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I stopped by Rafin Grimm's floating castle last week, to ask him why he'd disassembled his Roman Catholic cathedral. When I got there, however, he already had company. So while Raffin and I talked about the status of spirituality in Second Life, a curvy brunette in a sculpted fetish bikini went on waving her riding crop at a muscular man with nothing on but a pair of crotchless black leather chaps.

"I am Catholic, and very in touch with my relationship with God," says Rafin. He's a tall young man with dark hair, in stylish gray slacks and a black, longsleeve shirt. And while he adds that he's neither a perfect Christian, "I try to be good and do good things. That's what the church was going to be."

Things didn't turn out the way he planned, however.  I discovered this through fellow Second Life blogger Jonathan Akebono, who'd heard about Rafin's church, and recently asked him where it had gone.

"Actually, I took my church down awhile ago," Grimm replied. Akebono told him he was looking for a place in Second Life to pray, but Grimm couldn't help him there. "It was just causing a lot more problems than good. And nobody seemed to use it. I think it is funny... people like having sex clubs and all that here, but you build a church and it is like you are the biggest jerk in the world."

Continue reading "THE SACRED AND THE PROFANE" »



One avatar, many souls (originally published here.)

When wilde Cunningham gets their Second Life sea legs, they'd like to build a house. They'd also like to build a castle, though not as much as a house, and to a lesser degree, they'd also like to run a store. They all seem to like creating note cards, however, and also love waterfalls. Some of wilde wants to influence the world positively, while at the same time, another part of wilde wants to fly a helicopter and get some guns. Another portion of wilde would like to be a woman; still another, to make money and publish the first part of their life story. More wilde desires: to communicate their thoughts with ease, and to be honest about their challenges.

I finally met wilde Cunningham after days of residents enthusing to me about them, and truth be told, if I hadn’t known their story beforehand, I’d probably never notice them. Because at the moment, wilde is a startling avatar, with their bulky body and their orange skin, and red hair jutting in every direction from their balding head.

But there's a very good reason for wilde's appearance, and also for their name.

"We decided on our name because we have a group at our program which we had to name, some time ago," wilde Cunningham tells me. "We took ideas, and then voted on them, and named ourselves 'the wildes' back then. We have had this name for two years." Cunnigham laughs. "Just too wilde to be normal."

I smile, and they continue: "How did we decide on what we would look like, and our gender? We formed the man avatar first, because that day, we had more men in the group. We always wanted a female one, but we haven't taken the time to create her yet. Mary and Johanna would like that very much. We decided on how wilde would look first by starting with skin colors. We have both black and white in our real life group, and didn't want to have those because neither is better than the other. So we picked orange."

And this is probably a good place to introduce wilde in all their components-- though maybe their friend lilone Sandgraine is the best person to do that here, as she did for me, some days before I actually met them in person, as it were.




"You guys look like an alt rock group whose tour bus broke down in Omaha!" I tell the people I'm with, because, as it happens, they do. Foxy Xevious for one is a girl in leather with long dredlocks, while Jimmy Thompson sports a mohawk made of flame. And they're standing in a field of flowers and shrub, and a weathered farmhouse looms over them.

"I'm the groupie," their companion Dreams Lightcloud announces gamely, and as if to drive that point home, the girl with pink hair and platform heels begins to rock dance amid the long-stem roses.


Actually, what we're standing in is known as The Field of Dreams, which is also not a reference to the Kevin Costner film. It's an elaborate tech demo, and far as I know, I'm the first person associated with Linden Lab to see how a man who's spent a lot more of his time thinking about Canadian shipping routes has managed to beat Linden Lab at their own game. So to speak.

"I’m doing research [on] how to improve visual quality inside Second Life," Jimmy explains, "and the field is one of many prototype we made." He created it, he says, from "the desire to override the actual way Lindens implemented vegetation inside SL. [We needed a] more convincing and realistic solution." The result-- if I can briefly report from backstage-- got most of the developers and programmers at Linden Lab to gather around a single monitor, looking at Jimmy's field, gap-mouthed in awe.


Continue reading "DREAM OF FIELDS" »



Originally published here, here, and here.

