From the TNG Technical Manual;
Matter conversion subsystem creates physical props using replicators.
Replicated props are generally created when an object is likely to be
touched by the participant. Some props are animated under computer
control by precision-guided tractor beams.
Holographic imagery subsystem creates three-dimensional images ...
This is "Spectator Sport," by John D. MacDonald, originally published in the Feb 1950 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories, and the original from this magazine can be read online in its entirety courtesy of archive.org.
There is an (unaccepted) answer for a previous question with appropriate citations to show matching details. As mostly copied from that answer:...
Stanisław Lem's The Futurological Congress has chemically induced "realities" to cover up poverty/government failures (even if they turn out to be a dream-within-a-dream / hallucination-inside-a-hallucination thing).
The (quite short) book is from 1971 (as am I, so I'm reluctant to say that it's "very old", but it still seems a good match).
This sounds like "Love is a Download", an episode of the HBO series Spicy City- except in the virtual world the fat guy was a heavyweight champ and the girl was a geisha (some would argue big steps from the respective regular guy and dancer). The shark-guy was the woman's abusive boyfriend outside the VR world.
If PMar returns, they are welcome to any or all of this answer since they found the title.
This looks to be Otherland, a four volume series by Tad Williams.
The story opens with Paul Jonas, a British infantryman in an apparent part of the Western Front of World War I. Wounded, he has a vivid dream in which he meets a "bird-woman", and after he wakes up, ...
Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline
In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop ...
The book I was remembering was titled The Game by Terry Schott! It's a pretty good book that covers the story of Zack the main character as he plays a virtual reality game in which people can earn credits (money) for when they are back in the real world. I'll post the official summary of the story below!
What if life as we know it was just a game? What if ...
Demons Don't Dream, by Piers Anthony
Teenager sucked into a video game (using the "calibrate your eyes" technique) where trying to subvert censorship has penalising consequences, and he picks an irrationally buxom NPC, Nada Naga, to accompany him. He fails an initial challenge by peeping on her (trying to be clever by viewing her only by reflection off the ...
I hadn't heard of this story before, but was intrigued by your question so I searched around a little and found that this question has been answered elsewhere. It appears to be "Catacomb" by Henry Melton from issue #97 of Dragon magazine May 1985.
This is John Macdonald's 1950 short story "Spectator Sport".
Dr. Rufus Maddon arrives in the future, but no one cares, they think he is crazy. Everyone lives for the VR TV and the society is falling apart. Maddon gets a lobotomy and stuck in the VR machine.
It ends "Rufus Maddon wiped the sweat from his forehead on the back of a lean hard brown hero's hand....
Sounds like The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.
The show was originally aired from 1996 to 1997.
The paralyzed man, called Jeremiah Surd, is the main antagonist in several episodes and and the virtual world is called Questworld.
A continuation of the Jonny Quest (1964)and The New Adventures of Jonny Quest (1986) series, it features teenage adventurers ...
Sounds like a scene from Tad Williams' Otherland.
...a rather lengthy book...
Book 1 is around 800 pages.
...a bunch of people in virtual worlds...
"...widespread availability of full-immersion virtual reality installations, which allow people from all walks of life to access an online world..."*
...set in the future.
"The story is set on Earth ...
"A Maze of Death" by Philip K. Dick
Synopsis from Wikipedia:
The plot revolves around fourteen colonists of the planet Delmak-O.
They are: Betty Jo Berm, a linguist; elderly Bert Kostler, settlement
custodian; Maggie Walsh, a theologian; Ignatz Thugg, who oversees
thermoplastics; Milton Babble, a physician; Wade Frazer, a
psychologist; Tony ...
I think I found it!
The Gadget Factor by Sandy Landsman
From the book's description:
Two college freshmen create the ultimate computer game, a universe built to their own specifications, but complications arise when their formulas for time travel also work in the real world.
The match isn't exact. The two main characters, Worm and Mike, work on the ...
A freak accident sends three Australian kids into a computer-generated
world of pirates and swashbuckling heroes. The kids must help a group
of adventurers find a buried treasure and a way back to the real
Kate, Sarah and Nicholas are the three siblings. More details, especially about the tree house:
The pirates arrive and ...
1930: "The City of the Living Dead" by Laurence Manning and Fletcher Pratt; originally published in Science Wonder Stories, May 1930 (available at the Internet Archive, click here for download options), reprinted in Startling Stories, July 1940, in Avon Fantasy Reader, No. 2, 1947 (also at the Internet Archive, click here for download options), and in The ...
It's Lady El, by Jim Starlin and Daina Graziunas. First published June, 1992.
From the GoodReads site:
A poor woman killed in subway accident is given a second chance at
"life" when her brain is harvested by a government operation in an
attempt to link human minds with computers.
I think you are thinking of The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, a novella by Roger Williams.
A computer of omnipotent power that is (theoretically) benevolent to humans controls the physical universe as though it were a virtual simulation. Humans can't be hurt, but some get bored. They exploit a loophole in the computer's logic and create self-...
This might be Realtime Interrupt by J. P. Hogan, published in 1995.
As a brilliant scientist at a leading computer corporation, Joe
Corrigan heads an ambitious project, dubbed Oz, to create a virtual
reality system capable of mimicking reality in every detail. When he
later awakens in a psychiatric ward ...
As discussed in the comments the book is Foundations Fear by Gregory Benford. This is the first book in a trilogy set in Asimov's Foundation universe.
However the AIs are Joan of Arc and Voltaire, not Francis Bacon, and the book is set on Trantor not Earth. Time is not kind to our memories!
Besides the psychohistorians, much of the novel's action ...
I suspect this isn't the book you're thinking of because it's a series of four books, but the Otherland tetralogy by Tad Williams is along these lines. A consortium of multimillionaires called the Grail Brotherhood have created VR worlds that they plan to live in.
Could it be the Twilight Zone episode 'Dreams for Sale'? The main character is a woman and she is having a picnic with her dream family (from what I remember) and then at the end she wakes up and she's in a machine and she has only been in there for a few minutes.
It predates computers, but the earliest technological (non-magical and non-philosophical) example I've found is ''Pygmalion's Spectacles'' by Stanley G. Weinbaum from 1935. Here is an excerpt where the protagonist, Dan, tries out the inventor's device:
"Here it is!" he gloated. "My liquid positive, the story. Hard photography—infernally hard, therefore ...
It might be Dorothy Heydt's A Point of Honor which was published in 1998. I don't remember the quote you do, but some other points match up. Here's the beginning of the description from Amazon:
Sir Mary de Courey is the doughtiest knight in the virtual reality
land of Chivalry. But when, in the real world, her plane crashes and
her car is driven off ...