Fantasy Faire 2014: dates and some initial details

Fantasy Faire 2013Fantasy Faire 2013: Lumenaria

Trying to catch-up on a backlog of blog reading, I came across an update from Sonya Marmurek on the Fantasy Faire website announcing some of the details for this year’s event. The post was made on February 17th, and I’m not entirely sure how I missed it, as I’m sure I’ve looked at the FF website between then and now … Anyway, Sonya informs visitors to the site that:

Fantasy Faire 2014 will take place in the Fairelands unlike anything you’ve seen before, the lands change shape every year and every year they become better.

This year, the Faire will take place during the eleven days of Thursday May 1st through to Sunday May 11th inclusive.

Fantasy Faire 2013Fantasy Faire 2013: Magnificat

Interestingly, there will be a few changes in organisation this year. most notably, open applications for merchants will be limited in number, and will be available “some time after” Saturday March 15th.  As Sonya explains in the blog post, this is because:

The Faire is old and established and there are plenty of creators who are as much an integral part of it as the Fairelands themselves and we will first scribe in those registrations.

This announcement may give rise to some concern among merchants who might be wanting to participate in the Faire for the first time, but it’s also understandable as well; anyone who regularly travels through the Fairelands each year will be familiar with the excitement and pleasure of coming across “old friends” and seeing how they’re integrated presenting their goods into the year’s theme, and many creators really are as much a part of the event as the fabulous builds created each year and in which the Faire is hosted.

Fantasy Faire 2013Fantasy Faire 2013: Titan’s Hollow

Last year’s Faire was something very special; the conception and design of the Faireland regions added up to something quite extraordinary in look and feel, and I felt a tremendous sense of involvement during my wanderings through each of the ten regions, all of which seemed to present a continuing, evolving story to me and encouraged me to write about my explorations as if I were on a journey. I don’t know if my Traveller muse will return this year, but I’m very much looking forward to witnessing all that unfolds in the run-up to the Faire and the event itself.

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The Drax Files Radio Hour: the reality of the virtual

radio-hourThe latest Drax Files Radio Hour podcast is packed with a lot to take in.

There’s the usual general chit-chat at the start, with references to news that Oculus components are in short supply segueing into ideas for packaging SL with the Oculus – and I’ll be a damp squib here and say even if that were to happen, it likely wouldn’t result in a major uptick in SL sign-ups; not because I feel Oculus doesn’t have a place in SL, but rather because a lot more needs to be done elsewhere in order for this to happen.

The new user experience gets mentioned, and here I agree with Jo: hand-holding isn’t always necessary (or required); it’s getting people connected to the things they are interested in (or that attract them) and people they can interact with, that counts first and foremost.

Bitcoins examined (images via Robert X. Cringely’s “I have my doubts about Bitcoin“)

With the news that the Bitcoin world has (again) been caught in controversy, Karl Stiefvater provides explanation and insight into things – and after the confusion evident within some BBC coverage on the subject, he should be loaning his skills to Auntie Beeb. Then there are the usual links and bits in the blog post itself.

However, the two things that make this episode are the interviews. The first of these is with Pamela from a local sheet music store visited by Drax, and the second with researcher Nick Yee.

In the first interview, Drax attempts to interest Pamela in Second Life, and the ensuing conversation demonstrates just how hard a task it can be when trying to move people away from preconceptions – regardless as to how exposed (or not, as in these case) they’ve been to SL. In this, it’s interesting to hear that while Pamela has heard of Second Life, she admits to not having tried it. Nevertheless, her mind is completely closed to it and its potential; so much so that even when Drax puts valid reasons as to how SL can be both fun and beneficial, her response is to marginalise the positive in what he’s saying.

There’s a huge amount of depth to this interview which may not be immediately apparent from what is said. For example, the idea of the avatar as a mask and how we respond to it being so are strongly contrasted. While those of us engaged in platforms such as SL see the avatar as a mask and the anonymity it gives us as being largely positive, going so far as to quote Oscar Wilde (“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”); it is equally clear that those outside of SL see that same anonymity as largely negative, something which is used to hide intent.

There’s clearly a complex series of interactions going on here, some of which appear to have been hardwired into us at some point. That this is the case  – something which is very much examined in the follow-on interview with researcher Nick Yee. He refers to this imposed divide between the real and the virtual and how our views from one shape our opinion towards the latter, as “cognitive hardwiring”. He draws a fascinating picture as to how he believes it came about, one which does have merit.

Nick Yee
Nick Yee

Nick is in good position when it comes to commenting on our relationships with virtual mediums, having been studying it for around a decade, using the likes of SL, World of Warcraft and other platforms – six years of which were spent running The Daedalus Project.

More recently, his work formed the basis of an article in Slate magazine, which also links to his recently published The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us– and How They Don’t, an examination of our increasingly complex relationships with our digital Doppelgängers and virtual environments. I actually reported upon both the Slate article and the book back in January.

He also touches upon another aspect of our involvement with virtual environments: how they can often perpetuate stereotypical views and attitudes, and his description around use of gender within World of Warcraft is fascinating to hear. In relating this  particular study, he tends to also underline the fact that many of our attitudes to virtual worlds, whether actively engaged in them or not, may well be two sides of the same cognitive hardwiring coin. That is, the same hardwiring which encourages those not involved in virtual worlds to look upon them somewhat suspiciously and / or negatively, also encourages those active within such environments to reinforce artificial stereotypes and attitudes, thus adding another layer of complexity to the discussion.