"Oh Hamlet," Baccara Rhodes begins modestly, referring to the foggy London cobblestone streets outside, and the warm glow cast by the pub fireplace nearby, and the Northen star above us, and the pirate ships, and the roller coaster, and the Indian village, and everything else that she and her team have spent weeks building, in a project that spreads out in all directions over three simulators and 48 acres of virtual land, "You know me. I talk to Fey..."

"What did I do?" Fey asks, standing wide-eyed next to her. Then again, Fey Brightwillow is always wide-eyed-- especially when she's dressed in a Victorian Age ladies' bodice of her own creation, as she is now.


"And," Baccara continues, "the three words she doesn't wanna hear are 'I've been thinking'."

Ms. Rhodes and Ms. Brightwillow are the founders of Spellbound, a group devoted to creating and hosting premiere social events (fashion shows, weddings, and the like) that tend to top whatever came before it. But in that regard, given that their last big production was a tribute to the Wizard of Oz novels, they had quite a hurdle clear, this time.

"Fey and I just talk," she said. "After Oz, we said, 'Hmmmmm.'" Baccara told Fey she'd been doing some thinking, and then Fey did some too. And they kept on thinking together, over the phone (which considering their in-world celebrity status, is probably the best way to brainstorm without constant interruption.)

And the outcome of all their thinking was this: Neverland, a three-sim tribute to the world and wonders of J.M. Barrie, creator of the Peter Pan novels. Spellbound's efforts were assisted by Linden Lab, which loaned them use of three servers, for Neverland; some Lindens contributed their technical and creative assistance in the production, as well. Earlier this week, they took me on a long advance press tour, to show me all its wonders. There's a story to unfold, secrets to reveal, games to play, fabulous creatures to interact with, and rides to, well, ride on. But by request of the production team, all of those will remain untold here, until next week. For now, just these three screenshots, as hints of far more to come.

When we're standing in the children's bedroom of the Darling house with the window open to the sky, Baccara turns to me.

"Do you remember how to get to Neverland, Hamlet?

I'm not feeling the magic just yet, so I say something about Michael Jackson's palatial estate, and the Elephant Man's bones. Undaunted, Baccara presses on.

"Tink and Peter sprinkled fairy dust...

"The window opened...

"And AWAY they flew. Second star to the right."

And so off we go...

Continue reading "AND STRAIGHT ON 'TIL MORNING" »



A young small business owner with a weakness for Manolo Blahniks decided that she wanted to create an installation unlike anything she was familiar with in Second Life, one that would preferably feature zombies and blood-sucking ghouls. So she plunked down $400 of her own money to rent the land she needed for what she had in mind, and then converted $400 more, to hire the staff to make it happen. Just the thing for Halloween, Sim Horror is a macabre, sci-fi tinged adventure (if it was a standalone videogame, it would easily fit in the genre known as survival horror.) It begins in a chamber of dancing flames, with a corridor that takes you past a graveyard and an industrial area full of rusty machinery, all beneath a foreboding sky.

“We tried to create like an abandon-type feel to this area,” Ms. Xevious tells me. “It’s all inside of a cube underwater, to give it that creepy feel it has.”

I’ll hold off on revealing too much of Sim Horror’s story, but it involves a satanically-cursed town with blood-splattered homes, near an evil creek and a death valley maze, all swarming with dangers that must be avoided, and a series of goals that must be accomplished, before you’re able to confront the source of all the evil plaguing the town, in the bowels of hell itself. (Using Second Life’s XML functionality, player scores are recorded and displayed on a website, tallying items collected and goals met, with the winner taking a cash prize exceeding 20,000 Linden Dollars-- or well over $100, at current market rates.)

Foxy counts Sim Horror a success; as of late yesterday, with a week of operation left, it’s attracted 669 ticket-buying residents. But at just L$75 a shot, she won’t be making anything like what she spent to put it all together, or even for the leasing of SimQuest and Jamaica, the two simulators she owns, or the Linden Dollars she spent, to pay a thirty-plus staff that includes builders, scripters, writers-- and bouncers.

“I don’t mind paying the monthly fees,” Foxy explains. “I had to pay off all my workers and scripters. Yeah, I pay them, [and] some of them have land on one of my sims. I don’t build, I don’t script, but I love to plan, and create up ideas, and have people [build] them for me.”

When Foxy Xevious first came to Second Life, she actually hadn’t planned on building something so ambitious.

