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Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Island Open Mic


By Grease Coakes

Selina Greene is a busy lady as she owns Book Island the sim that's all about reading and writing and promoting aspiring authors. Wanting to change avatars I come on to Second Life after getting home from a hard day of real life work.

A short time later I see a notice for Selina Green's Open Mic at Book Island at Book Island (42/48/25). I say what the hey, if i'm online anyway I can go check it out.

I warp into the Book Island library and there's a large group of avatars there already at 1pm SLT. Selina mentioned earlier that she does hold Open Mic every Sunday at 1pm SLT. She says hello Grease glad to see you come over voice with her smoky british accent. By habit I respond to her over voice when she's done speaking. She asks me politely in IM to use chat instead of voice.

Now I know so for the rest of the event I chat only except when I read my own writing then I was allowed to use voice. Several avatars took advantage of Open Mic wanting to read his or her story. Klannex Northmead went first reading his own writing with a voice Selina seemed to like. His poem was about the spring.

I was next as I took a sample from one of my stories that I wrote for one Rio The Otter. I announced in main chat that I was bought by him at a tail sale. Selina asked what a tail sale was intrigued never hearing the term before. I told Selina, "Yup I was auctioned off so he bid the highest for me. Here's part of what I wrote for Rio."

Rio walked to the end of line which in his good fortune wasn’t very long. Despite the short line a red dragon tried to fly to the front. A pink griffin male fearlessly put his hand up to block the line cutter. He wore a black Club Zero shirt with baggy black jeans but they were well buckled to his waist. 

“Just because you can breathe fire doesn’t mean you’re getting in quicker than anyone else,” the pink griffin spoke with authority, and his eyes could cut through stone the way he glared at the seven foot dragon. The griffin was tall and he had a large frame, but the dragon towered over him. The Dragon tried to fly above the griffin but he merely flew up with him and blocked him again. Everyone in the line gasped.

“He’s a perfect hybrid!”

“He’s muscled and he can fly!”

“They are one in 100,000 or so!”

I stopped reading after a while keeping in mind that Selina gives everyone a time limit making sure everyone gets their fair share of reading time. Leslye read poetry about clementines about their taste. Selina herself read a sample of her story about a collar around someone's neck.

Bhelanna Blaze AKA Bhelanna Resident read a poem named stew which her mother loved. It talked about her stew reciepe was passed down from generation to generation with various herbs and spices put into the stew. She was very sad that her mother passed away due to cancer back in May. She braved on despite her real life loss and read another poem later related to porches and homes.

Klannex Northmead read another poem about god and ego. Another reader James MacCloude read part of a story that sounded something Stephen King would write. Everyone's cellphones were dying as if something really scary was going to happen in his story.

At the end of the event there was a drawing for 300L just for showing up. Sisterbutta resident won the 300L as Selina announced a summer soltice event for the following weekend. Looking over the notecard I saw events like boat rides and tarot readings for both days Saturday and Sunday.

Like the SL Newser celebrating four years Book island is holding on strong always having events to draw in readers and writers to particpate and have fun. If you have a story or poem that you would like to share stop on by at 1pm SLT every sunday for Open Mic.Even if you don't wish to read your own literary work you can ask someone else to read for you. On top of that you could make new friends sharing in your writing and reading interests. And everyone could always use new friends.











Friday, June 20, 2014

Interview with Fantasy Author Amehana Ishtari About "Castle and Wells Selkie Skins"


By Grease Coakes

On my seventh Second Life birthday I wasn't completely lazy I talked to a friend of mine Amehana Ishtari and asked to meet with her and ask her about her new book, "Castle and Wells Selkie Skins: Volume 1." The next day I met with Amehana the pony at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Nisa/38/225/29. From what I saw the previous night it was an action packed pony party. I met her at a little before 8AM SLT, and here's what she had to say. Her new book involves a girl named Kristy who uses paste to change into a seal. She hasn't earned her seal quite yet however.

 Grease Coakes, "What you told me before that your character came about from roleplaying with Vadise, how did that work out?"

Amehana Ishtari, "The roleplay? That's still ongoing. We are working on wrapping up their last year of school and getting them set to begin further training for their future occupations. Or are you referring to Raikou and my RPs for Nisa?"

Grease Coakes, "I'm not sure. You have lots of Roleplays I just roleplayed with you the one time with my dragon Bubbles. So your roleplay with Vadise Reikaz is a continuation of what's going in the book with the various characters in a way?"

Amehana Ishtari, "Yes. The book actually resulted because of wanting to tell him the full story of how Kristy got her sealskin and full selkiehood. Her biggest part of that quest happened over the summer without David. That part of her quest is in the second book of the Selkies' series, which is the manuscript I'm working on now."

Grease Coakes, "It's kind of how characters write themselves and grow a life of their own, and they just aren't words on a page."

Amehana Ishtari, "Yes. The story was supposed to be one small book, but it grew."

Grease Coakes, "But it turned out to be something much larger? I guess so if a second book is in the works."

Amehana Ishtari, "After she earns her skin in this next book, the book after that I expect to cover David's contribution to solving her family's problems. I have had some comments about werewolves being over the top, but there is a reason that Mara is intrigued by Herne and his Hounds, a particular type of werewolf."

Grease Coakes, "Werewolves can never be over the top. They are tortured souls not able to live a normal life. They must not like full moons. When I’m reading the book, I get a feel of Harry Potter is that what you're intending? Not that it's a bad thing a world of magic is a popular genre to read for most people."

Amehana Ishtari, "It is a bit Harry Potter, and our RP is a lot more Potter than what I write for the book. I had wanted to do a story about magic schools before Rowling did hers, but I was working on Dragon Shaman. I'd intended that to tie into magic schools anyway. There is a third series that will also tie in with Dragon Shaman and Selkies' Skins, that I actually started work on in the 90's, that lead to both of these. But I'm not ready to show Flightesa and Angelina yet."

Grease Coakes, "That's right you did write a different books series what can tell the SL Newser's readers about your dragon shaman series? The first in the series is sitting on my desk, "Book One Taming the Blowing wind." That sounds enticing, mixing your Selkie skins characters in with Blowing wind and Ryu."

Amehana Ishtari, "I'm working on the third book in that series. My plan is to go between that and Selkies so that I'm not letting one stagnate. The next book in the Dragon Shaman series introduces Jewel O'Drake, BlowingWind's cousin, and Huetziatl, a South American dragon of the coatl persuasion. Jewel is an archaeologist, and like most O'Drakes avoided going to magical schooling."

Grease Coakes, "Oh? I would think a magic school would be fun to go to. Yeah going to a magic school,sounds better than being lost in pyramid. But characters don't always make good decisions."

Amehana Ishtari, "She might have benefited from going though considering getting lost in a pyramid ...
With shifting creatures!" (big grin)

Grease Coakes, "Shifting creatures? you mean like shapeshifters that turn into werewolves?"

Amehana Ishtari, "No. Jewel will be meeting snakes, the coatl, jaguars, bats... jungle creatures."

Grease Coakes, "Oooo snakes and jaguars, sounds dangerous."

Amehana Ishtari, "Much more Meso-American."

Grease Coakes, "Ahhh neat."

