Files from Poirot and Dresden, tales of the future and the past

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, July 22nd 13:30: Tea-Time on the Orient Express

Join Seanchai Library and friends aboard one of the most luxurious means of rail travel, the Orient Express, as they continue their investigations into the most disagreeable events that have occurred en route to Paris.

Having been required to return to London from Istanbul post-haste, Hercule Poirot sought passage aboard the most famous train, gaining seat initially in second class, only to be “upgraded” to first class by his friend – and member of the board of directors for Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, the operators of the service – M Bouc. Prior to his “upgrade”, Poirot is accosted by one Samuel Ratchett, an American also travelling on the train, who demands the detective’s aide as he believes his life is in danger. However, Poirot refuses, on account of finding the American a distasteful individual.

The locomotive trapped in a snow bank; a passenger murdered; a mystery for Poirot! Murder on the Orient Express

Then, on the night after his upgrade to the sleeping berth next to Ratchett’s, he is woken by two events: the first is that the train has become stranded in snow not far from the city of Vinkovci in Yugoslavia. The second is the discovery that Ratchett’s fears about his safety were correct: his has been murdered in his cabin. But who is responsible?

With nowhere to go until assistance for the stricken locomotive arrives, Poirot sets out to discover – did someone board the train in secret to put an end to Ratchett, or was one of his fellow passengers in fact the murderer? And what of Ratchett himself? Was he really all he seemed?

Offered in a special setting, Murder on the Orient Express, one of Agatha Christie’s most popular stories, continues into its second weekend reading!

Monday, July 23rd 19:00: The Drowning World

They call it the Drowning World; Fluva, a planet on the fringes of the Commonwealth where the rain is – but for one month in the year – maddeningly torrential. For Chief Administrator Lauren Matthias, it is a new posting; one which comes with a major requirement: keeping the indigenous and warlike Sakuntala and immigrant and hard-working Deyzara, from annihilating one another.

But when the vessel used by bio-prospector Shadrach Hasselemoga crashes in Viisiiviisii, an immense, mostly unexplored jungle, and the wettest place on the planet, Matthias must dispatch a team made up of one Sakuntala and one Deyzara on a rescue mission. Can the two form an alliance long enough to both rescue Hasselemoga and survive the deadly jungle?

But as the mission unfolds, Matthias realises something much bigger and darker is occurring on Fluva. A mysterious presence is at work, manipulating events, one which not only puts the lives of the rescue mission at risk, but also her own – and which could ultimately threaten the Commonwealth itself!

Join Gyro Muggins as he reads story #21 in Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth series.

Tuesday, July 24th 1900: Brief Cases

Corwyn Allen dives into Jim Butcher’s 2018 collection of several of his excellent short stories and novellas from the universe of Harry Dresden.

The tales presented here not only offer excellent short narratives that dabble between the scenes of the other novels in the Dresden Universe series, they even encompass what might be Dresden’s greatest challenge…

….Becoming a father.

Wednesday, July 25th 19:00: Mythos

The Greek myths are the greatest stories ever told, passed down through millennia and inspiring writers and artists as varied as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, James Joyce and Walt Disney.

They are embedded deeply in the traditions, tales and cultural DNA of the West. In Stephen Fry’s hands the stories of the titans and gods become a brilliantly entertaining account of ribaldry and revelry, warfare and worship, debauchery, love affairs and life lessons, slayings and suicides, triumphs and tragedies.

Through them, you’ll once again fall in love with Zeus, marvel at the birth of Athena, wince at Cronus and Gaia’s revenge on Ouranos, weep with King Midas and hunt with the beautiful and ferocious Artemis.

Thursday, July 26th

14:00: Fireside Tales

This week featuring folktales with Dubhna Rhiadra

19:00: The Last Thunder Horse West of the Mississippi

A tale of the Wilder West with Shandon Loring, also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29).

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary science Fiction with Finn Zeddmore.

 


Please check with the Seanchai Library’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The current charity is Feed a Smile.

Ravenwold’s mystical beauty in Second life

Ravenwold; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrRavenwold

Update: Ravenwold has closed.

“Wold” in England tends to mean a piece of high, open uncultivated land or moor, so when encountering it in the name of a region, I tend to find myself expecting such open landscapes; places with swathes of grass, perhaps undulating, possibly with copses here and there, together with tors or other features. However, take things too literally, and you can find yourself surprised.

Take Ravenwold for example, the Full region held by the partnership of DaveOSaurus and Damoira and designed by Damoira. Far from having broad open spaces, it is presented as a richly wooded landscape, and so taking more of a Germanic root, filled with an enchanting and eclectic mix of features stirred together to produce a magical and mystical setting that really does deserve careful and thorough exploration.

Ravenwold; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrRavenwold

Follow the trails through ancient forests to discover a land of beauty and intrigue. Ravenwold is as much a place of exploration as it is entertainment, with venues offering Live Acts and DJ’s as well as a fully stocked gaming area open for all to enjoy. 

– Ravenwold About Land description

This may at first appear to be a region in two parts, split by the high curtain wall of cliffs running east-to-west across it. However, it is all part of the one landscape, the two halves linked by a connecting tunnel. Both sides of the region offer a setting full of whimsy and the unexpected, dotted here and there with buildings, but largely given over to woodlands dotted with various clearings and rocky areas where the treasures of the land might be found.

Ravenwold; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrRavenwold

The north side of the region features one of the music venues: an impressive building called Obsidian, sitting on a large paved plaza and looking like it is suited to live performances. Across the region to the east is the gaming area located under the boughs of trees. Between these two are paths winding through the trees, offering opportunities to find shaded glades rich with characters suggestive of magic and fantasy, and places to sit and to dance.

