The clock continues to tick on the Kickstarter Campaign for my science fiction, crime thriller The Lightstream Chronicles and I’m still looking for that viral pill that will put the kick into the campaign. My biggest supporters jumped in early but things have tapered off. Nevertheless, I am still hopeful. The number of downloads of chapter 1 has already exceeded 200 which is close to two-thirds of the people who were part of the original email campaign. The reviews have been 100 percent positive thus far. Though none of the media outlets have responded to my press releases, there is still time.
The entire book will be rendered in CG and as you can see from these images, there is plenty to look at. These images are only 1/3 the actual size. So browsing through the pages can be a real treat with lots of detail and perhaps some clues of things to come. The story is a thought-provoking look into the techno-human future, and it is also an extended work of design fiction. You can read all about that in previous blogs. Enjoy these images and if you want more make sure to hop over to Kickstarter and become a backer.
Writing a science fiction graphic novel that is set 147 years from now takes a lot of speculation on what the future holds. Not only technology is up for grabs, but geopolitics, society, transportation, fashion, and entertainment. The list is endless. There is a prevailing view among many science fiction writers that writing anything that falls in the near future runs dangerously close to being obsolete before you are published. That is one of the reasons I chose a far future scenario. It does drift into the realm of futurism. Of course, that is not my profession. There are plenty of futurists out there; professionals that make a living at researching and prognosticating on what might happen. They rarely go this far into the future, however. It’s just too far away to know and so much can happen between then and now.
Nevertheless, I am considering this a work of design fiction with a little bit of critical design thrown in for good measure. Design fiction is an emerging field of study that combines the application of design and speculative futures to, “enhance our capacity to seek out and work with possibility… exchange speculative ideas, disrupt conventional mindsets with provocative visions of alternative futures, and affirm individual agency” (Resnick, 2011:iii).1
Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, speculative design might be seen as an evolution of critical design. “Speculative design is a dreamlike exercise – manufacturing alternate worlds, ones which feel every bit as real as the ‘real world’ we inhabit day-to-day… It cannot predict the future, but it can shape the present”(Keating, 2011).2
At a basic level, design is a future-oriented pursuit—to create something that does not currently exist. Thus, as design expands to embrace more complex social issues and wicked problems, the migration toward, and application to the future sciences becomes more relevant. High atop these disciplines is the study of foresight. Foresight embodies critical thinking about long-term developments, to generate debate and participation toward shaping the future, especially toward public policy.1 In the practice of foresight and futures research, usually, “in the service of national strategic interests (Resnick, 2011:13), many have arrived at the conclusion that the changes imminent in the 21st Century are so broad and happening so fast, that current methodologies cannot cope.“ “… the emerging strategic conditions of the 21st Century require us for the first time in history to develop the capacity to engage consciously in the evolution of existing human cultures, including their most fundamental frames of reference” (Nelson, 2010:282).3
The graphic novel project and this paper are based on a collection of ideas from the aforementioned experiments into critical design, speculative design, design fiction, foresight, design research, and narrative among others. The project is, at a surface level, a science-fiction graphic novel. It depicts a future where technological, political, and cultural “evolutions” have not only transpired, but are commonplace. They have become a part of the everyday fabric of a future culture.
All of this underlies what, on the surface, looks like a sci-fi, crime thriller. But that makes it that much more interesting on many different levels. So, if this all sounds a bit too scholarly for you, forget it. Enjoy the story. Remember Chapter 1 is still free online and there is still time to get in line for the book or digital edition when it’s completed.
1.Resnick, R. (2011) Materialization of the speculative in foresight and design. Master of Design. OCAD-Ontario College of Art and Design.
Thus far I’ve seen more than 150 downloads of chapter 1 of my design fiction, CG, graphic novel, The Lightstream Chronicles. The feed back is overwhelmingly positive: “Awesome!” “Amazing.” “Gorgeous!” Having studied the Kickstarter concept and many sites that succeeded and failed I knew better than to launch and then sit back and wait for the money to roll in. I’ve emailed more than 300 friends and associates and a couple of dozen media outlets with press photos and releases. I’ve even tried Reddit. I hope my friends and associates will be understanding as I’m going to be hammering away at my email list, right up to the end.
A couple of speed bumps.
