Revisiting Future Shock – sci-fi machinima in Second Life

Future Shock: sci-fi machinima
Future Shock: sci-fi machinima

In September 2016, I previewed a new machinima series, Future Shock, by Pryda Parx. At that point in time, the first episode had just been released, and Pryda was kind enough to allow me see the next two in the series. What I saw was intriguing in terms of story, setting and production values. Given the final episode was released just before Christmas, it seemed a good opportunity to watch the episodes back-to-back and talk a little more to Pryda about the work.

When we first discussed the series in September, Pryda told me her aim was to produce a series which could entertain, but also provoke debate on technological and social trends; to explore what the future might actually hold.

To achieve this, she presents us with a world where technology infiltrates every part of our lives. It watches over us, seemingly for our own protection, as well as providing various means personal gratification and escapism. It is also a world where everyone is defined in terms of their credit and net worth. So long as both are in good standing, then you are (reasonably) safe – not even death needs be an impediment; while if there is something about your body you don’t like or feel it lacks, you can have it modified / augmented to suit your desires. Should credit evaporate or net worth show every indication of becoming negative, however, then things can be  – uncomfortable.

In a world where everything is defined by whether or not you will remain in credit, even legal judgement on your acts become a clinical binary decision equitable to life or death
In a world where everything is defined by whether or not you will remain in credit, even legal judgement on your acts become a clinical binary decision equitable to life or death

Thus this is a world of questionable values, both in terms of technology and the people – who may be driven by their baser elements of self: avarice, jealousy, the potential for violence. Thus this is a world of questionable morals and ethics – a fact cleverly reinforced through the use of predominantly monochrome and grey scale settings and characters.

But there is more here as well; everything appears to be run by the “state”, against whom some have rebelled, seeking sanctuary – and more – from within the technology intended to watch over them. Thus, the story is layered, which the fully arc designed to progress over a total of three series of episodes. For this, the first element of the overall arc, we follow a central character by the name of Tracy. As much enmeshed in moral ambiguity as everyone else (she is perfectly willing to betray a lover to gain credit, and potentially go further), her character is as grey as the world she lives in.

Future Shock: Tracy

Future Shock: Tracy

By introducing us to Tracy first, Pryda effectively drops us into the middle of things. This both adds to the mystery of the series – but also makes the narrative a little hard to fully comprehend. The intent here is obviously to raise questions and encourage us to follow the story as more unfolds through the remaining two series.

“There is a complete arc,” Pryda told me. “But it will unfold slowly. The second series covers the same time period as this one, for example. But telling it from the rebels’ point of view. You get to understand more about the relationship Tracy’s boyfriend has with them, and so on. Then in the third series you discover what the state is really about.”

While the narrative might seem a little uneven in places, one thing that more certainly isn’t is the quality of the production. To put it simply, Future Shock is extraordinarily well done. Considering this is Pryda’s first foray into episodic storytelling and machinima production, it is a polished production.

Being in sufficient credit means you can afford exotic changes to your body - such as wings and the ability to fly. But there is still the mystery / threat / salvation hidden within the Dark Grid ...
Being in sufficient credit means you can afford exotic changes to your body – such as wings and the ability to fly. But there is still the mystery / threat / salvation hidden within the Dark Grid …

“Before this I’d practice making videos in Second Life with a couple of fairy/music videos, but the story with those is minimal,” Pryda informed me. “I’ve always been creative, but my writing and drawing isn’t strong, so I have been very inspired with the idea of story telling with machinima techniques. But it has all been new territory for me, and I’ve been learning as fast as I can.”

Given that her learning curve has also encompassed GIMP, Audacity for audio, and even Blender – Future Shock is an even more remarkable debut series, and there is more than enough in these first series to engage the curiosity and leave one wanting to know more about where things are going.

Sadly, it’s going to be a while before we get to find out: the second series is currently slated for a late 2017 release. But in the meantime, you can catch up with the first series on Pryda’s You Tube channel, and I’m embedding the introductory prologue to it below.

 

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Returning to It’s A New Dawn in Second Life

It's A New Dawn, Lemon Beach; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrIt’s A New Dawn, Lemon Beach – click any image for full size

In December I visited Silvermoon Fairey’s lovely A Painter’s Link (see here), and her two seasonal settings, 50 Words for Snow (which is located over A Painter’s Link) and December Will Be Magic Again (an wrote about both here), located over her other region design, It’s a New Dawn. As I last visited the latter in November 2015, it seemed logical that I start my 2017 Second Life travels by making a return, and in doing so complete a tour of Silvermoon’s settings.

At the time of my last visit, It’s a New Dawn presented a rugged, rural island settings which in some respects put me in mind of the Scottish islands. Since then, and unsurprisingly, much has changed; however, the rural look and rugged feel to the region remains, although the location now might be somewhat closer to the Mediterranean than the North Sea.

