© Moronic Ox Literary Journal - Escape Media Publishers / Open Books
Observations from the author
or thrillers, or romances. I truly love the novel as a literary form, and I particularly love what is termed the ‘literary novel.’ I suppose that designation refers to novels dealing with one aspect or another of the human condition―that is to say, the real conflicts and challenges that face us all as human beings in this century and every century. I embrace universal themes, and I create characters to expose my particular point of view concerning life’s most basic questions and concerns.
The failure I address in Stones is the failure of art itself. It is simply portrayed through one artist’s experience. The very idea of trying to create art, which is by definition a symbolic representation of our life situation, or of our feelings toward our situation, is an approximation at best. Art is an exercise of trying to capture that which is impossible to capture―like trying to freeze a moment in time, or holding a feeling inside a closed bottle. Art is an attempt that by nature must not fully succeed. The closer one gets, I think, to freezing that moment or holding that feeling, the better the art. In Stones, Cornelius attempts a sculpture that every learned sculptor might deem impossible. But isn’t that the true condition of each life? Aren’t we all attempting the impossible? If we could achieve perfection―in the creation of art or in any other endeavor―then we would not be mortal, we would be divine!
About Calico Pennants...
I conceived of the book during a month long visit to Hawaii. For me, there is not a more physically beautiful place, and yet it is the most remote place on earth. Everything that exists in Hawaii (or at least this was once true) exists no place else. Therefore, I reasoned, no rules really applied there. What might be utterly impossible in, say, California, might also be the rule of thumb on Maui; hence, a parrot that talks philosophy, a siren who seems to be the reincarnation of Amelia Earhart, a fountain of youth, dragonflies that turn into 1930’s airplanes, a deceased American president that governs from the grave, and a rather absurd approach to the science of mechanics. I must confess that Calico Pennants is one of my favorite books.
About the future of the novel...
Unfortunately, the novel as a genre is fighting for its life. As a literary form, it's not really that old―only a couple of hundred years―but it is already showing its age. There are many reasons for its decline. Commercialism is one of the biggest reasons. Other media, too, are taking a toll. Humans will always need stories, or myths. They are the true foundation of culture―not money, or science and technology. Whether we convey those myths through novels or by some other means remains to be seen. The novel offers the opportunity for deeper insight than many other forms of storytelling, so I hope it survives. Presently, it’s gasping for breath, I believe. I truly hope that there is something in the future to resuscitate it. We need good novels.
About ebooks and self publishing...
Without a doubt, a certain amount of luck is involved when a writer signs a contract with a major publisher. Many aspire to such recognition (worthy or not), because what artist does not wish his work to be exhibited to a large audience? In this age of high budget promotion, mass media, and instant gratification, it is easy to forget that such works as Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen were originally private publications for the benefit of the authors and their friends and families. In fact, the list of self-published titles, and writers who acted as their own publisher, is quite longer than one might expect.
Internet publishing now offers any writer a venue for his work. What’s more, the web enables anyone to promote virtually anything till the cows come home. Infinite low cost space, the possibility of infinite connections with like-minded and other interested individuals worldwide, virtual retail space and virtual meeting places, media synergies, and cheap technology all combine to provide not only writers, but artists in every discipline, with a new venue – one with seemingly endless possibilities, and one available to everybody at a cost so low it is incidental. The field is wide open, and it is vast, and it is egalitarian. Place like YouTube and Second Life offer both new artists and those long ignored a showcase for their work and their talents. The potential audience is worldwide, and it is also seemingly eager for something more than the all-too-often mediocre offerings of monolithic profiteers. The Internet is the venue of the people, and art has by its very nature always been a local expression. Except now the concept of local has been expanded – exponentially!