Amehana Arashi, "The O'Drakes started avoiding the schools way back in the past because of the disdain prevalent in the magically endowed community that cropped up so often. The O'Drakes are bound to Brigit in the way the Makay's are bound to Mara and the Lady."

Grease Coakes, "They are magically bound to serve their gods? Gotcha."

Amehana Ishtari, "They are, and Jewel will learn the reason that the 'young' river god destroyed his people and got sealed into his pyramid."

Grease Coakes, "Ohhh sounds interesting so she might awaken a Pandora’s box?"

Amehana Ishtari, *nods* "She might. The meeting between the two is being orchestrated by the family's curse, the same as BlowingWind and Ryu's was."

Grease Coakes, "Lots of curses. Sounds like quite a challenge, your characters don't have it easy, hahaha."

Amehana Ishtari, "Between the two sides the cruse might manage to be broken, or it might not. But there is also trouble that they aren't aware of that is pointed at in Kristy's tale. ... No, they don't. I have been beaten up a few times in meta writing. When I do that trying to figure out how to unblock myself when my characters get obstinate."

Grease Coakes, "Oooo, so the two curses are connected by what Kristy is going through in your newest book Castle and Wells Selkie Skins."

Amehana Ishtari, "There's only one curse, on the O'Drake line. Remember, Marie, the mother, was an O'Drake."

Grease Coakes, "And the O Drakes are from South America right? That's right. So the curse of the O Drakes goes to Kristy her daughter?"

Amehana Ishtari, "No. The O'Drakes are from Ireland, like Kristy. At one time before the clan moved to Draganpairc Brigid's forge was walking distance from the remains of the Makay village. Jewel is in South America because she became an archaeologist and was always fascinated by Meso-American cultures. Kristy has a different geas on her. Though I suppose that yes, maybe there are two curses if you count the one that the Lilitu family put on the Makays many generations before Kristy's birth."

Grease Coakes, "So Jewel is going on an Indiana Jones kind of adventure. Instead of going to a magic school."

Amehana Ishtari, "Well, there is magic involved in Jewel's adventure, so maybe a combination of Jones in some fashions with magic. She's not trained though. But, she is ripe for a coatl to take as a priestess, like what Ryu is doing with Wind. I don't expect Jewel to be too thrilled."

Grease Coakes, "But Wind is being very stubborn with Ryu. Even when Ryu cares deeply for Wind, she's not giving him any ground romantically. And he does go out of his way for her."

The Dragon Shaman series characters are Blowing Wind and Ryu. Blowing Wind is a spiritual woman and Ryu is the dragon who loves and cares for her.

Amehana Ishtari, *chuckles* "There will be reason for that to change. BlowingWind won't remain locked up and grieving inside forever."

Grease Coakes, "That's good. So is it true then for your newest book Selkie Skins that to have it published on Amazon, you had to have a kickstarter campaign? Why not tell me about that? The Veronica Mars movie was funded the same way."

For readers who may not know, kickstarter is a website for people to contribute to for something they greatly believe in.

Amehana Ishtari, "I still have to send out the larger rewards for that kickstarter. I intend to get those sent out later today in fact. I was introduced to using kickstarter when I saw M.C.A. Hogarth, who I greatly respect the work of, having success with it. A kickstarter is a lot of work though. You have to decide what rewards you can afford to give, set a goal that will cover your needs...then the hardest part is getting backers. I didn't get many backers, but I got enough pledges to cover the editing costs. Even enough to pay the cover artist, who is my niece."

Grease Coakes, "So it was a few large pledges to cover your editing and artwork costs. Your niece did a great job with the cover the artwork is very pretty."

Amehana Ishtari, "She will actually be releasing a comic/manga fairly soon."

Grease Coakes, "Oh? what will her comic Manga be about?"

Amehana Ishtari, "Pirates."

Grease Coakes, "That sounds fun."

Amehana Ishtari, "http://clockwork-labyrinth.deviantart.com/ This is her deviant art actually. She does a wide range. Not all her work is there though."

Looking at her deviant art page the artwork looks really good.

Amehana Ishtari, "Yes, a few large pledges to cover paying the editor. I may run another Kickstarter later to help with the other projects. It is a lot of advertising though to get the word out."

Grease Coakes, "I'm sure you can pull through and when the same people who kickstarted you before when they see your first Selkie Skins book complete they would want to kickstart you again and perhaps you can also gain new fans with your writing."

Amehana Ishtari, "I had a few setbacks while working on it, and shortly after publishing which has delayed getting things shipped out. Personal issues."

Grease Coakes, "Apparently those setbacks didn't hold you back as my copy of Selkie Skins Castle and Wells is on my bookcase. Is there anything else you want to add about Selkie Skins Castle and Wells? It seems like (a) Harry Potter kind of world and the main character is torn between many responsibilities, oh and she lost her voice. And she's also a shapeshifter who changes into a seal when she touches water."

Amehana corrected me and said, "Not when she touches water. She has to take a paste to make the change, until she earns her skin. Then she will have to wear her skin. Touching water is too easy and would reveal her far too quickly." (big grin)

Grease Coakes, "Gotcha so she hasn't earned it quite yet. Oh yeah if she took a shower or bath she'd instantly turn into a seal and someone walks in on her or swims with her."

Amehana Ishtari, "I do have to add that there are three genders of dieties in the book."

Grease Coakes, "Oh right I remember that the moon is a shi, so it's just not men and women dieties."

Amehana Ishtari, "Mara and the Lady for example are female and denoted with the usual labels. Herne is very very male. The Moon though... he/she gets shi and hir when written about. Yes. I've had a few people think that those were typos. They aren't. Morgan Freepony (AKA Illya Leonov) is also narrating the audiobook version. He just recently sent me chapter 29, so there isn't much more to go before he finishes. And he sounds AMAZING!"

Grease Coakes, "Ahhh so the audio book is in the works.You mentioned there might be a release party when the audio book comes out."

Amehana Ishtari, "I do want a party when it's released, yes (and a serving of plum sake or raspberry wine I think would be in order too). Illya only records in the mornings, and his work has been keeping him pretty busy, so I don't know when he'll be finished so that picking a date can be done. I can say though that when he finishes this book, he wants to voice the Dragon Shaman books."

Grease Coakes, "Oh that sounds pretty cool so he wants to keep doing voice work for you. ... rumors mention that Grease Coakes may be the DJ for that part- do you deny or confirm these rumors?" (big grin)

Amehana Ishtari, "Oh yes, I intend to have Grease DJ for the party, of course. He DJ'd for the Dragon Shaman release you know. That would be greatly appreciated, you know with how many balls I've got in the air sometimes I have a hard time communicating or remembering to say 'hey! Guess what?' You should go to the Trotsdale library and hear his stories. Generally they get played Thursdays at 7PM SLT, so long as someone can stream them. The LM to the trotsdale library is here," http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Trotsdale%20Heights/185/63/29 

Grease Coakes, "If someone wanted to buy a copy of your books Selkie Skins or the Dragon Shaman Books where would he or she go to order the books?"

