“What have we here?” The drone makes a discovery. A cyberpunk webcomic update.

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What have we here?

Before the Chapter 2 Prologue, we ended up with Sean being accosted in a DownTown alley (pages 37 – 38).

This week I offer up another gratuitous double-page spread. I consider these two pages to be the real prelude to the Season 2 opener since they literally feed into the Chapter 2 title page (39) and (40). In the shadows of the TopCity Spanner, a robotic  emergency surveillance drone zips through the rain soaked underbelly of society; DownTown, Hong Kong 2. On any given night these drones may encounter the casualties of being left out after curfew. As discussed in a previous blog (p31):

The criminal element in Downtown is robust, but the after hours street criminals are in another league entirely. These consist of roving gangs of synths who were twisted by local gang lords to rape and/or torture their victims while recording everything from the victim’s perspective; a process called head-jacking. A small device is clamped to the back of the neck directly over the victim’s chipset and the memories of the incident—complete with all five senses—are recorded. The experience is then sold on the black market. Depending on the quality of the device and trauma the victim is subjected to, if the victim survives the crime, headjacking can result in partial or total memory erasure, and in some cases, death.

Headjacking is a capital offense.

The drone might also encounter other emergencies: a chem overdose victim, the remains from a gang hit squad or even someone who didn’t make it inside before curfew — and they’re still alive. If they’re uninjured the drone would call in a synth sentinel to escort the lost soul to a holding cell until morning. Surviving a curfew violation is only slightly better than being a victim. The penalty for being out after curfew, is a cur-too, a tattoo. Three curfew tattoos and you can be sent to one of the penal colonies for an indeterminate time.

For the injured, a quick chip scan will identify you as being from DownTown or TopCity, whether you have a criminal record or just ended up chem’d out. If you’re from DownTown you’ll most likely end up in a clinic, TopCity residents get treated above the spanner.

 

Hmmm. What have we here?
Hmmm. What have we here?

 

 Next week

In The Lightstream Chronicles Season Opener (aka Chapter 2) next week, we get to see what the drone is looking at, though there are zoom opportunities in this weeks post to get a little more information. Is Sean dead or alive? And exactly how bad is it? This warning: there will be blood.

 

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Breathtaking Hong Kong Aerial View – Web Comic Prologue Continues

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If you only take a quick glance, you may mistake this prologue to chapter 2 spread, pix2-px2, as a repeat of the splash page that preceded chapter 1. So, don’t do that. Take a closer look. The cityscape is busier, more congested and populated with several new buildings. It’s also a bit more noir. As we progress through this cyberpunk future, I’m feeling that it’s all a bit too bright and chipper so I think the city will continue to change as the book progresses. It’s also more than just mood.  From the very beginning, Hong Kong was constructed using GPS data, satellite photography and Google® Maps. Since i’m trying to be as authentic to size and scale as possible, I wanted the view from the hospital, a key location in chapter 2, to be accurate. In other words, if we’re standing on top of the hospital and looking around, I want us to see the surrounding architecture as it actually exists in the story. But I didn’t really have a firm location for the hospital when the story began. Thus, when I placed the hospital, as a structure, where I wanted it in the cityscape, it became noticeably absent (to me) from the aerial view featured in chapter 1.

This kind of accuracy may not be necessary in the long run but when you look out a character’s office, or apartment I want the views to be true to their actual locations in the city.

As for the architecture, almost all of the high-rise structures in TopCity, the newest and most modern part of the city, had no precedent so their models had to be created from scratch. These were designed as taller versions of cutting edge 21st century buildings, with some inspiration from Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. Some of these structures are 300 stories.

It should be noted that not all the buildings are 3D shells. Several, like the hospital, police headquarters, other places where characters work or live, were built to include detailed atriums, aircraft landing pads, restaurants, and bars, even though they may not actually have a part in the final story.

 

One of several changes to the Hong Kong skyline.
One of several changes to the Hong Kong skyline.

Other parts of the world were combinations of stock models, and customized 3D modifications. For scenes that take place in DownTown, a decaying version of the low-rise sprawl of 20th century Hong Kong, the distinctive look of Asian urban-architecture has a needed to be recreated. A few existing stock models were found that captured the basic essence of decaying Asian city dwellings.

The structure that spans the harbor is a bit of design fiction. The TopCity Spanner covers most of old Hong, and provides a clean break between TopCity and DownTown. The spanner is conceived to use high strength, lightweight, “programmable” materials that provide the ability to shift shape, organically to accommodate new growth. The Spanner became the new, affluent “street level,” towering 50 stories above the original streets of Hong Kong. The shadow of the spanner over old Hong Kong serves as a constant reminder to the inhabitants of DownTown of the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

There are a few more changes that I would like to make but you’ll have to wait until chapter 3 to see them.