It’s a brave new world in the history of publishing, nothing less, and possibly infinitely more significant, than the invention of the printing press (which replaced the hand-tooled scroll), or the use of parchment (which replaced the stone tablet). Of course those in the conventional publishing industry will try their best to deny the impact of Internet publishing, but try as they might, they will not be able to preserve the status quo, nor will they be able to hold back the future. Some will recognize the inevitability of this transformation and try to adapt. Others will cling onto the past even as their sales figures (and their influence) steadily decrease. But whether one is an old hand at publishing, or whether one is a relative newcomer, the fact is that in Internet publishing the playing field is level, and nobody enjoys a distinct advantage simply because he is well financed. In fact, money may well be out of the picture altogether…
The true focus of my work is that there is no particular focus. By that statement I mean that I don’t set out to write in a particular genre, like mysteries,
Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Journal - Escape Media Publishers / Open Books
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From the novel
The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans
by David A. Ross
Just In Case Anybody Out There Is Listening…
HI! MY NAME IS FIZZY OCEANS—at least that’s
my emulation’s name here in VL (Virtual Life).
I’m an official VL greeter. Let me offer you
this welcome package. I’ll just place it in
your cache, where you can read it later,
at your convenience.
“Where am I?” “Ah! I see you don’t have an emulation yet. Or a name…” “What’s an emulation? Am I going to need one?” “Oh, yes, my friend. You certainly are going to need one.” Look! I became a citizen in Virtual Life about a year ago,
and these days I spend most of my time here. The first time
I logged on to VL, I was like you: uncertain, disoriented, and skeptical. I thought it was very strange here, but really fascinating, too. All these caricatures with strange names walking around in animated environments. I thought to myself: “What a bizarre game!”
But VL is not a game at all, that’s the really interesting thing about it. In some ways it’s exactly like Physical Life, but in other ways it’s totally different. If you like, I’ll show you what I mean. Of course anybody can log on to Virtual Life. And it’s free to register, too. There are already millions of people in VL. They live in every country in the world: America (like me), Canada, Australia, and South Africa. I’ve met lots of people who live in Europe, and I have VL friends who live in Columbia and Japan and Israel and China! I even know one guy who says he lives in the remote mountains of Greenland! His emulation is called Igloo Iceman, and he tells everybody he meets in VL about how it’s getting warmer than it used to be above the Arctic Circle, and about how these days he sunbathes beside a lake that used to be a glacier. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s transfer to the Hothouse (Orientation Center) and I’ll show you what my life here in VL is all about. Whoosh… Once you’ve registered, the first thing you’ll have to do is to create an EM (emulation). An EM is a digital representation of you—a body, so to speak—so you can walk around and interact with other seedlings (Virtual Lifers). You might construct your EM to look similar to the way you appear in Physical Life, but you don’t have to. You can make your EM look any way you want it to look. You can be male or female, young or old, white or black or somewhere in between. You can have long hair, short hair, or no hair at all. You can have a tattoo. You can change your eye color every day if you want to. And you can dress very creatively in VL, because most of the rules and regulations in PL don’t exist in Virtual Life. (PL stands for ‘Physical Life’, which used to be called RL, or ‘Real Life’, until those of us in VL came to the realization that there was actually nothing any more real about what we have come to call ‘real life’ than other dimensions in which we exist, such as ‘Virtual Life’, where we are now, and NL, or ‘Natural Life’—not to mention FL, ‘Future Life’.) Here in VL we’re not defined or bound by our limitations, physical or otherwise, and we’re not prisoners of our expectations, or the expectations of others. In Virtual Life we can even fly! One thing that is the same in VL as it is in Physical Life is that we have money. It’s not dollars or euros or yen. In VL the money is called greenshoots. The consortium that created Virtual Life, Seedbed Studios, named the currency. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that we create your emulation so you’ll look good when you go out to meet people. Let me give you a thousand greenshoots to get you started here in VL. Don’t worry; it’s okay. Here lots of people give stuff away. So, what are you going to call yourself? Or more specifically, what are you going to call your EM? Right from the start it’s easy to confuse VL with Physical Life, I know. But you’ll get used to that. After a while, you’ll barely notice which world you’re in. Which is more or less the point, isn’t it? Because in VL there are no rules concerning names, and the possibilities are endless. Here you can be the person you’ve always wanted to be, the one you always knew you were! Are you male or female? Are you light or dark? Are you kind and helpful, or mean-spirited and sarcastic? We’ll find out about that in good time, but for now, what will your VL name be?
