World Goth Fair in Second Life

Currently underway over the region of cursed in the 2015 Second Life World Goth Fair (WGF). The event started on May 15th, and will run through until midnight, SLT on Monday, June 1st.

Some 40 merchants from across Second Life are participating in the fair, which, in difference to previous years, is restricted to the one region this year – Cursed -, but which is still officially sanctioned by the organisers of  World Goth Day, which this year was marked on Friday May 22nd.

A further change to this year’s event is that it is not charity-oriented, and it currently appears as if future WGF events will go the same way. The reasons why the fair is both reduced to a single region and is no longer associated with a charity are explained in a blog post by co-organiser Bronxelf. However, and in short, the reasons can be summarised as a) the loss of one of the supporting regions for the event, and that trying to organise the fair in a very active second region has always been problematic; b) problems in dealing with the UK-based Sophie Lancaster Foundation have regretfully forced the WGF organisers to withdraw their support for the charity with this event. At this point in time, they are uncertain if ties with an alternative charity would not result in similar issues.

As is usual for WGF and events at Cursed in general, the fair is an extremely atmospheric event, with the fair this year taking place n an extended churchyard, with the crypts standing as stores, and the Church the main events centre, with mist floating over the ground, statues wreathed in shadows, bats winging overhead, and a pale moon hanging in the sky. There are even local zombies citizens. ready to gnaw on your leg or arm provide assistance, should you need it! ;-) .

The range of items on offer in the (literally) cryptic shops is obviously focused on the Goth lifestyle, with clothing, jewellery, accessories and furnishing all on offer as one follows the cobbled paths, with many of the crypts decorated by store owners to further enhance the atmosphere and theme of the event. A full list of participating stores and region map can be found on the WGF blog, which also provides updates on events and activities.

So, if you fancy getting your Goth on – hop on over to WGF at Cursed!

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The independent author whose muse is Second Life

Maxwell Grantly is a non de plume for an anonymous school teacher, living in a small seaside town on the east coast of Great Britain. Although he has written many free short stories, he does not consider himself an author. He simply writes just because he enjoys doing so (and for no other reason.)

So reads the Profile summary of, well, Maxwell Grantly, a Second Life resident living in England, and who has a remarkable talent for creating illustrated short stories and graphic novels using Second Life as the environment to create his main character and the medium by which he creates the illustrations for his stories.

Timothy tortoise finds himself in an alternate universe when he unwittingly embarks on a Big Adventure

Timothy tortoise finds himself in an alternate universe when he unwittingly embarks on a Big Adventure

I confess that Maxwell’s work had actually slipped right past me, and quite possibly might have remained out-of-sight to me had it not been for Charlie Namiboo circulating information on his latest book, Timothy’s Big Adventure which is available free-of-charge on Amazon for download on the Kindle reader or similar devices, and computers with the Kindle Reader app installed.

The book follows the adventures of Timothy tortoise, who lives with a little boy called George, who lives with his parents in a small house “many miles from anywhere” (photographed in Frisland) and is too young to go to school. Timothy is somewhat envious of George’s fast-paced and, to Timothy’s way of thinking, exciting life. However, all that changes when Timothy falls through a hole and finds himself in an intergalactic adventure in another universe.

Timothy’s Big Adventure is the kind of short story which harkens back to childhood memories of bedtime stories; indeed, the book itself makes excellent material for such a setting if you have small children of your own. The plot is uncomplicated, easy-to-follow and the illustrations, created using characters and settings from inside Second Life, are delightful.

As well as Timothy’s Big Adventure,  Maxwell has written longer, more complex pieces, such as his Fingers stories, set in New Babbage, which follow the adventures of a young pick-pocket, Edward “Fingers” Croydon, abandoned to the streets of that town whilst very young.

Maxwell admits that he doesn’t actually write first and foremost with children in mind; his stories take a form that he is prone to enjoy, and he views some of the concepts then can enfold as being perhaps more suitable to older children and perhaps adults, rather than being purely for bedside story enjoyment – although he does acknowledge that this is those with younger children might well enjoy reading them to their kids.

