What is This Thing Called Steampunk?
Steampunk is the overall term for a genre of literature. One could think of it as a sub-genre of science fiction, or possibly historical fantasy. In the world of steampunk, we hark back to the 19th century and the reign of Queen Victoria. Women wear long skirts and have "limbs," not legs. Gentlemen dress in top hats, frock coats, and cravats. But it's not just the 19th century, oh no. Imagine the Victorian era in a parallel universe, one where Science...even Mad Science...reigns supreme. Clockwork automatons, steam-powered airships, aetheric communicators...even Death Rays and reanimated creatures to put Dr. Frankenstein's monster to shame.
One of the very, very best examples of this literature can be found in the award-winning web comic, "Girl Genius" by Phil and Kaja Foglio. Stop reading this right now and go bookmark it. A new page appears three times a week (MWF.) Follow the adventures of plucky Agatha Heterodyne as she makes her way through one thrilling, hair-raising adventure after another!
OK, I'm assuming you've come back here after being immersed for a couple of days in the Girl Genius back issues. Back to Second Life...
Steampunk is very much a part of Second Life. There are several estates that feature a steampunk theme. Collectively, they're known as the Steamlands. Perhaps the largest and best known of the Steamlands is Caledon, an estate (its citizens call it a mini-nation) of about 40 regions. Caledon is the brainchild of Desmond Shang, the Guvnah of Caledon. Guvnah Shang rules with a light touch, and his enthusiastic citizens have populated Caledon with a wealth of peculiar people and astonishing and beautiful places and things. The citizens of Caledon may be thought of as engaging in a long-term form of "light role play." That is, there are no rules that you must follow, but if you wish to create a steampunk character with an in-period appearance and a persona to match, you are more than welcome to.
Many people's first exposure to Caledon happens when they arrive at Caledon Oxbridge University. COU's campus takes up one entire region. It consists of six "colleges." Each college is in a separate building, and contains a detailed, walk-through tutorial about one major aspect of Second Life...how to move, how to communicate, how to customize your appearance, and so on. There is also a classroom where professors (including yours truly) hold forth on a number of Second Life subjects in more detail. Come along with me as we take a stroll through the campus. (As always, click a picture to see a larger version or to view them as a slide show.)
|An Aerial View of COU. Arrival Hall at Upper Left|
|Aetheric Transporter Arrival Point. Start Reading, by the Numbers!|
|Some Helpful Signs|
|Class Schedule - Click to get a notecard version|
|Beautiful Architecture, and the Bunneh, Mascot of Caledon|
|Across the Path from the Bunneh, the Lecture Hall|
|The College of Motion|
|Learn to Walk, Sit, Fly and Teleport|
|College of Camera Control|
|College of Communication - Chat, IM, Notecards|
|College of Finding - Inventory, Search|
|Learn by Doing: Sit on a Poseball, Ring the Bell|
|College of Avatar Customisation|
|Free Steampunk Avatars!|
|Discreet Changing Rooms|
|College of Money and Commerce|
|All About $L|
When you've finished all the tutorials, there's still more to see and do. There's a couple of large notice boards with links to many other places in Caledon and the Steamlands.
|Library of Caledon|
|Baggage Claim Area (Freebies!)|
If you don't like trains, there are many other ways to see Caledon. There is the Caledon Air Transport service, an undersea tour, and a horse-drawn carriage ride, all within easy walking distance of the campus. There is also the "Caledon Quest," a sort of scavenger hunt, that will take you to many of the notable places of Caledon while giving you a deep sense of accomplishment (or frustration, as the case may be.)
If you get lost or confused, or have questions about Second Life, Steampunk, or Caledon, there are almost always live helpers on campus. You'll most likely find them on the circular benches across from the Lecture Hall. Look for people wearing a group tag that says "Oxbridge Dean," "Oxbridge Professor," or "Oxbridge Tutor."
If you get bitten by the Steampunk bug and want to LIVE in Caledon, you can do so. Open the profile of the Guvnah, Desmond Shang, and look in his Picks for available properties. Or if you have specific desires, send him a notecard and he will get back to you when something meeting your needs becomes available. There is a notecard drop box in the COU Lecture Hall, or you can drop a note right on his Profile picture. Desmond is a very approachable person, don't let his title intimidate you!
There is a community group, Independent States of Caledon (ISC.) If you are a resident, or even if you have a deep interest in the Steamlands or steampunk roleplay, ask Desmond or any prominent citizen for a group invitation. The group chat is often hilarious, as well as informative, and it's always Well Mannered.
See you around the campus!
Caledon Oxbridge University