Of pirates and airships in Second Life

Airship Pirates Town; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Airship Pirates Town – click any image for full size

Jamisson Burnstein recently drew my attention to a store called Airships Pirates Town, located high over the island of Hakone, and the work of へき (hekirekika Jinn). “Airship Pirates” is actually enough to get a quizzical eyebrow rising, but the build itself really has to be seen to be believed.

The “airships” in this case are not what you might think: they are neither dirigibles, nor are they (well, for the most part!) great galleons sung beneath gigantic gasbags or held aloft by whirling propellers. Rather, they are regular sailing vessels  – a man of war and an armed Chinese junk – berthed against a stone quay, all of which just happen to be 3,500 metres in the air, with the quay attached to the most fantastical and delightful to the eye steampunk town which also extends outwards blow the great stone piers of the quay.

Airship Pirates Town; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Airship Pirates Town

The landing point for this eye-catching build is a wooden dock, somewhat in need of repair, running out alongside the berthed Chinese junk. Wooden cranes sit idle alongside the dock while a zip line offers a rapid transfer down to the lower levels. However, it is likely to be the strange, piled-up charm of the town, reached by solid wooden stairs, will initially attract visitors on their arrival.

The town is an eclectic mix of buildings, some made of wood, others of brick, still others of wood-framed stone, all of random shapes and sometimes piled one on top of the other without regard – brick upon wood, for example. They are all clustered around one face of an enormous iron, steel and glass island from which huge chimneys and stacks rise and great pipes descend and around which little flying ships circle and even a great black locomotive chugs an endless circular journey from tunnel to wall.

Airship Pirates Town; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Airship Pirates Town

Clinging to the sides of this strange place on platforms of wood or steel or brick stand huge, slowly turning wheels or creaking wooden windmills. Stairways and steps and ladders provide routes upwards, while individual buildings invite visitors inside. Most are shops, but some offer living and working space. Getting around can be confusing, so look out for the teleport hub at the top of the stone steps or for the TP signs scattered around and within the buildings. Climb high enough, and you’ll find another zip line waiting to carry you back down to the quay.

Nor are explorations restricted to the shops and various levels of the floating island: find the right teleport or the right entrance, and you can enter the heart of the iron island, where sit both  the great generator which presumably keeps the place hovering in the sky, and also an Indiana Jones style course involving switching, swinging bridges, and dodging cogwheels – although the end of this journey is a little abrupt.

Airship Pirates Town; Inara Pey, May 2016, on Flickr Airship Pirates Town

With a dragon keeping an eye on things, and the odd genuine flying boat (emphasis on boat!) either moored higher up or circling the sky and a lot packed into what is a very small area, not to mention the phenomenal steampunk look, Airship Pirates Town is well worth a visit and explore, standing as a wonderful demonstration of the creative whimsy possible in this digital world.

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Fantasy Faire 2016: As the sun slips westwards

Fantasy Faire 2016: The Dark Tower, Dangarnon
Fantasy Faire 2016: The Dark Tower, Dangarnon

Today marks the last day of Fantasy Faire. Once more the sun is slipping towards the western horizon over the Fairelands, and they will soon follow it into the west, leaving us once again with treasured memories of places visited, friends met, and activities shared. So now is the time to make a final pilgrimage through the regions and immerse yourself in their legends and stories.

I’ve already recorded my thoughts about this year’s Fairelands, how they’ve evoked memories and why each year’s event is perhaps a little more special than other Second Life events. I had hoped to spend a lot more time roaming their paths, tracks, road and alleyways, but as ever, time has proven itself difficult to balance.

So instead, I’ll just say that while the Fairelands may well soon be departing, there is still much to see and enjoy – and quite possibly, to take home with you. So don’t miss the events of this final day of fund raising, fun, performance and remembrance, which will include:

Time Activity
10:00 LitFest region tour – Blackmoor
11:00 Clover and Dru jailed at Bright Haven – who will bail them while Catalina Staheli spins the tunes?
11:00 Lady Garden Cabaret Dance Performance
12:00 ColeMarie Soleil Particle & Music PerformanceSapphire Mirror Lake
13:00 DJ Zander Green
13:00 The Blood King RP – Sanctuary: A Prophesy Fulfilled
14:00 – 16:00
Fantasy Faire Live AuctionSapphire Mirror Lake
16:00 The May Day BallSapphire Mirror Lake

