Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Steampunk Toys

Kathy Jameson reports:

Rising high above the ruins of an old Greek town on SOL Solution Island (with a welcoming gent doffing his hat) lies the JD Mechanical Toy Factory.

A dodgy-looking rope seat conveys one to the lower landing spot, at which point a rickety ladder is the only way up to the main level.

Moored outside the factory is the JD Zeppelin.

A certain redhead had to sit in the captain's chair.

A mechanical man would push her around in ease and style.
Kathy finishes, "The shop has various steampunk goodies for sale - including a boat! I had to have the boat, and, if anyone is looking for me, I shall be steaming through the Realm of the Roses."

Auld Lang Syne and Happy New Year!

This past year has been eventful...in more lives than one. I shan't attempt a recap of either one, as I would not do them justice. Permit me to note a few personal highlights:
  • I rezzed into the world for the first time in February, doing the noobie waddle, dressed in...something, wearing system hair. I raced around furiously to correct those, ah, issues.
  • In March (I believe), I wrote the Guv to request the honor of citizenship. I have been missing the lower eighth of my monitor ever since, as ISC chat scrolls by.
  • Caledon Downs opened in May, and I purchased (or "purchased") my first bit of land, at the border of Glengarry and directly across from the Steampunk Resource Centre. Despite the occasional noob wandering in my sitting room, I find it an ideal location.
  • June found me sweltering under the heat of the midsummer sun, and the intense radiation cooked my brain to the point where I thought an Aetheric Journal to be a sensible idea. Nearly 200 entries later, I continue to hope I am entertaining someone on a more-or-less regular basis.
  • My first longer piece of journalism, entitled "The Duchess and the Diamonds," appeared in July in this Journal, as well as the site Calemeo.com (as do all the subsequent works). I like mysteries, and everyone likes Duchesses and diamonds, do they not?

I have met many wonderful people, and made a few friends along the way. I continue to be in awe at the creativity of my fellow citizens - in building, scripting, making clothing, creating themed events - as well as the sheer energy they have. I tire just thinking about it.

I made it through my first RFL season, and we all endured the Openspace fiasco. We lost members of the community, some all too permanently, and mourned their passing. Like others, I wonder how long the ride can last, but I plan on enjoying it however long that may be.

So much for the year that was. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year - whichever new year you believe it to be!

With this, I am off for a week to a mysterious undisclosed location.

Winterfell Anodyne

An "anodyne" is a pain-relieving agent - often thought of as a narcotic, though the definition is more general. In one sense, this name fits in with other Winterfell regions, such as Absinthe and Laudandum. The name is also fitting for a region that rose as a result of the consolidation resulting from the Openspace price increase/performance decrease, to the extent that the region is a pallative (itself an apt word: something that relieves pain without curing the underlying illness) for those affected by the changes.

While the region is still under development, I thought I would fly over in the Hangover One to see it. The first two pictures are of Eva Bellambi's property, dubbed the Isle of Skye. (I raise a glass of Talisker to Her Grace!)

The interior of the region appears to be for sale.

Carntaigh rises again:

Miss Hypatia Callisto has an ArtSeduction store here.

Toward Middlesea

Some days it's good to just get out and fly.

Heading toward Middlesea, with no particular purpose.

Seeing the sun go down is priceless.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Skittish Newcomers

With the holiday season upon us, I have had little time to be in-world this past week or so (and a week-long out-of-town jaunt coming up, but that is another story), and I had little planned during those brief periods in-world, so I thought I would spend a little time in Oxbridge to provide a warm Caledonian welcome for whoever should pop through the portal.

Several observations: first, not many people were in Oxbridge over the two or three hours of my Welcome Wagon duty. Second, even fewer wanted to talk to me. I suppose I'm still irritated at the claim (relayed by Kamilah? I can no longer recall) that Caledon had a reputation for being stand-offish, because that has not been my experience as a newcomer. Nonetheless, the two main reactions to my greetings have been (1) silence or (2) teleporting out. Admittedly, the sample size is quite small, but I'm beginning to develop a complex. Maybe I just look desperate. Third, one couple decided that the first thing they needed to do once they found the rooms in Oxbridge was to...was to...hmmm, there's no delicate way to put this, is there? And they lacked genitalia, suggesting a shocking lack of knowledge of basic biological principles. Mr. Whybrow noted on ISC chat some days ago that he encountered a young woman - I hesitate to say "lady" - running naked through the area of free goods. He noted the irony of being surrounded by free clothing, yet unable to bring herself to don any.

