What’s in a name – or how I came to be Inara Pey

I was recently asked if I’d ever written a piece on how / why I chose my Second Life name – and the short answer is “no, not in one place”. But, for what little it might be worth, I thought I’d sketch out the core influences in how I became “Inara Pey”.

As some (many?) have likely already guessed, the short answer is my first name was lifted directly from the character of “Inara Serra” in the short-lived TV series Firefly, and as portrayed by Morena Baccarin in her first television series role. However, there is a little more behind the exact reasons for the choice.

I’ve made so secret of the fact that this account was not my first plunge into Second Life – I’d signed-up previously, paddled around for a while without really being sure what I was doing or why, or even really understanding much about the platform. I’d also put zero effort into my avatar name, simply picking pretty much the first name that popped into my head whilst looking at the sign-up pages, and then paring it with the first name that was shown to be “available” from the provided list on the page. As such, I never really grew into the name.

So when I decided to give things another go several months after I’d initially stopped logging in, I genuinely gave thought beforehand to the kind of first name I am could feel at home / identify with, and which might help serve my desire to spend some of my in-world time poking at areas of the platform I’d since learned about, rather than simply bumbling around like a square peg in a round hole. In this latter regard, I’ve also made no secret of the fact I have been involved in adult D/s, including having several essays and assorted pieces published on the subject of D/s relationships and the psychology of D/s personalities, and so wanted to see how this world translated into SL.

The character of Inara Serra from Firefly, as portrayed by Morena Baccarin, served as a sort-of “inspiration” for my avatar name

These factors combined with my love of all things science fiction – including thoroughly enjoying Firefly – caused me to somewhat gravitate towards the name of Inara Serra. I already appreciated the character’s nature – strong, independent and insightful, and with a clear lean into Buddhism – and her backstory. As sometime who also likes to read / learn about mythologies, the name also had appeal due to its (primary) link to HittiteHurrian mythology (as the goddess / protector the wild animals of the steppe, a deity somewhat corresponding with the Greek Goddess Artemis) and because in some circles the name is said to have equated to “Exquisite Hero” in Ancient Egyptian.

Thus, not only did the name fit with my thoughts of what I might like to poke at in SL, it lay well within the sphere of several on my own interests, and the nature of “Inara Serra” was one I genuinely liked and could potentially identify with without wanting to simply appropriate it for the needs of any form of role-play, sci-fi or otherwise.

The explanation for “Pey” is much simpler. As noted at the top of this piece (and most users are probably aware), back in those days, anyone joining SL could select an account / avatar name through the use of the free selection of a first name and the one-time selection a last name from a defined list that LL would periodically update. “Pey” was a name that was available and which I liked. And so, Inara Pey was born.

If the above does sound long-winded, I would say the fact that I’ve remained engaged with Second Life for the last 16 is – in all honesty – thanks in no small part down to the fact I found the name some comfortable, and have thus been able to inhabit her to the point I cannot conceive of being without her presence in my life.

Postscript: I should have added this prior to publishing, and as part of the conclusion. I actually have an alt. It also has the first name “Inara”, and came about in 2008, after a severe issue with my account meant I was unable to stay logged-in for more than a handful of minutes at a time for a number of days – until LL support could clear the problem. Since then, that alt has never really advanced beyond a basic avatar, and while I use it for testing viewers, going to in-world meetings, etc.,  – as friends will confirm, I cannot identify with it to the point of referring it as “Ms. Breen” (note the sci fi connection again, this time with the last name…), as it feels like “someone else”. (and other folk can always identify me when I’m using it, as the avatar’s tag carries the cunning disguise “Inara Pey incognito”!).