Voice of the Virtual Phantom is a yet to be published young adult novel set on the near future world of Zainter zerraspace.deviantart.com/gall… The story focuses on the adventures of four teenage protagonists: Zad, Peter, Lillian, and Stella as they try to make sense of a world lost in its own memories. While the story is primarily character-driven, it also features topnotch worldbuilding in terms of speculative engineering and a unique ecology s1.zetaboards.com/Conceptual_E…
Zainter from Orbit fav.me/d5es4r2
Zainter - Altitude Map (Preliminary) fav.me/d5aoamp
Zainter - Bushmat Grove fav.me/d5p74ib
The thing I admire most about the Zainter Project is its organic approach to developing the setting: an online social worldbuilding approach allows the author to integrate feedback in a way that enhances the uniqueness of the story without necessarily giving away the plot. I have seen very few sci-fi worlds on TV or in books that have ecosystems and evolutions as well thought out as Zainter, and I know that when the series becomes available Zainter will truly be a strange new world for the reader to experience. Anyone can write a 100k+ word McNovel, but it takes a lot of work to build a setting that is as well thought out as this one.
Below is an interview I conducted with Zerraspace:
1). When you were writing Voice of the Virtual Phantom, how did you decide to go the social worldbuilding route?
To be honest, it wasn’t a concern when I first started writing. While I realized the absurdity of maintaining modern values, cultures and languages millennia into the future, I didn’t feel that I had any capability at modeling their evolution (just following conlang names drove me up the wall). It was a fellow writer whose work focused on just that that got me into it, challenging my conceptions and convincing me that it was a worthy aspiration that would distinguish my work.
Schoolwork ended up helping me along the line, as the following years involved some very interesting texts on social theory. For a while I was enamored with Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah (Introduction), which concisely explained the rise, fall and essence of all civilizations as a combination of geography and biology – the best modern equivalent I can find is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. Greek texts, through which we studied their culture’s slow decline were surprisingly thought provoking, particularly Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, which convinced me beyond all else that history really does repeat itself, and that attitude increasingly flavored my work. The other major factor was my own social awakening (for lack of a better word), as I got into social networking and made more outgoing friends. It exposed me to new classes and ideas, whole levels of society I’d only been peripherally aware of, and made me realize just how much I’d been missing out on. Our approach to history gives a misleading view, turning fluid phenomena into events with hard boundaries and attributing them to figures or nations: it’s through the eyes of everyday people that the world is really experienced, and from them that the future will emerge. Hence arose my next ideal, to create the world as it might be lived, not as it might be archived. This lends itself very well to a character-driven work, as it makes for a more immersive experience while forgoing the need for heavy exposition.
2). Who are some of your favorite social worldbuilders?
I’d have to say that this is a field in which I strongly favor the media’s take: while science fiction literature presents quite a few interesting and novel possibilities, few of these seem humanly workable (fantasy is much more convincing, but that’s not to its credit – it generally uses real-world analogues). Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the glorious rare exceptions, but then, it isn’t exactly a conventional science fiction novel by any span of the imagination. Ian M. Banks’ Culture seems to me the most convincing image of a utopia ever presented, or at least the ultimate culmination of Western libertarianism, but I haven’t read his books so I can’t really judge it effectively. Similarly, I can only praise the Posthuman Studios’ roleplaying game Eclipse Phase for its vast integration of technology and ability to experience it based on online references. In video games, I must praise Relic Entertainment’s Homeworld and Firaxis’ Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (though you’d have to check the supplemental material to get the full gist of the former), which managed to turn whole peoples into characters you wanted to follow, the latter of which committed an unparalleled effort into exploring multiple futures and all possible outlooks on them. In television, special mention goes to Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes, which is quite possibly the most realistic science fiction ever created, and I feel is quite likely be our future if we ever invest in further space development but don’t discover FTL. You know someone’s done their work when NASA commends them, but to successfully accommodate a convincing (and almost frighteningly true to real-world) political and social background alongside the technical is nothing short of incredible. I should also bring up Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell and the Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex series, profoundly deep works that blur the boundaries between man and machine and how they might be assimilated, while giving a unique perspective on AI beyond dominative intent or passive servility. Alongside Banks’ Culture, the only other work that gives AI such consideration is the Orion’s Arm online worldbuilding project, which deserves respect for confronting the challenge of man’s existence well beyond the technological singularity rather than dodging it or dealing only with its onset, something even I have given into.
