My top ten SL photos (by me) of 2020, and some other end-of-year stuff.

It’s that time of year again when content creators reflect on the year that has passed as we enter into that odd bit of time between Christmas and New Year. Ordinarily, this little collection of days is something of an adjustment period – a getting used to the idea of the year ending – and these reflections a necessary part of that adjustment. This year is different, and I find that processing the year that has passed is not something I’m yet ready to do in any sort of meaningful way. The hugeness of what has happened is still something I’m grappling with, and I say this as someone who has had it easy over the last 12 months. I’ve kept my job. I haven’t been ill. My family have been safe. I’m not a person who seeks social company in RL, so the lockdowns have not troubled me. And yet, I will be thinking about the events of 2020 for many years to come. As I look forward, the only clear thought I have is that I might share some of this thinking right here on this blog. It might be a helpful thing for me to do. Then again, it might not. We’ll see.

So for now I’m going to stick to the regular script and list my top ten most favourited Flickr pics over the year, with a little bit of commentary. At the bottom of the post I’ll also summarise a few other 2020 highlights and share some objectives for 2021.

#1 I don’t need to outrun the lion, Hax… I just need to outrun you

Published: August 2020. Current views: 1,576. Current favs: 124.

In July this year I finally released my first ever feature-length movie made in Second Life, STÖMOL. It was the end point of 18 months of very intensive work, and once the premiere and the Linden live event were done – and since an RL holiday this year was out of the question – I took a couple of days out to relax at Kidaka Resort, an SL holiday destination set in rural Africa. I was joined there by STÖMOL assistant director, Caitlin Tobias, and we spent a very pleasant evening taking photos around this stunning region (you can read Cait’s review of the experience here). This is probably my favourite of the photos I took, which actually took nearly half an hour to set up since the lions are animesh and we had to wait for their movement so that they were both pointing in our direction.

#2 Huck’s absolute beginner’s guide to Second Life for the coronavirus curious

Published: March 2020. Current views: 8,144. Current favs: 121

By far my most viewed photo of the year (actually, my fifth most viewed Flickr photo ever) was this picture, which I used for an article aimed at people who were exploring SL for the first time, perhaps as something to do during lockdown. SL registrations increased substantially this year as a result of people doing exactly this, and I’d been collecting thoughts on what sort of questions newbies might need answering for them for some time – so this seemed like the right moment to put these together in a post. The article became my most viewed post of the year by far, and is now linked to by several sites, including Second Life’s official Reddit and the Firestorm Wiki. It’s still getting plenty of views right now, so I suspect this will go on to be one of my most viewed posts of 2021 as well. If my guide has helped anyone new find their footing in SL then that makes me very happy.

#3 Diz

Published July 2020. Current views: 1,104. Current favs: 105

Dizi is my oldest friend in SL – I met her way back in 2007 and we’ve been friends ever since. I took this photo – probably my own personal favourite of the year – back in July during a brief get-together, during which I asked if she would design me a new avatar. Dizi designs her own shapes and has become a real pro at putting avatars together (her Rachel from Blade Runner has to be seen to be believed), and she totally came through with new-look Huck (who made his first public appearance at the top of this blog post).

My close friends in SL are a source of huge pleasure for me, and friends don’t come much finer than Dizi and Cait – both of whom, incidentally, are Coronavirus Heroes in the work that they do when they’re not in SL. I’m proud to know them both.

#4 diagonal

Published January 2020. Current views: 1,665. Current favs: 103

Every now and then I see someone in SL who I feel compelled to photograph. This is Hisagi luckless, who I spotted during a visit to Drune (during the filming of STÖMOL). Hisagi was gracious enough to let me take her picture (and her version can be seen here).

#5 nightfall

Published May 2020. Current views: 1,745. Current favs: 91

The exact same thing happened with this photo: this time, the model was Jaina Sweetness.