Ah! Kizmet Aurora. What a splendid name! An EM is born.
Now, what about your gender: male, female, or somewhere in between? In Virtual Life it won’t really matter. Here we’re dealing with something more elemental. Emulations are only symbolic representations to give us a point of reference. In Virtual Life, everything is symbolic: the cities and villages, the landscapes and buildings, the weather, the clothes, the food… None of it is real, at least not in the PL sense. Yet, in another sense, it is even more real than PL. Anyway, you should fashion your EM however you choose—your skin, your hair, your make-up. Construct a man’s body or a woman’s body. Or a eunuch’s, I don’t care! Here in Virtual Life, I know an eleven-year-old kid (or a displaced American nun) who lives in Bolivia (or Brazil) and who walks around VL in the body of a hundred-year-old man. His EM’s name is Omar Paquero. What kind of craziness is that, Kiz? Virtual Life is a big place. It has hundreds of smaller communities within the greater Virtual Life system, and it would not be possible to visit every VL community, let alone every establishment. In that sense it’s like Physical Life, you have to pick and choose. We connect with others and form relationships as a result of common interests, or through other friends we meet; but just as it is in Physical Life, whom one meets in VL is at least in part a matter of chance. Just as I do in PL, I have a core group of friends here in VL. I have my favorite places too, who doesn’t? I spend most of my time while logged on to VL at a place called Lit-A-Rama. I first decided to explore the REP (Replica) because in Physical Life I’m a voracious reader. What I found there was a community of VL literati. The first EM I met there was Crystal Marbella, and because we had common literary interests, Crystal and I became friends. Together we rented a VL shop that we now call Open Books. We publish classic literature (books no longer protected by copyright and now in public domain) on the worldwide web—books like Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as many others—and we offer them free of charge to anyone who wants to read them. By republishing these books on the Internet, Crystal and I feel that we are doing something to preserve literature at a time when other media—media that is perhaps more glamorous or more compelling in the twenty-first century—threaten to obscure such timeless tales in favor of what? Stories that are devoid of any symbolic value whatsoever? Linear legends in living color whose messages are decidedly black and white? Redundant presentations devoid of metaphor that numb the mind into a smug and self-satisfied complacency so enveloping and so insidious that human behavior begins to mimic such mundane stories? I think you can see, Kiz, why Virtual Life had to be created. The culture cried out for it—not in its everyday voice, but in the voice that once moved shadow over the Face of the Deep. Which goddess was it, anyway, that first created Natural Life? Ki? Gaia? Moria? Caillech? I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about that, about NL, a bit later, but what I’m saying here is that the same creative force that made the world we have always known has also created Virtual Life. Of course the reasons are complex and the implications profound. That’s what we’re here to experience, Kiz. But first we have to create your EM. So I want you to right click your mouse, that’s it! Don’t be timid. Open your menu. It’s time to begin your Virtual Life. It is certainly true that appearance isn’t everything, Kiz, but it is one way we express our overall identity, isn’t it? That’s true in Physical Life, and it’s true in Virtual Life too. That’s why most people in Virtual Life make an effort to customize the appearance of their EM. When you registered for Virtual Life, Kiz, you got a starter package: various skin tones, hairstyles, and a basic outfit to clothe yourself. But your kit contains only the essentials—not because the Seedbeds are stingy, but because they understand that you must create your emulation from elements that you discover as you move through the various Virtual Life communities. Not only do they understand that it would be utterly impossible for them to create and oversee the entirety of Virtual Life, they understand that it is far better if we, the citizens, create the world in which we wish to live and function. What a concept! Just like Physical Life, Virtual Life is a multi-tiered reflection of mass consciousness. Except here in VL the boundaries are far less constricting than we might find them to be in Physical Life. In VL, for example, there is no pre-determined class structure. In