Of ringworlds, time, and field agents (2)

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.

Monday, January 14th 19:00: Ringworld

Gyro Muggins reads the first in Larry Niven’s science fiction series focused on a gigantic artificial ring, the Ringworld, built around a far away star at a distance roughly equivalent to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun.

Roughly 1.6 million km wide, the ring rotates slowly around its central star to provide a gravity on its inner surface roughly equivalent to that of Earth, and it has an atmosphere suitable for humans. It was built by a race known as the Puppeteers, who have been working to affect both humans and the cat-like, warrior Kzin.

Regarded as a classic, Niven’s novel (and later series) is also curiously contradictory. On the one hand, it is focused on exact science of advanced technologies, but on the other it engages in bizarrely pseudo-scientific fantasy conceptions.

The series sits within Niven’s broader Known Space series, the fictional setting of about a dozen novels and several collections of short stories, and which encompasses his Man-Kzin wars series. In addition, the idea of the ringworld it presents is regarded as the inspiration for the Halo series of video games, and there are multiple similarities between the two.

Tuesday, January 15th 19:00: The Time Keeper

The inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years.

Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world – now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began – and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, Father Time must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

Join Caledonia Skytower and Kayden OConnell as they read Mitch Albom’s 2012 novel.

Wednesday, January 16th 19:00: The Jennifer Morgue

Corwyn Allen reads the second volume in the Laundry Files by Charles Stross.

Bob Howard is an IT expert and occasional field agent for the Laundry, the branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service that deals with occult threats. In this second outing, Bob Howard finds himself dragged into the machinations and conspiracies of megalomaniac multi-billionaire Ellis Billington, The Black Chamber and The Laundry…

Dressed in a tuxedo (what else for a globe-trotting British Secret Agent?) and sent to the Caribbean, Bob must infiltrate Billington’s inner circle via his luxurious yacht. His mission? Prevent the Billington from violating a treaty that will bring down the wrath of an ancient underwater race upon humanity’s head.

Offering a wonderful pastiche on both the world of James Bond and a wonderful mimicking of Ian Fleming’s style of writing, Stross produces a novel that also evokes Lovecraftian overtones that is delightfully entertaining to read. In true Bond style, Bob is (reluctantly) partnered with an American agent – in this case a stunningly beautiful woman who also just happens to be a soul-sucking succubus from another dimension. Which, being the case, marks Bob’s mission somewhat differently to those of Bond: not only must he stop the bad guys and come through this at best shaken, he must totally avoid being stirred towards getting the girl…

Thursday, January 17th: 19:00: Moana Part 2

With Shandon Loring & Caledonia Skytower. Also in Kitely grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI.

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VWBPE: winter social fund-raiser and a reminder

via vwbpe.org

On Thursday, January 17th, 2019, the VWBPE team will be hosting a social event featuring music, dancing and more, from 17:00 SLT at Rockcliffe Village in Second Life. The Press release for the event reads in part:

Winter is perfect for dancing the night away in a beautiful winter themed venue complete with a skating rink and free ice skates! Enjoy an evening with friends and colleagues at VWBPE’s first networking and sponsorship social of 2019!

DJ Coz OKelly will be on hand to spin some fantastic dancing tunes (again donating his time in support of VWBPE).

Don your warmest, fanciest, fur-lined outfits (the one with the deepest pockets!) and take advantage of the photo ops available.

Donations in both USD $ and L$ are welcome at the event, and all proceeds will go towards VWBPE 2019 programme activities, specifically in the areas of support for the conference information systems, development of video and machinima archives, live video streaming, social activities, swag bag materials for conference attendees, buildings supplies (mesh 3D objects), and graphic design.

So, if you feel like supporting a very worthy part of Second Life, please hop along to the dance on January 17th!

Also, those interested in participating in this year’s conference, don’t forget that due date for papers, etc., are fast approaching:

About VWBPE

VWBPE is a global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments which attracts over 2,000  educational professionals from around the world each year, who participate in 150-200 online presentations including theoretical research, application of best practices, virtual world tours, hands-on workshops, discussion panels, machinima presentations, and poster exhibits.

In the context of the conference, a “virtual world” is an on-line community through which users can interact with one another and use and create ideas irrespective of time and space. As such, typical examples include Second Life, OpenSimulator, Unity, World of Warcraft, Eve Online, and so on, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or any virtual environments characterised by an open social presence and in which the direction of the platform’s evolution is manifest in the community.

Read more here.

Additional Links

One Billion Rising in Second Life 2019

One Billion Rising in 2018: the #MeToo Forest

One Billion Rising in Second Life will once again be taking place in Second Life on Thursday, February 14th, 2019. Over the last couple of weeks, work has been progressing on putting the event and its regions together – and having had the good fortune to be able to tour the event’s four regions, this year promises to be stunning in the range of art on offer, together with a beautiful setting in which people can come together.

When launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, One Billion Rising (OBR) was the biggest mass action in human history; a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls who are at risk. OBR aims to bring people together, raise greater awareness of the plight of those at risk the world over, and bring about a fundamental change in how vulnerable and defenceless women and girls are treated.

This year, One Billion Rising in Second Life is especially saluting the work and courage of the joint Nobel Peace Prize winners in 2018, Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict,” according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee announcement on 5 October 2018 in Oslo, Norway.

Nobel Peace Prize winners Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, whose work will be saluted at OBR 2019 in Second Life

Starting at midnight (00:00) SLT on the 13th/14th February, 2019, OBR in Second Life will run a full 24-hours throughout February 14th, closing at 23:59pm SLT on Thursday night. Throughout that time there will music and dancing at the central main stage area, with poetry, dance performance and live performers also part of the overall event, together with art displays across the four regions.

Event Support, Artist and Press Applications

Applications are now being taken from those wishing to support the event. Please follow the links below for details:

Burn2 Winter Burn 2019 announced

The BURN2 team have announced the dates and theme for the BURN2 Winter Burn event – and with them comes an invitation for people to get involved.

Winter Burn this year will take place on the weekend of Friday, January 25th through Sunday January 27th, 2019, and takes the theme, Seasonal Perceptions.

Perception – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.

This is particularly important as we move through the seasons, especially the holidays. However, our perceptions are affected by our environment, the things and people around us; even the weather! At this time of year, one person might be shovelling the snow off his driveway while another might spend the day surfing the waves off the coast of Australia.

But it is also influenced by our imaginations. Michael Whelan, a world-renowned artist, once did a painting of his young daughter who loved playing in the sandbox. What he did differently is depict his daughter wearing a spacesuit and playing in a lunar sandbox.

Our perceptions are a driving force in how we interact with the world around us. But imagination is also a strong influencer. Given all that, how would you perceive the seasons? Would you reflect the environment around you or imagine something completely off the wall and different? Show us your “Seasonal Perceptions!”

– Burn2 press release

Those wishing to participate in the event can do so in a number of ways.

  • Builders: can participate by building individually (with an invitation to be a part of a Ten Principles Hunt), or by being part of a collaborative team of up to six people to create an art installation. Builders are invited to apply via the Seasonal Perceptions Builder sign-up form.
  • Performers: are invited to use the main stage or, if a performance troupe with a stage set, space provided near the main stage. A sign-up form will be made available via the Burn2 website soon, and in the meantime, interest in being a performer can be passed in-world to Cuga Rajal.
  • Fashionistas: are invited to bring their style and skill to Seasonal Perceptions. see the Be A Fashionista! Burn2 page, and contact Vickie Maidstone in world,

General questions concerning the event should be addressed in-world to Event Lead Cuga Rajal.

About BURN2

BURN2 is an extension of the Burning Man festival and community into the world of Second Life. It is an officially sanctioned Burning Man regional event, and the only virtual world event out of more than 100 real world Regional groups and the only regional event allowed to burn the man.

The BURN2 Team operates events year around, culminating in an annual major festival of community, art and fire in the fall – a virtual echo of Burning Man itself.

Related Links

Of ringworlds, time and field agents

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.

Monday, January 7th 19:00: Ringworld

Gyro Muggins opens the covers of the first in Larry Niven’s science fiction series focused on a gigantic artificial ring, the Ringworld, built around a distant star at a distance roughly equivalent to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun.  About 1.6 million km wide, it rotates to provide a gravity on its inner surface roughly equivalent to that of Earth and has an atmosphere suitable for humans. It was built by a race known as the Puppeteers, who have been working to affect both humans and the cat-like, warrior Kzin.

Regarded as a classic, Niven’s novel (and later series) is also curiously contradictory. On the one hand, it is focused on exact science of advanced technologies, but on the other it engages in bizarrely pseudo-scientific fantasy conceptions.

The series sits within Niven’s broader Known Space series, the fictional setting of about a dozen novels and several collections of short stories, and which encompasses his Man-Kzin wars series. In addition, the idea of the ringworld found within the series is regarded as the inspiration for the Halo series of video games, and there are multiple similarities between the two.

Tuesday, January 8th 19:00: The Time Keeper

The inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years.

Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world – now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began – and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, Father Time must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

Join Caledonia Skytower and Kayden OConnell as they read Mitch Albom’s 2012 novel.

Wednesday, January 9th 19:00: The Jennifer Morgue

Corwyn Allen reads the second volume in the Laundry Files by Charles Stross.

Bob Howard is an IT expert and occasional field agent for the Laundry, the branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service that deals with occult threats. In this second outing, Bob Howard finds himself dragged into the machinations and conspiracies of megalomaniac multi-billionaire Ellis Billington, The Black Chamber and The Laundry…

Dressed in a tuxedo (what else for a globe-trotting British Secret Agent?) and sent to the Caribbean, Bob must infiltrate Billington’s inner circle via his luxurious yacht. His mission? Prevent the Billington from violating a treaty that will bring down the wrath of an ancient underwater race upon humanity’s head.