The Fantasy Faire Live Auction

A highlight of every Fantasy Faire, the Live Auction will feature some of the most iconic features of the 2016 Fairelands, and will be overseen by Her High Faireness, Fantasy Faire Director  Elizabeth Tinsley. Items on offer include:

  • The Dark Tower of Dangarnon (seen in the banner image of this article)
  • Special Fantasy Faire marked versions of Black Anubis and The Guardian of the Delta statues from The Golden Delta
  • The complete family of Hedgehogs from Echtra
  • Both the Cinderella and Last Hope statues from Dangarnon
  • The entire region of Breeze!
Breeze by Kayle Matzerah - one of the many items on offer in the Fantasy Faire Live Auction, 14:00-16:00 SLT
Breeze by Kayle Matzerah – one of the many items on offer in the Fantasy Faire Live Auction, 14:00-16:00 SLT

The auction will be live in Voice, and broadcast by Fantasy Faire Radio.

King, Queen and Chancellor of the Fairelands

You also have until 17:00 to cast your votes for the 2016 King, Queen and Chancellor of the Fairelands. The leading contenders were, when last I checked, and in descending order of votes from left to right:

KING: SnapeSeverus Snape
(J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series)
GoblinThe Goblin King
(from the fantasy film Labyrinth)
FF-KING5-TYRIONTirion Lannister
(G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire)
QUEEN: October DayeOctober Daye
(from the books by Seanan McGuire)
(from the film of the same name)
(from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth)
CHANCELLOR: The Last UnicornThe Last Unicorn
(from the book of the same name by Peter S. Beagle)
( Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius series )
Cheshire CatCheshire Cat
(Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Continue reading “Fantasy Faire 2016: As the sun slips westwards”

Of universities and bars, and pirates and wars

It’s time to kick-off a week of story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, May 1st

13:30 at Crazy Eights: Tea Time at Baker Street

Crazy Eights sees Caledonia, Corwyn and Kayden reading from The Return of Sherlock Holmes on Sundays from the living room of 221B Baker Street.

The Adventure of the Three Student, Sidney Paget
The Adventure of the Three Student, Sidney Paget

It was in the year ’95 that a combination of events, into which I need not enter, caused Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend some weeks in one of our great University towns, and it was during this time that the small but instructive adventure which I am about to relate befell us … any details which would help the reader to exactly identify the college or the criminal would be injudicious and offensive. So painful a scandal may well be allowed to die out.

So opens the Adventure of the Three Students, as related by Dr. John Watson. The scandal is that the galley proofs of a forthcoming exam have, after a most unfortunate oversight, been partially copied. The exam is for a generous scholarship, and should it ever come to light that one of the three candidates who would sit the exam earned his scholarship by cheating, it would forever blemish the college’s reputation.

Fortunately, and although only armed with the smallest of clues – a blob of clay into which is embedded some sawdust, a broken pencil lead and a cut in the top of a desk – are sufficient to inform Sherlock Holmes of the culprit’s identity.

15:00: LEA 8 Selections from Pride & Prejudice

"Jane Austen's English Countryside" at LEA 8
“Jane Austen’s English Countryside” at LEA 8

Caledonia Skytower visits Jane Austen’s English Countryside at LEA 8 to read selections from Jane Austen’s novel beloved of television networks and film companies,

Monday May 2nd, 19:00: A Trifecta of Sci-Fi

Gyro Muggins reads Spider Robinson’s The Guy with the Eyes, Hobbits and – time allowing – Arthur C. Clarke’s Take A Deep Breath.

callahansThe Guy with the Eyes was the first story Robinson had published, and went on to  be the opening chapter of Robinson’s anthology, Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon.

The titular saloon is a haven for lost souls; a place where the patrons come for one drink and a chance for a second – but only if they offer an unburdening toast at the fireplace. Mike Callahan, the owner, never judges but sometimes advises in as few words as possible.

Callahan thinks he’s heard it all until one day, The Guy With The Eyes comes in, spends an hour nursing his first drink, then steps up to the fireplace and unburdens himself with the news that he’s an alien, a harbinger of doom for Earth, who will be returning home in just a couple of hours. But when he does, his masters will destroy the planet, convinced human kind is a cancer. Only he’s no longer convinced that this is true, and no longer wants to see the world destroyed…

Tuesday May 3rd, 19:00: Dead Man’s Chest

Shandon Loring concludes reading of the second instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, Dead Man’s Chest.

Wednesday May 4th 19:00: Crazy Eights: The War that Saved My Life

War savedCaledonia Skytower reads Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s children’s story.