Amehana Ishtari, "Amazon is where they can be ordered in all formats. Smashwords has them in several ebook formats. Or they can go to the publishing website and send an order request using the contact info there, www.thgstardragon.com ."

Grease Coakes: Btw you look more like a diva today, not pimped out.

Amehana Ishtari: Thank you (laughs out loud).

The previous day when I turned 7 I had mistakenly called Amehana pimped out.

If any readers have any questions Amehana's twitter account is @AmehanaArashi and they could also go to her facebook page as well.

Amehana Arashi, "Ah. 'A World of Verse" not poetry. I've not finished my first cup of coffee yet (laughing out loud)  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ASMSG Right here."

Grease Coakes,"Lawl ^-^ Haha I feel that way at work I get free coffee at work so I milk that instead of soda."

Amehana is a busy lady in Second Life and an even busier writer. Look for her books under her real life name Teresa Garcia. All her books are good as she's also an excellent poet as I have heard her audio book “Call of the Kami” As I won through one of her contests.

She also does Tarot readings as I mentioned in an earlier article:  http://slnewserextra.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-tarot-reader-in-second-life.html. Please keep in mind however that Amehana is a busy woman and that her readings are by appointment only. She does excellent readings though.

If you get the chance and if you're looking for something fresh to read check out one of her books.





http://www.amazon.com/Call-Kami-Teresa-Garcia/dp/1480131814

Grease Coakes

Monday, June 16, 2014

Interview With Australia Sim Owner Whelan Ferraris


Last month on May 25th, it was announced that the Australia sim would be closing. The decision was made by its owner, Whelan Ferraris. When I dropped by the sim that day, he was there and greeted me with a polite, "G'day." Asking him about the sim closing, he explained money was part of the reason, having spent 12,000 Australian dollars. He handed me a copy of the statement he made for the sim's group.

 Well folks, I hope you have enjoyed the little that we've been able to offer at Dingo Bay, it has been a pleasure to put it all together and make a little slice of 'Australian' fun available for friends to meet and relax. You may or may not be aware that another six Australian or Aus-related sims have ceased in the last month. Sadly, we must follow that path. Gem and I have enjoyed seven years in SL and the last couple of years have been part of a dream to keep Australian presence in SecondLife. We have viewed this sim set as an iconic representation of real life Australia and have continued to extend an ambassadorial face to the rest of the world. Unfortunately the private purse is now empty and our desire to have these sims at least meet us halfway has not come through. After tonight, Australia and Dingo Bay will dissolve. Gem, Whelan and Raven extend our wishes of continued health and good humour to yourselves, friends and family.

He explained to me he was presently busy explaining the bad news to people, and would be available later for an interview. So later on, we met again. This time, the once filled sim was now close to empty, with Whelan sitting on a chair on a beach. "Still taking down things?" I asked him. "All done," he answered, "its pretty desolate with exception of couple of locals putting structures up. I'll need to revoke rights soon and clear it up." He then expressed his willingness to talk more, and passed me a chair.

"Did you know I also ran a newspaper?" Whelan asked me. I told him I hadn't, and he went on, saying it was an Australian-centered Second Life publication, and passed me a copy, "Was in its sixth year this year, unfortunately several of my advertisers went down too, otherwise would have a new issue right now. I'm an old hand at this, in real-life I had my own urban/rural weekly for 17 years on the fringe of Melbourne in Victoria." "Sounds like you have quite a bit of experience with print media," I told him, "what did these two papers generally cover?" "Fairly typical of most suburban or small community weeklies, faces and places, local government activity, local sporting etc etc. I am a printer by trade with extensive experience in advanced print technology (although that aspect has changed so much) and several years in management of all areas of print and publishing. I sold out back about 1999 then went back to the trade operating and supervising a small factory near where I live. (I) Retired about 18 months ago."

"How did you find out about Second Life?" I asked.

Whelan answered, "My internet service provider was BigPond, a trading name of Australia's major telcom, Telstra. They were advertising low cost entry into this SecondLife realm and that caught my interest. Like many other Australians at the time we took the bait and arrived by the truckload! (laughing out loud)"

"Heh heh, how did your first days go?" I asked.

Whelan Ferraris told me, "I was like a kid in a candy shop. Like everybody else, had to try everything. Of course most of us reverted to our teen years and performed as though we were bullet proof. Its been a fascinating trip, so much one can learn and if keen enough can keep on learning in Second Life. Of course, like everyone else, went through a period of maturing. We wre pretty brash and got away with so many things one would not consider in real life. But I guess the same applies now too, Most of we older SLers frown on the antics of the newbies."

"When did you first hear about this sim?" I asked.

Whelan answered, "It came to my notice just a couple of months before 'The Pond' went down. The Pond was the simset established by Telstra's BigPond I mentioned before and was the gateway through which many of us early arrivals entered. I arrived March 2007, The Pond was abandoned by BigPond in November 2009. So I came to Australia and built a large house on one of the three sims that comprised the set, Top End."

"There were three here then?" I asked

Whelan nodded, "I shifted around a bit after that, had probably four or five other locations before returning to Australia for good. I leased the Top Dingo sim and shifted it from the Eastern to West side of Australia and renamed it Dingo Bay. Was about 12 months later I bought Australia from Pants and Mahala. So its about 3 years now since I came back here permanently."

"Where they having trouble keeping it up?" I asked.

Whelan Ferraris answered, "Pants and Mahala were very attached to their 'baby' so to speak, but their creative talents won them a lot of sim development work, particularly for tertiary educators. This took them away from the sims quite a lot but it was a need they had to fulfill after all, this was earning more reward than the sims."
 
"Were there many changes here after you began running the sims?" I asked him.

"Considerable change," Whelan answered, "I went about systematically replacing many of the old 10m x 10m prims and reducing prim count thus enabling me to become very familiar with the layout and everwatchfull for ways to 'value add'. in the long run I had doubled the commercial floor space and added more small features as one would expect a developing city to go. The Opera House became more effective as a potential entertainment centre. In the Northern end I developed a large auditorium capable of seating 200 avs."

"What was it's biggest event?" I asked.

"It never really got to do anything," Whelan explained, "we had appointed Sammy (Fairlady) Diaggio as our Entertainment Manager and she had her plans for bringing us up to disco style entertainment six days a week and a monthly live event in the town square or up on the Uluru platform. The largest events brought in consistent 40 to 60 avs through the duration of performance. We just fell victim to diminishing crowds and also ran out of time and money. Didn't get a chance to use all the development."

"What were some of the more memorable events here?" I asked him.

"Australia Day was good," Whelan answered, "couple of charity events, always when live entertainment was in the offing, we could attract fair crowds. We were getting used to all the small detail one had to attend to, we still had a little to learn but we could see the possibilities. Better operators than us have gone down so not too ashamed of our efforts."

I then asked, "What was the most hilarious thing that happened here, either deliberate or accidental?"

Whelan chuckled, "Crikey! There are many! One never tires of the spontaneous mirth emitting from many of the regulars. Some have been critical of the ribaldry to be found in much of the Aussie humour but thats all part of the atmosphere. One can get a bit too tight over people being coarse in conversation but really, what does it matter when it brings a good belly chuckle?"

"Heh, true."