As well as telling stories of adventures and intrigue, Maxwell’s books also touch  – albeit perhaps in a very subtle manner – on what might be terms social issues from the periods in which they are set. The Fingers stories, for example, deal with matters of Victorian street urchins and how social care was more a matter for philanthropists (real or apparent) rather than the state.

Likewise, Jack and the Space Pirates touches on child labour: the story’s hero is Jack, is employed to “creep into the tiny gaps gape between the timbers” of space ships to apply the tar need to keep “space out” – a job which sounds akin to the Victorian use of children as chimney sweeps because of the ability to worm their way up flues, or in earlier times, to clean out the spaces behind tightly-packed spinning jennies at the start of the industrial era. Sprocket and the Sparrow carries a more obvious message on the importance of conservation, but it is one that is again imaginatively told.

Some of Maxwell's titles available through Amazon as e-books

Some of Maxwell’s titles available through Amazon as e-books

Again, this is not a deliberate approach on Maxwell’s part; but it does form a natural element in his creative process, as he explained in a recent interview with Writing.com.

“When I write, I just want to tell a good story,” he aid. “I feel that it is a basic feature of every human being to be creative. Some people find their creativity in their hobbies, art, dance, music; other people find a release for their creative spirit by consuming the creativity of others. I find that the production of stories is a great release that allows me to be creative, simply for the joy of doing so. Sometimes a fable or lesson might arise naturally from the plot but, when it does, it is often unintentional. I would like to think that, when a reader browses through my work, they are able to enter a magical world of suspended belief and join me in my bizarre world of fantasy, if only for a brief moment.”

Lief's Quest

Leif’s Quest

Another aspect to the appeal with these books  is the care with which the illustrations have been composed; facial expressions have been deliberately selected, for example, to help give even passing characters their own personality – and I admit to smiling at both the astronaut’s expression and choice of words “Yikes!” on being confronted by the lizard aliens!

There’s also a richness to Maxwell’s use of genres; while the Fingers series and Jack are most assuredly Steampunk in setting, his stories involving the elven children Maxwell and Skippy are equally assuredly rooted in fantasy, as is Leif’s Quest, which also has more of a graphic novel look to it.

While the scenes depicted in the stories are located in Second Life, encompassing places as diverse as Frisland, Calas Galadhon, Escapades (and one of Loki Eliot’s magnificent steam-powered airships is Jack’s rewards in Jack And the Space Pirates), New Babbage and other locations, it would be a mistake to say the stories are about Second Life – and it shouldn’t be for a moment considered that they are. Again, that’s not Maxwell’s intent.

Instead, what we do have is another example of how rich and diverse a place Second Life can be when it comes to inspiring our imaginations and for acting as a springboard for our creativity. These are imaginative stories, and I found myself getting drawn into them as I read them in turn.

If you have young(ish) children of your own and are looking for a range of bedtime stories with which to entertain them, or if you want to read adventures of a different kind, I have no hesitation in recommending Maxwell Grantly’s books. They are available on Amazon worldwide – just search for “Maxwell Grantly”, and are offered as free-to-download e-books on either the Kindle PC app or via the Kindle Cloud.

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Linden Lab raise group limit to 60 for Premium accounts

secondlifeOn Thursday, May 28th, Linden Lab announced that with immediate effect, Premium Members can now join up to 60 groups – raising the limit for them from the previous 42.

This increase is only, for now, a pilot programme, for reasons explained below. However, all things being equal, it will hopefully become a fixture of the Premium account package.

The news came via an official blog post, which reads in part:

Today we’re thrilled to be rolling out another perk for Premium members: now you can be a member of 60 groups! Groups have been a consistently popular feature among the Residents of Second Life. It may not be obvious, but group membership can have an impact on the performance of a number of systems. That’s why in Second Life’s early days, Residents could only join a maximum of 10 groups. Over the years, we’ve made improvements that enabled us to raise the group limit to a maximum of 42, but we know that for some power users, even that isn’t quite enough, and today we’re happy to raise the bar for Premium subscribers.  We must make sure that the recent gains in group performance are not jeopardized, so for now the new limit is a pilot program. If there are no problems, we will look forward to raising the limit further (stay tuned!).