3) Some futurists expect a technological singularity to take place at some point within the next century. When do you think this will happen?
I am not so optimistic. The only area in which computers have not wildly exceeded our vastest expectations is intelligence. Even the best systems remain much smart bricks, Chinese Rooms, processes rather than entities – they convert but do not comprehend. Any given input is treated like a variable in an equation or algorithm to give a certain output. You could argue that this is what we do all the time, but unlike computers, anything we do influences our memory and former functioning, while computer programs must be specified to reference others to have any effect, and then only said others will be effected. Any organism with even a peripheral awareness correlates information inherently, not just humans, which is more than any computer today is capable of.
This does owe somewhat to computer architecture. Biological thought relies on billions of interconnected neurons acting as processors, whereas computers rely on a few tens (at most) of datapaths as processing units that do not directly influence one another. If computers seem to have an edge on us, it’s only because said datapaths are running millions of times faster than the neurons are. That being said, I do not think the real obstacle is any limitation of the hardware – computers have already vastly exceeded us in terms of memory and number of operations – but our own inability to process and model the complexity of an intelligent system. It’s a programming issue, and until we come to terms with how to handle and coordinate so many elements simultaneously, computers will forever remain smart bricks.
As we haven’t really made any great progress in this endeavor, I couldn’t give you a good figure for the technological singularity. I’d say two-hundred years, perhaps one-hundred-and-fifty if we’re lucky.
4) Do you think that Moore's Law will plateau at some point?
Technically speaking, it has already has. We hit the first plateau, the Power Wall, in 2004. It’s not that we can’t make computers better, it’s that increased processing power has thus far come with a similarly increased cost of electrical and waste power, and we’ve reached the limits of what can be handled practically (for the record, this is why modern laptops have such a problem with overheating). We’ve been able to bypass it by multicore threading, using groups of less powerful but more efficient processors in parallel to simulate the same effects – essentially we’ve replaced needy Isaac Newton with increasingly large teams of increasingly dumb researchers to do our bidding – but rate of progress has slowed significantly, and every processor we add gives less of a boost in performance than the one before due to coordination inefficiencies. It won’t be long till we reach the limits of what can be done with this technique as well.
I’d say we’re within a decade of realizing all that can be achieved with silicon-based modern computer architectures. We either need a new approach to building them or a new basis for computing (say, optical, chemical, genetic or quantum) if we’re to expect continued improvement. Since global industry has come to rely upon Moore’s Law and truly enormous resources have been devoted to its continued progression, I’m not all that worried about it trailing off, at least within my lifetime.
5) What do you think is the highest level of intelligence possible using traditional materials (not quantum computers)?
Without completely repeating my response to question 3, I feel that hardware emulating the human brain could be built with modern components and even be made to surpass it by orders of magnitude given its vastly superior operating speed. Even today’s vastly simpler computers could utilize this to simulate a human-like intelligence. What keeps either of these from happening is insufficient understanding of the processes driving intelligence, and our seeming inability to grasp such complexity – today’s programmers struggle to coordinate the action of a few processors running in tandem, where even simple animal brains manage this with billions of neurons. Until we get around that stumbling block, it won’t matter what the basis of computing is, computers won’t be going anywhere. I’m not sure we can even comprehend a system complex enough to outwit us (or even hold a meaningful conversation with us), and I somewhat suspect that, unless we find some means of enhancing our own intelligence, true AI will more likely emerge as a result of a freak accident or trial and error than any studied intent. Granted, with enough progress into genetic engineering, something we’re starting to figure out, the former might be an option after all…
6) Does the Virtual Phantom live in a quantum computer, or in a traditional silicon-based machine?
