Fantasy Faire 2018: a call to games masters

via Fantasy Faire

Fantasy Faire 2018 has put out a call to any with experience of being a games master or dungeon master (GM / DM) and running campaigns in any role-playing game system with an emphasis on fantasy, and who would like to tabletop gaming combined with elaborate live-action role-playing/storytelling.

The call reads in part:

New for 2018, Fantasy Faire will be offering prospective GMs the opportunity to host a game session (or two), all while raising funds for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life.

GMs can choose from a list of recommended games to host, or they can simply host their own with prior approval from staff. They will have the opportunity to create immersive campaigns that are inspired directly by the Fantasy Faire worlds, or perhaps they can go directly off their imagination ‘on-demand’.

Anyone with the requisite experience, and who would like to be part of Second Life’s biggest annual fantasy event all in aid of Relay for Life and the Kenyatta National Hospital Hope Hostel (see here for more) should read the guidelines document, and then complete the form below (also accessible from the guidelines document). There is also a spreadsheet of current programming which can be perused to see what is being planned.

Please read the guidelines before completing this form

Questions and enquiries should be directed to Nyza Stillwater in-world or by e-mail to

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Space Sunday: tourism, hotels and space stations

VSS Unity’s engine propels it to sub-orbital velocity in the vehicle’s first powered test flight, April 5th, 2018. Credit: / Trumbull Studios / Virgin Galactic

VSS Unity, the second of Virgin Galactic’s sub-orbital spaceplanes, Has completed its first powered test flight, bringing the company one step closer to it goal of flying tourist into space.

The flight took place on Thursday, April 5th, with the vehicle, crewed by David Mackay  and Mark Stucky, carried from its operational base at Mojave Air and Space Port in California, to an altitude of about 14,200 metres (46,150 ft) before being released. Dropping clear of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier, the single rocket motor, burning a solid propellant mix, was ignited in what the company calls a “partial duration burn” of 30 seconds. Shorter than an engine burn expected during passenger-carrying flights, it was nevertheless sufficient to push VSS Unity to a maximum altitude of 25,686 metres (83,479 ft) and a maximum velocity of mach 1,87.

Partial though it may have been, the engine burn on the flight nevertheless represented the longest time a SpaceShipTwo rocket motor has been fired in the entire development of the vehicle. It pushed VSS Unity to achieve the highest and fastest speed thus far in a powered test flight – the fifth such flight for a SpaceShipTwo vehicle.

VSS Unity touches down at Mojave Air and Space Port, some 10 minutes after being release from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft at the start of its first powered test flight. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Three prior flights had been completed by VSS Unity’s predecessor, the VSS Enterprise.  Unfortunately, during its fourth flight, the Enterprise broke apart seconds into its powered ascent on October 31st, 2014, after co-pilot Michael Alsbury accidentally deployed the vehicle’s “feathering” system. Designed to assist the vehicle during its re-entry into the denser part of Earth’s atmosphere, the feathering system tips up the vehicle’s wing booms, but deployed when under power, the feathering place unsustainable stresses on the vehicle, causing it to break-up, killed Alsbury and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold.

As a result of that crash, the Unity incorporates additional safety features designed to prevent any repeat on the Enterprise accident.

The April 5th  test flight is the first in a series of powered flights intended to expand the vehicle’s performance envelope and to prepare for commercial flights carrying tourists and research payloads. Exactly how many of these flights will take place  has not been made clear, simply because the company wants to keep things open-ended and be sure they have the highest confidence in the vehicle before commencing commercial flights.

In addition to the test flight, Virgin used April 5th to announce a non-binding agreement in October with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia whereby the PIF would invest $1 billion into Virgin’s space companies, which also includes Virgin Orbit, the small launch vehicle developer.

During to enter the air-launch business later in 2018, Virgin Orbit will use a converted 747 airliner to carry its LauncherOne rocket to altitude before releasing it so it can carry payloads of up to 500 kg to orbit.  These payloads can either be individual satellites or multiple micro-satellites.

The LauncherOne vehicle and its carrier aircraft. Credit: Virgin Orbit

On April 4th, Virgin Orbit announced plans to offer customers a variety of services including responsive launch / maintenance of large satellite constellations and debris removal activities.