“I came here and didn’t even know you could do [something like] this," she says. "I did the going-to-clubs at first, and then after awhile, I just wanted to do something more to keep me busy and having fun.” Now, she says, “I barely ever leave my sims.” Because by then, she had noticed that so many other residents were also spending most of their time in nightclubs, too, and in shopping malls, as well—and she wanted more.

“I see a lot of sims right now and they are all doing the same things,” she tells me. “All that space just to do the same things.”




Glimpses of tributes, grief, resolve, mourning, and dissent on the third anniversary of the day


"My Second Life girlfriend lives in New Jersey," says Belvedere, "and wanted to see something done to remember all those poor souls. I was going to do one [building block] prim for every one of [the World Trade Center's] 110 levels, but prim limits knocked that out."


Sunny Buttercup is standing on a tower with Pyrrha Valentino, looking down. Sunny says she didn't know anyone who perished in the towers, but "a lot from the county I live in lost their lives."

"All I can think of [is] where I was when it happened," Pyrrha tells us. "I was in the Army at the time in Colorado, coming home from Physical Training." She falters. "Geez I'm about to cry... because I came home to change into uniform, but now I just found out that my husband is going to Iraq. In either November or January."

Continue reading "IN THE TOWERS OF NO SHADOW" »



On the Southern coast of Sedig, a medical doctor recreates the nightmarish experience of schizophrenia...

The fear of wrong things begins as a spidery prickle on the back of your neck. You feel a sweet chill, as it begins to skitter up your skull, then becomes a soft, sickly expanding pressure in your chest. This isn’t the kind of fear you feel from most computer games; it’s not like the jack-in-the-box shock you get, for example, when an animated ghoul pops its head out from behind a dark corner. This is a cloying, helpless, desperate panic, and it’s no fun at all.

The Virtual Hallucinations building arrived on Sedig's southern shoreline a few days ago (coordinates: 45, 25), but I had a chance to visit the place in August, when the building resided on a private island owned by the medical research arm of a California university. The brainchild of Nash Baldwin—“Nash”, named after John Nash of A Beautiful Mind, for reasons that’ll soon become obvious—the building contains a closely researched recreation of visual and aural hallucinations, based on interviews of real schizophrenics. Baldwin transplanted the simulation to Second Life's public continent, to give residents a chance to try it out, and to collect their feedback afterward (there’s a survey-taking device at the end of the tour), and as I first watched residents enter the doors, yesterday, I wondered if they’d feel the same kind of terror I did, last month.

Fred Extraordinaire, a tall goth with red hair, re-emerges from the building, and pronounces himself “sickened.”

He pauses, as if to collect his thoughts.  “I don’t like the feel of asylums.”


But the sickness doesn’t come from the realism of the graphics, which are, as Baldwin would be the first to admit, rudimentary. The interior of the building is a recreation of a real hospital ward—for that is typically where schizophrenics will be, when their worst episodes hit—but unfortunately for Baldwin, few Second Life architects spend much time working on anything that would be useful for making a mundane hospital floor. (He scrounged through twelve different in-world marketplaces, but nothing doing.)

"Everyone has all these glamorous textures,” Baldwin grouses, “but you can't find office ceiling tile textures! It's all cool looking fancy stuff!" (And here’s another reason for taking the demonstration public: He’s hoping that some resident artists who live near Sacramento contact him with offers to build “boring stuff, like office furniture, hospital outfits. I'd kill for a great doctor avatar.”) So Baldwin, who has a Masters degree in Computer Sciences and a medical degree, but not much in the way of 3D rendering skills, ended up building the place himself.


Not that this matters so much, when it comes to the actual experience. At the entrance, a note cautions, “If you have a history of mental illness, particularly a psychotic disorder, you may not want to tour this facility,” and it’s not an idle warning. As non-descript and rough hewn as it is, something about the hospital changes, when you enter. And as it happens, so do you. (And residents who plan on visiting the Sedig facility may not want to read beyond this point, until they have.)


Continue reading "A LEVER TO MOVE THE MIND" »

The Fate of Washu

Damien and Washu embrace Damien Fate is a young man from a small town in England, and he's customized a triggering system which incorporates audio clips of his real life voice into Second Life. So when his avatar laughs, for example, you hear his actual laugh, and when his avatar says "Yes", you also hear him actually say "Yes". And because he has the deep voice of a young British man, when he speaks these triggered words, it's a little like hearing the voice of, say, Orlando Bloom, suddenly ringing in your earphones.