It’s a hard question to answer without giving away too much of the plot. The general basis for computing in this universe is quantum (though I had once considered optical computers), and it’s on such machines that he was programmed, but he could operate on any computing device, whatever its basis, so long as he converted his programming or used the appropriate emulator to run himself, though his performance would likely suffer. I personally think that silicon-based devices will be long obsolete before the time of the setting.
7) What do you think is the size limit for miniature swarms of remotely controlled robots that can be directed individually?
Nanoscale motors only a few atoms large have already been constructed (butyl methyl sulfide molecules will affix themselves to a surface and rotate when given an electric charge, here (www.bbc.com/news/science-envir…), which could also be used as the basis of actuators, pumps and assemblers. Transistors have been built out of a single atom (phys.org/news/2012-02-single-a…), which bodes well for nanoscale circuits and computers. Piezoelectric transducers can be built with just a sheet of atom-thick graphene doped with lithium (engineering.stanford.edu/news/…): these are enormously versatile, capable of acting as radios for transmitting and receiving ultrasound signals, as generators for converting bodily vibrations or acoustic transmissions to electrical power, and navigation aids determining distance and position by measuring signal lag. Biology has already provided us with a wealth of chemical receptor molecules, and artificial equivalents could likely be further miniaturized seeing as they do not require such long membrane anchors.
Between all of these, you could build a nanobot smaller than most bodily proteins (less than 10 nm across), albeit an extremely simple and specialized construction entirely dependent on external signals for power and direction. A more versatile machine would be many times larger; Robert Freitas suggest that an all-purpose self-sufficient model could vary anywhere from 100nm-1µm across, still less than a hundredth the width of human cells but rivaling the smallest prokaryotes. Personally, I think some mix of the two would be more practical: armies of super-specialized miniatures could move through tissues and cells (even within them) unimpeded to reach problem sites, while larger “microbots” beam them power, assess their findings to process their surroundings and direct them.
QUESTIONS FOR THE READER:
1) Who are some of your favorite social worldbuilders on dA?
2) What are your thoughts about the limits of machine-based computation and intelligence in general?
3) What are your thoughts about incorporating nanobots in science fiction?
4) Overall are you more of a Transhumanist or a Luddite?
2014 FALL FEATURE: Caelum Lex2014 FALL FEATURE: Caelum Lex
Caelum Lex is a self-published open access space opera that is reminiscent of “Firefly.” The story is the product of collaboration between two dedicated individuals, a technical writer and a visual artist, and a new chapter is released each Friday. Like “Firefly,” Caelum Lex focuses on a group of ordinary people just trying to get by and does a good job of presenting likeable characters that viewers/readers can get attached to. However, unlike “Firefly,” the universe of Caelum Lex is built to last beyond a mere handful of episodes and the experience does not include analogs of annoying characters such as River and Shepherd Derrial Book. Chapters are available on dA fav.me/d5gro6q but Caelum Lex also has an excellent website www.caelum-lex.com/ complete with an interactive table of contents
2014 SUMMER FEATURE: Best Faves of 2013Below are my 20 favorite deviations from 2013. Enjoy.
Category #1: Gasp-worthy amazing; a.k.a. "Oh yeah, now I remember why I keep coming back to dA..."
Category #2: Cool Spaceships
Category #3: Cool Maps
Old Mars - Request by TimberfleetAgurien Map by Faejala
Category #4: Cool Aliens
Average Day at the Chop Shop by Whachamacallit1Major Sentient Species Visual Guide by ILJacksonFemale Solir by Bones859Lyell-3 - Tree Tops by Tapejara
Category #5: Misc
Project ceres sketchdump by 4nimeCub3LCARS Orbital Scan by TronTrekThe Inner Patrata System by joeabuy1000Lillian "Lilly" PC-8302 by R1VENkassle
For anyone who may interested, I am curious to know what people think about the importance of depicting a utopia versus a dystopia or a normopia (word I made up just now to refer to something that is neither a u
2014 SPRING FEATURE: Best Faves of 2012Just thought I would take a break from blog interviews and highlight the 20 best deviations I found during the first year I was on dA. Enjoy.
