The Lightstream Chronicles double-page, webcomic season finale.

Congratulations, you made it through 38 pages and 99 hi-res renderings. Here is the season finale.

The art on this page speaks louder than words so the director doesn’t have a lot to add. Last week Sean got snatched off the street while frantically trying to catch the Magshuttle back to Top City. Now it appears that things are going from bad to worse. Knocked unconscious, Sean is dragged into a dark alley. When he regains consciousness, he is outnumbered, and his hands are paralyzed to keep him from tapping his fingers together and making a 911 call. The dialog between Sean and his assailants is short and cryptic, and ends with violence.

Uh oh.
Uh oh.

What happens next?

Ramp up to Chapter 2 — Season 2

I’m giving Chapter 1 — Season 1 a few weeks to sink in before the Season 2 opener on September 6th, but August will be jam-packed with new, story-relevant content, including:

  • A new, hi-res, double-page: As Sevin sorts out the memory feed (see pp 2-7)
  • Hi-res candid shots of the cast: New characters that you’ll meet in C2-S2
  • A new, hi-res, double-page: An interview with Sean Colbert (archived from the Lightstream).
  • New, hi-res location shots that will be part of C2-S2. A new revised HK2 skyline.
  • The C2-S2 prologue: A new, hi-res, double-page intro to C2-S2.
  • NEW stuff every Friday in August!! Season opener: September 6th, 2013
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Page 36 – Approaching the webcomic exciting season finale.

Page 36

Sean is in a bit of a jam. There’s two minutes to the “no-excuses” curfew. He just made it to the Magshuttle in what he thought would be plenty of time, but only to find that it is out of order, the next nearest shuttle is a big block away and, of course, it’s raining like hell. Let’s not forget that he’s carrying a mysterious bit of contraband, as well. Downtown is now deserted. If anyone has found themselves too far from home they have already ducked inside one of the all night bureaus, to sleep, disappear into the V or some other diversion.

With only two minutes Sean makes a run for it as the ubiquitous surveillance provided by mesh imaging throughout HK2 monitors his activity. Security surveillance may be the least of Sean’s worries, as panel three reveals someone else is watching Sean. Eyes glued to the treacherous, slippery pavement ahead of him, Sean jogs through the torrential downpour. As he passes an alleyway, arms shoot out and make a violent capture.

Production notes:

The last few pages were quite a technical challenge as I detailed in a previous post. It’s difficult to create the feel of a torrential downpour in cg. Everything about the scene changes because — everything is wet. There are lots of zoom opportunities on the last two pages. The surveillance image is nicely realistic, and the water on Sean’s face was a real trick. Though not entirely satisfied, I think it gets the point across. You can also spot a zooming air taxi in panel three and the feet of someone waiting in the alley in panel 4.

Next week’s season finale, the final spread of Chapter 1 will answer some questions on what happens to Sean, but also leaves many unanswered.

Next week: The season finale!
Next week: The season finale!
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A cyberpunk dystopia can be an unfriendly place. Webcomic page 35.

DownTown Blues

I’m paraphrasing a quote I just read but can’t find:

In every utopia there is some dystopia, and in every dystopia there’s a little utopia.

We could probably say,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..” Charles Dickens — A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Page 35

As Sean exits Techman’s hideaway, he discovers that he’s in the midst of a torrential downpour, not uncharacteristic for mid-summer in Hong Kong 2. Of course, Sean is prepared for this eventuality thanks to his advanced bodysuit. As we have seen, it not only changes color and pattern at a touch of the fingertips, but it also as we saw on page 31 has self-healing, and morphing features. Retracting the sleeves, unfurling a hood, expanding a pocket, or storing objects is all within the realm of advanced fabric design. For a bit of science behind this, current technology has already enabled biometric bodysuits. According to a 2004 press release from Arizona State University, “…ASU researchers call their outfits the Sensory Chameleon Bodysuit, which act as a “smart second skin” through the integration of printed organic opto-electronics and integrated flexible nano-genetic devices on textiles. They enable real-time remote personal health and medical monitoring into multimedia and sensorial clothing” (Derra). As this technology becomes more advanced and miniaturized and bodies become more idealized through genetic engineering and internal chemistry modification, a tight fitting second skin is a plausible mainstay of future fashion.

Don't you just love those happy Asian logo characters?
Don’t you just love those happy Asian logo characters?

Once Sean deploys his waterproof hood he jogs toward the MagShuttle that brought him to DownTown. In the final panel Sean is met with some bad news. Apparently, even in the 22nd century things break as the message is relayed by a holographic, pseudo-robotic avatar. He is directed to the nearest shuttle access but that is a long block away and time is ticking. We covered what can happen after curfew in previous blogs.

Sean’s built-in clock keeps him abreast of the time, but can he make it in time?

 

July 19: page 36

July 26: pages 37 – 28 The season finale! 

 

Derra, Skip. “ASU News & Information from the Office of Media Relations and Public Information.” ASU News & Information from the Office of Media Relations and Public Information. Arizona State University, 17 May 2004. Web. 13 Mar. 2013. <http://www.asu.edu/news/research/wearable_elec_051704.htm>.
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Design fiction and the influences of cyberpunk.