Ancient ruins are to be found here, adding to the fantasy / ethereal feel of the region, and – in one case at least – offer the chance for a little whimsy as a cast of characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland appear before a ruin, together with a few friends. This part of Ravenwold also includes an outdoor folk performance area and a coastal bar, while a teleport portal offers the way up to another games area up in the sky.

Ravenwold; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrRavenwold

Follow one of the brick paths to the tunnel running under the curtain of cliffs to connect the two halves of the region, and you’re find a further world to explore. Once again, trees raise a green canopy over the paths and trails that branch here and there to cross streams and climb rocky outcrops. More building – these with a definite fantasy lean – can be found here, sitting on plateaus, whilst down in the glades are more places to sit or dance, watched over by exotic and colourful plants. For those seeking a little piece and quiet, stairs up to one plateau point the way to where crystals guard a circle of stone arches surrounding what might be a storyteller’s circle.

These upland areas are particularly to be found on the southern side of the region, which also includes an ancient henge sitting in a box-like canyon. Among the stones and rocks here sits Excalibur, as if awaiting those who feel they might be up to the challenge of drawing it from its rocky scabbard. Not far from this, Also to be found here is the hidden entrance to another of the venue’s music venues, nicely hidden away.

Ravenwold; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrRavenwold

Caught under a twilight sky (although I opted for a little more mystical windlight, courtesy of Stevie Davros), Ravenwold is beautifully put together, and beautifully photogenic. Even the 10-pin bowling lane is tucked into the region without being obtrusive or appearing out-of-place. The number of paths winding their way through the region, branching and joining, cross streams and climbing hills and rocks, all serve to give the feeling this is a realm much bigger than its 256 metres on a side.

Should you enjoy a visit and wish to show your appreciation do consider a donation towards the region’s upkeep – if you can’t find one elsewhere, there is a tip cauldron inside the Obsidian venue, close to the landing point.

Ravenwold; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrRavenwold

Sansar: experience counts increased for creators

Courtesy of Linden Lab

In something of a (to me, at least) surprising move, Linden Lab has announced across-the-board increases in the number of experiences each subscription level of users can have published.

The new limits come into immediate effect and are as follows:

  • Free users: Increased from 3 to 20 experiences.
  • Creator (US $9.99 per month): Increased from 5 to 25 experiences.
  • Super-Creator (US $29.99 per month): Increased from 10 to 30 experiences.
  • Professional ($99.99 per month): Increased from 20 to 40 experiences.

The major surprise in the announcement is its sheer scale, with free accounts seeing the limit on the number of allowed experiences increase almost 600% – huge by any standard (the others being 400%, 200% and 100% respectively).

Give the scale of the increases, during the July 20th, 2018 Sansar Product Meeting, questions were asked about whether the Lab was looking to increase transaction fees off the back or these changes, and what will be done to maintain the attractiveness of the paid subscription levels, given the 20 experiences available with free accounts will likely meet the needs of most active creators.

In addressing the fees issue, Landon from the Sansar Product team indicated that it is not the intent to make any alternations to other fees being charged by the Lab as a result of these changes, although he could rule out future possible changes as Sansar continues to develop. Eliot, the Sansar Community Manager also made it clear the increases to allowed experiences are not part of any bigger plan to increase fees or anything else.

In terms of maintaining the value of Sansar paid subscription options, Landon indicated the plan will most likely be to make them more attractive by adding further practical benefits and perks in addition to the current Marvelous Designer free trial and subscription discounts.

The initial response to the announcement among those actively engaged in Sansar has been positive. However, and from more of an “outsiders” perspective, I found myself considering both the strengths and the possible weaknesses of the move.

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrQuality experiences within Sansar – such as The Secret Of Mount Shasta – are a major means of encouraging engagement in the platform. The increased limited on published experiences could encourage a new push in experiences – perhaps more multi-part / linked experiences for games or learning

On the strength side, it could well – and the Lab hopes – up the ante for creativity in Sansar. More experiences means the opportunity to be more creative – and potentially more adventurous. How about something like a true multi-chapter (experience) quest or adventure (capabilities and functionality, of course, allowing).

On the minus side the Atlas – still the main gateway into Sansar experiences –  is dogged by the fact that of the 1,000+ experiences within it, only a couple of dozen might be regarded as actually engaging to an audience. Also, with just the first 8 or 10 in the list tending to show people in them, scrolling through the Atlas tends to suggest that Sansar is actually a very empty / lonely place. Simply having people add more experiences to the list  – especially things like testing environments, sandboxes, etc., could actually both further “hide” then worthwhile experiences and increase the feeling that Sansar is “empty” when browsing the Atlas.

1,017 public experiences with just 8 apparently having visitors  – if the increase in published experiences causes a further upswing in the total count of experiences in the Atlas, it could make Sansar appear even “emptier”

But, growing something like Sansar is difficult, particularly when many core capabilities  – a permissions system that would enable commence on the platform, for example – seem no closer today than they did when the Public Creator Beta launched a year ago. But while such observations might reinforce the case for Sansar perhaps having been launched prematurely, the fact is it is here, and efforts need to be made to try to grow the level of interest in the platform – and offering a greater range of experiences might be one way to do this.

However, even if it doesn’t encourage people to come take a look at Sansar (and my feeling is that any growth in platform usage requires a far more concerted campaign on the part of Linden Lab), offering more experiences to creators is meeting a long-standing request. As such, it’ll be interesting to see how people opt to make use of the increase in the coming weeks / months.