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”!).

9 thoughts on “What’s in a name – or how I came to be Inara Pey

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I’m a huge fan of Firefly/Serenity so I had hoped that your name had something to do with it. Inara Serra is such an amazing and unique character, and I’m so happy to see her influence actually shine through in your character and “voice” in your writing.

    I totally relate to the feeling of a name helping to hold my interest in SL! My first account in 2006 had a kind of silly name because I was quick to create the account just to hop in and enjoy SL with friends (Ember Noodle). But in 2007, the last name “Ember” became available so I rejoined SL with a last name/first name of the screen name I had been using online since 1997, “emberisolte” so my name in SL was “Isolte Ember” up until Premium name changes became available in April 2020. Feeling like my best self in a universe where I could be literally anything is so important and it’s really cool to see other residents feel the same way.

    Thanks again for the lovely personal post.

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  2. Names are a wonderful, intensely personal thing. I’ve never, ever seen Second Life as less than an extension of me into the metaverse: therefore it’s not a surprise that my first name in both RL and SL are the same.vLike you, I picked a last name that I liked, that sounded “right” for me.

    I’ve just past sixteen years in SL too. I’ve explored both halves of my heritage here in SL. It’s given me a chance to be more than just either part of it, and I love that.

    I’ve had breaks: who hasn’t? But not for a moment have I regretted my name.

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    1. Indeed! Were I to take a break from SL, I couldn’t conceive coming back as “someone else”.

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  3. My name? Light is energy and energy exists in all things at some level. It is infinite because it never goes away. Energy and matter are continuously forming and reforming.

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  4. “Inara Pey incognito”

    Cunning indeed. 😉
    One of my alts is named OhOrca Oh, which isn’t as cunning as it’s more like a groan.

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  5. Like some others, I chose my first name to be my real name. At the time I created the account in 2006, my actual last name was available as a choice – wich surprised me to no end since it was not a common last name. I thought that would be a cool novelty and chose it, only to find out that someone had already taken up that combination of first and last name…. there was a guy running around SL with my ACTUAL name !!! So I just looked through the list of available last names and chose the one I felt happy with.

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  6. Back before Last Name account changes, I was asked quite often why I picked such a horrible name.
    I always said “Because Mariner was the least-worst available at the time.”

    -R

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  7. Heh. I guess I was a bit luckier than you, then. When I joined in 2004, even though I had absolutely no clue about what I was facing (all I knew about Second Life was that, in June 2004, Linden Lab had released their first-ever Mac viewer, so I saw that press release ‘somewhere’ and decided to give it a try; the only other virtual world I had ever joined before was AlphaWorlds); however, I had abandoned the concept of having Internet accounts with weird or funny-sounding nicknames for a decade or so. I mean, it was stupid to register for a multiplayer strategy game as ‘SillyFunElf’ and then expect to be taken seriously if you became the alliance leader (I know, this is a strawman argument…). So, with that in mind, and considering that Linden Lab had already put in place the limitation of selecting a last name, I just needed to figure out something that would sound both realistic and wouldn’t be out of place if I ended up on a fantasy setting, a sci-fi setting, or a filme noire detective story (I had no idea what to expect from SL, after all). So I guess I got it right on the first try 🙂 — especially because I had no idea that you could not change it later. By then it was too late to regret it — I had already made friends, added a ton of freebies to my inventory, and ‘starting from scratch’ was really not an option.

    Oh, sure, I’ve got the odd alt or two for making tests; my favourite is ‘Gwyneth Lewellen’ who looks exactly like me, and, thanks to the Display Name, I can get her to look like my Siamese twin 🙂 It’s fun for taking pictures, but, really, if I cannot spend any time in SL even with just one avatar, having more than one is truly a waste of database space for Linden Lab 🙂

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