VL, there is no racism or sanctioned religion. There is no gender distinction. In VL, there is no gravity—nothing to hold you down, so to speak. In effect, Kiz, Virtual Life is a fresh start, a place where each of us is free to become the embodiment of his fundamental persona, his higher self, without fear, or reticence, or skepticism, or expectations to conform. We are, after all, only VL emulations, representations of that which Nature made us over the eons. Through our emulations we have the opportunity to express our diversity in ways that have now become stifled in Physical Life. That’s why your appearance is an important part of your Virtual Life, Kiz. So let’s go shopping for all the essentials—a virtual makeover for your vessel in Virtual Life! “So, where would you like to shop?” “Shop? I don’t know what you mean, Fizzy. What’s possible?” “Just about anything is possible in Virtual Life. You can go ‘virtually’ anywhere. You don’t need a plane ticket.” “I’ve always wanted to shop for clothes in a French boutique.” “Now you’re talking, Kiz! I know just the place.” “Where are we going, Fizzy?” “The Còte d’azur!” Of course our emulations can walk from place to place once we arrive at a major location within the VL complex, but to move between locations, ‘transferring’ is the only way to travel. Transferring is a lot like the old Star Trek TV series, where the transporter machine decomposes bodies into atoms and then reassembles them at a desired location. Everybody remembers ‘Beam me up, Scotty!’ Except here in Virtual Life we don’t need a machine (except our computers, of course). We can transfer from location to location at will. One click and we’re at our desired location. A simple search for clothing boutiques shows us many possibilities, including Riviera West, where we will find all the latest fashions from top French designers, and at a fraction of the price we would pay in PL. A thousand greenshoots is enough to buy an outfit that is tres chic and fits your figure perfectly. We simply click and wait to arrive at Blue Fellini or Chalet Madame Sophie. “But I’m afraid of flying, Fizzy!” “Have no fear, Kiz; transferring is without sensation.” Whoosh! “We’re arriving now. Are you ready to shop?” “Everything looks blurry on my screen, Fizzy.” “That’s because you’re still rezzing.” “What’s rezzing?” “The images are still loading. You are waiting for resolution.” “There’s a unique language here in VL, I think.” “A few terms relevant to Virtual Life and to computer technology. Nothing you won’t master quickly. Are you rezzed yet?” “Yes, I think so. What now?” “Take a look around? Where would you like to shop?” “Maybe you could show me around; you’ve obviously been here before.” “I’d be happy to, Kiz. Let’s visit my friend Monique Maçonnerie at Le Petit Chardonneret.” I know all this must seem strange at first, even a bit shocking. I mean, where else might you be walking down a boulevard and look up to see a man with the head of a cat pass by as if nothing is wrong, as if nothing is out of place? Well, here in Virtual Life nothing is wrong, and nothing is out of place. What we encounter here is the result of free expression combined with the facility to implement one’s particular vision—immediately! Right now we’re headed for the quay along the beach. La plage, as the French call it. That’s where all the best boutiques are located. “Fizzy, those emulations lying on the sand are naked!” “One might choose to be naked in VL, Kiz. It’s not a crime.” “But why are they just lying on the beach? The water is not real. Nor is the sunshine. It’s not as if an EM can go for a swim, or get a tan.” “By lying on the beach, they are earning greenshoots.” “Are you telling me that in VL you can earn money by lying on the beach, Fizzy?” “Essentially, yes.” “What a world!” “Well, we make it what it is, Kiz.” Here is Le Petit Chardonneret. Shall we go inside? Why not? Well, it looks as if Monique is not here now, but that doesn’t matter. Here in VL the shops are open 24/7. And as you can see, Kiz, the clothes are extraordinary. Look at this dress… And that top… Those shoes are to die for! “Fizzy, these clothes aren’t real. They’re digital creations. Clipart!” “That’s more or less correct, Kiz.” “But why would I pay money to buy clothing that isn’t real?” “Kiz, do you want your EM walking around stark naked in Virtual Life?” “Well, I suppose not.” “Then get into the spirit of this thing. C’mon, buy yourself a new outfit. After all, I’m paying this time.” Once you’ve purchased your new clothes, they will be placed in your personal cache. That’s where everything you acquire here in Virtual Life goes until you are ready to use it. If you’re too shy to change clothes