It's A New Dawn, Lemon Beach; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrIt’s A New Dawn, Lemon Beach

Visitors arrive on a small sand cove at the base of a high rocky table. The beach and cover are watched over by the  study, brick-built tower of a lighthouse close by. Reached via a path zigzagging its way up the face of the rock, an old farmhouse occupies the top of the table, presenting a commanding view of the region as it is spread out to the east and south, a second twisting path leading back down to the lands below.

However, if you’re not in the mood for a climb, following the sands of the cove southwards around the base of the rock will bring you to a track which heads east and inland. It passes over a gently undulating pastoral setting where sheep and cows graze, skirting around the shoulder of rock to pass between the tall stems of sunflowers. Beyond these, it joins with the track leading away from the path coming down from the high plateau, pointing the way to an old stone bridge crossing a meandering steam.

It's A New Dawn, Lemon Beach; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrIt’s A New Dawn, Lemon Beach

It is on the far side of the bridge that things take more of a Mediterranean turn. Cypress trees stand in neatly regimented lines along track and field edge, while Tuscan styled villas sit on lower, flat-topped hills or alongside the water’s edge.  Bales of hay, neatly rolled, are scattered across the landscape, as are places to sit and enjoy the view, while horses wander, enjoying the light grazing.

All of this sits under the gaze of a great stone tower anchored to another rocky plateau to the north-east, facing the old farm across the valley between the two. Behind this tower, which is also reached by twisting track and path, the land marches to the south as a series of humped hills and rocky climbs, shoulders sheltering the villas and fields below. These hills turn westward in their march, dipping briefly through more pastures only to rise to a high knuckle of rock crowned by a great and aged tree.

It's A New Dawn, Lemon Beach; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrIt’s A New Dawn, Lemon Beach

With offshore islands, a further beach to the south-east and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds, all held beneath the soft glow of a westering sun (top and bottom images), It’s A New Dawn remains an eye-catching visit. For me it was the perfect start for my 2017 wanderings; should you also enjoy your visit, please consider making a donation towards the upkeep of the region so others might also enjoy it.

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Survivors, dragons, spycraft and adjustments

It’s time to kick-off the first week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library for 2017. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, January 2nd 19:00: Flight of the Phoenix

flight-phoenixGyro Muggins continues Elleston Trevor’s gripping 1964 novel which spawned two films, the classic 1965 version starring James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Hardy Krüger. Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine, and the 2004 featuring Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi and Hugh Laurie

Twelve men survive the crash of their cargo plane when a blinding, unexpected sandstorm forced it from the sky in the middle of the Sahara. Stranded and alone and facing a slow, agonizing death under the unrelenting Libyan sun, only two of them have the skills to avert a terrible fate: the brilliant, obsessed engineer Stringer, and the tormented pilot Towns. Bitter enemies, they must now work together to build an impossible dream from the wreckage and fly it to freedom … if madness, rage, suspicion, and the merciless desert don’t destroy them first.

Tuesday, January 3rd 19:00: How to Speak Dragonese (How To Train Your Dragon #3)

Climbing on to a Roman Dragon Rustling ship by mistake in your first ‘Boarding an Enemy Ship’ lesson is bad enough. But to then discover that Alvin the Treacherous is also on board proves to Hiccup he couldn’t have been more wrong, especially when he steals his copy of How to Speak Dragonese. Can Hiccup save the dragons and the day?

Caledonia Skytower reads the third How To Train Your Dragon book by Cressida Cowell.

Wednesday, January 4th 19:00: The Atrocity Archives

atrocity-archivesBob Howard is a low-level techie working for The Laundry, a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. None of them receive any thanks for the jobs they do, but at least a techie doesn’t risk getting shot or eaten in the line of duty. Bob’s world is dull but safe, and that’s the way it should have stayed; but then he went and got Noticed.

Now, Bob Howard is up to his neck in spycraft, alternative universes, dimension-hopping Nazis, Middle Eastern terrorists, damsels in distress, ancient Lovecraftian horror and the end of the world.

Only one thing is certain: it will take more than control-alt-delete to sort this mess out…

Join Corwyn Allen as he delves in The Atrocity Archives, the first volume of the Laundry Files, by Charles Stross.

Thursday, January 5th 19:00: The Adjustment Bureau

Shandon Loring delves into the world of Philip K. Dick, this time examining  The Adjustment Team / The Adjustment Bureau (the former being the original story, the later the title of a film loosely based upon it).

Is humanity really in charge of its own destiny, or is every that occurs in life carefully orchestrated by hidden forces?


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 January / February is Heifer International, working with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.