I arrive at the library a little early for the book signing to find people already there, and more arriving. One suddenly appears out of thin air, right in front of me, while another literally flies through the door, and lands like a feather, rapidly walking to the information desk. Groups of people are standing around talking, but there isn’t a sound, and their mouths aren’t moving. Instead, their hands type on a nonexistent keyboard and a cartoon bubble floats above their heads where the words appear.
Am I dreaming? Or has that dorm pot party I attended back in 1971 finally caught up to me?
Actually – none of the above is the correct answer. I’m in cyberspace in a worldwide virtual program called “Second Life”. All of the people are quite real, as are the conversations, although it’s all being done by people sitting at their home computers all over the world, through virtual bodies called “Avatars.”
My avatar’s name in Second Life is “Benjamin Helios,” and it walks over to the desk where the smiling librarian greets me. “Good afternoon,” the words appear above her head. But, it’s still morning where I am in Tampa, FL. She’s really in London, which is why we arranged this book signing in “SL time.” And since the actual physical computers which run this remarkable, and astonishingly rich world exist in California, “SL time,” is identical to Pacific Time, on the West Coast.
“Are you ready to begin?” the librarian asks me.
“Of course,” I state confidently, however, I’m not quite as confident as I seem, since I’m about to do something which to the best of my knowledge has never been done before. I intend to “wear,” an Avatar which looks just like each of the main characters in my novel, and talk about the story from that character’s particular viewpoint. To everyone present, I will be the young girl who got murdered.
And then, I will be the villain who killed her.
Then I will become the police officer investigating the crime, asking for help in solving the murder from the gathered crowd.
It will all be me, of course. But for the people deciding whether to buy my book, I will be the characters themselves, talking, blinking, and breathing.
It’s sort of acting, sort of selling, but quintessentially, it’s all story telling in its purest form. Not even Stephen King gets into his characters this well. Finally, I’m done, and to the polite applause, I change back into myself – or at least the Avatar I normally wear – and the librarian escorts me to the table.
I sit down, and get ready to sign for the first eager book buyer. Standing before me, however, is a pink fox. She types in the air. “Hi,” and I try to compliment her on her appearance as a fox, but she shakes her head. “I’m not a fox,” she smiles. “I’m a fennec. They’ve got bigger ears.”
“Oh of course,” I laugh, silly me.
And so, the online concept of Booklocker.com has become complete. Now everything about the publishing process – including the buyers themselves – is all online. The book signing is done in the comfort of my own home, so noT having to book a strange hotel in a faraway city, and no aching wrist from a day of signing the fly leaf.
All I have to do is to remember which one I am. Ben Helios has the mustache. Al Perrin’s daughters made him shave it off. It’s that easy to remember. I hope.
THIS SATURDAY at 12:00 pm (noon) EASTERN TIME, come to Al’s next virtual book signing at Second Life! Before Saturday, go to http://www.secondlife.com/ and sign up (it’s free!). You’ll need to download their software after you sign up. Then, create your own Avatar and start looking around. Angela Hoy will be there, too! Her username is Parched Dagger (Stop laughing! They make you choose one of their pre-determined last names!). The signing will be at the Second Life Main Library at the open air stage, with all the flags.