Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blast, a Meme! (But an interesting one.)

I'm not a big fan of these meme things, but this one seemed interesting. Well, to me, at least. And I couldn't let HBA and Dio down!

1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

"A Caledon Christmas." Nothing like Mad Science and gunplay to get in the
holiday spirit! I'm sure I have my high school-era manuscripts around, but I'm
afraid to read them. I recall a novella involving two teenage detectives, a girl
and a boy - like a crossover episode of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, set in
suburbia. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

2. Write poetry?

Yes. Well, except that it always comes out as song lyrics. I hate lazy songwriters who view lyrics as an afterthought.

3. Angsty poetry?

Um. Guilty. At times.

4. Favorite genre of writing?

I've always loved mysteries, as they combine puzzle-solving with exploring the dark side of the human condition. Since I discovered Steampunk, I've been focusing on mysteries set in the Steamlands.

5. Most evil character you've ever created?

Rhianon's Uncle Eamon Malafleur (and his equally odious wife, Hippolita). They in the running for worst child rearers ever. Entirely fictional, fortunately.

6. Best plot you've ever created?

Probably "Smoking Can be Deadly", though I'm always fond of whatever I'm working on at the moment.

7. Coolest plot twist you've ever created?

Maybe the end of "Smoking." I know I didn't see that coming, even if everyone else did.

8. How often do you get writer's bloc?

All the time. Except that it's more like worker's block. Laziness sets in, and I find endless ways to waste time, like playing with new software to make writing more efficient. (Ha!)

9. Write fan fiction?

Nope. I can't remember the canon of anything well enough to try.

10. Do you type or write by hand?

Mostly type, though I'll outline or sketch out some scenes by hand. I love fountain pens and the way they glide across the page, but they're too slow and too messy for long writing sessions. My handwriting has always been lousy, and has deteriorated with age, also leading to the decision to head to the keyboard.

11. Do you save everything you write?

Yes. I secretly hope that some day someone will want all the crap for the Rhianon Jameson archives at a major university.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

Rarely. I edit as I go and hate going back to something.

13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

Hard to say. I'm happy with pieces of everything, and dissatisfied with the entirety of everything.

14. What's everyone else's favorite story you've written?

I dunno, you'll have to ask them. :)

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

Not really. My sense of the absurd usually kicks in and makes it funny. Well, funny to me, at least.

16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?

The Steamlands.

17. How many projects are you working on now?

Two or three. I'm bad at finishing.

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Back in high school. Even then, it surprised the heck out of me. I dragged my father to the opposite end of the state for a certificate.

19. What are your five favorite words?

Steamlands. Revolver. Airship. Indeed. Snuggle. (Alternatively: "Here's a royalty check, Rhianon.")

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?

Rhianon. Except for the outgoing, resourceful bit. Well, and the ability to fly an airship.

21. Where do you get your ideas from your characters?

Lord knows! Most are amalgamations of people I've met.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?

Rarely. It's hard to remember them. When I do, they usually make no sense.

23. Do you favor happy endings?

I suppose so. Bodies pile up, so any resolution can't be entirely happy, but the world tends to be set aright. As a reader, I'm drawn to endings where the resolution is achieved only through substantial sacrifice, so I try to incorporate some of that, but too much of my own writing is silly and plays up the absurd, so it's harder to do that.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Very much so, as I hate to go back and edit.

25. Does music help you write?

No. I need quiet. Music is what I turn to most often to procrastinate.

26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.

"I knew from the start this would end badly."

27. Now, who should I tag?

Emilly Orr and Magdalena Kamenev, who have alluded to fiction writing outside the Steamlands and SL. And the talented people who write for the Primgraph.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Virtual MacBeth

Having heard about the Virtual MacBeth experience from Mrs. Dio Kuhr, it sounded like a fun evening. Well, "fun" if you find the idea of getting into the head of fiction's most famous whipped husband.

The journey starts at the arrival grove with a notecard and an attachment. I'm not entirely sure what the attachment is supposed to do, but the notecard recommends wearing it the entire time. Your mileage may vary. From the starting point, one can choose different aspects of the character to explore.

The main space on the island is Macbeth's head, which contains a number of locations. The Throne Room is supposed to represent Macbeth's ego (in the Freudian sense, not the "Whoa, that guy has some inflated sense of self-importance" sense).

Symbolic or not, the room had an actual throne, so I sat in it. So there.

The Path of Temptation, with its reaching hands, symbolizes Macbeth's internal conflicts as Lady Macbeth pushes him toward claiming the throne.