Simon Linden:his work on group chat has contributed directly to the announcement on group limits being raised for Premium members

Simon Linden:his work on group chat has contributed directly to the announcement on group limits being raised for Premium members

The “gains in group performance” referred to in the quote above are related to the recent improvements made to the Group Chat service. These have been going on for almost a year now, spearheaded by Simon Linden, who has been working hard to bring about significant improvements to the entire group chat service, front-to-back.

One of the key aspects of these changes relates to how  various “update” messages, created every time someone logged-in or out of SL, etc., and which required updates to be sent to every group of which they were a member, could actually interfere with the group chat system sending and displaying actually messages being members.

At the time Simon was working on these changes, it was indicated that the Lab might consider raising the limit on the number of groups people can join if the work proved successful – so kudos to Simon here for all his hard work – and kudos as well, to the Lab for approaching things cautiously, and recognising that should the new limit prove detrimental to the performance gains that have been achieved with group chat, they are prepared to roll them back.

There is also news in the post for those who take advantage of the increase in the group limit, and then subsequently opt to downgrade their membership to Basic:

Premium members can immediately take advantage of the new limit. Downgrading from Premium membership will not remove you from any of your groups, but it will mean that you cannot join any new groups until you remove yourself from enough groups to get below the Basic account limit, which remains at 42.

This is a further change to the Premium account package that sees things continue to pivot away from the idea of quarterly “gifts” and the like, and towards offering options and abilities that users are more likely to find of use and thus appreciate more. Again, as the official blog post states, expect further updates to the Premium account offering that continue to move in this direction.

Ego as art in Second Life

Saturday, May 23rd, saw the opening of a new exhibition at the CBK Art Gallery, operated by Ceakay (CK) Ballyhoo. I was sadly unable to attend the event due to other commitments, so hopped over at the start of the week to have a look at the exhibition.

Ego – Being Your Own Muse features the work of a number of SL artists, who were all challenged to offer images featuring themselves as the models / subjects – hence the title of the exhibit. The participating artists are Whimsical Aristocrat, Seductive Dreamscape, AngelinaKnox, Coober Galicia, Daallee and Owl Dragonash of The Living Room fame, and CK herself.

Ego - Being Your Own Muse - Coober Gallicia

Ego – Being Your Own Muse – Coober Galicia

The resulting works are all offered for display in a garden-like environment, with each artist having his or her own summer house in which their pictures are displayed. This not only gives an inviting and relaxed environment for the exhibition as one wanders through the garden under a suitable windlight setting, it also means that each artist’s works can be studied without the temptation to directly compare one artist with another by checking back and forth and getting caught up in technique, approach, etc.

As a result of this, the visitor is free to focus on how each artists views their own avatar; and it is surprising as to just how much can be revealed through the images that are offered. While little in the way of criteria was offered, other than asking the artists to use themselves as their model / inspirations, it is interesting as to the number of nude / semi-nude pictures are are offered (which make this exhibit perhaps a little NSFW, although all the pieces are very artistic in nature).

Ego - Being Your Own Muse - Owl Dragonash

Ego – Being Your Own Muse – Owl Dragonash

I commented on this to CK, who replied, “Well, I think most people in here like the way they have shaped their own bodies, and they’re best to be viewed naked. I myself am very keen on how my ass looks for example!”

That is a fair and accurate assessment. In many respects our avatars can be a huge statement of self and self-image, and we often do invest considerable time, effort and money in how they look, so why not show them at nature’s best. There’s also something strongly emotional about nude and semi-nude images which can express far more than might be the case were the model to be fully clothed, and this is also captured within the images on display here.

Which is not to say all the pictures figure nudes; far from it. Coober Galicia, the only male artist in the exhibition, for example, presents a series of powerful, character-driven images (even if one is admittedly sitting nude in the saddle :) ), which I found myself especially drawn to; while Owl’s images display her delightful whimsy and outgoing nature.

All told, a charming and worth seeing exhibition that will be open through until the end of June. When visiting, do remember to take a walk through the gates on one side of the gallery area and explore the wonderful Mistwood Isle woods CK has created, or take a ride on a floating dandelion seed!

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Mistwood Isle woods

Mistwood Isle woods – through the gates from the gallery space