SPACE IS THE PLACE
Having just got back from vacation, I meant for my first return trip into Second Life to just be a quick look around-- but of course, after only ten minutes in-world, I met a guitar-wielding nerd angel who offered to show me the space station he'd made for a bald theatrical aesthete with an Emily Dickinson couplet tattooed across his chest. And so off we went.
"I made it for him," Starax Statosky tells me proudly. "He added lots of the furniture inside, though." We transport into a kind of space-themed aquarium, Starax and I, accompanied by Fem Daguerre, his titian-haired girlfriend in Daisy Duke shorts. When we arrive (via a teleporter pad located on a privately-owned sim called Backstage) I go bouncing around its plate glass walls, disoriented.
"Slight technical problem with being a pinball for the first minute or so after teleporting," Starax notes. "You soon toughen up," he adds, reassuringly. "I heard Captain Kirk has this problem in the early days."
The space station is actually a theatrical set, made for a play written by Edgeware Marker, who owns the place-- along with the entire simulator it hovers over. (More on him tomorrow.)
"I made the thing green at first," Starax says, showing me around. "It looked too menacing and slimey, though. The aliens in the script were intelligent and friendly."
"Yeah, when I read Edgware's script I thought of 2001-- the white scene at the end."
It took Starax Statosky a week to build all this, he tells me.
"I expected a weekend," he groans. "It was difficult setting up the space backdrop because handling huge models in SL can be very fiddly." And while it looks like you're peering into infinite space and swirling stars, we actually haven't left the simulator of Backstage at all. We're just in, as he puts it, "a huge cylinder made up from rectangles and with a star texture added, and the 'animtexture' script, then a layer of particles on top." (Suezanne Baskerville helped him make the cylinder, he adds.) And while space doesn't go too far beyond the spaceship, I wonder how far it could go, if a builder decided to create an even larger void, outside.
"I don't see any limitations with size," Starax muses. "As large as the sim, probably."
I ask him how many building block primitives (or "prims") it took to make this station in a bottle.
"That's something that never concerns me," Statosky answers, rather dismissively. "I honestly never check." Because the thing is, Starax Statosky doesn't own the station we're on, or for that matter, any of the land where his many builds are located, on the simulators below us. Or any land at all.
"I used to be a sandbox bum," he says, "because it was cheap land [to build on]... then people started to invite [me] to their sims, so why not."
Edgwar Marker lets him build on the two simulators he owns-- this one, and the adjoining Norwal-- and so his creativity comes cost-free. To illustrate this, Starax follows me off the space station, to show me the gallows and the heaven's gate and the sleeping giant and the elaborate sculpture of a devil dragging an angel down into an oil cauldron. As he puts it, "Life's cheap here."
Fem Daguerre grins at her boyfriend. "He's a squatter."
While we chat, the voices of people with British accents discussing a human rights crisis keep echoing through the chamber.
"Am I hallucinating," I wonder, "or am I hearing the BBC talking about the Sudan up here in space?"
"Probably Edgware's radio," Starax tells me, grinning.