My friend Corwyn does a lot of work in the area of virtual theatre in Second Life. Up to now I haven't paid too much attention to Second Life, having way too busy a First Life (or, if you prefer, Real Life). However, Corwyn recently asked me if he could read some of my work to a virtual group he's part of. I happen to know that Corwyn is a trained actor whom I could trust to do a professional job with my stuff, so I figured (and told him), "Sure!"
Then he said, "Why don't you be there, too?" Um. Okay. So I downloaded the software and logged on and created an odd, bald animation to stand for me on the visuals (my avatar, if you haven't encountered the concept before), and Corwyn helped me figure out what was what. So this morning, I shoved my avatar clumsily around the screen, bumping into people and twitching and flinching in bizarre ways due to errant mousings and clickings that I probably shouldn't have done, God knows who I offended by having my avatar twitch the wrong way, what even ARE the social rules in this space?, and finally managed to "sit" and listen.
Well! It was really quite fun! There were about a dozen people there, and I got a very warm reception to the work that Corwyn read (and yes, he did read beautifully), and there were even requests to hear more of my work sometime.
I admit I was dubious about the whole thing, but it seems to be an interesting and entertaining way to reach more readers. Will I sell anything out of it? At this point, that's sort of not the point. The point is to show my work to people who otherwise wouldn't have found it, and to let the word spread. If they like my work, great! It costs me nothing (because the stories Corwyn read have already been published, I don't mind their being performed), and it lets me explore the artistic area of performing one's writing (or having it performed; although I must say there's nothing stopping me from seeing if I can read some of my own stuff on that forum sometime). I've been devoting quite a bit of attention to the whole idea and practice of writing for performance (and the subsequent performance itself!); this whole Second Life thing is an interesting take on it.
I'm a longtime member of virtual communities I got into the whole online-community thing in the early 80s, all you children out there, on BBSes *waves to any of my early-days BBS friends who are reading this*. I'm very familiar with how online communities can form and evolve and provide genuine friendship and collaboration. Only now they've got pictures! (In all honesty, I could probably do without the pictures. But I'm sure that for some, actually looking at the people you're talking to, even though they're avatars, is a major part of the fun.)
Sure, a Second Life reading is a little awkward, and a little gimmicky. And no, it doesn't match the passion and vibrancy of true, real-life readings and performances. But it's still the power of the spoken word, and it's still real-time, and it's still fun. And it's location-independent, which is its own intriguing thing all on its own, artistically speaking.
I may be trying some more of this virtual-reading stuff.