"I get a bit cranky when some of the guys are making over the top sexual remarks or derogatory comments to the girls, there's no need for that! We are all made equal and when a guy believes his appendage proves him superior, I have a tendency to reach for the ban/eject button. I have banned a few, but it has been following a warning generally. However, if somebody was blatantly disgusting or abusive, there was little or no warning, I believe there is give and take but if you cannot act decently among others you are anti-social, thats psychotic behaviour in my book for we are social animals in the highest order."

My next question, "About the sim closing, was there anyone coming forward to keep them going?"

Whelan had this answer, "I didn't give too much warning, I think I had proven beyond doubt the current climate is impractical to run sims of that nature on a small loss or break-even basis. I also didn't want Aussies who had already gone through a doubtful period before I took over to be placed in that situation again whilst I was paying for it. I could not afford the time.  It was a strictly commercial decision and such decisions are acted without fear or favour."

"Mind you though, I'm bleeding over it now after making so many good friends and putting so much work into the sims, I really enjoyed it."

"Yes," I told him, "I've seen people talking about the sim, pictures on Facebook, there was even a video of the sim that was done as a tribute."

Whelan rsponded, "Yes, a nice bit of footage by a well known Aussie Mudslinger Ning, that guy had his heart in Australia too!"

"So you feel the sim will live on in peoples' memories for years to come?" I asked.

Whelan answered, "Yes, particularly among the Australians, like me, many of us regarded the sim set as the closest iconic representation of our homeland and we felt our role as ambassadors for RL Australia. We are a diverse nation like the USA, built on the talents and aspirations of people from many other origins but united under one flag."

"So now what are your plans for the future?" I asked him.

"At this point, my real life needs some concentration," he told me, "I have exhausted considerable real life savings on the SL venture so I must realign. I have also real life commitments this coming year as my membership of Rotary organisation has me taking Presidency of my local club and there are considerable challenges ahead."
 
"I can't see me coming back to re-establish Australia again in Second Life. However, I may consider doing the same again on another grid but that is a dream that may not be fulfilled, few of us can predict the future. SecondLife still holds so much of me. I will keep a presence but to what extent is yet to be seen."

I nodded, "Was there anything else that you thought should be mentioned?"

Whelan spoke once more, "I would extend my thanks to all who's path I have crossed or who have crossed mine, this has been a unique experience that has not flagged since I arrived in 2007. As everyone knows, inhibitions are lifted, restraints are cast aside and the real personality is freed. It takes some time to get used to that but those who do go on to enjoy the company of some very precious souls. My thanks and good wishes to all of you."

It was about this time we bade each other goodbye, and we went our separate ways.

 Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reader Submitted: "Why Am I Here?" Notes on Getting a Second Life


By Valkyrie McGill

“Why am I here?” I asked myself for the twentieth time in the last hour.

I felt like a fool.  Why had I allowed Shasta to talk me into this?  An idle fantasy?  A chance to escape the humdrum daily grind and allow myself the freedom of just being myself?  This was crazy.  It was going to be just like all the other times.  Disappointing.

“Come to Second Life,” Shasta had said in the IM (instant-message).  “You can work for me at the bar I’m partners in.  You’ll love it here.”

I trusted her, I really did.  Despite the fact that we had never once met IRL (in real life), Shasta has always been a friend and mentor and confidant.  She has always been one of the real believers in my artistic talents, even though I have never really been a successful artist.  I had known her for ten years, and tonight I was going to meet her “face to face” for the first time.  Despite the fact we had been out of touch for two years, when she had found a link to my new internet account, and contacted me, it had been like we had talked only yesterday.

She had begged me to come, to see her new club, and to just hang out.  I had been dubious, but let her talk me into it.  I had downloaded the program, set up an account, and signed into the virtual world of Second Life.

I had been in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games before, and while I liked a few, like Ragnarok and Lineage 2, I wasn’t expecting much from Second Life.  It seemed kind of tame actually, a world with no story line, no monsters, no combat outside of a few arenas.  I expected it to be rather boring.  Indeed, just figuring out the basic interface had been confusing, and seemed rather poorly laid out compared to several other MMORPGs I had played recently.  Just figuring out how to make the Avatar of myself had taken most of the hour, it had so many customization options. It took a while, and some aspects of the Avatar really were not well done, particularly hair, but finally, here I stood on the entry platform, a tall white haired bombshell in a tight red top and black mini.

No, I didn’t look anywhere near my IRL appearance, but that was the point, no?  I was here not as the person I was stuck being in RL, but as Valkyrie Ice, Succubus.  For nearly 20 years, from the days of BBS’s and my first appearance in one of the innumerable Red Dragon Inns, Valkyrie Ice has been my online persona, and more me than the person I have to pretend to be from day to day.  In “real” life, I have to spend too much of my time being what other people want me to be, from the good little drone work wants, to behaving the way people expect me to just to keep the guys in white coats from coming to take me away.  Additionally, as a Trans-sexual, only online am I free to just be myself, free of the expectations of my RL physical appearance, social status, and gender.

But I didn’t feel right.  Sure I was roughly looking like I should, at least insofar as my human form went, but that has always been the problem with MMORPGs.  I could never get an avatar that was really “ME.”  Call it delusion, past life experience, wishful thinking, whatever, I have always had dreams of being a succubus, a real cloven hoofed, bat winged, spade tailed, and rams horned demoness with a mischievous and flirtatious streak a mile wide, but not a real gram of evil intent in my body.  SL’s Avatar could be made to match the overall form of face and body, but I was still all too human, and once more feeling like I was wearing yet another mask over my real self. I was half expecting this to be yet another teaser that ended up just being more frustration than fun in the end despite Shasta’s assurances.

And to top it off, I was a human about to walk into a virtual furry strip club.

Yeah, you heard right.  In my daily life, I am L. S. McGill, furry pinup artist without a following, once published in the American Journal of Anthropomorphics. For those of you who have no clue what Anthropomorphism is, it means giving human characteristics to non-human things, such as animating a toaster.  Generally though, it is commonly used as a classification for the millions of people like me who feel that they are not “human” at heart, and are instead part animal.  Be it anime cat girls, werewolves, humans with animal ears and tails, right down to full animal forms with human intelligence and speech capabilities, Anthros, or “Furries” make up a significant portion of the online community, and can be found almost everywhere.  Go to almost any fan convention, and you will undoubtedly find some furry costumes, furry merchandise, and of course, Furry fans.  I’ve been drawing furry art most of my life, and despite various attempts to break into the market, I’m still a failure with talent, and a life plagued with bad luck, poverty, and one setback after another.  I am a very good artist, but have difficulty getting my work out where it can be seen and sold.  Basically, I am creative, bright, intelligent, and cursed with an inability to ever get anyone to actually notice any of those things since all anyone ever seems to see is the fact that I am built like a linebacker for the NFL.

Obviously, in the “real” world, if you’re a giant, the only thing you could ever possibly be good at is sports or physical labor.  God forbid you ever want to actually use your brain to make a living.  Being an artist is even worse, since no-one who is 6’5” could possibly do anything other than smash things into the ground.  My talents and my A+ certification seem to mean less to employers than my size, so I’ve been forced to make my living most of my life as a bouncer.  My hesitation at the moment wasn’t about walking into a strip club, since I’d worked those for years, it was the fact that for the first time, I wasn’t going into a club as security.

