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2013 WINTER FEATURE: The Ascension Chronicles

The Ascension Chronicles is an upcoming comic book written and illustrated by ILJackson that is set in his Freelancers universe…. As previously explained by ILJackson the Ascension Chronicles is a space opera that finds a happy middle ground between hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi and it has a general atmosphere similar to a mixture of “Firefly” and an H.P. Lovecraft story. While the comic itself is not freely accessible on dA, a large number of appendix-related illustrations and descriptions have been posted that will eventually be included as part of the interactive experience that will be available when viewing the webcomic.

Ascension Chronicles Cover Art Ascension Chronicles Cover Art by ILJackson

Liberte Modified Assault Transport Liberte Modified Assault Transport by ILJackson

A Few of My Favorite Things A few of my favorite things by ILJackson

Ten of my other favorite deviations from the Ascension Chronicles Universe:

1) Terran Protectorate Stellar Navy
2) SOAR Team Epsilon
3) The P’dekh Mir
4) Dual Suns Shipping Anchorage
5) Helium-3 refinery
6) The Riverport
7) Starship Scale Chart
8) Ruins of the Ascended
9) Freelancers Visual Sonata
10) Sci Fi Ship Class Guide

To sum it up there are five things that make ILJackson’s art stand out: 1) stunning visuals, 2) interesting descriptions, 3) originality, 4) continuity, and 5) innovation. Stunning visuals are important because images are the first things that draw viewers in and cause them to think about a new universe. While most writers on dA have a Pageviews/Comments ratio close to 2:1, ILJackson’s ratio is over 10:1, and that is largely  because of his stunning visuals. Not only does ILJackson provide breathtaking images, but unlike many 3D artists that I have come across on dA he also writes immersive descriptions for these images that succeed in capturing the viewer’s imagination over a period of time. Part of what helps to bring about a growing interest in his art over a period of time are the elements of originality and continuity within his artwork. While fan art has the intrinsic advantage of evoking nostalgia there are also times when viewing the Millenium Falcon or the Enterprise for the 400th time can get rather old. Likewise, viewing a thousand original concepts can be quite enthralling, but without a cohesive story to tie them together the sense of escapism can only go so far. However, whenever I notice something from ILJackson that is part of the Freelancers universe I can always be sure that whatever it is, it will be something that is new to me as well as relevant to an ongoing sci-fi universe. Finally, I would like to wrap this up with a talk about innovation. Just as it is important for a scientist to vary up techniques and develop new assays in order to enhance his or her chance of making meaningful discoveries, it is also important for artists to try new things and evolve over time. One thing that I have noticed about a lot of the Freelancers art is that many of the pieces started out as experiments with new software programs and/or techniques. For more info about ILJackson and his writing and visual art check out his interview with “From the Rifts&”… and his interview in Issue 10 of 3D Art Direct 3dartdirect.

Below is an interview that I conducted with ILJackson:

SPACE-COMMANDER:  I recall from your “From the Rifts &” interview that you are now the leader writer for the Robotech RPGs from Palladium Books. How has your strong background in pencil and paper RPGs influenced your development as a writer?

ILJACKSON:    The two kind of grew in tandem. I've been roleplaying for as long as I can remember, and I've been writing for about as long. I've always been hugely interested in worldbuilding, which RPG designing and writing allows you to do in spades. Making cohesive worlds, cultures and universes, and then being able to portray them through writing and art is my passion. The two skills strengthen each other.

SPACE-COMMANDER:  While we are on the subject of RPGs, what are some of the advantages that paper and pencil RPGs bring to the gaming experience that is lacking in many of the video games?

ILJACKSON:    As great as some of the so-called "sandbox" games are, like the Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and to a lesser degree Mass Effect franchises, there are still a lot of limits as to what you can do and how predicaments and challenges can be solved. There's also limits on where you can go and how you can grow as a character.
In a game like Mass Effect, you were usually limited to where you could go, a good example being the Citadel Space Station. There were only a few locations you could visit in a space station that was miles across. In Skyrim, you can't book passage on a boat to Morrowind or Elseweyr. You also can't nominate yourself for the council in Mass Effect or snag the throne in Skyrim. In a pen and paper RPG, and with a flexible and quick-witted game master, all options are on the table.
But I will say that video games have come a long way. Skyrim is a great example of a game with nearly limitless options.

SPACE-COMMANDER:  My understanding is that in addition to the Ascension Chronicles graphic novel you are also planning to make a pencil and paper RPG that is set in the Freelancers universe. Could you give a brief overview of an example of what one could experience during a play through of this RPG?

ILJACKSON:    The Freelancer RPG would allow players to create characters in a very broad universe with multiple ongoing storylines, plots and conspiracies. You and your fellow players could be naval officers on a ship of the Terran Protectorate Stellar Navy, embroiled in a war with the Imperial Consortium, or treasure hunters daring the unexplored depths of the Sea of Dead Stars. There are several alien species, multiple professions, tons of different stories, worlds and cultures. It will be extremely broad-based and open-ended, and the game master could design a campaign that revolves around simply doing enough jobs to put food in your stomach while avoiding pirates, or launch the players into vast, interstellar conspiracies involving the return of ancient, eldritch alien horrors. I hope to have well-rounded ground combat, skill use and deep role-playing options, a rich character creation process and well-thought-out space combat as well.

SPACE-COMMANDER:  I remember from your “From the Rifts&” interview that you place a very strong emphasis on outlines. When you were writing the Ascension Chronicles did you stick to a core story and gradually “snowflake” outward, or was it more like a jigsaw puzzle of several hundred independent components fusing together?

