How The Simulacrum Killed Carmen Hermosillo

by Alphaville Herald on 04/09/09 at 3:00 pm

The first to warn are the first affected

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk

In H+ magazine's  A Virtual Life. An Actual Death Mark Stephen Meadows and Peter Ludlow make a compelling case that Carmen Hermosillo‚Äôs real life death last year was most likely the sort of suicide Carmen had warned against when she wrote in Confessions of a Gorean Slave:

"Several people in SL have commented to me that they expect, at somepoint, to hear that someone has committed suicide overevents/relationships in SL, and they say that because it is theirfeelings that the Lindens appear oblivious to human cost ofentry/experience in SL. Think about it.".

While online worlds can be a source of diversion and delight, the weight players invest into the symbols and relationships they form are such that what starts as an escape may become something far stronger – and stranger.

A Virtual Life. An Actual Death is a must read cautionary tale for those who would immerse themselves in the virtual realm. A few excerpts:

It might be clear what had happened, but the more urgentquestion is why it happened, and as it turns out, understanding thisrequires a journey into a deep rabbit hole involving over a decade ofonline life, virtual relationships, BDSM roleplay, and a virtual islandKingdom…


…Carmen's tremendous vision — the reason she understood the dangers of virtual life so well — was that she was intimately involved. Her warnings were not the warnings of an outsider, but the warnings of someone who knew. She was not above it all; she was wrapped up in the drama and the dangers and just as susceptible to mistaking the simulacrum for the real as the women in 1290. What set her apart was her ability to tell the story from the inside. She could not escape the siren call of the simulacrum, but she could warn us of its pernicious effects…

…The escape to the virtual world came crashing down on her when Riz disappeared on her — in effect, he dumped her. She had been rejected by her Gorean master. Riz would leave her hanging for weeks at a time, unclear whether he was coming to spend time with her in their fictional world, vague about his health, and non-committal about his investment in the relationship. The result was that Carmen became increasingly panicked and off balance.

Two weeks later, during the afternoon of August, 8, she began deleting her accounts and then (apparently having gone off her heart medication), passed away on the bed in her California home…

21 Responses to “How The Simulacrum Killed Carmen Hermosillo”

  1. Mary Elizabeth

    Sep 4th, 2009

    Not to seem harsh, but killing yourself over your Gorean slave master leaving SL really does point to substantial RL issues rather than culpability on the part of SL. I hope she found peace.

  2. I need another drink, damn it

    Sep 4th, 2009

    @Mary Elizabeth,

    Try telling that to “mainstream media” when this story gets picked up….sigh. When I read Meadows’ I, Avatar, I kept wondering about Carmen. She’d “killed” one Gorean slavegirl avatar when that all went wrong, but she came back again to a world that she found so compelling.

    Sigh. SL didn’t kill her, Gor didn’t kill her. She was obsessive and that killed her.

    But try telling that to a bubbleheaded journalist eager to have it “bleed and lead” on the air or online.

  3. JustMe

    Sep 4th, 2009

    There are cases of women killing themselves over penpals (who they had never met) who decided to stop writing.

    There are cases of people stalking celebreties and being completely obsessed with them.

    There are cases of …. well, fill in the blank, here.

    In any case, a death over a SL relationship is no different than the above examples .. it’s a reflection on the RL state of mind and stability of the individual, not a specific inditement of SL. SL just happenned to be the means of contact/interaction, similar to above where the contact factor was exchanging letters or seeing someone famous on TV or in the movies.

  4. I remember reading “I, Avatar” and thinking how this particular story just felt like it would have a tragic ending and I’m genuinely saddened to see how this ended. I really seriously just hope people can learn from this tragedy. Second Life isn’t to blame and as much as I personally dislike it, I don’t even blame Gorean roleplay for this. It’s nothing more than losing a sense of perspective and losing the edges of the screen. It’s truly a terrible loss so I sincerely hope people learn from this tale and strive to keep a sense of perspective in every aspect of their lives, Second or otherwise.

  5. urizenus sklar

    Sep 4th, 2009

    There is a loss of perspective in the background here to be sure, but the troubling case about Carmen is that she is one of the people who called out people for losing perspective. If it happened to her it could happen to any of us if we hit a bad streak. So while I’m not about blaming SL, or even blaming anyone, the question is, how many other people are also in vulnerable positions. Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? None? The scary thing is that we have no idea.