“Satellite constellations” refers to large numbers of satellites being placed in low-Earth orbit to perform a specific task, and which tend to be launched en masse using a single large launch vehicle. The Iridium constellation, for example, comprising over 40 satellites, was placed in orbit by SpaceX launching 10 satellites at a time. However, as the individual satellites reach there end of life – or suffer unexpected failures – they will need replacement units, which in turn require more economical launch systems than big boosters. This is the service Virgin Orbit plans to offer under the “responsive launch / maintenance contract: a means for customers to prepare replacement units and then launch them rapidly and at lower cost than possible through other means.

“Commercial customers say the idea of getting into orbit within days is very appealing for them,” Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit president and chief executive, said. “For the national security world, that has always been a goal. For once, the commercial and government worlds are perfectly well aligned.”

The debris removal aspect of the work is longer term, and would likely see Virgin Orbit collaborating with companies specialising in orbital debris removal. “With thousands of [low-Earth orbit] satellites planned, that is going to happen,” Hart stated. “I’ve recently become a believer that space debris is a problem that needs to be solved and I’m happy to see there are companies rising up to take that on.”

The first LauncherOne carrier aircraft, Cosmic Girl, undergoing tests at Long Beach Airport, California. Credit: Michael Carter

Initially, Virgin Orbit will fly from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, but the company is planning to also operate out of NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, utilising the massive space shuttle runway available there. Longer-term, as air-launched systems become more accepted globally, the company also hopes to offer launch services from any airport capable of handling a 747, and prepared to allow rocket handling and fuelling.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: tourism, hotels and space stations”

Spirits of the Sea in Second Life

Spirits of the Sea – Serena Imagine Arts Centre

Now open at the Serena Imagine Arts Centre, curated by Vita Theas is a new exhibition of images by Storie’s  Helendale (GlitterPrincess Destiny). Spirits of the Sea is, as with Storie’s previous exhibitions, a themed piece, the images reflecting a thought or narrative.

The core element of this theme is provided via a blank verse Storie’s provides with the introduction to the piece:

In my imagination I felt to create the sense…
… that spirits or ghosts
inhabit the sea
with maybe an untimely demise
never the less they continue with their lives
pieces of memories
as seen through my eyes… or the spirits.

Spirits of the Sea – Serena Imagine Arts Centre

So it is that, under a lowering sky befitting the theme, are more than 20 ethereal piece set out over a foaming sea broken by a rocky shoreline. Twelve of the images are set out either side of two cylindrical walkways pointing out to sea. These give the impression you are perhaps in an aquarium or under the sea, looking out at the images within the waters “surrounding” the tunnels. Ladders at the far ends of the tubes allow you to climb down to the water itself – invisiprims prevent any risk of sinking – so you can walk out over the water to see the rest of the pieces.

Taken as a whole, Storie’s pictures displayed here at first appear to be an eclectic mix. All are very ethereal in tone – again, as befitting the theme of spirits and the departed. However, some suggest memories being recalled – the woman putting washing out to dry; the children playing basketball. Others perhaps suggest past tragedies or illness which led to the people within them becoming spirits, lost to the physical world but still going about their business in the other world of our oceans.

Spirits of the Sea – Serena Imagine Arts Centre

But is their existence a happy one? Again, some suggest being caught in a particular moment – that point of death where, beneath the surface of the waves with lungs aching, that final inhalation has been taken, and the body started on a slow journey into the Deep; the torment of helplessness evoked by wheelchair and straitjacket as fears are manifested in the form of sharks circling.

But not all of the images are dark like this; there is also a sense of friendship continued, a flicker here and there of love, dance, companionship – and waiting. In this the clue to all that is going on within these timeless moments is perhaps encapsulated in another blank verse, rising from the waters close to the landing point.

Your arrival makes us certain
our spirits will remain
as we breath in your colours.

we … have become so
as we sleepwalk past our lives.

In echoed depths
Blended well.

Spirits of the Sea – Serena Imagine Arts Centre

An intriguing, captivating exhibition.

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