Devilish plots, monstrous regiments and ailing aliens

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, August 14th

13:30: Tea Time at Baker Street

Tea-time at Baker Street returns for the summer, featuring a new location – 221B Baker Street at the University of Washington iSchool in Second Life, and a return to His Last Bow.

A 1917 anthology of previously published Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the volume originally comprised seven stories published by The 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.

In this episode, Holmes and Watson find their break in Cornwall interrupted, apparently by none other that Satan himself, in The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot.

Having gone to Cornwall on account of Holmes’ health, the two friends find their holiday interrupted by an unexpected visit by a local gentleman, Mortimer Tregennis, who is accompanied by the local vicar, Mr. Roundhay.

A distressed Tregennis reports how, after visiting his two brothers and his sister the previous evening, he had returned to their house in the morning to find all three still at the table where they’d all played whist the night before, his sister dead and his two brother apparently insane.

It had been the housekeeper who had first discovered the three, prior to Tregennis’ return, and she had fainted shortly after her discovery. Similarly, a doctor called to the house also collapsed for a short while. Tregennis, who has been living at the vicarage, is insistent what has happened is the work of the devil. Then, the following day, comes word that Mortimer Tregennis is also dead!

15:00: Magicland Storytime

It’s a Small World of Folktales at The Golden Horseshoe in Magicland Park with Caledonia Skytower.

Monday August 15th To the Vanishing Point

vanishing pointGyro Muggins continues his Monday Night treat of sci-fi with the conclusion of Alan Dean Foster’s To the Vanishing Point.

When Frank Sonderberg insists his family make their annual vacation a road trip, his wife and kids are less than impressed. When he pulls over to the side of the road to pick up a beautiful young hitch-hiker apparently stranded in the desert, his wife definitely isn’t impressed.

But no sooner has the young woman, calling herself Mouse, boarded their motor-home than reality changes – and not necessarily for the better. Mouse, it turns out, is an alien on a mission and in picking her up, the family is inextricably joined with her in that mission. The universe, with all its many realities, is coming apart because the Spinner, the creator of those realities, has a headache. Mouse has the cure, but in order to give it, she must reach the Vanishing Point – and she needs the Sonderbergs to get her there.

Tuesday August 16th, 19:00: Blueberry Summers: Growing Up at the Lake

Kayden Oconnell reads from Curtiss Anderson’s classic coming of age memoirs.

BlueberryBorn in 1928 in Minneapolis, Curtiss Anderson grew up in an extended family of Norwegian-Americans, among whom the highlight of the year was time spent among the lakes of northern Minnesota.

For young Curtiss, growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, these were especially idyllic years. Time spent in the farmhouse among this extended family presented an opportunity for him to escape the strained and troubled relationship he had with his parents and enjoy the company of others, aunts and uncles, the loving care offered by family friends Leigh and Clara, the companionship of the family dogs – and the chances to experience young love of his own.

Through the tales he relates of these summers, so Anderson also explores the notes and letters he wrote as a boy, carefully produced on a hand-me-down typewriter. Missives and notes which, although he never realised it at the time, were in fact his first forays into what would blossom in his adult life into a distinguished career as a writer, editor and publisher.

Wednesday August 17th: A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell #2)

MonstrousReturn to 221B Baker Street at the University of Washington’s iSchool, Second Life, for the latter-day adventures of Mr. Sherlock Holmes (retired) and his young orphaned protégé, Mary Russell, originally from the United States, as written by Laurie R. King.

Taking a trip to London, Mary encounters Veronica Beaconsfield, a friend from Oxford, who in turn introduces her to the charismatic and enigmatic Margery Childe, leader of something called “The New Temple of God.” Sect-like, and seemingly involved with the suffrage movement, the New Temple and its leader offer both curiosity and intrigue for Mary, who is not convinced either are entirely aboard board.

Her suspicions appear to be correct when several of the Temple’s wealthy young female volunteers and financial contributors are murdered. With Holmes keeping a watchful eye in the background, Mary turns her curiosity into an investigation; in doing so, she faces her greatest danger yet.

Thursday, August 18th

Seanchai is taking the evening off to allow Shandon attend a family birthday celebration.

 


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 July-August is WildAid: seeking to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection.

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A pocket planetarium in Second Life

Space - A Planetarium
Space – A Planetarium

I’m a space nut, both science-fiction and science fact; regulars to this blog will recognise this is the case simply via my Space Sunday column, and via the occasional sci-fi reference. So, when Kinn (Kinnaird) covers a planetarium in SL I’ve missed, it is somewhere I have to hop over to and see.

Space – a Planetarium, designed by Hazelee Haller, is located on Heterocera, not that far from the Unknown Theme Park in fact, which Caitlyn and I explored back at the start of July. It’s an interesting little place, offering what might be described as a more stylised approach to visualising the solar system. This is due in no small part to the planetarium occupying just 512 square metres of land – which is itself a remarkable achievement.

Space - A Planetarium
Space – A Planetarium

This stylised approach can be seen on the ground level, where mighty Jupiter sits within what can only be described as Saturn’s ring system (Jupiter’s own rings being far thinner and less well-defined). A teleport sphere located in one corner of the building will take you up to the planetarium proper.

Presided over by a huge Venus and Mars, the planetarium ins divided into two levels. On the lower are static displays of the major planets of the solar system together with their principal moons – although Phobos and Deimos are absent from Mars, possibly due to their tiny size. The planets and moons aren’t offered to scale relative to one another, but click on any one of them (other than the Earth), and you’ll be offered a link to their Wikipedia page.