#6 Stormy Sunday

Published February 2020. Current views: 1,687. Current favs: 91

Taken, quite literally, on a stormy Sunday, this pic was snapped at The Dreamer’s Island during a short break from doing the sound editing on STÖMOL. Nothing quite beats time spent at a well-constructed beach in SL for sheer tranquillity.

#7 It doesn’t often snow at Christmas

Published December 2020. Current views: 1,009. Current favs: 91

That said, time spent at wintry SL regions at Christmas come a very close second. This pic was taken at Spring Falls a few weeks ago. The title of the pic, incidentally, is also the title of Pet Shop Boys’ Christmas song. Just sayin’.

#8 Huck’s guide to making machinima in Second Life part five: working with other people

Published September 2020. Current views: 4,112. Current favs: 87

My series of blog posts about making machinima was another big earner of views this year. I used the picture above for part five of the series, though the photo was actually taken several months earlier as part of a series of images Cait and I created to promote STOMOL. This one was taken at a a film studio region created by the incredibly talented Lotus Mastroianni and Fred Hamilton and features Cait and Mich Michabo in their STÖMOL costumes. It was kind of inspired by the Abbey Road cover photo. Kind of.

#9 Study in orange and black

Published April 2020. Current views: 1,472. Current favs: 85

Another photo of Dizi. I went all-out on composition and colour on this one, and it’s another of my own personal favourites of the year. This picture was taken during the serialisation of The man who dated his RL boss (without her knowing it), a long short story set in SL that I published over April (and which proved very popular). Dizi modelled with me for all the pics taken with the female character of the story, which was an extra-special treat for me.

#10 STÖMOL: Preview clip

Published May 2020. Current views: 1,697. Current favs: 79

I’m somewhat relieved that at least one of the photos I took to promote STÖMOL made it into the top ten this year! This picture was used to promote the first clip published of the movie in advance of the its release in July. I was very nervous about publishing this clip, because it was the first proper taster of the movie shown to the public – sound, dialogue and all – and by this point interest in the project was starting to build. It was also the last full scene of the movie that I actually shot, filmed in early 2020 with Boudicca Amat (who did such an amazing job with her lines).

And a few more things

So that’s the top ten images out of the way. But of course I can’t really conclude a post about my photography in 2020 without at least a few more words about STÖMOL (not a still photograph, but photography was involved). The reception that my first ever movie got way exceeded all my expectations, with my personal highlights of the year being the Lab Gab Interview with Strawberry Linden, the Linden screening event, my interview with Ivar Zeile and the SUPERNOVA awards ceremony, at which STÖMOL took second place in the main competition.

Linden Lab’s screening of STÖMOL in SL.

In this respect, then, 2020 has been a good year for me. I make that statement with no small degree of hesitation, knowing that for so many people it has been such a terrible, terrible year. To claim otherwise, though, would be disingenuous of me: I will remember and treasure these moments for the rest of my life. But yeah: lucky me, I know.

Goals for 2021

I didn’t publish a single book in 2020, ending an eleven year publishing run of at least one book a year. In 2020, however, I hope to publish a book I’ve been sitting on for two years now. Virtual Thursday will see the return of my most popular fictional character, Emma Kline aka ‘Definitely Thursday’ from the AFK series. One of the reasons I’ve been sitting on this is because I want to have its sequel done by the time I publish. I’m currently over 55,000 words into this second new novel. It’s called Love is a Corrupted Data Stream and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written. This will be published either late 2021 or early 2022.

In January, I hope to start work on something that should be fun – a voice reading of my Avatar Dining Club mystery stories. This was first suggested to me by Machinimist Erik Mondrian (who also made the suggestion that I enter STÖMOL into the 2020 SUPERNOVA film festival, so I’ve much to be grateful to Erik for). I plan on uploading these to YouTube as audio recordings.

And I’m also working on a new movie, the details of which I will announce once I get to a point where I start to feel confident that I might actually finish it! It’s very unlikely this will be completed in 2021, so expect a 2022 release. Just to whet your appetite, here’s a teaser image from the footage already in the can.

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