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 in Nowhereville, unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.
Monday, March 21st, 19:00: When They Saw
Having graduated from the juvenile education system, Ana Mia decides to join her sister as a part of Fort Hope’s Midnight Guard. Fort Hope is a stronghold, protecting its inhabitants from Earth’s alien invaders; and the Midnight Guard forms the eyes, ears and guardians of the stronghold’s Wall.
Without the Guard and without the Wall of the stronghold, the aliens would be free to harvest humanity, using their ships and the Coyotes who form their eyes and ears in opposition to the Midnight Guard.
But now things have changed. Now Ana is something more, as she notes herself:
I never expected to be abducted. But here I am, standing onboard Their ship, facing Them down for the first time in my life, seeing the true face of the Earth’s invaders from another world.
My task is simple: to act as Earth’s emissary and negotiate peace. But it is far more complicated than it seems. I know nothing of politics, and even little of persuasion, but I have no choice. I must do this to keep my friends, and my world, safe. I cannot afford to fail humanity.
Join Gyro Muggins as he reads the second volume of Kody Boye’s When They… saga.
Caledonia Skytower reads the fifth of Salman Rushdie’s major publications and his first since The Satanic Verses.
Written for the younger reader, but with plenty with it suited to older ears, it is of an allegorical nature and addresses a number of societal problems, particularly those found in the Indian subcontinent.
Dedicated to Rushdie’s son, the book looks at the issues it raises – including that of censorship (unsurprisingly, given the reaction following the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988) – through the eyes of Haroun Khalifa, the son of a doctor and master storyteller.
Both father and son are struck by afflictions related to Haroun’s mother deserting them; Haroun has a form of attention-deficit disorder, whilst his father is prone to bouts of depression. Both can only be relieved of their afflictions should Haroun’s mother, Soraya, return.
Before then, however, Haroun is set for an adventure and discovery.
Wednesday, March 23rd: Dark
Thursday, March 24th 19:00: Thursday Night Science Fiction
With Finn Zeddmore.
Sunday, March 27th: Volume XIV
Seanchai Library Celebrates 14 Years of Stories in Virtual Worlds – check the Seanchai blog for further details.
Currently open for viewing at Vally Ericson’s (Valium Lavender’s) Art Street Gallery is a small, engaging exhibition of art by Purple Leonis (Nel4481). Entitled Dark Paradise, it comprises just ten images (more’s the pity, given the gallery space and the beauty of the art), each of which is rich in motif and story, touching on period settings and fantasy.
I have always enjoyed Purple’s work, as she always uses pose, colour, light and setting in her images to communicate with us by painting an entire story within each image. It is an approach Purple uses to both provide single-framed narratives and entire tales spread across multiple images. Within Dark Paradise, she provides a mix of both.
On entering the wing of the gallery where the exhibition is framed, one encounters a trio of images, a couple in formal wear, he standing, she sitting, in a traditional photographic pose oft seen in the early days of photograph, a closer shot of the woman seen in the first image, this time with her eyes covered by what appears to be a jewel-encrusted mask, and the third a woman in red, surrounded by billowing waves of red fabric. All three are in many respects “classic” portraits and might be taken as such.
From here the images change in tone, becoming more fanciful – and I use this word in terms of “fantasy” – as we progress, introducing magical motifs (mushrooms, ravens); genuine flights of fancy (drifting on a bunch of hand-held balloons), to genuine trips of fantasy (alien creatures, centaurs) and finally a series suggestive of vampires. Thus, we appear to have thematically frame images that exist individually or in smaller groups connected by theme (the couple and the woman in the first two images, the vampire theme in the final three).
However, all ten images are linked in a broader theme: the entire setting suggests that we are within a room within a grand house; the pictures of the walls a mix of family portraits and strangely themed images chosen by whoever live here – perhaps the couple in the first image.
Thus we have something of a sense of the familial here, while the furnishings, colours and fixtures learn into the Gothic in a way, leading us toward the vampiric elements in the final three images, and so we’re gently led into the idea we are perhaps in a dream, an unfolding story, progressing from the first image which (either deliberately or not is down to the artist to say) is called The Beginning, and progressing around the final trio and their darker theme of blood and death / the undead.
True, some of the images appear out-of-place to theis core vampire idea – floating on a bunch of balloons, centaurs, strange creatures – but how many dreams are entirely linear and without non-sequitur flashes? Plus, look at the tone of the more fantastical images: the centaur is linked to death (and thus the undead), for example, the monster in Cavaliere could be mindful of a vampire in its “true” form as beloved of monster movies) so even these images are perhaps not so far removed from the idea that we are entering the dark paradise of dreams and imagination.
I would have personally preferred to have seen this exhibition continued through more of the gallery space, such is the depth of narrative in the images, but don’t let the brevity put you off; Dark Paradise is a thoroughly engaging pocket exhibition.
Updates from the week ending Sunday, March 20th, 2022
This summary is generally published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:
It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Release viewer: version version 126.96.36.1998554 – formerly the Maintenance J&K RC viewer, promoted Monday, February 28 – no change.
NASA has rolled out the first of what is intended to be both the first of its new “super rocket”, the Space Launch System, and the vehicle to start the United States and its international partners on the road back to the Moon.