here at Le Petit Chardonneret, then you can wait until we go back to Lit-A-Rama and change on the second floor at Open Books. There you can have a bit of privacy and do your girl thing in the mirror. Now, let’s see about getting you a better hairstyle. Standard issue hair is enough to cover your head, but as you can see from many of the emulations walking past us, there are far more stylish samples available. The hair you have now is static. The style really doesn’t become you at all, Kiz. I think what you need is a flexi-tress, like mine! It moves naturally when I move. See? “And what about your complexion? What is your skin color in PL?” “I’m red. I live in the desert.” “Then you shall have reddish skin in your Virtual Life. What about your eyes? What color are they in PL?” “I have brown eyes. But I’ve always wished I had big violet eyes, like Elizabeth Taylor.” “Liz Taylor eyes for you, Kiz. No problem! I know just where to acquire them.” “This kind of shopping can be fun, Fizzy.” “Just part of your Virtual Life, Kiz. Are you ready to transfer out of Còte d’azur?” “Whatever you say, Fizzy. Today, you’re my guide.” “Then type ‘Open Books’ into your destination bar and click ‘transfer’.” Whoosh… “This is so much fun, Fizzy!” “We’re arriving now, Kiz. And it seems that we’re in luck, because Crystal is here. You must meet Crystal.” In front of the Open Books shop Crystal Marbella is fixing a new poster in the front window—one that announces the publication of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. “Hello, Fizzy,” she says. “Who is your friend?” “Crystal, this is Kizmet Aurora. I greeted her as she dropped into VL for the first time. I’ve been showing her around a bit. We went shopping on the Còte d’azur for a new outfit, all the essentials.” “Hi, Kiz. I’m Crystal Marbella.” “Happy to meet you, Crystal.” “Are you having a good time here in VL?” “I think so… But it’s all so new, and so confusing.” “You’ll grow accustomed to Virtual Life very quickly, you’ll see.” “The people here are very friendly.” :) Crystal types. “And generous, too! Fizzy Oceans gave me a thousand greenshoots to spend on my EM. I can’t help but like a place where people give you money to buy clothes.” :) I type. Then, “Remember, Kiz, the clothes are just clipart.” “Oh, I almost forgot.” “Yes, that’s the point, isn’t it?” Crystal laughs. “So, if neither of you minds, I think I’ll go to the second floor to get changed. I have only one question: How do I get to the second floor? There doesn’t seem to be a staircase.” :) I type. “Click the arrow on the wall, Kiz. Then click ‘transfer’. Nothing to it!” Whoosh… Crystal Marbella is my best friend here in Virtual Life. Besides the fact that her EM is really pretty, Crystal is a beautiful person from the inside out. She is always kind and helpful, never cross or sarcastic or disrespectful. She’s also incredibly resourceful: when something needs to be done inside the shop, and neither of us understands how to accomplish the task, Crystal is always the one to take the initiative to learn new technical skills and apply them creatively. In PL, Crystal wrote a novel entitled, Alone In A Crowd, which to me seems ironic considering the context in which we now meet and interact. If you think about it, here we sit, each in his PL sanctuary, laptop or desktop switched on and wired for ADSL, buzzing back and forth and in and out at more than a megabyte per second, logged on to a site where we recreate not only the sum of our personalities and respective cultures, but also the dreams and aspirations and visions that as a civilization we’ve never been able to materialize in PL. I often have to consciously remember or visualize our PL bodies as we click and type, as we drag our cursors over one prompt or another to engage in virtual movements or expressions. I know well the smile of Crystal’s EM, but I know not the warmth of her cheek, or the sweetness of her breath. As much as Virtual Life offers that Physical Life does not, still there is a gap in sensuality that cannot be denied. Can our emulations actually experience the sensation of longing? Or is that kind of perception reserved for Physical Life? Or for Natural Life? There’s a real difference, you know. Natural Life is what existed on the day after Creation; Physical Life is the mess that we humans have made of it during the ensuing hundred million years or so (mostly in the last hundred and fifty, more or less). But Crystal doesn’t talk about this sort of thing, because she’s too busy recreating the world’s great books. I do my share of the work in the Open Books shop too, but the real passion for the preservation of literature comes from Crystal; there’s no doubt about that.