There was this hurricane that hit the day my email went out, and then there was this national election thing. I think that impacted the response. In fact, a significant number of people that I mailed are easter PA and Jersey residents. Many of them were without power, so who knows what happened to their email. Then I look at the news this morning and there’s another storm bearing down on them. No point in emailing them again until we sort all this weather stuff out.
If you’re reading this and you haven’t contributed yet to the Kickstarter project, please go there and do that. Let’s make a book!!
Now that the first chapter of the graphic novel is up at Kickstarter, this topic has surfaced a few times in conversation and in critique. “Why are the bodies so beautiful or so developed?” Usually, this kind of commentary is reserved for how women are often depicted in comics as overly voluptuous with images that pander to the stereotypical adolescent male reader. In the case of The Lightstream Chronicles, however there is no discrimination between males and females. All the men are just as muscularly perfected, and their body suits just as tight fitting as their female counterparts.
There are actually numerous reasons for the choice of body style. First and probably most important is that it is story appropriate. The design fiction future of The Lightstream Chronicles has been built in equal parts, on what exists today, what is projected for tomorrow and then some healthy speculation. How we will behave and what will we wear when everybody has “the perfect body?” According to Barbara Cohen, PhD. (1984), “We are a culture nearly addicted to individual control and the notion seems to exist in our society that fatness means a loss of self-control – which is considered the ultimate moral failure in our culture, and perhaps the most frightening of all fears” (1). In the story narrative, through genetic engineering, and continuous monitoring and augmentation of body chemistry, the society of 2159 has enabled the sculpting of any body shape, musculature, and proportion, (in addition to gene splicing and species blending). Hence, the story contains a visual proliferation of ideal bodies as a direct result of technological advancements in medicine and body design. The plot then, serves to drive body exaggerations in this context and provides the opportunity to examine the perfect body phenomenon in the cultural context of the narrative.
Andrew Curry (2010) examines this idea in The 1910 Time Traveler, asking what a 1910 Edwardian might think of 21st century London. He thinks many of the technologies may well be conceivable. The bigger changes may be in the quality and realism of content, the disappearance of industry and cleaner air. “The bigger changes, though, would almost certainly be about values.” The society is more international, more politically civil, the role of women has changed dramatically, and then there is: “Casualness of dress and social etiquette generally: both Edwardian men and women tended to travel well covered up, even at the beach. In contrast, our informality of clothing, and the casualness of our language – even rudeness – along with the end of most visible signs of etiquette, would be a profound change… But there’s perhaps an underlying story here. When we think about long-term change with the benefit of hindsight, the things we think are unfathomable are usually the technology – planes, cars, computers. But it is at least as likely that the things that time travelers would most struggle with are the shifts in social values, which are almost invisible to us because we swim in them constantly and adapt ourselves to them as they change.”
If an Edwardian would be shocked at a 21st century bikini, I imagine that we would be equally aghast at body suits that show off every detail of the ideal physique.
There is also another, more subtle rationale as homage to the superhero genre. There are two aspects to this objective: 1.Dramatic effect. Comics historian R.C. Harvey (1996,35) calls to mind the name of Burne Hogarth who drew Tarzan for a period in the 1940s. Remarking on Hogarth’s unique and, “minute attention to musculature,” Harvey says, “This treatment gave dramatic emphasis to the actions being depicted: Hogarth’s character, their muscles shown in bold relief, appeared to strain with the effort of their endeavors. The effect was to add a visual intensity to the drama of the narrative” 2. Heightened realism. Detail in anatomy adds visual excitement. In discussing the artwork of comic artist Jack Kirby, Harvey, refers to his realistic style. “Realistic rendering helps make it all seem possible, and Kirby’s skillful deployment of the medium’s resources makes the action so exciting that we overlook the impossibilities. We can’t help concluding that super heroics are possible—but we must add, only in the comics” (40). To aficionados of the classic comic genre, as well as to game enthusiasts (who are certainly targeted consumers of the graphic novel) superhero depictions, with exaggerated anatomy and operatic movement are an expected part of the presentation.
Not that I hold a candle to Jack Kirby, but it’s the thought that counts.
Cohen, Barbara A. Ph.D. (1984). The Psychology of Ideal Body Image as an Oppressive Force in the Lives of Women. Available: http://www.healingthehumanspirit.com/pages/body_img.htm. Last accessed 22 Oct 2012.