Category #1: Gasp-worthy amazing; a.k.a. "Oh yeah, now I remember how I got hooked on dA..."
Category #2: Cool Spaceships
Category #3: Cool Maps
The World of Sweatshirt Brigade: Political Map by joeabuy1000World Building Test Map by WorldBuilding
Category #4: Cool Aliens
rainbow ray by V4m2c4Northern Gapuri speed paint by ExobioCnilurian species template by DreamingHeroTraddian by desuran
Category #5: Misc
The Job Proposal by Rob-CaswellThe Pioneer's Curse - The Biologist by ZerraspaceThe prospector by ILJackson
For anyone who may be interested, right now I could use some input regarding microeconomic modeling in science fiction settings,
2013 WINTER FEATURE: The Ascension Chronicles2013 WINTER FEATURE: The Ascension Chronicles
The Ascension Chronicles is an upcoming comic book written and illustrated by ILJackson iljackson.deviantart.com/ that is set in his Freelancers universe iljackson.deviantart.com/galle…. As previously explained by ILJackson fav.me/d6kqqvu 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 fav.me/d6gntl3 :th
2013 FALL FEATURE: Mass Effect: Interceptor2013 FALL FEATURE: Mass Effect: Interceptor
Interceptor http://mothbanquet.deviantart.com/art/Mass-Effect-Interceptor-Episode-1-320702357 is a fan fiction novel written by Mothbanquet http://mothbanquet.deviantart.com/ that takes place in the Mass Effect universe just prior to and during the time of the first Mass Effect game. This massive story has 44 chapters and follows the story of an original character named Arlen, a young Turian who is new to C-Sec and learning the ropes from none other than my all time favorite ME character Garrus Vakarian. Interceptor is an exciting story written at a level that not only matches the quality of Bioware's writing team, but also exceeds the skill exhibited by the majority of today's traditionally published novelists.
Mass Effect: Interceptor – Cover http://mothbanquet.deviantart.com/art/Mass-Effect-Interceptor-Cover-325440050&
2013 SUMMER FEATURE: Spindrift2013 SUMMER FEATURE: Spindrift
Spindrift takes place in an original fantasy universe created by Elsa Kroese http://elsakroese.deviantart.com/?rnrd=23913, written by Charlotte English www.charlotteenglish.com and illustrated by Elsa Kroese. The comic itself is published on a weekly basis and can be found at www.spindrift-comic.com. Spindrift is undoubtedly the best fantasy comic on dA, if not the internet itself.
Alarina's Temple – process
Preview Spindrift: page one
One thing that I really love about the story behind how Spindrift was conceived http://www.spindrift-comic.com/about.php is the how the creator had a very mature level of self-awareness, and then took steps accordingly in order to build the greatest story possible. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it is only by embracing who we are that we can reach our full potential. Elsa recognized that her mastery of visual art exceeded he
2013 SPRING FEATURE: The White Angel2013 SPRING FEATURE: The White Angel
"The White Angel" is a new comic that was envisioned by George W. Dennis, the best Indie Sci-fi comic book artist that I have ever come across. It is a hard science fiction story set in the year 2158 primarily in the asteroid belt, and also in outlying worlds such as Neptune. Drawing inspiration from the stories of Paul Preuss and Arthur C. Clark, as well as insightful technical information from Winchell Chung's atomic rockets website http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/index.php , George brings to life an immersive and intriguing vision of the kind of adventures that could lie ahead a little over a century from now.
Rather than getting caught up in far future technologies such as hyperspace and artificial gravity, focuses instead on the kind of future that could lie ahead for us right around the corner. The asteroid survey vessel Muneqita http://beltminer.deviantart.com/art/main-belt-surve