For the first time in my life, even though it was virtual, I was going to leave the shadows at the edges of the bar and step on the stage as one of the dancers.

“This is stupid.  I’m going to make a fool of myself,” I muttered to myself as my fingers hovered over the keyboard and mouse.

Part of my hesitation was the fact that it had been obvious that the furry avatars in Second Life had been little more than an afterthought.  The stock AV was a fox-like head that looked horrible.  It was too big for the body, and looked like a cheap mascot head from Disney world, little more than a sphere with eyes included as part of its texture, and ears and a muzzle tacked on.  The human Avatars were far more complex, with moving eyes and mouths, and extremely customizable, but I had been a furry artist for too many years to think that most furries would settle for a human face, or really want to see a dancer who looked “too human”.  If I had my wings and tail and horns, I might have been a little more confidant, but I had known too many furries to who even my drawings of myself in full succubus form had been “too human.”  Now, as succubae are shape shifters, I could get around that by simply altering my appearance, and had for several years described myself as a white unicorn anthro with sapphire blue hair and mirror polished hooves, horn, and nails, named China Blue.  But I had gotten as tired of those masks as all the others and I was going to be making a real attempt to simply be myself… my real self… instead of yet another mask.  Don’t get me wrong, I like being a shapeshifter, but I was hoping for once to be able to be the me I usually hid away from everybody.

I sighed, then finally stepped off the platform and made my way down the path to the novice island.

* * * * *

If you’ve ever played any MMORPG, then you should be familiar with the concept of a Novice Area.  It’s were newbies to the game can familiarize themselves with the basics without annoying the experienced players.  Second Life was no different.  I ran through the tutorials about movement, camera controls, and how to move and use objects, taking my time and trying to memorize enough to avoid making a complete fool of myself.  By the time I was done, I had mixed impressions about the interface.  For one thing, it was complex.  I had controls for camera movements, self movement, and object use, which was pretty standard, but I also had a dozen options I could see no real use for yet.  I gave up after learning the basics, figuring I’d be unlikely to use the object creation menus, or any of the editing features anytime soon.  Once I was confident I could navigate around, I decided to look up Shasta and find out how to get to where she was.

“Hi Val,” came the return IM a few minutes later.  “I’m a little busy at the moment, but I can send you a TP.”

Yeah, I was dumb.  “Um, what’s a TP?”

“A teleport request.  It’s the most common way to get around.”

A second later, a blue sign popped up on my screen saying Shasta had asked me to join her in Hydrangea, the name of the area where she currently was in the virtual world of SL.  I clicked on the yes button and suddenly found myself falling through a grey void.

Okay, okay, so it wasn’t quite that instantaneous.  I had to wait a few seconds while a load screen appeared and so on, but my arrival in mid air was a bit of a shock.  Before I could hit the page up button to fly though, I landed, and the grey void started filling in around me.

And I suddenly started seeing what made Second Life so attractive.

Shasta filled in at first, and in a few seconds, she had gone from grey to the familiar form I had seen described, and even sketched a few times. But this wasn’t the typical furry cartoon art, This was a 3D person standing before me, with a raccoon's head that looked far more realistic than the default furry AV had, a full body fur pattern with a creamy colored belly fur, dark brown main coat, and black “socks” on her hands and feet, and, of course, the obligatory banded tail.

I blinked.  “Oh My God…”

“Welcome to Second Life, Val,” she said, a small text balloon forming over her head as my chat box duplicated her text.  Then a small blue box popped up asking me if it was okay if Shas hugged me.  Still kinda in a daze I clicked yes, and found myself suddenly animated, stepping forward to embrace Shas in a virtual hug so much more real than the typical *hug* of IMs.  “We’re setting up a stage at the moment, but if you’ll hang out for a few, we’ll take you out shopping to get your AV all spruced up.”

Without thinking, I nodded, then smiled at myself as I typed, “Sure.”  I looked around and found a stool nearby, with a funny little pink ball hovering over it.  I had learned how to use objects on the newbie island, so I tried right-clicking, and sure enough, a menu with the option to sit popped up, and my AV jumped over to the chair and sat down facing the “stage” in front of me.

That right there made me stop and think.  It’s a virtual world, my AV doesn’t get tired of standing, but I had automatically taken a seat through an unconscious reflex.  I had reacted exactly like I would have had I been there in the flesh.

Now, go to most MMORPG’s and sitting is a function often used to speed up your recovery of hit points and so on, but what I had just done hadn’t been anything like that, I had simply taken a seat out of the natural human response to seek comfort.

Immersion is a word often bandied about in video game circles, but if you really look at most games, this immersion is almost always limited.  It basically is how much the player feels like they are actually in the game, and it is the little details that truly accomplish this.  In most first person shooters, especially the Id series such as Doom and Quake, they sacrifice realism in level design for various traps, puzzles, and cubbyholes that give cover for player verses player combat.  This means that often times my feeling of immersion is disrupted by a sudden nonsensical obstacle, or by illogical architecture created simply to make it hard to go from A to B.  My favorite games have always been those where the environment around me made SENSE from a real world standpoint.

I had been in numerous bars and clubs, and their virtual counterpoints, and in most of the virtual ones, chairs might have been part of the d├ęcor, but to have a completely customized animation solely for sitting in one?  For the next few minutes I bounced around from the stool to a couple of nearby couches, smiling.  It seemed a lot of thought had gone into designing the animations used to make them as realistic and natural as possible.

Then I actually paid attention to what Shas and another employee were doing, and had to giggle.  They were fine tuning a dance ball, basically an object that contains an animation routine that can be used by anyone, much like the pink ball that hovered over the stool I was sitting on.  She and the other person were hovering in mid air, being moved back and forth as Shas adjusted their relative positions, making sure they actually looked like they were touching, but not overlapping too much, and making sure they weren’t in the floor but on it.  During this process they were frozen like mannequins, but when Shas closed the edit menu, suddenly they were doing a swing dance.

I watched, amazed as their AVs swirled and embraced, circled and swung, and began to get a glimmer of what was in store for me as a dancer at the club.  I started looking around and clicking on various items around the room I was in, noticing for the first time that many had Dance! as an option, and suddenly a lot of my nervousness eased up.  I really would be able to dance here, the way I had always dreamed of.

Except… well… I still looked a bit too much like a Barbie doll.  This being a strip club, I knew getting naked was part of the fun.  “So does this game blur out the naked AV like The Sims does?”  I asked.

I heard a laugh over the speakers as Shasta replied.  “Nope.”  Then her clothes vanished, and I discovered another thing that the default AVs lacked that could be supplied by the customizations… Anatomical correctness.  I was grinning like an idiot now.

“Oh my.  I really do hope we can find the things I need to make myself look right.”

I’ll be honest.  As a succubus, I am vain.  I knew how I wanted to look, how I had looked in my dreams for so many years, and I didn’t want to settle for good enough.  I wanted to be the star attraction, the “ZOMG she’s f**king gorgeous” babe that made tongues roll out like cartoon animations, and for once, I was starting to think that here in SL it might be possible.  It wasn’t going to be enough to just have horns and hooves and wings – I wanted to have some that looked damn good.