In the meanwhile, I have been wondering what is developing in Oxbridge Village. Kathy ran into Duchess Kintyre the other day, the former having been skulking near the latter's residence. Mrs. Lanzius was gracious enough to spend a few moments chatting, noting that the Openspace sim restrictions limited the ability of Clan Kintyre to host gatherings in the duchy proper, so she had made arrangements with the Guv to transplant a public hall "next door" in Oxbridge Village. So one mystery solved. However, the various identical houses - I had heard rumors of shops - stand empty, and at least one large bare spot remains. One wonders...

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Edison Hypatia is the new home of some of Caledon's long-time luminaries. Radio Riel has its headquarters here, Mavromichali Szondi has Society of Genealogists here, Miss Edwina Heron (Countess Swoonsbury) has property here, and so on. The description of the region reads: "Welcome to the imagined past of the turn of the 19th to the 20th Century. (1889 - 1914) Edison is a historic community in the North American tradition, the hub of which is Radio Riel, a Second Life radio station. This is the era in which technology began to emerge as a part of daily life with the telephone, the lightbulb, the automobile, and the phonograph."

Here is the home of Lady Azul Draken and Duchess Gabrielle Riel:

A view of the Radio Riel headquarters, with the ubiquitous Pearse'd & Cut in the foreground.

The Radio Riel headquarters, decked out in Christmas finery.

A closer view of the Draken/Riel home:
One wonders why Edison...true, the light bulb and the phonograph evoke the early 20th century, and even slighly later. On the other hand, Tesla's AC current eventually won out over Edison's DC, and one associates Tesla (and, perhaps more so, Marconi) with radio, a staple of early 20th century. Nonetheless, a lovely spot.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Where Have My Manners Gone?

Emilly Orr posted a most interesting journal entry, which generated several thoughtful replies, which in turn generated a lengthy reaction from Miss Orr. Read part one
here and part two here .

A short recap: on the occasion of the last ball in Loch Avie, Miss Orr notes the departure of three of the Caledon peerages from the land, and she (correctly) sees this as weakening our fair land. Dr. Mason notes that the departures are generally to other Victorian or Steampunk-themed lands, and that the interplay between Caledon and other, similar lands means that the departed are not lost to us. Furthermore, newcomers tend to arrive to supplement the old guard. Mr. Dagger and Lord Argylle are less sanguine about the influence of newcomers, noting the loss of manners relative to an earlier (and smaller) Caledon. (As an aside: Mr. Pearse, you have all the luck: I'm never on ISC chat to hear about semi-naked men shackled in dungeons. Agreed, that is highly out of place. But still...entertaining.)

On a related note, Miss Ranma Tardis posted a message on the Forums on why she left Caledon. Some reasons were personal, some were related to the rudeness the Mr. Pearse and Mr. Dagger mentioned, but one was that "I am not now and never was a Victorian! I am a modern person and the thought of wearing such clothing is silly at best." A reasonable enough observation - why anyone ever thought enormous bustles or bows on one's hind quarters looked good is beyond me, though I must say the men's clothing is a vast improvement over the sloppy mishmash of fabric one sees today, especially on the young gentlemen - as far as it goes.

All these observations made me think about two things: first, to what extent does my behavior offend the Caledon "ethic" so grossly as to diminish the pleasure of others? And, second, what principles seem reasonable for people who are part of our happy band?

I thought of four principles by which I try to operate:
  1. Be polite. It doesn't hurt, and it's the first adjective in Des's phrase "polite Victorian roleplay."
  2. The larger the gathering, the more in character one should be. Walking down the streets of Caledon Downs, I feel no shame in being dressed more provocatively than at a party. At a formal ball, I make every effort to look the part. (Well, the hair is non-negotiable. Beyond that, though...)
  3. Do not provoke merely to be provocative. This one involves a fine line. Much joking goes on, particularly on ISC chat. I like to joke, so this is a marriage made in...well, somewhere good. I tease, and I expect to be teased back. On occasion, I have felt as though I went a little far, and I have apologized to the victim. I never say anything completely scandalous. At the same time, I realize others may draw the line a little further toward the decorous. I'm happy to go with whatever are the community norms.
  4. Be yourself. In the end, Miss Tardis is correct: we are not living in the Victorian age, much as that may come as a shock to some people. We are here to enjoy ourselves, and if that involves laughing a great deal, so be it.