The latest audio clip I hear coming out of Damien's avatar is the real life name of the young woman who lives in the American Midwest-- the woman he is about to meet for the first time, when he leaves England tomorrow, and flies across the Atlantic and most of North America, to reach her.

When he originally says her name, I look around, confused, because all I can see are him and Washu Zebrastripe, standing on the balcony outside their home. "Who the hell's [she]?" 

"Sorry," says Fate, grinning. "That's Washu's real name. I dont want to call her Washu in real life. So I use it instead of Washu, even in-game."

"Gee," I observe, "you really made sure you did a sexy-ass voice capture to say her name."

Damien laughs. Washu glances at me. "He does it for all the girls," she says.

"I'll be travelling to the States on the 9th of September and staying there for a week," Damien tells me earlier. This comes after a couple months of dating, and many more months as friends.

"[W]e've always known of each other," he says, "but we didn't really hang out much until we started playing another game (Lineage 2), and we became closer friends in Second Life because of it. We got to talking almost every day and staying up to very late hours-- at least for me, being in the UK."

I understand the appeal of relationships that begin in online worlds, even those that are powerful enough to inspire people to travel a few miles to meet each other. Going across the country, let alone across the ocean from another country, however, is something else. And because Eddie Escher and Fallingwater Cellardoor only had the Atlantic to traverse, to meet each other, Damien's impending trip might be the longest geographic trip taken, just for two Second Life residents to meet each other. (At least, that's what I thought, until I met a German disk jockey who's about make his own trip to the West Coast, to meet another resident-- more on them in coming weeks.) In any case, it's a long way to go, to meet someone.

"So what's the attraction?" I ask Damien.

"Well," Fate replies, "the good thing about getting to know someone in Second Life, is that the physical side doesn't get in the way. So you find out a lot more about a person and connect on a deeper level.

"Washu is an amazing person in my eyes. She is very open-minded, can make anyone laugh, she listens when you talk and isn't afraid to talk herself. Someone who everyone can love within a few minutes of talking with her." On her birthday, because he's a skilled artist and architect, he built Washu Zebrastripe a store to sell her avatar wigs.

Of course, it isn't just a relationship based on a connection of personalities, and they eventually revealed more about themselves, beyond their avatars. "Since we started talking, we have also exchanged pictures (even though they're also in our Second Life profiles), talked using Internet chat programs and used Web cameras with each other."

"Were you surprised by what she looked like when you first saw her real life photos?"

"Well, in all honesty," Damien Fate says, laughing, "I was expecting her to be black! Because of her avatar." In Second Life, Washu looks less like the fair-skinned brunette she really is, and more like, say, a backup dancer from a 50 Cent video. "It wouldn't have mattered either way," Damien adds. "But as it happens, she is also a very attractive person."

For Washu, the attraction had more to do than a matching of personalities-- she had to get past his avatar, to really start falling. "We didn't really hit it off 'til after we started Web-camming," she tells me in Insant Message. "So I'd say it had to do a lot with my feelings." With a few days before Damien gets on the plane to meet her, she's eager, though a bit nervous. He's actually not the first resident she's met in person. "I've met a ton," she says. "Chip Midnight, Spider Mandala, Kensuke, Pete Fats, Devyn Grimm... it's very exciting to meet someone in real life. You get to find out their first life, what they look like, how they sound, etc. The difference with Damien, of course, is that we are now dating. So meeting him will be an extra special occasion."

I wonder if they take much advantage of the customized avatar animations, that enable hugging, along with pretty much any other form of physical affection. "Now that we are dating," Washu says, "our avatars do hug a lot, but we mostly just talked [before]... I just can't say I act out with my avatar like that too much."

But why?

Washu and Damien

"Because my avatar isnt the real me," Washu tells me. "It just doesn't feel right... Some of the hug animations are really great! But it honestly just makes me want to hug Damien in person so much more. It's a bit difficult, with the distance and all."

And again on this topic, Damien has a slightly different take: "I have to say this Second Life really, really helps with the long distance. You can chat in a program, with voice or video, but nothing makes someone feel more there than when you can see your virtual representations standing next to each other, or embraced in a hug."