Shas kept reassuring me that we could probably find everything I needed someplace or another.  I heard about Skins, which are the graphics covering the 3d Avatar model, Prims, which is short for primitives - basically an item made out of simple shapes that is built up like legos into whatever the creator wants, such as Shasta’s raccoon head and tail - and clothing, which went over the basic shape and skin.

Following her adjustments to the dance ball, she showed me how to run a search and we headed to a mall, which in Second Life is pretty much the same as in Real Life, a building containing lots of smaller stores.

After 2 hours teleporting from one mall to another, I had begun to despair.  Oh there were horns, and tails, and wings and hooves galore, but nothing that really matched my desires.  I had settled for the moment for a set of wings and a tail bought from a store called appropriately enough “Devil Girls”, as well as new hair, new clothes, new shoes, and some other oddments, like a walk animation override that changed the default quick step walk into a more sexy hip swaying stride, but it was becoming obvious that I might have to find other options to match my self-image exactly.

So we teleported back to the club, along with a couple of new friends I had made when Shasta had invited them to join us shopping, Jo and Greytail.  Shas had to go, but GT and Jo stayed behind to help me get everything I had just bought fitted and adjusted.  You see, having the ability to adjust almost every aspect of your avatar also means that not everything bought off the rack fits just right, so you do have to tweak the spatial relationships relative to yourself when you wear objects.  It didn’t really take me long to figure out the controls for xyz coordinates and xyz rotations, nor did stretching objects, but had Jo and GT not shown me how to be able to adjust not only objects, but sub-objects within a larger object, I might have been screaming in frustration soon. Then GT showed me how to make objects, and in just a few minutes I had ditched the rather cheesy horns that I had bought as part of the devil girls set for a pair that actually looked like I thought they should that GT made for me on the spot.

And that’s how I learned about the uses for the object creation menu, and started realizing something vitally important about SL that made it completely unique from every other game I had ever played, and made me begin to look at it in an entirely new light.

Second Life isn’t a game in the usual sense.  It’s a simulation, an emulation of the real world, but unlike any other, it’s a simulation that is not 90% developer based.

Unlike The Sims, or all the virtual IM chat programs, or any other program I had seen in years, Second Life is almost entirely the creation of its players.

That’s right, it’s Players.  Its end users.  Not Linden Labs, the developers of Second Life, not the programmers who know how to hack and hexadecimal edit game files, not the few, the select, the elite.  Those people were all in SL to be sure, but they weren’t the people who had made SL what it was.  Linden Labs had created a framework, but even they weren’t responsible for what SL was.

No, SL was something completely new in my experience, and quite possibly everyone else’s as well.  It was a world created by the people who lived in it.  It was a reflection of their hopes, dreams and desires.  It wasn’t a product of a singular vision, or a unified set of ideas, this world was a hodgepodge collection of everything.

In the mall I had been shopping in, not only were there wings and hooves and tails, but they also had X-wing fighters, Stargates, and teleporters.  Amazon fantasy armor sold right next to the full body powered armor Hardsuits from Bubblegum Crisis.  Besides the various furry AVs for sale, there were Demons and Goths and Dark Elves.  Cyborgs-ranging from such simplicities as wrist claws and armored exoskeletons to things as intricate as the full Terminator T101 series endoskeleton-could be found for sale next to Japanese schoolgirl outfits and fairy tale princess dresses.  Be it Anime, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or just everyday, it all had equal space.  I could have dressed in jeans by Bugleboy, or a Gorean slave girl outfit, or Stormtrooper armor, and walked through that mall and no-one would have batted an eye.  I had the absolute freedom to be exactly who I wanted to be, and the only real restrictions were social, so I would want to wear an outfit that hid the appropriate spots if I traveled to a PG rated zone, or if I was just wandering around, but I would have done that anyway.  The point wasn’t the clothes, it was my freedom to be myself that mattered.  And all around me were things that told me that that exact freedom was what mattered to everyone else as well.

Second Life was the world its residents wanted.  Not a world that they had to cope with, or survive in, it was the world they desired.  From sex animations to Space Stations to Angel wings, everything around me was something someone had made simply because they wanted too, and had decided to share with everyone else for a minimal recompense.  Regardless of status, race, social position, or interests, everyone was free to create, to dream, and to make into a kind of reality.  Everybody had an equal footing.

And that is also why I constantly use Second Life and my experiences there as examples in my writing - because Second Life is a model, a prototype if you will, for our world in twenty to thirty years.  It’s the future that we would make if there were no limits to the possible, if our every fantasy and wish could be made real, and as such, despite furries and demons and aliens everywhere, it offers an insight into the very things that make us human, stripped away of the extraneous deadweight of prejudice and preconception.  Like a non-stop fan convention, all of us in SL were role-playing characters, but unlike a fan con, the majority weren’t playing someone else’s creation, we were playing the person we really felt we were.

It took awhile, and I had to learn how to make objects on my own before I was satisfied, but I am myself in SL now.  I have the body that has been part of my dreams for all of my life, and I have the freedom to go anywhere I choose without having to hide who I am.  Unlike the “real” world, I was not forced to be someone I did not feel comfortable as simply because my genetics had dictated I look a certain way, or because society demanded I act a certain way due to that genetic accident. I could simply be myself.

And that made me think.  Based on some of the proposed technological advancements of the near future, there is an extremely high likelihood of medical technology being able to make such changes outside of a virtual world.  As a trans-sexual, I know that we can currently make a male such as myself into a passable female, but there are limitations that I find unacceptable personally.  Yet those limitations grow fewer every year, and the cost of performing such surgery has dropped as they become more commonplace.

When I look at Second Life, and how the people who populate it express their “inner selves”, I am struck by the fact that a desire to change how we look is one of the most commonplace urges shared by the majority of the human race.  Be it as simple as dieting to lose weight to the extremes of sex reassignment surgery, we all have a desire to make our outer self match our mental self image, and before much longer, we will have the technology to do so at a cost that many will be able to afford.

There are numerous possible methods through which such radical reconstruction might be achieved, such as nanotech, biotech, or cybernetics, but the simple fact that such desires exist is almost a guarantee that some sort of method for achieving such radical alterations in human form will come into being.  Like the evolution of the modern cell phone from the appeal of the concept of communicators in the original Star Trek series, Second Life is a showcase of concepts, expressing the desires of its inhabitants and allowing a virtual test drive of them, so that we can see what concepts work, and which don’t.  From such things as virtual land baronies to virtual banks to the legality and acceptability an adult playing a child like avatar while engaging in adult activities, SL is likely to set the course and policies that will eventually govern the development of “Cyberspace”, the term coined by William Gibson for the virtual reality world which co-exists and interacts with the real word in his “cyberpunk” novels.  Like the communicator/cell phone example above, I believe the simple existence of Second Life will create a demand in real life for the kind of things available in virtuality.