PROFILE: Crystal Marbella
NAME: Sonja Jörgensen
INTERESTS: Books, books, books!!! Writing, reading, novels, poetry, art, music; picnics, animals, media; politics, current events, mythology, theosophy; hiking, cycling, cooking.
VIRTUAL LIFE GROUPS: Resident and shop owner in Lit-A-Rama; Dirty Nellie’s Pub; Virtual Broadcast Venue; Lit-A-Rama Events & Discussion Forum; Publishers, Printers & Booksellers; INKies; Writer’s Pen Café; VL Book Fair; VL Chamber of Commerce; VL Girl Magazine.
It’s true that we must conduct commerce here in Virtual Life using the currency issued by the creators at Seedbed Studios; and in fact there is a bar graph accessible right on the site denoting the trading value, month by month, of the greenshoot against the American dollar. Each month the greenshoot seems to gain in value against the dollar, as does virtually every other First World currency. The irony, I suppose, is that Virtual Life is a web site in cyberspace, not a country in the physical world. Nevertheless, the greenshoot is taking its place as a unit of trade, so it should perhaps also come as no surprise that BloomEx (where the VL banks and the VL stock exchange are located) is the place on the Virtual Life site that receives the greatest number of visitors. I’ve been there myself, though I must say that I’m not particularly impressed by what goes on there. Greed is still greed, whether it is manifest in Physical Life or in Virtual Life. The traders and the changers barter virtual commodities back and forth like Monopoly money, even as many of us here in Virtual Life think we understand a more elemental principle: that the real currency here in VL is the currency of ideas. Money, even in Virtual Life, is still only money, and it might well be argued—as it is by some who interact here in VL—that it is the very system through which PL has reached the crisis point at which it now finds itself. Crystal understands this point. So do I. And so do many, many others. Only the most original ideas actually have substance; the value attached to commodities (real or symbolic) and to ad hoc services is actually a false denomination where real value is continually diminished, not enhanced. Because Crystal and I believe so strongly in the commerce of ideas rather than the commerce of money, all the books we publish at Open Books are available to anyone who wishes to read them free of charge. Instead of fixing a price for each book, we solicit funds from patrons who, like ourselves, appreciate the literature of the Ages and wish to see it preserved and promoted. Each potential patron is encouraged to adopt-a-book by giving a monetary contribution, which we then distribute to literacy funds, or through our Dead Writers Grant to living, working authors whose work merits support and who might need a helping hand to continue their pursuits. This is our unique way of allowing writers who have gone before to help those now struggling to continue the literary tradition that they so loved and embraced. We keep only enough money to maintain the Open Books shop here in VL. “Where is Kizmet Aurora in PL?” Crystal asks. “I haven’t asked yet,” I tell her. “Perhaps we can help her to fill out her profile when she comes down dressed to the tens.” “Good idea,” says Crystal. “Anything new with the shop?” “The donations vessel is full of greenshoots again.” :) types Crystal.