And so Damien is making his way to see her, tomorrow. When he gets there, he'll stay in a hotel near her home, and see her every day. When he tells me what state she lives in, I have to laugh a little.

"[Y]ou're going to the HEART of America!" I tell him.

"Yes," he says, "not for the first time either. I used to have a relationship with an Alabamian many years ago. So, I know what to expect... I don't think either [states] take a shining to Brits. Or 'outsiders' I should say."

"Nah, they're just a bit intimidated," I suggest. "Everyone here like Brits!"

"Well, I am really fond of Americans too," Damien says, smiling. "I always love the complete culture shock when I go over there. I'm always thrown off by the fact that the languages are so similar, but things are so different. The foods, the weather, the customs, the way people live. The first thing that hit me was the weather, but that's to be expected. Then there was the sheer distance between places. I am used to living in country towns, small places, but even then there's always a shop nearby, within walking distance. Travelling to the bank in America meant an hour long drive-- and you can't not learn how to drive over there."

"So how serious do you think this will become?"

"Well," Fate tells me, "we both think things are going really well [and] this visit will be a good chance for both of us to see how well we get along in real life, as it's very different meeting someone in real life as [compared] to Second Life.

"If things go well when we meet," he says, grinning, "I can see our relationship lasting for a long, long time."

"Long distance, even?"

"Yes," says Damien Fate, "but if things go as well as they are now, then Washu is really considering moving over to the UK!"

They promise to tell me what became of their meeting, once it's happened-- and hopefully, also where they intend to go, after they've put aside their avatars to be with each other. And I have to wonder what will. Sometimes, being in an online world gives you the safety to express who you really are; sometimes, being face to face with someone provokes too much fear of rejection, and there's an awkwardness or a forced cheerfulness that is, paradoxically enough, even more artificial.

And then again, sometimes relationships naturally flow from avatar form to one that's fully fleshed out, and lasting. Since I know and like Washu Zebrastripe and Damien Fate, I can only wish the third way for them. What actually happens, however, awaits a future entry in New World Notes.

"I'm excited of course," Washu tells me, five days from the visit, standing there with Damien on the balcony of their home, "but I wonder what the poor boy will do while I'm at work all day."

"I will be fine," Fate assures her. "There's a park I can visit and a, uh, video store."

"And liquor store," Washu points out.

"Yes, so I can get smashed and watch movies all day in the park."

Washu guffaws. "No way, the cops are Mafia here. They will bust you and deport you."

Fate frowns. "I better behave, then."

So after a day of delays and a long flight, Damien Fate found himself standing alone at an airport terminal somewhere in the American Midwest, more than four thousand miles from his home in England, waiting to meet a woman he'd fallen in love with months ago, but had never actually met. And for a moment there, without even knowing, she was closer to him than she'd ever been before.

"He was lookin' the other way in the airport when I came up to him," Washu Zebrastripe tells me, "And he stood up and turned around, and there I was. Like two inches from him.

"If he was nervous at all," Washu observes, "I scared it outta him."

"Scared me to death," Damien agrees. "But we hugged straight away."

I'm standing with the couple in their Second life home, but now that Damien is back in England, this is the closest they'll be together for the time being. Fate slips a series of digital photos into my archive, and when I open them, a cascade of images appear, documenting their time together in the material realm. (Which in this case, means a hotel near Washu's home.) I feel obliged to provide a running commentary as I flip through the images:

"Washu in the hotel!... Washu and Damien hugging!... ["We did that a lot," Fate interjects.] On the bed chillin'!.... Posing at the hotel, Damien looking somewhat like Elijah Wood in this shot... Damien with long sleeves, Washu looking beguiling!... Ah, the strong man pose, holding her up!" ["We had the same shot in Second Life," Fate explains, "so we did it real life."]

But since the story is fully theirs, perhaps it's better to let them finish it in their own words...


Damien Fate:
Her eyes. They weren't as clear on camera, but they really grabbed 
me in real life. The colour is a kind of grey/green which goes great 
with her auburn hair.

Seeing her on Webcam and in pictures so much before meeting, there was no great big surprise when seeing her that first time-- other than that she looked even better... [Y]ou can only see someone online in two dimensions, it's not quite real...

So you build up an image in your mind of them in real life.