On the other side of the ledger, here are some principles I'd like everyone to follow:

  1. Be tolerant. For example, arguing about what Steampunk is really about, or reminding ladies that showing one's ankles is shocking, does not foster community.
  2. If one does not care for polite Victorian roleplay, feel free to go elsewhere. That sounds cold, and I don't mean it to sound cold. But really, what's the point of being in a Victorian-themed sim if you don't like Victoriana?
  3. Have fun. If it's not fun, why bother? (Ignore this one if you are making money hand over fist. I've run the numbers, and I'm willing to bet that only a handful are making a net profit, and no one is getting rich, from Caledon or related sims.)

In the final analysis, I agree with Mr. Pearse and Mr. Dagger that I would enjoy a little more politeness and a little more Victoriana. I suspect that they would like even more of it than I would, and thus I am part of the problem from their perspective. (A minor part of the problem, I grant you.) Having a community code of standards (suggestions? ideas?) might help to some degree - if I know what others expect, I'm usually willing to try to be accommodating. No, it won't solve all the problems of bad manners, and some people will not be willing to try, but it can't hurt. No one really wants to be a scold, so no one wants the job of calling out offenders on ISC chat. However, many people may actually appreciate a private IM explaining the offense. Well, I know I would, at any rate.

Finally, the Guv's description of Caledon in his profile runs as follows: "An isle of civility in a tempestuous world, a quick smile, a friendly hello and a bit of a respite from the metaverse at large. Regardless if you are joining us for tea, just popping over for a bit of shopping, or preparing your evil monologue for world domination, welcome! No dress codes, no restrictions, naturally - who you are is good enough for us." For the most part, that's what I get when I am in Caledon, and I try to act accordingly. It seems easy enough to do.

More Steampunky Christmas

A few more pictures from Miss Poppy's Steampunk Christmas display. We saw most of the Twelve Days of Christmas (and probably a few we could not identify, being still light-headed from holiday revelry).

Kathy checks out Santa's sleigh, complete with video display:

At left, the steamed partridge in a pear tree. At right, twelve lords a-leaping. One can only imagine how cold the water is off Morgaine:

I heartily congratulate all those who took part in the display.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

May all have a merry Christmas - and, if you do not celebrate Christmas, have a swell Solstice. I will be taking a short break while I try to discover what is figgy pudding.


Kathy sent this dispatch from Nevaria.

Nevaria describes itself as a "heavy roleplaying sim," "inspired from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland." Dr. Fabre counts it as a steampunk-themed sim, although the steampunk elements are occasional, rather than throughout.

One starts in an anteroom filled with oversized chess pieces.

After drinking a potion (captioned "drink me," naturally), one is transported to the lower level of the city.

The Purgatory nightclub has some steampunk elements.

The snowman is pure steampunk.

On the upper level of the city, the mansion contains some nice steampunk elements, such as this picture of Alice having tea:

No roleplaying was going on either time I visited - traffic was quite light, in fact. Still, there are some residences and shops, the latter focusing on a somewhat playful goth theme.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tectonic Plate Shift in Caledon!

Okay, perhaps that was a little much. However, there do seem to be some renamed lands. With the Duchies of Carntaigh, Argylle, and Glamorgan consolidating in Rothesay (along with Laird Merlin), several of the old Duchies have new names and new owners.

Below is a picture of Caledon Strathspey, owned by Mr. Aberdon Enigma and Miss Fauve Aeon (or should that now be Duke and Duchess?). To be sure, a cold spot today. Strathespey occupies what was formerly Argylle.

Caledon Cafall, occupying what was formerly Murdan, is owned by Mr. Theodore Nacht, and contains this lovely mansion, along with the lighthouse:

To the south, occupying the former Glamorgan, is Caledon Caer Firnas, owned by Mr. Vivito Volare and Miss Fogwoman Gray (though the "Miss" may be a-changing, says Miss Gray, and much happiness to the couple) (though I confess to being a little confused as to what this "RL" might be). When I passed through, Mr. Volare had moored his airship and was surveying his lands.