It’s simple supply and demand philosophy.  Demands were made that lead to the development of the supplies needed to meet the demand.  Every item made in SL by a player was created to supply a demand, be it as simple as better looking hair to such complex items as large scale virtual space craft.  Using myself as an example, my demand to look exactly as I had envisioned in my dreams lead to my creating a completely custom avatar, in which every item that I wear is my own creation.  I own the intellectual property rights for all of it, and having now met my own demand, I have a supply available to meet the demands of others who wish to look like me, or just like a particular aspect.  In a similar fashion, by the demands being met in SL, I see a demand being created in the real world for what’s available in the virtual, and that means that someone is going to be finding a way to meet that demand.

And it was this realization that first led me to begin formalizing the various observations I have been making for decades into written form. My experiences in Second Life made me begin to look far more closely and deeply into the way in which technological advance actually affect our social and political realities. Having the freedom to actually be myself showed me just how fundamentally different the world would be as that continuing advance forced us to adapt.

And that is why I am sharing that initial experience with you. Whatever you think of me, my desires to be a succubus, or my views about the radical changes we are about to undergo, I’m just a human, like you. It’s just as novel, hard to conceptualize, and even a little unnerving for me too. But I’m willing to face it without fear, and use logic, reason, and an open mind to analyze it, pick it apart, and tell you what I see.

Originaly published in acceler8or.com

Valkyrie

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Commentary: “We Don’t Allow YOUR Kind Here!” (March 2009)


(The following article was originally published in Second Life Newspaper in March 10, 2009)


By Bixyl Shuftan

A few days ago, one of my foxfolk friends was exploring around, and wanting to rezz some items came across a sandbox at an Italian beach villiage. Like the majority of places he had seen, all were in normal human avies, “mature content and a nude beach.” Just after getting there, “I was approached by a resident and told that I had to reove my ‘ mask.’ I was polite and said that I wasn't wearing a mask that this was my persona.” But the local persisted, so my friend left. Not long afterwards, he told the story to another fox friend of his whom got irritated and insisted he take him and some others online at the time over, most furred but one neko joined in, “We were pretty civil, except for **** calling them racists. ... they bounced us out and banned us from the area."

When a couple others from the incident arrived, they told me a little more, one saying she took on the appearance of a naked hermaphrodite with a huge appendage and didn’t get banned until changing back to a clean furry. They asked me to see the scene for myself, and ported me to a spot next to the beach village. I walked in, the scene rezzing more slowly than normal. Just across the bridge was a sign, and one resident nearby. So I stood on the bridge for a while, waited for the sign to fully rez, and sure enough it stated “No Furry” alongside “No monsters” and the usual behaviors against intimate activity in the open and gunfire. The resident did nothing, though might have been away from the keyboard, so I turned around and left. Porting to a tavern, we had a long talk about the place.

It’s my experience that incidents like this are very rare in Second Life. Most places are happy to have anyone whom is not bothering anyone, especially if they’re spending money. But considering how treatment one sees as unfair sticks in one’s mind, when someone does end up booted from a place because of his looks, it is certainly remembered.

Why do some places limit what avatars can come in? Some are roleplay sims that have rules against certain avatars, but will also boot anyone not following the dress code. I have heard no real complaints about them.

Then there was the one single place in the more than two years I was asked to leave because of my avatar’s appearance. Someone from a charity group sent me a complaint about a formal dress nightclub only allowing in human avatars. I decided to check things out for myself, put on my Dana Delight’s tuxedo, and ported over. Seeing a lady by the door, I chatted with her for a few minutes, and she clearly welcomed me. Going in, no one bothered me at first, but the place was laggy as heck. I was about to conclude the place was a false alarm and port out, when a lady approached me and IMed me, “Excuse me ... could you please change to a human avatar?” My response, “The lady at the door didn’t have a problem with me. And in the year and a half I’ve been here, not a single place I’ve been to has had a problem with my appearance.” “I’m truly sorry, but we have a dress code, and we still need you to change.” I was irritated, no sign of a problem at the door and now this. But how much was a place too laggy to stay worth making a fuss over? So I ported out. Most likely the lag would keep away more people than anything I could do or say.

So why did they have a problem? It may be they saw avatars as an extension on the dress code, since people in Second Life can change their appearance. Trouble is, many people, both furry and normal people, dislike changing their avatar’s look. “I  have this nagging fear that I might not be able to change back,” one person told me. In any event, no other place before, or after, had a problem with my foxfolk look. It’s notable that a few weeks later, I was invited to a live classical music performance in a place that was *really* high class and elegant. No one had a problem with my avatar’s look.

Then there’s the scenario that my furred freinds think of most often, getting tossed out “just because” by someone being a real jerk about it. I was a semi-witness to one example. I once joined a group for a pirate club an event organizer I knew liked to go to. One day, one of the pirates started a group chat, “Don’t go to *****. I went there, and they refused to sell me anything, telling me ‘We don’t allow YOUR kind here!’ .“ The immediate response was, “WHOAH! They’re gonna get it now!” This was followed by cries of righteous indignation, and calls for going to the sim to protest or teach them a lesson.

I didn’t get to the scene until later. According to the group chat, the furry pirates began porting over to the place, and before long the local ones threw up a “No admittance” barrier. With no way to get in, the furry pirates cursed for a while, then gave up. The guy who started this then told everyone he might as well shop elsewhere. He soon told the group, “Hey guys, I finally found a place. They even have a furry among them.” And so ended the fight between what one guy called “the tail pirates versus the butt pirates.”

Why do some people have problems with a guy or girl in a furball avatar? The subject can be an article on itself. Penance Sautereau did a two-part article. But what do do about the few whom take things to the point of banning them from sims? That was the subject of a lengthy discussion between me and other furballs.

Second Life’s Community Standards (http://secondlife.com/corporate/cs.php ) began with this statement, “The goals of the Community Standards are simple: treat each other with respect and without harassment, adhere to local standards as indicated by simulator ratings, and refrain from any hate activity which slurs a real-world individual or real-world community.” Even if the banning of people because of their avatars is not against the letter of the rules, it certainly goes against the spirit, in my opinion.

By all means, this kind of problem is not limited to furred avies. I have heard stories of players with normal human appearances being subject to harassment in sims populated by furred residents. One former friend of mine told me via instant message about going to a place recommended by me, and treated harshly by some local furballs, “I had no idea furries could be so cruel!” She would then have nothing to do with furs again. A couple of my friends who prefer to appear normal human told me they themselves had gone through some of this kind of harassment.

The antics of the “human-haters” I find to be just as silly as their anti-furball counterparts, if not moreso. Aren’t we all human behind our keyboards? I’ve had a couple mild-mannered furballs say normal human avatars look unnatural and zombielike, but I’ve never gotten much of an answer from the few haters I’ve come across.

These rare but annoying incidents make me think a little of one bit of movie trivia I came across. Fans of the “Planet of the Apes” movie recall one of the themes was it’s anti-racism message - the gorillas could only be soldiers, the orangutans were limited to sciences and study, etc. Just how well the message reached the actors was brought into question one day. The time it took to put on the makeup was so long, actors would eat lunch still in costume, and did so in a designated lunch area. Once, one of the “apes” happened to look around, and noticed that the place had segregated itself. The gorillas were in one area, the orangutans in another, and the chimpanzees in a third. Even though everyone was human underneath, they had broken up into groups based on their costumes!