Design fiction isn’t a movement, it’s a tool, maybe even a methodology. And while we can loosely define the parameters by which design fiction functions such as the use of diegetic prototypes, and the intent to provocation, there are no other guidelines by which we use this thing. In my MFA thesis I examined a range of possible expressions from film, to performance and even the graphic novel as a means of producing the realism that fosters the provocative. Because the whole concept of design fiction lacks formality, the intent behind it strongly influences the way it is realized. We can go from MicrosoftCorning or Sony making the world a better place with their respective innovations that don’t yet exist but that we should excitedly anticipate seeing in the very near future, or the quasi-political conscientiousness of Stuart Candy, or the sometimes tongue-in-cheek provocations of Julian Bleecker. The corporate examples are self-serving and promotional. The real practitioners, like Candy, Dunagan, Bleecker, et. al. are designed to make us think—about what we are doing as a society, as a technocracy, as individual participants and sometimes framers of what the world will be like next Tuesday. This is the area in which I participate. As a designer, I don’t believe we stop often enough to ask ourselves what we are doing. We are very much caught up with what we can do and seldom involved in what we should do. The design business has embraced the idea of sustainability and has become a flag bearer for the movement. So while there is much ado about the affects of a thing or a place on the environment there is very little discussion, if any, about the behavioral, societal, and cultural ramifications of design decisions. This exactly design fiction play an important role. Design fiction and future artifacts, in this sense, become a kind of evidence from the future of the ramifications from today’s decisions.

 The semi-synchronous role of cyberpunk fiction

In a recent article in the New York Review of Science Fiction, James Patrick Kelly delves into what defines cyberpunk and brings forward a number of Bruce Sterling’s descriptions from his introduction to The Mirrorshades Anthology. I have quoted one of these previously. As Kelly quotes  from Sterling,

“‘Certain central themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk. The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration. The even more powerful theme of mind invasion: brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, neurochemistry—techniques radically redefining the nature of humanity, the nature of the self. (xi)'”

 

Sterling's cyberpunk anthology.
Sterling’s cyberpunk anthology.

Kelly lists a number of authors from the 80’s cyberpunk heyday with more of Sterling.

“Their stories were more personal, using technology to explore what it meant to be human. They wanted science fiction to acknowledge that changes to what we do are not as important as changes to who we are. “For the Cyberpunks, by stark contrast, technology is visceral. It is not the bottled genie of remote Big Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate. Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often inside our minds” (Sterling, Mirrorshades, Introduction xi).

Indeed this is the design fiction which has become another of Sterling’s neologisms. And we can see from where it sprung. Delving into the future of objects and technologies and their effect on the technosocial context as a means to uncover the downside is uncomfortable to think about.

“It’s important to explicitly acknowledge the drawbacks of any technological transformation—to “think the underside first,” to think in a precautionary way” (Sterling, Shaping Things12).

As Kelly states,

“In Gibson’s 1982 story ‘Burning Chrome,’ there was a line that the Cyberpunks were fond of quoting: ‘The street finds its own uses for things’ (199). They meant to say that we will repurpose technology—or anything, for that matter—for whatever suits us without regard for the designer’s intentions.”

Which brings us back to design fiction. Throughout my process, in the continuous morphing of story and design as part of The Lightstream Chronicles, I gained a solid respect for the complexity that surrounds the society and culture, how everything is connected in some way to everything else, that nothing is a simple as it seems, and that no design is benign.

Design creates ripples.

There are consequences, and too often design is seen in isolation as an end unto itself. It is never that easy. Design lives on, and often in ways the designer does not see or consider. If design stops with the “solution,” it misses far broader implications of an expanding network of potentialities. As it ages, design continues to contribute in positive or negative ways. In the same way, the social forces that incite design have their own sometimes-frail dependencies that may not last, or could last too long.

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Cyberpunk web comic and graphic novel | Page 34

Page 34

Let’s set the scene:

Techman and Sean have been chatting it up for the last 20 minutes and they’ve polished off the better part of a bottle of rare, original Asian pear brandy from the early 21st century. It’s safe, to assume they’re feeling the affects. According to Techman’s calculations on page 31 and if we tally up the time, it’s probably approaching 2250 hours and curfew is at 2300. If you’re caught in DownTown after curfew just about anything could happen and most of the options are not good.

As discussed on page 32, authentic alcohol exists, even in the future when when its simply a matter of tapping in the right molecular blueprint to “replicate” the booze of your choice, but most people skip the liquid and simply adjust their “chems” with a preloaded set of hormonal adjustments or “simstates” which are simulated states of whatever suits your fancy; inebriation, arousal, wellbeing, awareness, and just about any other state you can conjure up. The feeling of being drunk as a result of ingesting a quantity of real alcohol is less predictable and a bit more risky in a day and age where everything is pre-measured for pleasure. This is a totally new feeling for Sean.

At any rate he’s not slurring his speech yet and he can apparently walk a straight line. Techman has assured him that the MagShuttle is only a two minute walk from his place. If all goes well, Sean will be back in TopCity where there is no curfew, with a couple of minutes to spare.

The MagShuttle is just a two minute walk. Really.
The MagShuttle is just a two minute walk. Really.

What could possibly go wrong?

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