Gibson is the last region to be reviewed in this series. It is the first (but not the only) sim in Second Life to be named for a real, living person: William Gibson, who coined the word cyberspace in his 1982 short story “Burning Chrome” and who is a founding author of the cyberpunk movement in science fiction with such novels as Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive.
The original “Cyber Punk City” community project was located in Bonifacio’s southwest corner, and its landmark icon on the World Map of early June was labeled Nexus Prime. It proved to be a very popular location in a world then comprised of 31 regions, so, along with Darkwood, it was granted an entire region for expansion (on the map above, its name had been changed to “NexCorp”, but all of the references I’ve been able to find retain “Nexus Prime”).
The SL Wikia has an uncharacteristically long and detailed entry on Nexus Prime (and none whatsoever on Gibson). Reading it again in preparation for writing this blog, I was struck with an irony that can only be peculiar to virtual worlds:
It seems as though Nexus Prime has never been “finished”, remaining forever in a state of constant change. Things have been constantly added or redone, never staying the same long enough to become boring. Nexus Prime is a good example of a project in Second Life – it’s open for everyone to see, so you can see a project within it that you may think will be really cool just to see it gone the next day (but replaced with something equally interesting).
How often has this blog series echoed the common lament about lack of permanence in Second Life while celebrating the preservation, whether intentional or accidental? [Rhetorical question; answer: very] Yet, from that statement in the Wikia, part of the appeal of Nexus Prime seems to have been its very impermanence… and not just from the standpoint of its visitors.
I am more than a bit chagrined to confess that, when I joined SL in December 2007, I had no inkling of the existence of Nexus Prime, let alone that it was a mere two sims diagonally removed from where I spent most of my time… but such is the tunnel vision one quickly obtains when immersed in a community/”lifestyle” (and against which this blog is, in part, purposed). Nevertheless, it was there, and whole… until the following month;
On January 17, 2008, Tyrell Corporation builder Ready Jack removed all of his objects from Nexus Prime from both of its regions, resulting in the decimation of all above-ground buildings. Ready Jack removed the objects and left the Tyrell Corporation group in protest of the lack of recent building in the city.
Two days later, Akela Talamasca posted an article at Massively, which includes a quote from Spider Mandala on behalf of the land group, which styled itself Tyrell Corporation:
Unfortunately Nexus Prime was left relatively stagnant for a great while. [ … ] The city has stayed the same for so long because it was enjoyed quite a lot by our citizens and visitors as it was.
That article also has, appended to it, a collection of photos of the aftermath (here’s a direct link).
Fast-forward to this year. I began surveying the neighboring regions in April, at which time the entire region of Gibson was encased in a 100-meter tall megaprim (the World Map excerpt at the top of this post preserves the aerial view from then).
A quick visit revealed that some kind of preliminary (re?)construction was taking place within the walls:
You can see a model (made by Penny Patton in January 2010) of what may have been planned, hovering just right of center. The next time I visited, the region was bare above the waterline — none of what can be seen in the above photos remained, except that grid below the water, and the model, which was sitting on the sea floor:
Incidentally, the reddish square represents the original Nexus Prime land in Bonifacio, which the group has retained… and which, in August 2010, looked like this from above:
Given Nexus Prime’s stormy history of (sometimes intentional) impermanence, it should surprise no one that the build standing on that land today looks nothing like the model:
As of this date, the latest resurrection of Nexus Prime is still under construction, but there is enough detail in place to give tantalizing hints of the “backstory” and ambiance implied by its builder, General Yiyuan.
The ubiquity of the logo, the unity of architectural style — which I am tempted to characterize as “Future Deco”, or “Albert Speer and Leni Riefenstahl meet Ridley Scott” — and the inclusion of propaganda art from both American and Soviet history, all point to a hypothetical brand of state centralism that attempts a “third way”, neither capitalist nor communist, but unmistakably totalitarian.
It remains to be seen if this is “merely” one person’s project in monumental architecture — an empty stage set waiting for machinimists — or if something like active, ongoing roleplay will take place there. If the latter, it should be fascinating.