Ah, the more things stay the same, the more they change! Or words to that effect.

Bogon Flux

Bogon Flux is the name of a steampunk-y, self-creating (and self-destroying) system of pipes and houses, and...well, it's easier to see than describe. Hamlet Au has a piece in New World News about the construct, located in the China sim. When I went to visit, I found a head with electricity flowing out of it:

and a giant eye that followed my every move:

The set of pipes and such does magically assemble then fall apart.

Houses appear and disappear.

The whole thing can grow to an impressive size. The creators provide a hard hat for closer inspection, or one can stand back and watch from a safe distance.

Of course, it's far from clear what the build is about, if, indeed, it is about anything. Which is perhaps the point.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


In Dante's Inferno, the Roman poet Virgil guides Dante through Hell (and, later, Purgatory), showing the various circles of Hell and some of the residents thereof. Dante's Inferno is a sim that recreates that journey, down all nine circles, with notecards describing each stop. And then one climbs back again through a fictional story set in modern times, with each stop recreating one of the sins of the accompanying circle. Very educational.

My knowledge of the Inferno came from the Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle book of the same name, so it's possible my recollections of the place were warped by a pair of 20th century science fiction writers.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nonstop to the Mainland!

Today's ISC chat centered around the announcement from The Lab That Dare Not Speak Its Name that the United Sailing Sims would be relocating adjacent to - and accessible from - the Nautilus sims on the Mainland. The Guv made an unusally early appearance to ask what people thought of the idea.

Having greater "tourist" traffic through Caledon seemed like an appealing idea, but balanced against that was the concern that a direct connection with the Mainland might make it harder for Caledon to maintain its theme. What if the adjacent property became a huge wall of flashing neon lights and host to an escort service?

I may have seen enough of the Mainland for a lifetime. I visited Nautilus when it first opened, and even made a return visit today to see how it had changed (not for the better, was my summary), and Kathy makes the occasional foray to the Mainland for one purpose or another. Most people object to the unfocused ugliness of the Mainland as the principal objection, but I find the absurd ban lines to be the worst part of it. What is the point of a unified chunk of "land" if one cannot move freely across it, or sail its waters, or travel its skies? Is SL to be a series of teleportations from one area to another? Surely to buy into the idea that this is a "world" requires the ability to travel from Point A to Point B without resorting to teleportation.

Of course, an estate linked to the Mainland would still be under the Guv's control, and the Guv prohibits banlines. Fair enough.

Still, the idea makes me nervous. Perhaps being nervous is not a good enough reason to dislike something. And increasing the amount of foot traffic in Caledon (and related estates) is a good thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Housekeeping Tips for the Greenies

The other day, I checked in with the wacky folks at Rezzable - in particular, the Greenies. I shrunk to their size and proceded to wander through the house.

Let me just observe the following: if one makes this kind of mess with syrupy soda,...

...one should not be surprised to attract roaches. In this case, roaches that are fully as large as I am.

That house needs a good fumigation!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jessie's Girl - The Sequel

Having visited Jessie, Kathy couldn't help but visit New Jessie, to see if things were a little hotter there.

The landing area seemed promising: "You can die here."

Teleporting to a combat area, she found herself inside a deep bunker. She climbed out to...a city street. Where, apparently, they don't change gasoline prices too often.

Black Power is still in vogue, too.

The juxtaposition of the pawn shop, selling guns, and the hospital struck Kathy's funny bone, and the Waffle House added a touch of banality. Nicely done!

Kathy boarded her SSA-1871 Steamray to perform aeriel surveilance of the area. Unfortunately, this attracted some unwanted attention. Everywhere she flew, she was shadowed by a young lady, dressed as some sort of warrior. Determined to land and leave the area, she had just enough time to set the aircraft on the roof of an apartment building before the young lady approached to within 18 meters and then...

...that was the end of the adventure. What did you think happened? At any rate, the good folk of New Jessie do seem to take this combat thing seriously.


I had the opportunity to listen to the most recent Voices in the Machine podcast (episode 4), available here or through iTunes. Episode 4 is a little shorter than the earlier ones, and features Gabrielle Riel's interviews with some of the attendees at this fall's CaleCon event. As always, the podcasts are well worth one's time. For the multi-taskers, one can listen while cleaning out one's inventory, trying on outfits, planning world domination, and so forth.