With this in mind, maybe it’s a little less surprising some are reluctant to explore places populated by another type of avatar. But it doesn’t excuse a few monkeying around with our freedom of movement.

Have any of you the readers experienced this kind of treatment? Feel free to tell your story in the comment section below.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  

This article drew more than a dozen responses. The first condemned all those with furred avatars as sex maniacs that ought to be barred from the Grid. Editor Dana Vanmoer's response was to comment she could have deleted the ugly remark, but was leaving it up there as an example of why some furs complained about discrimination. The majority of those commenting after sided with those wishing for freedom of harassment about their looks. One criticized both, saying those tossing out residents for wearing nonhuman appearances was nutty, but they needed to quit complaining so much about it.

In the five years since I wrote this article, there have been a few complaints about avatar discrimination. Most notably was a club written about by Grease Coakes. One other place was accused of not allowing nonhuman avs, though its webpage had a neko among the DJs, and an investigation came to the conclusion it was the misunderstanding of the hostess.

In May 2011, someone I knew was banned from a small store in Zindra, "get out of my sim." "What the hell is your problem? … What have I done to deserve this harassment?" "you are a furry that is enough to suspect you are a griefer and a copybot and other bad things too … furrys are annoying malicious griefer copybots."

One pirate combat roleplay sim didn't seem to have a problem with furs at first, a rule about allowing only humans and mermaids seemingly ignored. But when they got the attention of Second Life media, they began calling themselves "humans only." Granted roleplay sims have the right to "historical accuracy," but this seemed a bit like a case of "bait and switch" in my opinion.

Then there was one case of anti-human harassment when a human DJ for a furry club was repeatedly insulted by one of the vulpines, called a "hairless ape." He was thrown out of the club and the infuriated vixen who owned the place banned him for a several weeks. But the damage was done. A few weeks later, the DJ told the staff she would no longer perform there, or any other furry club.

One other complaint I hear about is not outright hostility, but silence. A few furs have told me when they go to a human club, few people, or only the staff, will say hello to them. This isn't necessarily a sign of contempt as even clubs where everyone's a friend have their quiet moments when everyone's in IMs, or simply trying to relax and enjoy the music. And the stories of hostility aren't limited to human vs nonhuman, but also between different types of nonhuman avatar.

Still, the tales of harassment, true or not, have given some the impression most of Second Life is a hostile environment. Only in places where there are others like themselves do they feel welcome, or at least a sign that says their type is welcome, such as "Furry Friendly," or "Human Friendly" if the club caters mainly to nonhuman avatars. People come to Second Life to escape real-life troubles, and run into the expectation of one: discrimination based on appearance. A sad observation about life on the Grid.

On the other hand (or paw), there's no shortage of people who ignore these tales, if they've heard them at all. I've seen furry avatars just about everywhere where there's sizeable number of residents. I've visited who-knows-how many places, and only two asked me to leave based on my fox avatar in the seven years I've been around. The furry clubs I've gone to often get visitors in human avs, sometimes several or over a dozen at once. And sometimes residents whom prefer different types of avatars will also date, and partner.

In my opinion, don't worry about getting harrassed because of your looks. This kind of event is rare, and not worth worrying about. So go on an enjoy your Second Life with  your friends, no matter what their appearance.

Bixyl Shuftan.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Reader Submitted: "Concert For Caprice" Raises 76,140 Lindens for National Kidney Foundation


By Madonna Daehlie

On Thursday, May 29th, the Rubber Room hosted a special two hour event, called the Concert For Caprice. The idea came from Cherise (CheriseLynn) as a way to celebrate Caprice Darkrose's life and love of jazz, as well to benefit the National Kidney Foundation.
Caprice Darkrose was a longtime resident of Second Life who previously owned the Darkrose Jazzland club, and later became a key part of the staff of the Rubber Room. She passed away on May 3, 2014 at the age of 35, due to complications of kidney disease, which she had battled for some time. Caprice was loved by many people in SL, and leaves behind many friends and a lot of memories.
The inspiration for the two hour live event came from Cherise, who wanted to find a way to celebrate Caprice's love for jazz music, and do so to benefit the National Kidney Foundation, which was a cause near and dear to Caprice's heart. Cherise contacted Gina Gracemount, who not only agreed to volunteer her time and talent to this special event, but also contacted Chillee Hernandoz, who also agreed to take part. Chillee and Gina are both well known for devoting their time to support others, often performing for events for the Relay For Life of Second Life.
Evergreen Engineer, the general manager of the Rubber Room, and who was very close to Caprice, generously donated the use of the club for the special benefit. Evergreen also assisted in hosting during the event.
Once the talent was lined up, the next step was to contact the National Kidney Foundation to set up a means to allow Second Life residents to donate their L$ to the charity. Both Madonna Daehlie and Elstan Guardian contacted the NKF via email, sharing the plans for the event, and helped to bring them inworld. Elstan also provided the event with a basic donation box, which transferred all the donations received directly to the NKF's avatar.
The first hour of the concert was performed by Chillee, who took the stage at noon. Despite having never met Caprice, she spoke of how honored she was to perform at this special event. She also mentioned that she had known a few people who knew Caprice, and were "deeply saddened" to hear that she had passed away. Her set was a mixture of moving, as well as upbeat songs, with her regularly urging all those in attendance to donate generously to this cause. She closed out her set with a pre-recorded and touching song for her daughter, which left very few dry eyes in the club.
At 1 pm, Gina took the stage and performed the last hour of this special benefit. She too put on an incredible set, including a number of touching and emotional songs that people asked her to sing and dedicate to Caprice. Much like Chillee before her, Gina's set was a combination of moving and fun, and she too urged everyone in the Rubber Room to continue to donate in Caprice's memory to help others.
Throughout the event, there were 50 or more people crowded into the club, with a peak of nearly 70. Many of those in the club knew Caprice, and wanted to be there to support a cause dear to her, as well as share love and memories.
Also amongst those in attendance was Anna, a representative with the NKF, who not only routinely thanked everyone for their generous donations, but also passed along information such as "So far we've raised enough money to educate 8 doctors on the latest research and care on kidney disease." She also thanked everyone for their support throughout the concert at the opening and closing of the concert.
The two hour event raised L$76,140, or roughly $300, thanks to the love and generosity of the organizers, performers, and attendees. The concert, and it's final total, was seen as a rousing success by all involved.
Elstan Guardian is working on plans to hold his own benefit event for Caprice and the NKF in the near future. Elstan, the caretaker of the Caprice Darkrose Memorial and Kinky BDSM Club, was a friend of Caprice's in real life. The memorial and club, which he has built, is meant to be a lasting tribute to Caprice, as well as her legacy to all those she loved in SL. The memorial and club has so far hosted two special memorial events on May 8th and 10th, DJ'd by Evergreen, Madonna, Immm Back and Siouxsie Seoung. Details will be shared once the plans are finalized, and much like the memorials in early May, all will be welcome.
If you would like to support the National Kidney Foundation inworld, or would like to help out with the upcoming benefit, please contact ElstanGuardian Resident or Madonna Milena in SL.

Madonna Daehlie