  6. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Sep 5th, 2009

    People are fucking stupid. What do you expect?

  7. corona Anatine

    Sep 5th, 2009

    Her death may or may not be due to the abysmal stereotyping of gender in G.O.R. but it does perhaps illustrate the sort of personalities that are attracted to role play in Norman’s ‘Glorification Of Rape’ world.

  8. Sylauxe Zhao

    Sep 5th, 2009

    You are all horrible people and I hold you all in the highest contempt.

  9. Atra Lupis

    Sep 5th, 2009

    I am afraid that this is nothing more than a classic case concerning the total loss of the fantasy/reality barrier.

    This person was far too wrapped up in a world and relationship that did not exist. the fact that she took her own life simply showcases a pre-existing mental condition.

    The roleplay environment she chose has little to do with this case.

  10. Corona anatine

    Sep 6th, 2009

    re

    This person was far too wrapped up in a world and relationship that did not exist.

    not so
    as
    A Virtual Life. An Actual Death

    states
    Carmen’s relationship with Riz extended out of the virtual world and into the physical world (they spoke on the phone, sometimes several times a day),

    therefore this was very much a real relationship

    I hope this Riz person feels good about upholding gorean master values of contempt for women in RL

  11. Atra Lupis

    Sep 6th, 2009

    Corona, the fact that Riz began acting the way he did and ceased communication speaks volumes to what I have said.

    Their “relationship” was a fantasy, through and through.

    Real life contact does not make a true relationshup.

  12. Eva Ryan

    Sep 6th, 2009

    There are those people that do have substantial psychological issues in SL (No, say it isn’t so). The fact is, some people project themselves into their avatars that they cannot distinguish fantasy from reality (perhaps because reality sucks for them so badly).
    In any case, this isn’t the first time, nor will be the last time such things occur. Just think of how a bad rap Dungeons and Dragons got back in the late 70′s and early 80′s. (D&D player (14 years old) commits suicide by hanging, 1979. D&D player (17 years old) Michael Dempsey, Lynnwood, WA. suicide by gunshot wound to the head, 5/19/81. Witnesses saw him trying to summon up D&D demons just minutes before his death… etc.)And you really can’t blame the medium from which this occurs.
    It is a sad thing to happen; but, honestly, what can be done? Nothing really.. after all, do we shut down SL because some people have issues with it? I think not.

  13. Galatea Gynoid

    Sep 6th, 2009

    “Corona, the fact that Riz began acting the way he did and ceased communication speaks volumes to what I have said.”

    Only for the logic impaired. The fact that people grow distant and a relationship disintegrates does not imply that the relationship never existed to begin with.

    Oh, I see, it never existed because it was based on pretty pixels, communication skills, and exchange of thoughts and feelings rather than make-up, hair-care products and exchange of bodily fluids. That makes sense…

  14. Atra Lupis

    Sep 6th, 2009

    Come off it Galatea.

    The kind of ‘relationship’ described between the unfortunate woman and Riz is a sort I see all the time, across many different services.

    I do so wish people would stop attempting to put words and thoughts into a person’s posts that simply are not there.

    It is patently obvious that the only one who believed the ‘relationship’ was real … was the one who later took her own life.

    The fact that your response is little more than a half thought attempt at an attack does amuse me greatly though ….

    The truly ‘logic impaired’ do not bother to analyze the facts that are presented to them, nor do they bother to do any research at all into online relationships.

    By the facts as they stand, the manner in which events unfolded, the actions of both parties and the final outcome – suicide – proper logical analysis dictates that Riz did not share the same feelings and could not be bothered to tell the poor woman what he should have told her to begin with.

    He toyed with her, got all he was going to get and then left without a word.

    Sadly, like all people of his type – which can be either gender by the by – he could not have cared any less that the person he was toying with was so unstable.

    Second Life is not to blame, nor is GOR – or ANY roleplay evironment for that matter – Ris is to blame, as is the duped woman for not getting help for heer problems, in addition to her friends and family for not steppping in to nip this in the bud.

    In short? Stop playing the blame game people, the blame is equally shared and it is high time that people realize this.

    I do not care one iota for anyone who seeks to lay the blame on one person, or on an idea or environment.

    I have grown weary of the myopic extremists that try to represent gender based movments, those who try to blame it all on the medium and those who try to blame a fantasy environment.