The Chamber of Blood (isn't that a Harry Potter movie?) reflects Macbeth lost to his inner demons and lust for power. As he attempts to remove the obstacles in his way, his moral compass has disappeared. Within the chamber, the visitor whirls and strikes and stabs all the shadowy creatures, who disappear on contact.
Past the Path of Temptation is a huge raven, sitting atop a pile of bones and debris. As the visitor climbs aboard the raven...

...the bird takes flight to the next destination.

The Maze symbolizes Macbeth's confusion (and I'll confess I stole that from the writeup, as I never would have gotten that on my own), and ends with the visitor literally headless.

The wiki for the project has a great deal of useful information about the Second Life MacBeth experience, and I wish I had visited it before I went to the island. (But really guys, "Macbeth is the story of a serial killer"? Richard Speck is a serial killer. Macbeth is a Scottish noble with an overly ambitious wife. Killing more than one person doesn't make you a serial killer. Just sayin'.) For example, I didn't realize that the main area was supposed to look like Macbeth's head (so the visitor enters a representation of the character's head while figuratively getting inside his head). I never encountered the "Crossroads of Conflict" or the "Corridor of Enlightenment" that the wiki refers to.

There is a learning center/performance area above the sim with a stage that could allow for SL performances of the play, and a "What If?" Copse that is intended to have visitors think about the choices Macbeth made throughout the play and how the outcome might have been different had he chosen a different path.

The entire experience is interesting, and well worth the visit. It makes use of SL in an innovative way, and that's a good thing. Ultimately, I'm not sure it is a successful experiment: despite the helpful notecards and the wiki, too much is obscure for the casual visitor. Literary criticism is all well and good, but without having recent memory of the play (I've seen several performances, but all some years ago), and someone knowledgeable to help with the process, it's difficult for a visitor. Perhaps it's a better teaching tool when visited with an instructor, but is SL the right platform for that kind of instruction?

Lest I sound too negative, let me reiterate that it's a fascinating experience, and I wish more people would use SL in these kind of creative ways. Some experiments will be more successful than others, but hey, that's the nature of experimentation.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Syzygy in Winter

Mr. Elric Anatine kindly mentioned that Syzygy Selene, the area he shares with Miss Pipsqueak Fiddlesticks was ready for winter and invited guests to see for themselves how Mother Nature (and the residents) have decorated.

I found a helicopter - I recall thinking excitedly that Galileo turned out to be correct after all, that such a craft was possible! - and used it to tour the islands. Despite my unfamiliarity with the craft, it turned out to be surprisingly easy to pilot, and in no time at all I was swooping and darting my way through the air.

The unfortunate owner of this craft was not as lucky.

A home high in the skies:

Just one slice won't ruin my diet, will it?

An ancient lighthouse stands guard.

Mr. Anatine's house shimmers in the moonlight and snow.

In deference to the season, ice skating by the water is available. If one has a significant other, romantic nooks abound. Other residents have made their own contributions...just dress warmly!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Armada Breakaway Again

Having heard of changes to the floating city of Armada Breakaway, I took the Steamray out of storage and set out across the ocean in search of the flotilla. Before reaching the main group, I encountered Scar's Edge - a breakaway of a breakaway, of sorts. Scar's Edge is owned by a Captain Static, a piratess, by all appearances.

A barrage of small-arms fire convinced me this was not a place to seek information or hospitality, so I beat a hasty retreat into the airship and traveled to the main group of vessels.

The changes were indeed great. More of the area seems to be devoted to stores (and thus less to RP areas) than before.

Below, an amusement park.

The photograph of the oil refinery is for Rhianon. *winks*

The lighthouse is a thoughtful touch, though any invading ships are more likely to suffer from cannon fire than running aground on a reef.

This gent has been at the helm a long time.

Fortunately, the new Armada Breakaway has a bar, just as the old one did. And so this tale ends the way all good ones do: with a beverage in hand.

(Disclaimer: this Journal does not endorse drinking and flying. Please obey all local laws regarding intoxication and operation of vehicles. Your mileage may vary. Disclaimer does not include taxes, tags, or delivery. Offer not valid in some states.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rendervisions Isle - Whimsy and an Airship Tour

Rendervisions Isle is a delightful combination of shops and sheery whimsy. While I enjoy shopping, the mall concept is tedious in both lives. Merchants in the Steamlands generally seem to understand this, and place shops within a historical context (or a quasi-historical context, in the case of Steampunk-themed lands) that provide entertainment while the merchants separate the shopper from her Lindens. Elsewhere, the combined experience seems less common.