When you dream, you wonder. Is she really that pretty in real life? Is it even possible? I was pleasantly surprised by seeing first hand that, yes, she really is that beautiful.

But the main thing [about her eyes] was how I felt when I looked into them. It was a feeling I had waited for for a long time... We were already in love, it just felt like falling in love again when I saw her for the first time.

Washu Zebrastripe:
Hum... uh... Probably how comfortable he was with me, I expected him to be more shy about everything. It is a bit hard to tell how forward a person will be when you meet them online, you know?

But was she shy?

Hum, well. I was me. That's hard to explain, but I don't really think I was too shy about it. I mean, it's Damien. What do I need to be shy about?


Washu Zebrastripe: 
Well, we ran outta the airport, 'cause he's been in the damn things for two days! We went to my car, and he tried to get in on the wrong side. I was very excited though!

I talked a bit about how I was glad he finally got here, and how bad I felt that I made him have to be in airport hell for two days.

And then we drove to the hotel. He was worried it wouldn't let him in at 11pm, and where he would go if they didn't. Well, they let us in, but they asked a lot of questions... His address, which was way too long for the computer, and they kept misspelling it. It wouldn’t take his zipcode at all, and his phone number was too long! They kept joking with us, and it was very amusing.

We got to the room and he asked to take a shower... I sat on the bed and watched TV. When he got out, we said "Yay!" And drove to get something to eat. Then we got to the restaurant and sat down... the waitress tried to mimic his accent, which she couldn't do. We laughed, and we grabbed each others' hands, and he kissed mine. It was just so exciting to see him in person. A relief, even. Because I've wanted to for SO long.

... and then [we] did some shopping together. First night together, and already acting all domestic.


Damien Fate: 
We were both hugging each other on my first night there. It was really late, about 4AM, I think. Washu layed down in bed and so did I. Then we kissed.

Washu Zebrastripe
Then I fell asleep.


Damien Fate: 
Well, slow or fast depends on your views of online relationship. I think online things can become deeper quicker, but I can't say if we were going too slow or too fast... it was more a case of we were going at a pace which felt right for us. We knew after a couple of weeks of dating online that it would be cool to meet up, so that's when I bought the tickets forty nine days in advance. We thought that would give us even more time to get to know each other while we waited for the day to come when met... We went out on a LOT of dates, though.

Washu Zebrastripe: 
We did. And we went to my mother's house. We went out to eat a lot. Fondue, Mexican, Mongolian... A walk along the river, to my favorite part of the city.

Damien Fate: 
We even went to see a musical! The Producers by Mel Brooks. It was awesome, though. We got dressed up all smart for it, and were warmly welcomed for it.

A great final date. That was on Thursday-- I had to leave Friday morning.


Washu Zebrastripe: 
I think we're more comfortable with each other, joke around a bit more? It's hard to tell so far, it's only been a few days.

Damien Fate: 
[Being in] Second Life together is pretty much the same as it was before... we've always gotten on very well, so things haven't changed that much. But we're both happier.


Washu Zebrastripe: 
Well, I want to go and try to live with him, in the UK. I don't like where I live and I love to travel anyways, so I think it would be fun to go over there. I don't know when it will be, we are working it out at the moment.

All I care about is seeing him again.

Never been [to England]! I’ve been to Canada a few times is all. I'm not scared... the change will be exciting. I can't get a job [there], but I make a bit off of Second Life... I make wigs. I sell a lot of them! I make about L$10,000 a week. Plus I can do little babysitting jobs and stuff that won't require a visa.

Who knows [when I go]! Before Christmas, I hope.

Damien Fate: 
[S]he can legally stay in the UK for six months before having to return home again. But she can fly back to renew the six months visa. We'll be able to do that.

I have a good job in graphic design in real life, but Second Life provides a nice bit of pocket money... [I design] clothes mainly, but the latest things I have made and sold in collaboration with Fizik Baskerville as part of the avalon.brand are Kicks (prim shoes) and the, which works as a portable photo album attached to your hip.

To legally work in the UK she would need a work permit, but they're difficult to get. Mainly you need to have a job lined up before you even enter the country (which is pretty hard) and there are sponsorships too, I think. It's not really as one way as that, we both also earn from Second Life.

We'd be supporting each other.



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."

Continue reading "SPACE IS THE PLACE" »