It is the Second World War, and when nine-year-old Ada’s little brother is evacuated from London to escape the blitz, she is determined not to be left behind because her mother is too ashamed to allow her to be seen in public with her twisted foot.

So it is that Ada, experiencing her first time in the world beyond the house in which she has always lived, finds herself on an adventure, adapting to life with Susan Smith, the woman charged with caring for Ada’s little brother, and who unexpectedly finds herself with a second ward in her care.

As time passes, Ada learns to ride a pony, watches for German spies, and finds a bond forming between her and Susan smith, a bond shared with her brother, but over which hangs the shadow of what will happen when they have to return to London and the cruelty of Ada’s mother.

Thursday, May 5th

19:00: King Kong – Eighth Wonder of the World

With Shandon Loring

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore.


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 / April is Project Children, building peace in Ireland one child at a time.

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In the Press: a voyage of discovery in Second Life

Second Life has again been getting some fair press coverage, both directly and directly, of late. I’ve already written about the platform either being the focus of, or looked at as part of, two interesting articles published in Motherboard. Also during the week, Second Life was written about on this side of the Atlantic, as first reported by Ciaran Laval.

On April 28th the on-line edition of France’s Le Monde carried an article focused on Second Life, written by  Morgane Tual.  Bearing the delightfully French title Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant (Absurd, creative and debauched: ten years later, “Second Life” is still alive), it weaves a wonderful introduction to the platform which cannot fail to have those of us immersed in this digital world smiling and / or nodding in agreement.

Morgane Taul: an engaging article on Second Life
Morgane Tual: an engaging article on Second Life

This is very much a hands-on, through-the-eyes look at Second Life, good and bad, written with an unabashed honesty and wonderment. Opening with a description of her initial time in Second Life and a (first?) encounter with another resident, Ms. Tual quickly informs her readers where she is and why she is there – and hints that what she has to say might come as a surprise for who might have heard of the platform at some point:

Like me, some haggard and clumsy beginners landed on this strange beach to discover what remains of this game that occupied the headlines there about ten years. I expected to find, a decade later, a deserted world, ageing technology and a few cobwebs in the corners. It was exactly the opposite.

From this set-up we are lead on what is very much a personal voyage of discovery through Second Life. In it we encounter the realities of the platform – good and bad in equal measure,  each presented to us as they are encountered.

So it is we share in her wonder as she hops from place-to-place; her confusion (and that of others newcomers) in finding herself unceremoniously dumped at an infohub; the embarrassment that can occur simply as a result of clicking the wrong button, or in awkwardly accepting the help of another. We share in her delight in her discoveries of the music scene and in finding a place were she makes a new friend, Patti, a fellow French woman. From here we join her on a whirlwind tour of Second Life which take her to Hogwarts and thence via Star Wars, 221B Baker Street and a nightclub, to the Petit Trianon, Tatiana Dokuchic’s wonderful build in the Duché de Coeur, and a conversation with Tatiana herself.

Petit Trianon by Tatiana Dokuchic, featured in Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant
Petit Trianon by Tatiana Dokuchic, featured in the Le Monde article by Morgane Tual

Interspersed with this are the assorted facts and figures from the Lab – the 900,000 monthly log-ins, the broad demographic, the economics of the platform, and so on, together with the usual potted history of the platform, all of which paints one of the clearest pictures of Second Life I’ve had the good fortune to read; one with a personal narrative free from the need to fall back on cliché or dogged by mocking observation.

Such is the narrative, we’re drawn directly into Ms. Tual’s experiences, all of which are related without judgement, but often with a real sense of joy and / or wonder. Of course, the sex is also there, but so too is the discovery that contrary to belief, Second life isn’t necessarily “all about the sex”, a point of view Ms. Tual fully embraces.

The breadth of possible engagement in Second Life is touched upon in other ways as well. Through the conversation with Tatiana, readers are introduced to the richness of opportunity for creativity in Second life. Art and entertainment are referred to – the latter supported by the inclusion of some hand-picked videos.

We also witness the tales of others, such as the guy who initially mocked the activities of SL users, regarding them as “losers”, only to himself become engrossed in the platform and all it offers. We are also – movingly – introduced to the way in which Second life bridges the physical / digital divide, very genuinely bringing people together when entire continents might otherwise separate them.

With videos and in-world images, personal tales, a frank narrative, Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant is one of the most engaging pieces on second Life it has been my pleasure to read. Recommended.