The good folk in Rendervisions Isle even provide an airship tour, courtesy of the airship Bein Hiril. I waited until the appointed time and hopped in.

The tour runs about 15 minutes, and criss-crosses the entire sim. Once safely on the ground (or, rather, on the airship dock), the shops are worth a closer look. For example, the wonderful Curio Obscura:

If walking is not compatible with one's wardrobe, take the open-air cab ride. (Don't get too near the driver, as he pecks.)

Cross the covered bridge... the Builders Brewery...

...and to Londinium Gearworks.

As these shops indicate, a Steampunk theme runs through many of the shops. Beyond these, there is Heron Curiosities, FroZone Creations, and an artists' community, the Art Door.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Elven Lands

In a nice discussion some weeks before, Miss Elspeth Westminster suggested I visit her home of Elven Glen and related lands, stretching across a half-dozen or more sims. Below, the Castle:

The elves have their own, unique architecture:

Other areas are simply lovely:

Elves must be related to gypsies, it would seem:

Fortunately, they know how to put down a few beverages. I did my share.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas...

...or the nondenominational, politically correct seasonal greeting of your choice. May the Winter Solstice Deity provide much joy in the coming months.

Enjoy the day surrounded by your family (Steamland or, if you must, real).

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to see what Steam Santa has left under the tree and to have a glass of eggnog!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Skating in a Flying Snow Globe

Dr. Garth Goode kindly opened a skating rink above his property in Caldon Moors, and even offered a free pair of ice skates. I couldn't resist, so...

Above, the rink's mascot. Below, skating.

Yes indeed, Dr. Goode promised ice skates, and he delivered skates. Made of ice.

They work surprisingly well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Caledon Christmas

[Just in time for Christmas, a heartwarming story of a town that comes together in the true spirit of the holiday...oh, heck, who am I kidding. It's just the kind of thing that happens in a Steampunk Victorian community. - RJ]

I knew from the start this would end badly.

One December day, Dr. Tesla Steampunk announced that, to express his gratitude toward his new country and the famous tolerance of her people, he would host Christmas dinner at his laboratory high above Windemere. Kathy Jameson, my sister and partner in crime, looked at me with an expression of deep unease. We were the scientist’s closest acquaintances in Caledon, and could see no way out of attending.

Much to our surprise, a fair number of our neighbors accepted the invitation. Many were in the military – Commodore O’Toole of the Fleet of Wrath Exiles; Colonel Creeggan; Lord Middlesea; and Lord Primbroke; among others – and perhaps the often-lonely life of the military officer engendered some sympathy for Dr. Steampunk. Others came, no doubt, to satisfy their curiosity about the reclusive Tesla Steampunk. Still others were powerless to decline a free meal. In all, we expected close to 50 guests.

Kathy and I arrived early to help transform the lab into something fit for human habitation. We unloaded several tablecloths and an arsenal of flatware and glasses. As Tesla opened the door to our knock, I was dismayed at the line of glass tanks, each holding what appeared to be a human brain, bobbing gently in a pool of green fluid.

“Tesla, what were you thinking? We can’t serve Christmas dinner surrounded by brains!” Kathy shook her head in disbelief.

“Blast it all, I completely forgot about that experiment! Ah well, I shall use one of these tablecloths as a curtain and no one will be the wiser.”

“Do not cut into one of Grandmother Jameson’s antique lace tablecloths, sir, or we will have words.”

Meanwhile, I was more interested in the dozen large birds clucking noisily at the other end of the laboratory. “Um, Tesla, these turkeys are still alive.”

He turned and watched one of the birds try to peck out the eyes of a second. “Quite so. Everyone likes their meat fresh, do they not?”

“Yes, but…Do you know how long it takes to prepare a turkey? You have to kill it, drain it, de-feather it, cut off the head and feet, and cook it for hours. Multiply that by twelve. Your guests are arriving in a few hours, and our dinner is still on claw.”

“Aha! That is where my genius plays its role.” Tesla swept his arm at the wall behind him to indicate a row of silver covered platters, each with a number of electrical wires extending from the platter, running the length of the room, and attached to a medium-sized generator in the corner. I felt a chill sweep through me. “You see, my dear Rhianon, I merely dispatch each turkey, place it on the platter, and throw the switch. Electrical current will instantaneously cook the creature to the perfect temperature. One merely need cut into the turkey and carve the moist, succulent meat. Et voila!”