PROFILE: Kizmet Aurora
NAME: Cassandra Stephens
LOCATION: Rough Rock, Arizona
INTERESTS: Native Americans, Native American ceremonies, the environment, Burning Man, exotic travel, parapsychology, L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, Quantum Physics, advanced mathematics, Blackjack, Las Vegas, Ted Nugent, llamas.
Of course it’s easy enough to become overly involved with the props here in VL. Besides clothing and other personal items, shops sell everything from helicopters to fine art (I absolutely love Mick Monahan’s Fractal Faces Gallery) to virtual vacations. One of the places Crystal and I like to go is Dirty Nellie’s Pub (the PL version was originally located in Dublin and its auspicious PL offspring is located in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago). Of course you can’t actually have a drink there, but the clientele is diverse and friendly, so it’s a terrific place to make new friends and to network for Open Books. Outside the pub is a large patio where concerts and other events are held. (If you’re wondering whether musicians can actually play live concerts in Virtual Life, you bet they can!) The EMs enact the physical part of playing an instrument or singing into a mic as the music is streamed onto the web site for all to hear and enjoy. Meanwhile, many of the EMs love to dance to the music (yes, it’s possible to program complex dance steps and movements into your emulation’s gesture bank), while others simply chill out with a virtual pint and some virtual nacho chips and engage in conversation. The crowd at Dirty Nellie’s for such events is usually huge, and Crystal likes to tell the story of the time when she was still quite new to Virtual Life and was invited to a concert at Dirty Nellie’s by the pub’s owners, Katydid Nothing and Applesauce MacNamera. Crystal was happy about the invitation and was really looking forward to the event, but when she tried to transfer to the pub, she found it to be so crowded that she was unable to successfully land (remember we’re flying here in VL), and was instead stranded in mid-air somewhere above the pub, where she was finally rescued by Nasus Drummond in a daring and clever, highly synchronized fly-by maneuver. Whoosh! It was at that concert that Crystal first learned to dance in Virtual Life, not to mention honing her flying skills to a new acumen. My VL function as a greeter allows me to meet many new people as they first log on to Virtual Life. I can’t help but enjoy the wonder of each new arrival as he tries to gain his bearings in this new terrain. As I help new initiates through the process of creating an emulation and a profile and learning how to navigate, I get a sense of satisfaction because I can’t help feeling the community is enhanced as each new consciousness becomes integrated. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that Virtual Life has given me a new perspective on the idea of community. After all, in PL one lives a more or less insular life, because that has become the pervasive condition there. In PL, I live in an apartment building with more than one hundred apartments. How many people do I know who live in the building? A sum total of five, and that’s pathetic, if you think about it. Here in Virtual Life I know so many people. And they’re not just from my hometown of Seattle, or from some particular group at work, or at school, or church, or some other social construction. The sad truth is that most of those PL social constructions have already disintegrated, or at least they are well into the process of disintegration. In VL, however, the process of forming groups is only getting started. Each day, it seems, I become aware of a new group with a new agenda. Most are open for anyone to join. This is why there is such a strong sense of community in VL. And it’s also why this virtual society is in a state of constant expansion rather than a state of continual contraction and eventual disintegration. VL is a really happy place! “Fizzy!” Kiz calls out in near desperation. “How are the clothes? Are we ever going to see your new look, Kiz?” “It’s all quite stunning, but I can’t seem to get back to street level. I seem to be stuck inside the wall of your shop!” “No worries, Kiz. It’s easy to get lost within the grid when you’re not experienced. Two or three key strokes and I’ll have you back on solid ground.” “I’m not sure I’ll ever be on solid ground again, Fizzy.” :) types Crystal Marbella.
