Apr 142003

If you are here today, odds are it is because of reading this.

Revisiting the Garden of Remembrance

A few years back, I wrote that some of the events from the Ultima Online days were going to get seized up by the playerbase and turned into some of the formative myths of cyberspace. I never expected that one of the things that people would seize on most fervently was A Story About a Tree. In the end, sadly, it has turned out that like most myths, it has a kernel of truth circles by layers of fiction and wishes.

A few weeks ago, I started trading emails with Tracy Spaight, a documentary filmmaker who was researching Karyn’s story. He came to the conclusion that it was a hoax, and you can read about his investigations in his article for Salon.com..

How do I feel about this? To be honest, very much like I felt at the time that the events in A Story About a Tree took place. Stages of disbelief, anger, and sorrow, the all-too-familiar pop-psych litany.

Right now, as I write this, members of the LegendMUD community are going through the same stages, a few weeks behind me, as they learn for the first time of this deception.

Here’s the thing, though: we come back to myths not because they are true, but because they are True. So I am going to state this as bluntly as I can: I am not ashamed about having been taken in. Frankly, it’s not the first time, and I am sure it won’t be the last. But I would much rather be willing to approach other people online without endless layers of hardened cynicism, than to have to live a life online always skeptical of others’ intentions.

To me, the heart of the story still stands: that the bonds we form with others online are real. Realer, it seems, than the people themselves, sometimes. The crux of the matter is that real or not, Karyn is lost to us. And to me, that fact will always be deserving of a Garden of Remembrance.