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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

When Worlds Collide: Dandilyon Jinx Reports on Balticon 2021

For the second year in a row, Balticon Station hosted the virtual platform for Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention presented by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Owned by Melita and her partner, the creation of Balticon Station was in response to the pandemic situation in 2020.

Last year with the pandemic raging and people afraid or unable to attend conventions in person, we requested and received non-profit pricing from Linden lab,” said Melita. “Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) are non-profit, educational organizations.”

For many of the attendees, Second Life was a new experience. Last year the Balticon website presented the concept to members as “...a huge, diverse, and extremely eclectic virtual world that was inspired by the Metaverse as described in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash.” The response was enthusiastic and BSFS members and more had the chance to explore role play in the content-rich environment SL residents have become familiar with.

After Balticon was over last year, it was decided to keep the sim open in case other conventions wanted to use the space. The amenities are built to provide a memorable experience for seasoned and new residents alike. “There are half a dozen or so amazing spaces here,” said Melita. “The underwater science lab, the space station, the elven forest and caves, and the art show.  There's a place where you can ‘borrow’ a horse and go for a trail ride, or you can jump from a sky platform using your newly acquired parachute.”  Keeping to the speculative fiction theme, visitors can also fly a UFO or shuttle-bot or just dance the night away in the Space Bar. “Balticon Station was designed to show the depth of Second Life to those who are new to the platform and to show that Science Fiction and Fantasy transcend Real Life,” says Melita.

The timing couldn’t be better. During the event, this reporter overheard quite a few compliments about the virtual platform. With 2021 still uncertain in some areas, many people are seeing virtual worlds as a viable option for business and entertainment. Melita agrees.

“When I started in 2005, people were saying ‘if you are spending your free time in a virtual world, you need psychological help.’  Since the pandemic, some are admitting that it is keeping people sane.”

Melita sees her work at Balticon Station as a way to bring people together, especially at a time when many are still unable to meet up in person. But it doesn’t take a pandemic to find the benefits to a virtual world. “Second Life has been a way for me to remain in contact with friends and family, meeting "’ face-to-face’ with them in a real and comforting way,” says Melita. “What I love about Second Life is the way it slices through barriers.  I know people from all over the world. Race and color don't matter; physical abilities don't matter; age doesn't matter.  What matters is how each person treats each other, and it's truly amazing.”

While first-time visitors may initially be intimidated by the steep learning curve, once they get familiar with the basics they have access to a new world of possibility. “You can create, build, write and publish; you can see and hear live performances; you can conduct business; plan a building; conduct classes ... the limit is your imagination,” says Melita. 

She is an excellent example of how to make use of this alternate reality. “Personally, in Second Life I am a photographer, graphic artist, gallery owner, writer, editor, layout specialist, and magazine publisher, and I teach basic building skills. I am far more fulfilled than I ever was in RL where I am encumbered by time, distance, and physical ability.”

While real-world events prompted the surge of interest in Second Life, some of the new residents will invariably stay and become a permanent part of the community, adding their own experiences to the mix. 

“I hope Second Life continues for a long time,” says Melita. “I know there's a new venture out there that Linden Lab is working on, but I am too involved here to be looking for the next big ‘thing.’”

At the moment, virtual Balticon seems to be a big enough thing all on its own. This reporter was happy to have experienced it. While the convention itself is over until next year, Balticon Station remains open for exploration.




Group: Balticon and BFSF secondlife:///app/group/f0bc49e1-b3d6-59bb-8da8-cc5b104217b0/about



Preferred contact: Melita (taylor.schroeder)


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