Offering a wonderful pastiche on both the world of James Bond and a wonderful mimicking of Ian Fleming’s style of writing, Stross produces a novel that also evokes Lovecraftian overtones that is delightfully entertaining to read. In true Bond style, Bob is (reluctantly) partnered with an American agent – in this case a stunningly beautiful woman who also just happens to be a soul-sucking succubus from another dimension. Which, being the case, marks Bob’s mission somewhat differently to those of Bond: not only must he stop the bad guys and come through this at best shaken, he must totally avoid being stirred towards getting the girl…

Thursday, January 10th

19:00: Moana Part 1

With Shandon Loring & Caledonia Skytower. Also in Kitely grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI.

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary science fiction and fantasy with Finn Zeddmore.

Future Shock: the machinima continues

Future Shock: sci-fi machinima

I first wrote about Future Shock, an ambitious Second Life Machinima series produced by Pryda Parx, in September 2016, when the first part in the series was released, and then revisited the project at the start of 2017, once the entire first season was available on You Tube.

In August 2017, a special “Director’s Cut” version of the first season was released, bringing all eight parts (plus the initial trailer / introduction)  together into a single 32-minute film which included previously unreleased footage, even as Pryda was working on the second season of 9 episodes. The new series was released over a period of several months in 2018, although sadly, the scheduling of things (coupled with other matters) prevented me for covering them at the time.

However, on December 27th, 2018, Pryda released another Director’s Cut, which brings all eight parts of this second season together into a single 23.5 minute film, which as with the first series version, includes previously unreleased footage. So this seems a good time to catch-up on the series, with apologies to Pryda for only now getting to it.

In short, Future Shock is a story of a somewhat dystopian / semi-cyberpunkish world where technology infiltrates every part of people’s lives, watching over them, seemingly providing both a protective blanket and providing various means personal gratification and escapism through the intertwining of their physical and virtual lives. But all is not as it seems. Rather than guiding / guarding / assisting, technology has come to dominate, defining everyone in terms of their net worth, or IP Credit (draw your own conclusions from the use of “IP”). So long as this remains positive, a person has little to fear – not even death; technology allows them to augment / redefine / rebuild their own bodies to suit their desires. But should a person’s net worth zero-out or entire a negative value, then things can become uncomfortable, and survival less-than-certain, with those in debt clinically  – if harshly – dealt with; as is also the case for those perceived to be a threat.

Tracy Grayling: protagonist – but innocent, or self-obsessed mole / agent?

Thus, this is a world of questionable moral and ethical values. people’s lives are determined by what is effectively a line on a balance sheet, while the people themselves are driven by baser instincts: greed, desire, avarice, envy, determined to raise their credit value, wanting to make themselves better physically than their peers through surgery / augmentation, or to be able to have sufficient value to escape into the virtual realm – a place reached not in the home, but within life support centres, the body fed and cared for while the mind escapes – and the all-important credit balance ticks down minute by minute.

Life in this world is very much factionalised; not everyone may approve of the way technology is all-pervading, or the way in which humanity has come to rely so wholly on it. Others simply seek to exist not caring for anything more than the next opportunity to become immersed in the virtual, while some seek to improve themselves, whilst also seeking a means for self-expression.

What made the first series engaging was both the visual style used throughout: the physical world is a dark, cold monochrome place for the most part, where colours are minimally used – blue to highlight technology, for example; red as a negative. Conversely, the virtual realm is a place vibrantly alive with colour and imagination, warm and inviting and far removed from the physical. Also, the storytelling is richly layered. This opening drops us into the middle of things, roughly 19-20 years hence. We’re quickly introduced to a number of the core elements – particularly the idea that humans are regarded as little more than constituent parts of the whole, to be recycled as required, plus the main protagonist for the story, Tracy Grayling, but the overall context can only be understood and the pieces fitted together by watching all the segments in turn – and at times returning to a previous segment in order to gain further insight.

Being in sufficient credit means you can afford exotic changes to your body – such as wings. But there is still the mystery / threat / salvation hidden within the Dark Grid …

This approach is continued through the nine episodes of the second season, which adds a further layering, in that the series records the events of the first, but from the perspective of a another group of characters, the “rebels”. Slightly shorter in length overall than the first season segments, the second series also lifts the production values seen within the production. In this, Pryda made no bones about the fact that in filming the first series of Future Shock, she was also going through a learning curve in terms of machinima production – and the second season shows that she has learnt a lot, and has a very definite approach to style, nuance and overall production.

Future Shock is an engaging series, one that tells both a story and raises questions about the future and our increasing reliance on technology and what it may mean for personal freedoms – including the freedom of expression. These questions have perhaps become more salient over the course of the two years in which Pryda has been working on the series; as such it is worth viewing from this perspective as well. For those who wish to see more, Pryda has also produced a series of short pieces providing insight into the principal characters. However, I would recommend only watching these after seeing the entire series; they contain significant spoilers!

Related Links