Kathy piped up. “What a terrible idea! This will be a disaster.” She looked at me. “Rhianon, tell him. He can’t go through with this.”

I tried, but it was no use trying to persuade a scientist that his experiment would go horribly awry. The scientific method demanded that he find out himself, even if common sense would have suggested working this out before four dozen guests arrived. I shrugged, and said, “As the Babbagers would say, what could possibly go wrong?”

“Would you be a dear and kill and drain the turkeys for me?” he requested. I had not dressed for blood spatter, and was about to object, when Mary, Tesla’s all-purpose servant, muttered a disapproving agreement. She grabbed the nearest bird and went to work.

The guests arrived a short time later. Most were happy to accept a drink and engage in small talk before dinner, but some, concerned about the lack of aroma of cooking turkey, pointedly sniffed the air. Tesla refused to comment, not wanting to spoil his surprise.

We were seated for dinner, and the serving trays covered the raw turkeys. Tesla entered and, with a dramatic motion, pressed the lever to the “On” position. The lights dimmed, and the crackle and hum of electricity was clearly audible. Several guests gasped. Tesla switched off the generator. As the sound of the generator and the electric current died away, I could hear a faint noise. Was that clucking? He walked to the nearest platter and, with a flick of the wrist, raised the lid.

A featherless, headless turkey tentatively raised one leg, then the next. It hopped off the platter and onto the floor with an emphatic gobble! As the guests looked on, dumfounded. Tesla looked confused, and revealed the next platter, only to have the same thing happen. Again and again, turkeys took to the floor and began making whatever sounds they could, given the distinct lack of a larynx.

“Tesla,” Kathy said, “do those look a bit underdone to you?”

Tesla stood, puzzling over the problem while the birds wandered aimlessly about the laboratory-cum-dining room. “Oh, blast! I know –”

But we were not to know what Tesla knew, for at the word “blast” at least a dozen armed Caledonians took that as a signal to help out their host, and drew their weapons and began firing. For a moment, the sound of weapons discharging deafened me. The smell of gunpowder overwhelmed the aromas of Christmas dinner.

Just as suddenly as it began, it was over. Guns were holstered, the reanimated turkeys were once again dispatched to the fowl world beyond, and guests stood, generally looking a little embarrassed. Miraculously, no one was hit by a stray bullet, though Tesla’s lab was pockmarked with holes, glasses were overturned, staining the antique tablecloths, and several odiferous liquids oozed out of shattered beakers to the floor.

“Good show!” Tesla said, looking at the destruction about him. “I can’t imagine what…oh, goodness, the brains.” I looked at him quizzically. He gestured toward the set of tanks, many of which were now destroyed. “One of the wires must have strayed into this area, and conducted the current from the brains to the turkeys. Not exactly what I had in mind though, to be sure, an interesting result.” He jotted some notes on his shirt cuffs.

The episode eliminated the meat from our main course, but enough wine, brandy, port, sherry, whisky, and absinthe allowed the guests to forget the ghastly sight and enjoy the remainder of the meal. As the last guest teetered out the door and staggered back home, Tesla waved and said, “Merry Christmas!”

Kathy and I looked at the stained, spattered, bullet-ridden, and turkey-infested laboratory and the remnants of dinner and decided that the entire mess could wait until tomorrow. Perhaps we would be lucky and fire would strike during the night.

“Ah, Caledon!” said Tesla. “What a wonderful place! Such wonderful people, and so polite! Not a single one mentioned that one little snag in the evening, or suggested they would be calling the law upon me. I do like it here.”

Kathy looked at him incredulously, but finally saw the humor in the situation. “We are indeed blessed.”

[Edit 12/29/09: The tale is now available as a downloadable .pdf file at Calameo .]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bay City, Day 4 - Back to Ahern

One day, many years ago (or so it feels), a refugee from the northern land of New Alba landed upon the continent in the land known as Second Life, in the Ahern/Bonifacio/Dore/Morris Welcome Area. Caledon was as yet unknown - that would come later - so she wandered the nearby lands, learning about the arcane ways of this place.

Seeing that Ahern was nearby Nova Albion - itself a cruel reminder of that lost country of her youth - she extended her journey just a little farther, to check against her imperfect memory what has remained the same and what has changed in the intervening years. This is a nostalgia trip...

In Bonifacio, the Venice vegetable stand provided fine-looking produce...but was otherwise in the middle of nothing.