Beyond this, his reference to the “Malibu Model” and how that may in turn have contributed to the backlash against SL after its 2007/08 expose to the media hype cycle makes for interesting listening.  I’m almost tempted to say when it comes to promoting SL and the Malibu Model (were things to move in that direction – and that shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement on my part that I think it in any way should!),  Nick certainly offers a new potential strap line for SL: “Where The Decadence Comes So Cheap”. OK, maybe not… However, it again tends to point towards external influences shaping perceptions and responses, again underlining the complex series of interactions which exist between the real and the virtual.

Feedback

Another fascinating podcast with two outstanding interviews – I could easily have written a book on both, and have actually only scratched at the surface of the Nick Yee interview. I’m equally aware that I’ve presented Pamela’s conversation from a certain perspective, because I do feel it underlines an issue SL and virtual worlds do face when attempting to reach a broader audience. Therefore, I do encourage you to go listen to both interviews yourself.

I’ll likely be returning to Nick Yee’s work in the future, as The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us– and How They Don’t is currently sitting in my “to read” pile of books (actually occupying the number 4 slot right now!).

Missing plans, Faerie wars and emperors of Rome

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in Voice, brought to Second Life by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library SL.

As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Sunday March 2nd

13:30: Tea-time at Baker Street: The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans

Tea-time at Baker Street sees as Caledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen and Kayden Oconnell reading stories from His Last Bow.

A 1917 anthology of previously published Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, His Last Bow originally comprised seven stories published byThe Strand Magazine between 1908 and 1917. However, later editions of the book saw an eighth story included, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, originally published in 1892.

Despite his frequent appearances in various television series depicting the life and times of Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes only appears, or is mentioned, in just four of Conan Dyole’s tales,  The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans being one of them – actually the one which marked his final appearance in the original canon.

It is Mycroft who kicks-off this adventure as he visits Holmes about missing submarine plans and a dead man. The latter is Arthur Cadogan West, formerly a young clerk in a government office at the Woolwich Royal Arsenal, who was found dead next to the London Underground tracks near Aldgate tube station, his head apparently crushed by a passing train. The plans for the Bruce-Partington submarine were found on his body – with three pages missing, and Mycroft is concerned they could have been taken by enemies of the Crown.

Not only is there the mystery of the missing pages for the submarine plans, there is much about Arthur Cadogan West’s death which does not add-up; why, for example, was he carrying top-secret plans about his person while apparently due to visit the theatre with his fiancée? Why is there no Underground ticket about his body? Did he manage to travel the service without a ticket, or did someone take it? If the latter, why would they take it?

Holmes responds to his brother’s request for help on behalf of the British government – noting to Watson along the way that Mycroft actually is the British government – and thus the adventure begins …

Find out more by joining Caledonia, Corwyn and Kayden!

18:00: Magicland Storytime

Join Caledonia Skytower at Magicland Park, in the Golden Horsehoe, as she reads The Princess and the Frog, and Mardi Gras stories.

Monday March 3rd, 19:00: From an Alien Point of View

When humans interact with aliens who are actually alien, we run into the fact that we’re as weird to them as they are to us. This can cause the most remarkable misunderstandings…. More thought-provoking sci-fi from the collection of Gyro Muggins.

Tuesday March 4th, 19:00: Ireland, Land of Poets

Join Kayden, Corwyn and Caledonia as they read from the poetic words of some of Ireland’s famous daughters and son.

Wednesday March 5th, 19:00: Tír na nÓg by Marni L.B. Troop

Tir-Na-nogTír na nÓg (“Land of the Young”) is, in Irish folklore and mythology, one of the names of the “otherworld”, in part a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy. It is also the title of the first volume of Marni L.B. Troop’s The Heart of Ireland Journals.

In looks, the Faerie are folk little different to humans, other than their pointed ears, although they are vastly different in other ways, and  Casey is a princess among them.

She is horrified when a stranger from Iberia arrives on the shores of Ireland, home of the Faerie, believing them to be the gods of his people, but the kings of the Faerie respond to his overtures by having him slaughtered.

Thus the Faerie kings bring down the vengeance of the Iberian people upon their own folk, and war comes to their land. Caught in the middle, and herself in love with an Iberian called Amergin, Casey tries to find a way to bring peace between the two peoples so that they might live together. Unfortunately for her and her beloved, things do not go as she had hoped.

Join Caladonia as she embarks on a reading of this intriguing faerie tale.

Thursday March 4th

16:00: Stories from Ozland and Pictures

With Llola Lane.

19:00: The Dream of Macsen Wledig and The Black Cauldron

The Dream of Macsen Wledig – image courtesy of Donald Correll

Shandon Loring sits down to read from two more tales rooted in tales from the Mabinogion.

Macsen Wledig is in fact Magnus Maximus, a Roman general who was proclaimed emperor by his legionaries in 383AD before he successfully challenging and defeated the Western Emperor Gratian and initially reaching an agreement with Valentinian II and Theodosius I, which saw him recognised as the Emperor in the West. This arrangement last until 388AD, when Magnus was himself defeated by forces loyal to Theodosius I and Valentinian II, after forcing the latter out of Milan.

A key figure in the latter days of the Roman Empire in Britain, the story of Magnus Maximus filtered into Welsh mythology, and may also helped to give rise to the initial Arthurian legends. As it is, in Welsh tradition, he is seen as the progenitor of the dynasties of several medieval Welsh kingdoms, and appears in lists of the Fifteen Tribes of Wales. In The Dream of Macsen Wledig, we learn of how he came to dream of (and find) his future wife here in Britain.

Shandon follows-up the The Dream of Macsen Wledig, with a reading of The Black Cauldron.

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Details still TBA, so please check with the Seanchai Library blog as the week progresses.

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Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for March and April is Project Children: building true and lasting peace in Northern Ireland one child at a time.

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