Oddly, the iTunes people apparently will not make the Clockwork Cabaret available. Maybe it has to do with the ratio of music to talk, and copyright issues. Even more oddly, the Steampunk Spectacular podcast, which is mostly talk, is available on iTunes - but not the U.S. iTunes. (I get a message to that effect, at any rate.)

So much steamy goodness, so little time!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Victoria City is Growing - But Growing What?

Kathy passed by Mr. Epsilon's place in Victoria City the other day, after spending a pleasant afternoon in the Library, visiting Miss Eladrienne Laval's exhibit, "The Past Re-Imagined: Victorian Fashion and the Designs of Eladrienne Laval."

Mr. Epsilon appears to have built a greenhouse and, indeed, inside reside green things.

But what, exactly, is he growing?

Whatever the answer, it appears to be a little fresh, sending a tentacle to touch Kathy, unbidden.

A Steampunk Christmas, Part 3

Part 3: Santa Claus is Steaming to Town

A knock on the door interrupted the silent night. Roland Luminos stood on my front porch, shaking snow off his hat and coat. “Merry Christmas, Rhianon! I had meant to bring a bottle of something I distilled in my laboratory this morning, but I completely forgot it.” Thanking the Lord for all His blessings, not the least of which was Roland’s bad memory, considering that what he had distilled may not have been potable, I invited the man inside. Kathy greeted him with a kiss on the cheek.

“By the way, my dear, did I leave an old top hat here at some point?” Roland asked. “It was an old thing, but I was quite attached to it. You see, I was working on an experiment to stimulate the brain cells electrically, through a device cleverly concealed in the hat. I’m sure neither of you ladies has noticed, but some of my friends insist that I am absent-minded, and I thought this might help. But now I can’t seem to locate the hat.”

Kathy looked at me. “Er, what would happen if this hat were placed on an inanimate object. Say, an automaton?” she asked Roland.

He considered the question for some time before replying, “I don’t quite know for certain! As the electrical stimulation would attempt to make contact with whatever the hat lay upon, I would guess that the effect would depend on whether the object had the necessary circuitry to take advantage of what is effectively a mechanical brain. But, hmm, good question. Does that mean you have seen the hat?”

“Nope,” Kathy said. “Just idle curiosity. Can I get you a little mulled cider, Roland?”

Dinner was uneventful. Afterward, we retired to the parlor to exchange gifts. I poured snifters of brandy, and we sat near the fire to ward off the chill in the house. Kathy gave Roland a pair of brass goggles to replace the ones he had destroyed in an unfortunate episode involving monkeys and a carelessly-placed bottle of acid. I gave him a blowtorch, somewhat against my better judgment. Kathy gave me a new fountain pen, while I gave her a bottle of absinthe. Roland said he had purchased new spring bonnets for each of us, but had forgotten them at home with the mystery distilled substance.

Interrupting us was a loud bang on the roof, followed by the clatter of hooves. We rose at the same time to see what was the matter. I grabbed a lantern and dashed outside, heedless of the weather, and stared at my roof. Kathy and Roland followed closely behind. Looking up, I saw the roof sagging under the weight of an enormous sleigh, while eight fierce-looking creatures seemed to float in mid-air. The back half of the sleigh was a steam turbine and water tank. Wisps of steam floated gently into the night sky, but the great turbine was silent.

In the front half of the sleigh stood a man in a fur-lined suit and stocking cap, swearing a blue streak. Kathy squinted at him. “Santa?” she asked, her voice reverting to the girlish squeak of childhood.

“What are you talking about, you idiot child?” the man snarled. “Do I #%& look like #%*! Santa Claus? My $^@& sleigh broke down. I could barely set down on your roof in time. By the way, you might want to call a good roofing company before the next snowstorm.”

“I am somewhat handy with mechanical devices,” Roland called up, “and I have a set of tools here somewhere. Let me take a look and see if I can help.” He found a ladder and climbed up to the roof. Naturally, he forgot the tool kit.

I looked closely at him. The Vandyke, the pencil mustache: it could only be – Vivito Volare. “Mr. Volare!” I called out. “What on earth are you up to tonight? Surely it cannot be peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”

The pirate merchant captain scowled. “Yes, it is I! Testing my latest invention, the steam sleigh.”