ILJACKSON:    I created the universe long before I created the specific story. The universe was created through years of mental tinkering, but the specific story of the Ascension Chronicles started out with an overarching theme and story, then character development, and then doing that classic outline and breaking it down from big pieces to smaller and smaller chunks. Outlines are very important for writers, and are often neglected. They really help you get from A to B in a consistent fashion, help with pacing and make sure you don't go too far off the reservation. A lot of times writers will have a start point and an end point, and a few ideas of some specific incidents that happen in between, but they don't really know how to string it all together. An outline helps you get that done.

SPACE-COMMANDER:  From a world building standpoint what were some of the most challenging aspects of the Freelancers universe that required research into real-world scientific principles and/or social/historical modeling?

ILJACKSON:    The personalities and mentality of spacers and colonists. It's easy to look up theoretical physics and extrapolate. The math is the math and the science is the science, and even when you know you are going to bend it, it's easy to base it in some form of reality. But we've never actually colonized space. That kind of activity is going to draw certain personality types. That, in turn is going to affect the culture. Then there's going to be the friction between the central government and the colonists and the politics springing from that. Then you have to think, who is going to buy a space ship and start hauling stuff around to make a living? What's life going to actually be like on a ship like that? What makes someone become a pirate? What's the law going to look like? What is going to need to be transported back and forth? Overall, how will that kind of lifestyle affect the human condition? After a few generations, these people are going to be rather different from you and I. Many are going to be extroverts, isolationists, extremists, criminals, you name it. Not everybody who goes to the fringes does so because of some idealistic desire to see the stars. Many will go out there because they are running away from their old life, they couldn't handle society, they have dark secrets or desires they can live out in peace, they have beliefs that are not considered acceptable, you name it. And then they're going to have to do business with one another to survive.
The reason those things are the hardest, and in my mind most important, is because every story should be about people and the human condition. Even in a fantastical science fiction setting, the stories that draw us and keep us are, at their heart, about being human.

SPACE-COMMANDER:  Beyond dA, which social network do you feel is the most important for sci-fi artists such as yourself?

ILJACKSON:    Go local. Science fiction clubs, writing groups, anything that gets you off the computer and out into the world. As a writer, you have to be a part of the world if you're going to write stories that people can buy into as a real world. It's hard to write a story about a swashbuckling ladies man of a hero if you've never talked to a girl. You will have a hard time capturing a sense of adventure and awe and wonder of exploration if you've never been out of your home country or experienced other cultures. So the world is your best social network, from the waitress at the diner to ethnic community in your city other than your own. Go out and explore and step outside of your bubble and away from your computer.

SPACE-COMMANDER:  Who are some of your favorite sci-fi artists on dA?

ILJACKSON:    I am a big fan of the artist Karanak, for his ship designs, LordDoomhammer, for his fantastic composition and brilliant use of colors, JamesLedgerConcepts environment shots are astounding, as are the urban dystopian settings of JacobCharlesDietz. Steve-burg is another big favorite of mine and I've learned quite a bit from his work. I am also a huge fan of ChuckWalton, a long-time friend who was one of my first RPG game masters. He and I have long planned to do another comic book series called Dominant Species, a post-apocalyptic setting where mankind lost a war against an alien species of werewolves and begin trying to take back the planet with a mixture of mystical martial arts powers and mecha. For better of worse, he and I have been victims of our own successes and put the project aside to work on things that were paying the bills. That's the bane of doing your own intellectual property. There's no paycheck coming for quite a while. However, if you are successful, the payoff is worth the wait.

Questions for the Reader:

1) Who are some of your favorite 3D artists on dA?

2) Have you ever played a pencil and paper role-playing game? If so, how has that experience influenced your writing and/or visual art?

3) Do you have any experience with local artistic, writing, and/or sci-fi groups?

4) Do you think that a core plot should be written prior to the development of a setting, the setting should basically write the plot, or that the development of plot and world building should be a completely bidirectional process?


2013 SPRING FEATURE:  The White Angel…

2013 SUMMER FEATURE:  Spindrift…

2013 FALL FEATURE:  Mass Effect:  Interceptor



Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
I'm in my late twenties and like many aspiring writers, I have opted for anonymity. When I was younger I was a huge fan of the Sim and Sid Meir games, but as I got older I gradually grew tired of them and started looking for a more creative outlet. One day I noticed dA-Muro, started doodling, and the rest is history.

My main activity on dA revolves around a massive group world building project called One-Planet-at-a-Time one-planet-at-a-time.deviantar…. It's basically a science fiction universe that is designed to remain as open-ended as possible instead of collapsing in on itself like a lot of the mainstream universes seem to be doing. Submissions to this group are officially accepted on Sundays. I do not thank people for faves but I do reply to most comments and notes within a reasonable amount of time.

If anyone would like a critique for a short story (preferably sci-fi) just send me a note and I'll put it on my to-do list. My policy is one critique per writer unless the writing is for the OPaaT Project in which case I am willing to write multiple critiques. Even if you are not a Premium member I am still happy to provide detailed feedback.

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Add a Comment:
WhippedBlueIceCream 11 hours ago  Student General Artist
Thank you for the fave!! It means a lot to me (:
Rayen-V-Storme 3 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
Hey, thanks a million for the watch ^.^ Much appreciated! Hope you enjoy the writing.
space-commander 3 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
It would help if you didn't require PDF downloads...just sayin
Rayen-V-Storme 2 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
True, but to use cover art requires PDF format. I know it's a hassle (sorry!) but I do prefer having artwork going along with the piece. Thanks though ^.^
space-commander 2 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
That's not true.  All you have to do is enter the text in and then select a preview image.  That's what I did right here…
(1 Reply)
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