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Futurist Context and More Backstory Highlight New Web Comic Content. The Lightstream Chronicles.

C2 prologue continues

As promised, the prologue to chapter 2 is a mix of backstory and context to provide a better sense of the world as it is in 2159. We can well imagine that so much as changed politically, socially, technologically — in every way — except perhaps for the human condition. For those of you who are looking for clues, you have to remember back to the early pages of chapter 1 when someone is positing a query with their AI system to piece together a chronology of recent events (which haven’t exactly revealed in their entirety, but then that’s why you’re reading). The AI is named Sevin, but we don’t know who the impatient questioner is; so impatient that Sevin is authorized to tap all the questioner’s memories and sort them out later. At the beginning of the prologue to chapter 2, Sevin announces it’s disappointment at not being able to figure out whether the memories are relevant or not and when exactly some of them may have been logged. Much of the prologue, through this week, is part of Sevin’s dilemma. But, it is great for us since it is providing us with additional, important texture to start the next chapter.

Herewith we have another morsel from the questioner’s memory. Location? Unknown. Access date? Unknown. Information? Probably important, at least for context. This week you get a four-page treat.

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This page is a room, possibly an office and definitely, based on the view, in TopCity.

 

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This scene shows an array of display interfaces accessed from the Lightstream (by now you should all know what the Lightstream is). One is an interview with author, historian, and philosopher Akihito Mori by talk show host Alvin Lee. Are these guys human, I wonder? And opposite their dialog is the beautiful and flirtatious Bylnn Maize interviewing the handsome, young Sean Colbert. Maybe they go out for coffee after.

 

Blynn Maize sizes up Sean Colbert.
Blynn Maize eyeballs Sean Colbert.

Next week:

The changing landscape of Hong Kong 2. New, improved and a bit more noir.

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Webcomic Prologue to Chapter 2 Continues – Luminous Implants Quick-Start Guide.

As you know we are into the prologue for Chapter 2 leading up to the Season Opener on September 6th, 2013. Over the next few weeks I will be giving you a glimpse into some behind-the-scenes info, and backstory that will add to the overall storyline and what makes people tick mid-way through the 22nd century. Next week we have 4 pages that become an archived (in the Lightstream) interview with the unfortunate Sean Colbert. The following week, I’m showing a brand new aerial rev of Hong Kong 2, and on August 30 I’ll have the double page intro to the Season Opener.

Pages iii2 and iv2

I covered some of this is a (distant) previous blog regarding diegetic prototypes. Last week we were peering over the shoulder of a synthetic au pare and her charge as the youngster was presumably ready for her starter set of  fingertip implants. Tucked in the background is this “quick-start guide”  for users. Luminous Implants is the most popular brand for this particular technology. Think of them as the Apple of the future and just like iPhones, as soon as a new rev hits the market it gets scooped up pretty fast. Since most of the populace has had this type of implant most of their lives, the quick-start guide is usually ignored since as soon as the implantation process is completed the latest changes and improvements are immediately downloaded into your chipset and you instantly “learn” them. Nevertheless, there are always those who read instructions. Here’s part of the explanation from the previous blog.

These “luminous implants” do everything from “dialing the phone” (called tapping), accessing the Lightstream (the evolved Internet of 2159), sending or receiving data feeds from active touch surfaces, and controlling body chemistry. They are used for security and identification as a “smart fingerprint”, they can be outfitted with a pheromone release system for attracting the opposite sex, and they even change color to match your mood or fashion. Exploiting the purpose behind diegetic prototypes (to suspend disbelief about change) the implants figure into several aspects of the story. If you are roving around the city you are likely to see the Luminous Systems advertisements that are floating around, and I have incorporated a scene inside the Luminous Systems store. I have designed it as a sort of Zen spa meets Apple Store. I see the implants as standard piece of bio-hardware that gets implanted under the skin at an early age, like 5 or 6 years. Digging into the idea a little deeper, I found the idea of tapping, to be a fascinating angle.

Learning to use your new luminous implants. Click to enlarge.
Learning to use your new luminous implants. Click to enlarge.

Since there is a direct connection to the brain, voice, sight hearing, taste and, of course, touch, learning the tap language,  is just a matter of infusing the program and watching your fingertips light up as it prompts you through the language. This immediately becomes “remembered” information. To give it a bit more reality, I designed this “user’s manual” for beginners. Ready to order?

New Web Page

I have also added a new web page into the last slot on the header bar at the top of the site. This “scenes” page will host previews of upcoming material and, well, once they are no longer “previews,” they’ll just be “scenes”.

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