At 21:47 UTC on March 17th, the huge rocket, mounted on its mobile launch platform, slowly crept out of one of the high bays of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the iconic cube sitting within NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre which was used as an integral part of Project Apollo and which is now fulfilling a similar role for Project Artemis, on the back of a massive crawler-transporter at the start of a 6.72 km journey to Kennedy Space Centre’s Lunch Complex pad 39B.
It was not a swift journey, taking some 11 hours to complete – albeit with stops along the way for checks to be carried out – the crawler-transporter finally reaching the top of the incline of the launch pad 04:15 UTC on Friday, March 18th.
The move of the rocket from VAB to pad was not in readiness for the launch of Artemis 1 – the mission this SLS vehicle will carry to orbit – but rather for the final series of tests to be carried out on the fully integrated rocket and its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) payload to ensure both are ready for that launch, which is currently set for a provisional window in mid-May 2022.
As I noted in my last Space Sunday update, the focus of these tests will be a full wet dress rehearsal, due to take place in April. This will see the rocket fully fuelled and go through a full launch countdown that will stop just nine seconds prior to an actual launch. The intention is to make sure everything with the rocket, the payload and the launch systems are all ready for a launch attempt, and will be followed by a further 8-9 days of additional pad tests. After this, the rocket will be returned to the VAB and assessed ready for final flight clearance.
When it does take flight, SLS will become the most powerful launch system built by NASA. The Block 1 vehicle being capable of delivering up to 95 tonnes to low Earth orbit, and the upcoming Block 1B up to 105 tonnes, and the future Block 2 vehicle up to 130 tonnes – putting it in the same lifting class as SpaceX’s Starship / Super Heavy launch system, but potentially far more flexible in turns of specialised launches, SLS being capable of launching smaller payloads (e.g. 23-45 tonnes, depending on the launcher variant) directly to the Moon, or other payloads out into the solar system without any need for on-orbit refuelling.
However, as I’ve noted before, there are some significant cost issues for SLS that may impact its use, the most notable being that of ongoing costs. Development work on the SLS system has thus far eaten US $23.01 billion, and while NASA would claim a lot of that (US $14 billion) has gone directly into work creation, it nevertheless means that as a non-reusable system, SLS is terribly expensive: NASA’s own Office of Inspector General (OIG) estimates each launch will cost some US $4 billion, twice NASA’s launch cost estimate, and will never fall below US $1 billion as the agency has suggested.
This cost factor has already seen NASA turn to other launch systems for missions originally earmarked for SLS. The Europa Clipper mission, for example, has been move to a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher on the ground of launch costs (and the fact that SLS generates so much vibration at launch, it is unsuitable to fly certain sensitive instruments into space).
As it is, five SLS missions in support for Artemis have thus far been confirm, with vehicles for three more after Artemis 1 already under construction:
Artemis 1: uncrewed mission to cislunar space to test the Orion MPCV; duration: some 25.5 days – mid 2022.
Artemis 2: crewed mission to lunar orbit; duration: 10 days – 2024.
Artemis 4: crewed mission to a lunar near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) in support of the Lunar Gateway station and the core I-HAB deployment – 2026/27
Artemis 5: crewed mission to a lunar near-rectilinear halo orbit(NRHO) in support of the Lunar Gateway station and the European System Providing Refuelling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) module, together with a lunar surface mission – 2027-28.
Starship HLS: NASA Updates
A further key component for Project Artemis is the Human Landing System (HLS), the vehicle that will be used to transfer crews between lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon and (initially) provide them with living space whilst on the Moon. Currently, only one contract has been issued for HLS, and as I’ve noted before, it is to SpaceX for the use of a lunar variant of their Starship vehicle, although the agency has more recently been order to acquire HLS vehicles from other sources.
Coinciding with the SLS roll-out at Kennedy Space Centre, NASA issued an update on the SpaceX HLS programme, including the work going into some key elements, such as the elevator that will carry the 2-person crew of Artemis 3 the 30-40 metres down the side of the vehicle to the Moon’s surface and back after landing, together with the airlock through which they’ll leave / enter HLS during surface operations and some of the living / working facilities inside the vehicle.
The update also confirms that HLS will require some six starship / super heavy launches:
The launch of a special “tanker” Starship that will be parked in Earth orbit and used for a wide range of Starship propellant transfer operations.
Four further launches of re-usable Starship vehicles equipped with additional fuel tanks that will carry propellants to be transferred to the orbital “tanker”.
The HLS starship itself and the cargo needed for Artemis 3. This will dock with the “tanker” and take fuel from it that can be used to boost the HLS vehicle to lunar orbit and to both land it on the Moon and then get it back to lunar orbit.
Once the HLS is in lunar orbit, the 4-person Artemis 3 crew will then launch to the Moon aboard an Orion MPCV lifted by SLS, and rendezvous with HLS so two can transfer to it and then travel to / from the lunar south pole. After transferring back to Orion, the crew will return to Earth, leaving the HLS starship in lunar orbit, potentially with either fuel to be used by the crew of Artemis 5, the second lunar landing mission.
However, whilst SpaceX HLS is earmarked for this mission (and will likely be the only HLS craft capable of supporting Artemis 5 in 2027/28), some in Congress are pushing NASA to use an alternative HLS design for the second lunar landing (which is which Artemis 4 was switched from a join lunar gateway / lunar landing mission to being solely a lunar gateway mission.