PROFILE: Fizzy Oceans
NAME: Amy Birkenstock
LOCATION: Seattle, Washington
INTERESTS: Painting, Post Impressionist art, Vincent Van Gogh, cooking, the Internet, reading, learning Japanese, carpentry, cartoons, music festivals, dancing and yoga and working out, desserts.
VIRTUAL LIFE GROUPS: Resident of Lit-A-Rama, VL Greeter and co-owner of Open Books; Lit-A-Rama Events & Discussion Forum; VL Publishers, Printers & Booksellers; VL Book Fair; VL Chamber of Commerce, VL Greeters.
Now, before I make everyone cross-eyed (or just plain cross) reading this admittedly self-indulgent and probably somewhat obnoxious manifesto, and before I log off and shut down my computer (for a few hours anyway), I want to tell you a few more important things about myself in PL. As you can see in my Virtual Life profile, I’m thirty-seven years old. I’m single: that is, I live alone. I was married; now I’m divorced. I got married midway through my senior year in high school (which of course means that I dropped out) to the only guy who’d ever paid me any attention. We were actually pretty good together. We ever so bravely decided to move from Independence, Missouri to Seattle during the whole Grunge thing, and life was pretty interesting during the late eighties and early nineties. When we split up after six years together, I saw no reason to go back to Missouri, so I stayed in Seattle. It’s my home now, and I like it here—at least most of the time. I have a job doing billing for a medical clinic. The work is boring, but the people I work with are nice. We have fun during the day, and sometimes we go out for drinks after work. My co-workers think that the time I spend in VL is silly. I tried to get a couple of them involved, but they weren’t very interested. Deb, who is thirty-eight with two young kids, thought VL was scary; and Karen, who is fifty-something, thought it was just plain weird, and that it wasn’t real anyway. Neither saw the point of spending time in an alternative universe. “The real world has all the challenges I can stand at the moment,” Deb said. “Why would I want to walk around as a cartoon in a cartoon world talking to other cartoons and paying good money for clothes that I can’t even wear?” Karen wanted to know. Whoosh! I must say that my Virtual Life is a lot more interesting than my life in PL. Not that it would necessarily have to be that way… Or that it should be that way… But the truth is that there’s really nothing particularly inspiring about working all day long in an office without windows filling out insurance forms and updating statements. In VL, I have the Open Books Project. And I also have friends like Crystal who understand, as I do, that just because you can touch something, or because you can taste it, or smell it, or because you can measure it, that it is not necessarily more real than an idea. I maintain that ideas are the most real things that we humans have (that is, if you can actually possess an idea). As far as I can tell, the universe is made up of them—I mean ideas—and all the props that we think are real are actually nothing more than symbols of the primary concepts. Some people, it seems, just can’t grasp that idea, but Virtual Life has taught me that we manifest our visions into the symbols we manipulate in our daily lives by using what we have come to call our will. This may sound complicated, or beside the point in our everyday lives, but it’s not; it’s actually the only thing that really matters, the only true reference point we have as we tumble through space and time. So that’s it, Kizmet! That’s my VL greeting to you. I hope you like it here. I hope you manage to make a place for yourself. I hope you meet all sorts of interesting people, and I hope you see places you never imagined might exist. Because that’s really what VL is all about, Kiz—possibilities.
About the author: David A. Ross was born January 6, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to his career as a novelist (Good Morning Corfu, 2009; Open Books; How High The Wall, 2008; Open Books; Sacrifice and the Sweet Life, 2003, Escape Media; A Winter Garden, 2003, Escape Media; Stones, 2001, Escape Media; Xenos, 1998, Escape Media; The Trouble With Paradise; 1997, Escape Media), he is a former columnist and contributing editor for Southwest Art Magazine (1984-1985). His first novel, The Trouble With Paradise, was awarded third prize in the 1997 National Writer's Association Novel Competition. David A. Ross lives on the Island of Corfu, Greece, where he is the editor of Corfu Magazine.
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