One thing that had not changed were the Orientation Stations done in oriental style...a counterpart to Oxbridge's occidental architecture serving much the same purpose. Except: Oxbridge is always staffed by courteous, helpful faculty, whereas this was empty.

The Ahern Welcome Area was the same as it ever was - and as full as it ever was.

Much of the surrounding area was barren. The Gibson sim remained, though was a shadow of its former self. The Darkwood medieval towers appeared similar to what I recalled; a note said this was an attempt to return the area to what it used to be.

Lusk was still furry-friendly. The enormous tree that I vaguedly recalled was decked out for Christmas, while furries danced below.

Traveling past Lusk and several intervening areas, I last stopped in Jessie, the famed combat area. It is still a damage-enabled area, very oddly terraformed: impassibly high mountains drop off with a 100 meter or more fall. Little seemed to be going on there at the time. Although I was armed, I was a little nervous, so I did not spend much time there. Reaching an air terminal, I purchased passage back to Caledon.

In some regards, this was a good trip, as it reminded me why I spend most of my time in the Steamlands. Though there were points of interest, the area had no unifying theme or architecture, and few people outside the infohubs. I was glad to be home.

Monday, December 21, 2009

OOC - White #*(%@! Christmas

Living in the suburbs leaves one dependent on roads, which in turn requires tarmac to be visible, all the way along one's route. A sad but true fact.

One of the advantages to living in the mid-Atlantic states is that really horrible weather is fairly rare, particularly in December. "Fairly rare," however, does not mean "nonexistent." The odds caught up to us this past weekend, when anywhere between 17 and 22 inches of snow fell over a 24-hour period. The temperatures will stay in the 30s during the day and the 20s at night, so this monster of a snowfall will be with us for quite some time.

In between the shoveling, I took some pictures:

There's an adage that goes something like "Many hands make for a light heart." That's a crock, I tell you. (Still, the neighbors were great.)

C'mon, sun!

My hero! The plow guy!

In 2003, Presidents' Day weekend gave us a stinker of a storm, as did January 1996. I propose that the next decade offer no more than a few inches of snow at a time. Please?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bay City, Day 3 - Into Nova Albion

I had wanted to attend the Oxbridge Christmas ball I crossed into Miramare, and headed toward the Nova Albion infohub. For the most part, my route had been sparsely populated, save at the infohubs. This was no exception. I moved in to see who might be exchanging ideas when I came upon this scene. As I have a philosophical objection to people who ride pot-smoking creatures, I avoided them.

Instead of good old-fashioned steam, these people seem to burn oil for fuel. That can't end well. Below, the Second Life Oil & Petroleum Co., for SLOPCO.

For a completely different style of power, how about a windmill? It was like seeing a little piece of Holland dropped into the city. Built by Mrs. Pituca FairChang (with a remarkable 5/17/03 rez date), it's a little haven of the old-fashioned among the modern.

The architecture of the era was not soothing. Some pieces were quite creative, while others made me fear for the future.

Spelling aside, the Armord store was impressive in its own way, though not so aesthetically pleasing. And wait - is that a panda climbing up the tower to the right? By Jove, I think it is!

The nostalgic part of the journey comes in the next and final installment, as I travel through the Ahern infohub.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bay City, Day Two

I wandered through Bay City, looking at sights that seemed interesting rather than try to cover every square foot. One spot that looked worth a visit was the Channel Island Mental Hospital. The sign said "No trespassing, restricted area, violators subject to arrest." That clearly did not mean me. I went over the fence.

The asylum interior was a grim and bloody place. Rats scurried everywhere. Copious amounts of blood stained various walls and floors. (And think, this was done by Lindens.)

(And wow, had I known about this earlier, it would have been the asylum setting in "Timestream.")

On a cheerier note, Zia and Chev's Garden was a lovely spot, decked out for Christmas but, to all appearances, a place to sit and contemplate...well, whatever one contemplates during a warmer season.

I made a short detour to the nearby Moose Beach Infohub. It was the usual motley collection of elderly characters who had nothing better to do than hang out in an infohub. "Move along, folks!"

Inner Harbor seemed to be the industrial center of Bay City, with its power plant, warehouses, and wharves for seagoing commerce. And lots of barbed-wire fence.

Now here's an interesting spot. A bowling alley-cum-black power/anarchist hangout. How 1970s.

I met few people, though the ones I saw seemed interesting enough, such as Miss maaa Moomintoog, the chain-smoking, fedora-wearing Japanese woman who was contemplating the asylum sign as I made my escape. At least everyone was wearing clothes today.

On to Nova Albion!