“How is that an invention?” Kathy asked. “We have steam-powered carriages. Just put an engine on the sleigh, replace the horses and you’re done.”

Mr. Volare gave a slightly demonic laugh. “On the ground, certainly. Pah! Any half-wit can do that. But an aerial steam sleigh…now that is an invention. My dear partner, Miss Gray, was kind enough to cross-breed reindeer with eagles to provide me with and train these reingles. They provide enough lifting power for the sleigh, which, as you can imagine, is quite heavy. The propulsion is provided by the power plant in the back, which, thanks to my ingenuity, converts water from this tank into steam, which then runs the turbine. I need both the reingles and the power plant to keep the sleigh aloft. Tonight seemed like an opportune time to test my invention, as the air lanes were likely to be clear. Then misfortune struck: the turbine somehow failed.”

“Ow!” I heard Roland exclaim. He had made it to the roof, and was standing just below the reingles. He waved his hands in the air as their hooves darted around him.

“Be careful, sir! Those are experimental reingles, and Miss Gray and I would thank you not to damage them in any way.”

“I say, Mr. Volare! There seems little chance of my damaging them. The beasts are attacking me!”

“Of course they are. They contain much eagle essence in them, and are, therefore, predators. They see you as their prey. Only their harnesses and their iron discipline prevent them from rending you from limb to limb. Get behind them, where they can still detect you but cannot reach you, before you get hurt.”

Kathy retrieved Roland’s tool kit from his carriage, climbed the ladder, and handed the kit to Roland. Mr. Volare and Roland effectuated repairs in short order, and the sleigh was ready to resume its journey as the clock struck midnight. It was Christmas! I invited Mr. Volare to join us for a warming beverage, but he demurred, saying he had additional tests to run before morning, and Miss Gray would be most displeased if he kept the reingles out too late. Roland climbed back down the ladder, and Mr. Volare made the craft ready to take off. “I’m sorry for being so grumpy earlier,” he said. “It’s the stress of the holidays, I suppose. Creatures that you designed and moved away come back to you, the laboratory is crowded, nerves are on edge. If I’m being honest with myself, the real reason I picked to night to test the sleigh was to get away from the young ones – the mutants and the clones – for a few hours.”

I nodded in understanding. He barked a command to the reingles, and the sleigh started to rise. After he fiddled with the controls, the turbine came to life, steam started pouring through the device, and he achieved more altitude and some forward momentum. He waved to us as the craft gained speed. I heard him exclaim, before he drove out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all! And good night!”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Steampunk Christmas, Part 2

Part 2: The Evil Tiny Kitty Who Stole Christmas

We went back inside, and set about preparing the house for dinner. With two sets of hands, the work went quickly, and we finished earlier than we had anticipated. “We have plenty of time before Roland arrives,” I said. “Shall we go sing some carols in Glengarry? Miss Poppy and Mr. Margulis have decorated for the holiday and invited everyone. We can just make it.”

The Poppy-Margulis estate had been thoroughly bedecked in Christmas finery. Various neighbors had created and donated ornaments, a crèche, several trees, and more, while the lady of the house applied her vast talents to the project as well. What resulted was a dazzling array of glitter and shine. The steam generator out back wheezed as it struggled to keep up with the demands for electricity placed on it.

Miss Poppy stood on a box that served as a dais. Several dozen neighbors formed an arc in the yard, looking up as she thanked everyone for coming. “Shall we start with ‘Santa Claus is Steaming to Town,’” she asked. We started the familiar tune a little raggedly, but soon our voices were as one as we sang, “You’d better watch out, you’d better be good, Santa is steaming into your neighborhood…”

Just then, an airship glided into sight and hovered above the estate, not fifty feet off the ground. Through a megaphone came a mad cackling, and a feline voice called out, “Attention, Caladumbians! Your silly traditions offend me! Watch the power of my new ray destroy your so-called Holy Day! (Ray gun available at all Evil Tiny Kitty locations for a surprisingly reasonable fee.)”

Our singing came to a stop as one person after another dropped out. Soon there was silence, which was broken by a high-pitched humming emanating from the airship. A red beam of light shot from the airship and rapidly diffused across the yard. We stood, amazed, as, one by one, the Christmas decorations started to levitate, then made their way to the airship. First to go were the lightest: the tinsel, the bows, the ornaments. Candy canes and poinsettias, wreaths and gift packages, Christmas lights – all drifted upward. Then the individual pieces of the crèche went airborne, followed by entire trees. Finally, not a single reminder of Christmas remained, while everything else on the property was untouched.

