I’m excited to be hosting a public reading of two chapters of Huckleberry Hax’s latest book: “Second Life is a place we visit”, read aloud by the author himself on Thursday, April 23rd at 3pm SLT, at Harry’s Bar at Basilique.
In this collection of 42 non-fiction articles published separately over the past 8 years, Huck pens his way from insightful commentary to touching remembrance – inviting us on a journey of hope, sorrow, enthusiasm and humour.
It’s an incredibly rich collection: lucid, poignant, full of intellectual surprises and the ability to make you genuinely LOL. I’ve heartily enjoyed reading this – sometimes touching, always compelling – winding journey down memory lane that spans 8 years of metaverse commentary on subjects to which most of us will be able to relate.
For this launch event, I’ve asked Huck to read from two of my favourite chapters. The first is the book’s namesake article, addressing the impermanence of the relationships we establish with our digital friends – a subject many of us are familiar with.
In this chapter, Huck begins by reflecting on his – at the time of writing – five years of living in Second Life:
“When people get asked what it is about SL that makes it special, they usually say something along the lines of, ‘the people … they’re talking about friendship; more specifically, they’re talking about the realisation that first dawned on them perhaps a few weeks into their inworld life – that SL is a place where you can find and make the friends you’ve always secretly wanted to have.”
And there we have the secret sauce. For most of us, it’s not the places, nor the stuff we accumulate, not even our borderline-narcissistic love of our avatars that keeps us here. Rather, it’s that rare chemical combustion of an altogether different kind of metaphysical bonding experience:
“Digital friends are a whole new type of friendship, at once better and worse than their RL equivalents. Like ebooks, we can’t touch and smell them, and we can’t look at them in one go in anything approaching completeness; all you can see at any given moment is a single solitary slice. But, also like ebooks, they are instantly there, it’s so much easier to find them and it is their content – not their physical packaging – that is what makes us want their company.”
Whilst sharing his heartbreaking sadness at seeing those he cared step out of his second world, Huck manages to keep a sense of empathy and perspective that few of us can muster without a tinge of maudlin self-pity:
“SL is a place that we visit and, for many of us, the visit is ultimately finite. Sometimes we leave for time out, but sometimes we leave for good. And that is totally okay. People are responsible only to themselves for their happiness, and they are the best judge of the direction in which that lies. And life is meant to be fluid. If we who remain can get past the bitterness phase then what’s waiting for us on the other side is a deeper understanding of what it means to experience real friendship, not to mention gratitude for having found people to discover such closeness, trust and intimacy with, however briefly that lasted.”
To lighten things up, Huck will also read the chapter called “Fatal Crosspost”, which is not to be missed. It takes a rare kind of comedic gift to make someone simultaneously laugh and cringe, which Huck wields adroitly:
“…the true fatal crosspost requires no time for its consequences to become apparent; its impact is as subtle as the kiss of a flying brick smashing into your face. And the torchlight embarrassment felt previously at an awkward crosspost will become in the sun-like glare of the sheer shame of an FC as minor as accidentally letting out in conversation one of those high-pitched sneezes you’ve always tried to repress in public. The fatal crosspost is the noisy fart you let out during your annual appraisal with the line manager you’ve always had a secret crush on by comparison.”
If you’ve ever had the woeful misfortune of accidentally writing something nasty about someone in their IM window by mistake, you’ll know the abject horror of which he speaks.
“There is, of course, no recovery from a fatal crosspost. In the instant of their occurrence, one is usually completely aware that, following the optional grovelling apology, the crosspostee will never be spoken to again. Their name must be added reluctantly to the growing list of people we’re resigned to acknowledge would not only be likely to run us down if they happened to spot us walking alone on a country lane, but would actually be justified in doing so.”
Let’s hope that Huck manages to remain safe from fatal crosspost reprisals for at least another day – and please join us for what is sure to be a memorable and entertaining event.