To the best of my knowledge, Narnia doesn't actually exist. Nor, as far as I'm aware, does Bilbo's Middle Earth. Nor the Chicago inhabited by Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawsky.
But that doesn't mean they're not real .
Writers make worlds that don't exist all the time. Then, if they're good enough, they take a reader there anyway. And that world can become just as real as any other. Or virtually real. Which is kind of catchy. Maybe we should call these books worlds, like, Virtual Worlds?
Well, we could. But the name's sort of taken already . And after that (with apologies to Paul McCartney) long and tortured road, takes me to today.
Or rather, to Yesterday. Lordy, those Beatles get everywhere .
You see, there's more than one kind of Virtual World. There's the kind writers make - and there's the kind people who may or may not be writers make. And if writers use words, then in these other worlds, people use... well. Let me show you.
People who know about these things would look at this and say something like 'Oh, I know what that is. It's a prim!' And people who don't know about these things would look at them, take out their phone and call the nice doctor in the clean white coat. But that's exactly what it is.
Er - what's a prim? Well, someone who actually knows what they're talking about told me it should really be called a 'primitive'. But in the type of Virtual World I'm talking about? Well, it's sort of whatever you want it to be. Or it can be. So maybe it's what it looks like. A block of wood. Or a brick. Because in the right hands a brick can be just about anything. It just hasn't got there yet.
So if this is a brick, what's it for? The answer? Pretty much anything. In the Virtual Worlds I'm talking about, a prim doesn't have to be a block like the one up there. It can be one of these:
This is just one of those things up there, but someone's changed it. They've stretched it out. They've pulled it, they've pushed it - and now it's not a square block. It's a flat panel. Which is all very well, but not very interesting. Or maybe it is. Because people who know what they're doing can do things (in these worlds that don't exist) with prims. They can make them look like - well, maybe like this:
This is a block, like the first one, changed into a panel like the second one - and then painted. Well, not really painted. It's called a 'texture'. But it's like painting the block thing to look - well, like another block thing. A woody block thing, but rather prettier.
Which is no doubt fascinating if you like woody things that look like other woody things . But that's not it. When I was in the Virtual World I was in yesterday, it wasn't about woody things. Because apparently you can do all sorts of things with woody things. Or things that aren't woody things. Because, like when writers make worlds, they start out with their own prims. They're called letters. And they shuffle those letters round, and they mix them up into words, and they put the words together - and somehow they can make worlds. Worlds with colour, with style - worlds. And these other kinds of Virtual World are just the same. And a friend of mine, someone who knows a lot more about prims and textures than I know about words, she took some of those woody block things up there, and she made this:
And she didn't just make that. The outside. She made this:
Yes. She (in case anyone's interested, she's the incredible and amazing Kohkoh Baroque. She makes things like this in a place called InWorldz). It has an inside too .
I know. You're a reader. You're a writer. It's pretty - but why should you care?
You don't have to. But I was there, this weekend. In that InWorldz place. In the Irish Pub the wonderous Ms Baroque made for me. And I wasn't alone. Because in that place, other people playing the same game (yes, it's a kind of game) can hear you if they want to. Hear you speaking. And if you know someone really, really clever (like someone called Alaster Dionysis is), they can not just hear things. They can see things from the world we walk round in every day. Like this:
And that's why I was there. In that InWorldz place. To read. Read a book - or a book I'm working on - called 'Jack Shadow'. And I wasn't reading it to a bunch of walls. I was speaking to players in that world - people. Real people. Real people - in a Virtual World:
That's me, sat on the stool by the Big Board. And no. I don't look like that. I'm short, fat, bald and ugly. But I'm lucky - my wife's got lousy taste in men .
But in these Virtual Worlds, I don't have to be short, fat, bald and ugly, any more than Gandalf had to brush his teeth and floss every day. Or how Aragorn never needed to know about the Atkins Diet. Because just because something's real, that doesn't mean it has to be all there is. And even if it's not real? If it's some world that only exists between the pages of a book, or on a screen? That doesn't mean we can't go there anyway .
This is me, sat waiting for folks to arrive before they listened to me read from Jack Shadow. Before they went to a Virtual World. Even if they were in one already. Which is kind of cool, if you're a writer. Or I think it is. Because these Virtual Worlds, the InWorldz kind of Virtual Worlds, are chock full (InWorldz has over 50,000 registered accounts, and over 1000 people log in every month) of people who like to escape from the worlds they live in. Like to be in places that never, maybe, existed before they were there.
Kind of like readers. Kind of like lots and lots of people who just might be my readers, or yours, if they knew about what I (yes, or you ) wrote. Kind of like our kind of people .
It was fun. I'm going back next week - someone wants me to be part of their Celtic Ostere Festival. I'll be reading some Celtic-y things I've written. Then the next week, I'll be back at the Blarney. Maybe I'll read some of 'Comedy of Terrors' - it's out in July, and there might just be some people in InWorldz who might like a book about an Idiot...
See - that's the thing about writing. Or reading. You never know where it may take you .
But there. I've blethered enough. The Virtual floor is Virtually open . Thoughts? Comments?