    If you find what I have said so hard to fathom … then perhaps it is time to unplug your computer and spend some time in the real world, where these things happen far more frequently and over far more trivial matters.

    The poor woman is dead. The facts and any real analysis of the events show what likely happened.

    Let the woman rest in peace and get on with your lives.

    - Atra Lupis

  15. GreenLantern Excelsior

    Sep 6th, 2009

    “Her death may or may not be due to the abysmal stereotyping of gender in G.O.R. but it does perhaps illustrate the sort of personalities that are attracted to role play in Norman’s ‘Glorification Of Rape’ world.”

    In the novels, Gorean men loved and cherished their women. There was very little rape or other mistreatment to be seen. The SL implementation of Gor is said to be much the same, so your own stereotyping of SL Goreans is probably wrong.

    I wonder if the appeal of Gor is not so much the lifestyle and the D/s aspect as it is the rich interaction within the relationship. If all you do is take your partner dancing every other night and engage in a little cybersex now and then, it would be hard to become too attached. But if you’re interacting to the point where one person is controlling the other and the other is aching to be controlled, there’s much more interaction and both partners get to know each other better. And of course when one partner disconnects from SL for a couple of weeks without notice, it becomes that much more devastating to the other partner.

    I believe Carmen would have ended up the same way even if she had never discovered Second Life. There are people who can’t be rescued, no matter how hard you try. This article is very thought-provoking regarding the danger of immersing yourself too deeply in the virtual world. We all have a limited span of time on this planet, and to waste any of it arguing passionately about whether the virtual walls of your virtual clubhouse should have a virtual color of red or blue seems to me to be a waste. Maybe we can all use this article to stimulate an examination of our own lives, so we don’t end up like Carmen.

  16. Atra Lupis

    Sep 6th, 2009

    Indeed she would, Greenlantern.

    Someone else, be it someone she met in person, or someone on another service, would have come along and been the same type of person Riz was and is.

    This same situation unfolds all the time, with litterally all involved and related to the people within such incidents all having the same responsibilities and all to blame.

  17. Suzie Skybeam

    Sep 7th, 2009

    That’s ever so sad.

    I have a kind of horrified fascination with Second Life, because it’s such a train-wreck at all levels, from the bug-ridden software, through LL’s business model right through to the sometimes dangerous psychological effect it has on people.

    It seems to me that a lot of people who are troubled in RL come to virtual worlds with the hope that it will help them. And there are indeed many positive things in virtual worlds. But whether, in the long run, these worlds are good for people who were troubled to start with, I’m not sure. I’m really not sure.

  18. Suzie Skybeam

    Sep 7th, 2009

    Some years ago, I had a discussion with some actor friends of mine who thought that table-top RPGs were potentially dangerous. Their point was that playing a character can release a lot of supressed emotions, and a game is perhaps not a safe environment in which to do this.

    My answer at the time was that in table-top RPGs, the GM has a certain amount of responsibility to the players: to know their limits, not push too hard on people’s sensitivities, and to just stop the game if a player is too troubled by it. And usually, RPG plots stay clear of sensitive areas.

    But in VW’s like Second Life, people dive right in to really sensitive things that arouse deep emotions, and there’s almost nothing at all to stop them if things go wrong.

  19. Sadako Shikami

    Sep 7th, 2009

    I wonder if Carmen, born in the Victorian era, would have found herself deeply enmeshed in the ideals of romantic love through writing to a male friend … exchanging poems, perhaps. Finally meeting in real life, for short periods of time. Then dying literally from depression, after his extended absence. Perhaps some people are simply fated from birth to seek out dramatic situations and go very deeply into them, not realizing until it’s too late?

  20. Ajax

    Sep 8th, 2009

    You are all assuming she purposely stopped taking heart medication in order to kill herself because of her bad SL relationship — this theory requires three assumptions and any decent detective will tell you any theory that requires 2 assumptions stinks and is extremely unlikely. More like she was pissed about SL and, having forgotten her medication, continued through a very angry day which culminated in her death — a factor, perhaps, but certainly not the cause.

  21. Margarite Hermosillo

    Dec 25th, 2009

    I am Carmen’s sister. If anyone wants to know the truth about her life or death, please contact me on Atabey@aol.com. Because none of the above is accurate. What did really happen is quite different. And Riz, or whoever you are, you probably don’t have the nerve to contact me. Too much reality for you, huh, buddy?

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