Archive - Oct 25, 2007

Casting Call

Miranda has been urging me to do National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I always have writing ideas, sometimes even in the shape of a novel, but rarely do they present themselves to me the way this latest idea has. I don't want to spill the beans, especially since I have no idea if I'll actually carry it out or if it will turn out at all like I'm currently expecting, but in my current imaginings it will involved Second Life, finance and who knows what else.

As I sit on the train heading into New York, I let my mind wander. What is the story I want to tell? Who are the characters? What will happen and when? How will it turn out? My mind becomes flooded with possible characters all auditioning for a role in my story. I've already gotten about a dozen seeking their chance to have their part of the story told, and that doesn't even get to the part that the reader plays.

If I can get these twelve characters to cooperate and tell their stories in a collaborative way, if I can find time to write this, as well as deal with the rest of my life, this could be good. So, Miranda, I'm not committing to NaNoWritMo yet, but I'm getting closer.

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Looking for Venus

It was a beautiful evening for convergence, all the planets seemed to be aligned just right. I was sitting in front of the TV with my laptop fired up. I was using the new OnRez client to explore Second Life as I watched CSI: NY. All of my old tools from the regular Second Life client were working fine. I was speaking with an old friend whom I've recently convinced to enter Second Life. He was stumbling through orientation and had added me as a friend. We were talking about capital markets in Second Life and I have him some seed money to get started.

I had my TwitterBox Heads Up Display (HUD), attached, so I could see the messages that my friends were posting on Twitter and I could post my own messages in reply. I watched the TV, the IM with my friend, the twitter messages and the discussions going on around me in Second Life.

I had teleported into the CSI area of Second Life. They had their own orientation to help people get started and guides were standing around making sure that people were finding their way around appropriately. Twice, while I was distracted by one of the other media streams coming at me, I was asked by the guides if I was having problems. This led to several great side discussions.

Over on Twitter, friends were talking about how bad CSI was. There were just too many things that were unrealistic. For the diehard Second Lifer, it lacked verisimilitude. People commented about how there were so many things that CSI showed in Second Life that you just couldn't do. Second Life just isn't that exciting people commented and they wondered why there was a need for that much embellishment.

Well, first life isn't always all that exciting either, and we've gotten used to television embellishing first life, so why not Second Life. I mean, after all, this is fiction. We are expected to come with some willingness to suspend disbelief. I must admit, I watch very little television. Before we moved, the TV was next to my computer, so I would watch a little of some of the prime time shows. But now, the TV is in a different room and I have to make an effort to watch TV, and rarely is it worth the effort.

Last night, I took my laptop into the living room and watched CSI. It is a show that I would normally be unlikely to watch even if the TV was still next to my computer. I just don't like the blood and gore. So, as I settled onto the couch, I didn't have very high expectations. How well will CSI portray Second Life and the people involved. They did a lot better than I expected.

They started off with the victim dressed up as her Second Life avatar. Cosplay, one of the characters described it as. People in Second Life will sometimes dress up as their avatar when they meet other people from Second Life. I know that my daughters' anime loving characters sometimes participate in Cosplay at anime conventions. I've met people from other virtual worlds at gatherings, and while one of them cross dressed for a New Year's eve party, I never saw any virtual world cosplay. But, I haven't been to any Second Life gatherings in real life, so I can't judge whether or not it was accurate. In my mind, it passed the verisimilitude test and added nicely to the story.

Then, there was the first suspect. A kid with advanced Multiple Sclerosis who could be a Don Juan in Second Life. He was supposed to meet the first victim where she was killed, but chickened out. He had bought a gun to kill himself when the disease progressed too far. This played on many stereotypes of Second Life characters. Those that can't make it in regular life, because they are losers, have some ailment, or some combination of the two. I don't like to promote stereotypes. While there are people like that in Second Life, there is also a wonderful diversity. Yet there is a reason for sterotypes. They can describe a subset of a population, and in this case, I've known too many people that fit the stereotype that CSI employed. Again, passing the verisimilitude test and adding nicely to the story.

Later, they introduced the concept a griefer, someone that causes grief to other people in Second Life. If they were teaching a social sciences course on the nature of characters in Second Life, they would have gotten a poor grade on this. Yet that's not what they were doing. They were providing entertainment and their dealing with the griefer was passable. The same applied to the virus that the detective picked up in Second Life, shutting down all his computers. They embellished that part much further than can really happen with the technology, but as a story telling device it worked fairly well.

The show was predictable. It was inaccurate about Second Life, and friends who are concerned about this are likely to hate what CSI did. Yet from my perspective, it was entertaining, which was its primary goal. The predictability and inaccuracies were less than I expected and so it exceeded my expectations and was enjoyable. I'm currently planning to watch the next episode.

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