be disabled) for "total immersion", clicks it, and lives the life of one of his guys, but dies while still in the world.

I think the story is pretty old, 70s or earlier. I think it appeared in an anthology which contained another story about a world where the wind blew 500+ miles per hour, and when people would go outside they'd ride around in giant armored car-like things.

  • This is possibly: 'The Creator' written by Clifford D. Simak from 1933, and appeared in Creations: The Quest for Origins in Story and Science edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg and George Zebrowski May 18, 2012 at 8:43
  • It's not "The Creator" by Simak. Sep 21, 2012 at 8:43

2 Answers 2


That's David Lake's "Creator".

(1978); The 1979 Annual World's Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim

On the planet Olympus, the immortal Jay Crystal is excited when the Installer from the Creation Corp. arrives to install the creatron. The Installer demonstrates the device, including creating a 1D universe and a flatland. And yes, it's a great universe sandbox machine, and the Jay eventually creates the earth and mankind. He starts to see his creations as independent beings, and that he was responsible for their ills. Then Jay begins using the Total Empathy button...

[...] he was in the man under the tree.
He felt a great compassion rise in him, as he looked through the man's eyes at the crowd. Suffering -- all the world was suffering, birth was suffering, old age was suffering, sickness was suffering, death was suffering. Contact with unpleasant things was suffering, parting from what one wanted was suffering. And now only he knew the cure, only he could reach that best way out, the Middle Path...
And so he, the Enlightened One, taught them.

From there, Jay was addicted. He spent more and more time with his creation trying to build an ethical civilization... until they pull him bloody and unconscious from the machine. His wounds, at wrists, at ankles, and the great wound in his side are quickly healed. The Total Empathy function is removed, Jay's addiction is cured, but he still lets the simulation run. He was astonished to find himself hailed as a god, and an Empire rising in his name. Two thousand years since the accident, he continues check back in on his universe, although only at a medium empathy level.

  • 3
    What about this work matches the question's description?
    – user1027
    Mar 21, 2013 at 20:17
  • found this through google: 'Universe making machine, or computer game story both prophetic and satiric.' - sounds totally right. the year is also right - it was in a SF anthology from 1979. Mar 22, 2013 at 8:48

"Creator" by David Lake, the 1979 Annual World's Best SF

A poet named Jay on the planet Olympus buys a virtual-reality machine that allows him to create a civilization (our own) in what to him is an artificial universe...he becomes deeply involved in his creation (humanity) as they rapidly advance, coming to care for them as living beings and realizing that he is responsible for them. Trying the "total immersion" button that allows him to inhabit the body of one of his creations, he nearly dies and decides instead to act as an observer rather than a participant. His partner in this experiment is the installer from the corporation who acts as a cynical foil for the more idealistic Jay. Jay and the installer become friends even as Jay is disturbed by the installer's lack of morality and cruelty concerning his own creations.

  • 1
    :) That story was accepted as an answer over two years ago...
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 11, 2016 at 19:06

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