The stunned silence was broken by a single, plaintive voice. “Why?” it called. “Why, Miss Kitty Cat? Why have you taken our Christmas things?”

Dr. Malegatto Alter laughed evilly. “Why indeed, little girl? Perhaps it is because I don’t like your singing. Or perhaps it’s just because my top hat is one size too small.”

Kathy whispered to me, “That is some good science!” I nodded; one had to admire the doctor’s ingenuity in devising such a scheme.

I cannot imagine what Dr. Alter expected our reaction to be, but I scarce imagined what actually happened. Although those in attendance had lost all their material reminders of the season, and one might have expected spirits to be down, I heard a soft singing around me. One by one, people started in again on the song. As one person started, his neighbor joined in. Soon, everyone was singing carols at full voice. When the song ended, and silence was restored, Miss Poppy shouted toward the airship, “Take that, you evil feline! Christmas is not about presents and decorations, it is about celebrating a holy event throughout the community. You may take our material things, but you can never take away the spirit of Caledon!”

The airship began to rise. “Nice speech, lady,” Dr. Alter replied. “What, I’m supposed to be filled with the spirit of the season, return everything, and have a cup of cocoa and a slice of roast beast with everyone? I don’t think so. I’ll be seeing you, suckers!” And with that, the ship rose out of sight.

A Steampunk Christmas, Part 1

Just in time for Christmas, three heartwarming stories of one Christmas Eve in Caledon. Apologies in advance for trampling on timeless children's classics, and any avatars that are mentioned along the way. - RJ

Part 1: Frosty, The Steam Man

The day broke clear and cold. A fresh blanket of snow lay on the ground, covering the soot-covered walkways and streets, and making everything look new again. By the time Kathy found her way to my house to help me prepare for a Christmas Eve dinner, the sun was well up in the sky.

She greeted me as I opened the door, “Hello, sister. Did you know there was a metal man in your front yard?”

I looked beyond Kathy and, indeed, a brass man stood in my yard. The new snowfall had accumulated around his feet, and some remained on his shoulders and head. A small puff of steam would occasionally emanate from his head, which helped to melt any local accumulation. “Well, that’s something one doesn’t see every day,” I observed.

“What do you plan to do about it?”

“It’s not clear there is anything to do about it. I suppose some scientist misplaced his creation, and will eventually be by to collect it. In the meanwhile,…” I opened a closet door and found an old top had left behind by my absent-minded Uncle Roland. Throwing a cloak around my shoulders and pulling on a pair of wellies, I walked outside.

“Rhianon, what are you planning to do?”

“Until someone collects him, he can be our snowman. He just needs this top hat to make the look complete.”

I placed the hat on his head. Before my hand had completely left the hat, the smoke started coming out of the machine at a more rapid rate, and I heard gears start up. “Uh-oh,” Kathy said.

The eyes of the mechanical man opened. “Hello, madam. My sensors indicate that you are not my mistress. I am not programmed to obey your instructions. My previous programming overrides any new instructions. Destination: North Pole.” With that, he started walking at a measured pace. A few moments took him out of my yard, and a short time later he had vanished from my sight.

“I hope Roland wasn’t terribly attached to that hat.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jessie's Girl

Kathy was skimming through The Making of Second Life , by Wagner James Au, when she came across a chapter on the Jessie Wall. This was before our time, but we had read about the Outlands and the battles therein. Kathy decided to pay a visit to see how things were going today.

Sure, the sign said "Danger," but was there really any? The place was deserted! Only some builds hinted at the area's military past. The barbed wire fence and helicopter were nice touches, but "Phreak Radio"? That didn't sound very military.

The barracks and the old German car said something about the military-industrial complex, though no one is quite certain what.
And then there is this trash pile. A shameful commentary in these environmentally-sensitive times.
Then again, if this dance hall is anything to go by, the motto of the Outlands is now "Make Love, Not War":
On the other hand, perhaps there is still a little danger involved. This gentleman seemed to have had better days:
Y'all come back now, y'hear?
A sign in the region suggested that everyone had decamped for something called New Jessie, so Kathy headed there next, still looking for a man in a uniform.