Space - A Planetarium: the orrery offered aginst a black backdrop rather than the planetarium's sun-like interior, which Jupiter (upper right) and Uranus (left, centre) looking on
Space – A Planetarium: the orrery offered against a black backdrop rather than the planetarium’s Sun-like interior. The Earth and Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars can be seen orbiting the (not to scale!) yellow sphere of the Sun. These are offered roughly to scale with one another and in scale orbits reflecting their respective motions around the Sun relative to one another. Stationary Jupiter (upper right) and blue Uranus look on

The upper level, reached via a ramp between the two lines of gas giants and their moons, offers a little orrery-like model of the inner planets  – Mercury, Venus, Earth (and the Moon) and Mars all orbiting around the Sun. These all appear to be to scale relative to one another (although obviously, not to the Sun!). Beyond them hang further static models of Jupiter, Uranus and Saturn, which also appear to be to scale to the inner planets. In addition, the walkway on the lower level passes through the wall of the planetarium’s sphere to a platform offering a view of the sphere itself, which is textured on the outside with an image of the Earth.

Space – a Planetarium is a neat little pocket-size guide to much of the solar system, and certainly presents a way for those not well-versed in the planets around us and their major moons to become more familiar with them, without also getting overloaded with facts and information. Yes, it does lack some of the options which might be available on a larger parcel of land, but this doesn’t in any way lessen what is offered here; rather the reverse, in fact. It shows what can be achieved on even smaller parcels with limited land capacity.

Space - A Planetarium
Space – A Planetarium

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Storm Septimus: Invictus in Second Life

Invictus
Invictus

Update: To mark the anniversary of William Henley’s birth, Storm would like to hold a poetry event at Invictus at 15:00 SLT on August 23rd. She has a open invitation to Second Life poets and voice artists who would like to attend and read either their own work or that of their favourite poets (“even if it’s Dr. Seuss!” , she told me, eyes twinkling). If you are interested, please contact Storm via note card or via email.  

Invictus (Latin: “unconquerable“) is the name of the full region installation by Storm Septimus, which is now open through until the end of 2016. It is a stunning visual interpretation of William Ernest Henley’s famous 1875 poem of the same name.

The poem, untitled at the time of its writing (editor Arthur Quiller-Couch added the title when including it in The Oxford Book of English Verse in 1900), came at a time when Henley was facing severe challenges. Diagnosed at an early age with tuberculosis of the bone, he had lost half his left leg to the disease in 1869, when he was just 20. Rather than accept the loss of his right leg as well, he spent three years hospitalised between 1873 and 1875 while noted surgeon Joseph Lister (ultimately successfully) fought to save the limb, and it was at the time of these multiple surgeries that Henley wrote his poem.

Invictus
Invictus

It is this determination of the human will to overcome adversity, no matter how dark, even with the portal of death awaiting, which forms the central theme of the poem. It takes the reader on a journey through life’s hardship, enduring the battering of circumstance and chance, to the recognition that whatever circumstance we face, we alone determine our fate. Dark through the initial three stanzas, the poem emerges in an affirmation of spiritual fortitude; a triumphant proclamation of self-will over fate, and our ability to lay claim to our time on Earth.

It’s a powerful message, and one evocatively presented within the installation, which offers a visual journey through the poem. This begins on the upper floor of a tower. Notes on navigation are presented on a scroll, and touching it will deliver them in note card form – recommended lest you find yourself forgetting directions.

Invictus
Invictus

To descend the tower is to descend into the black pit of the poem’s first stanza, which awaits at the lowest level. Outside, the journey continues, winding down a mountain, passing the remaining stanzas along the way, their surroundings reflecting and interpreting each in turn through metaphor and symbolism.

Any attempt to describe this journey is meaningless; it is something which is to be experienced first-hand. There is marvellously expressive symbolism to be found throughout; not only of the poem itself, but also the broader themes encompassed by its verses. Some of this is obvious, such as the giant hands grasping chain reins of great stallions, encapsulating the idea of taking control of one’s fate, reflecting the exultant final two lines of the poem.

Invictus
Invictus

Elsewhere, the symbolism is perhaps less obvious. Are the arrows found throughout the upper parts of the installation perhaps be a reference to “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, a line from Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy on life and the nature of death? After all, the latter is not so very far removed from Henley’s own musings on the subject found within in the couplet, “Beyond this place of wrath and tears /   Looms but the Horror of the shade”.  Elsewhere we might also find reflections on the nature of life and death, and on he times in which Henley lived; the child-angels, for example, might be seen as a reminder of the high infant / child mortality rates in England in the mid-19th century.

This is also, I would suggest, something of a personal statement by Storm. Just as Henley used the poems written whilst hospital to explore his time as a patient, so Storm has used her art in Second life to explore her own circumstance through installations like 2015’s Failure to Thrive, exploring depression, or 2014’s examination of insomnia through The [Void] (which I wrote about here). Thus, within Invictus, it is hard to escape the feeling we’re being given a glimpse of Storm’s own self-affirmation the she, and not the challenges she faces, holds authority for her life.

Invictus
Invictus

Across the water from the mountain and tower lies the ruins of a cathedral set within a garden. Storm indicates this is not strictly a part of the poem’s interpretation, being intended for photography and events. However, it would seem to offer both a further motif for the more spiritual lines from Invictus and a contemplation of the calm certainty which follows the poem’s final two lines. To reach it, visitors can either fly or – in a more light-hearted nod to those final lines – by taking the rowing boat waiting at the foot of the mountain, thus figuratively becoming the “captains of their souls”.

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