World Building II: Establishing Theme

The Cx Trilogy is the simple story of leaving this planet. As common as this idea might be in contemporary science fiction – including everything from Star Trek & Star Wars franchises to The Martian and Ad Astra – the central idea of abandonment, leaving everything that we know for a complete unknown, remains frightfully undeveloped. In other words, these films emphasize ingenuity and determination over the more likely issues of angst and despair once Earth Out of View Syndrome sets in.

The essential themes of nihilism and isolation are not only developed through character development and dialogue, but also in the speculative technology that identifies the desperate struggle to find identity when the origin of everything known is gone.

Second Skin (a synthetic anti-aging agent) and The Bearing (a ring-like portal to the internet) are prevalent throughout the first book, Anori, while The Hive (a fully immersive place of sensual pleasure) and boochies (doll-sized genetically mutated animals) are featured in Book Two, Aqaara, which documents the generational flight to the destination planet of Mina. All of these devices are intended to fulfill immediate individual desires and lead to division and isolation.

The use of speculative technology as a world-building tool, although present, is not as significant in the final book, Mina. The majority of the speculative devices have been in use throughout the trilogy, leaving the only thing new to build is the planet itself. (You can’t get more world-building than that.) The challenge with building another planet is our limited experience with distant worlds; we actually only have a few planets to use as models, this leading to a tendency toward arctic expanses, forbidding deserts and prehistoric beasts is hard to avoid. (See Interstellar, Dune & John Carter.)

I did use images of Pluto and Saturn for inspiration as well as the distant corners of Earth and settled on a highly volcanic planet with two suns. Water dominates the surface and so many of the life forms are water-borne, including the animal believed to be at the top of the food chain – a sort of hybrid leopard seal.

The ever-present sense of isolation is developed not only through the immense unexplored planet, but also through divisions in the mission itself. While a home-base, Ataa, is constructed on Mina, only a fraction of the people are invested in living there; groups venture off on long-term explorations while another large contingent elect to leave the planet altogether and continue their journey to another distant place. For them, the journey indeed is the destination.

Impossible Character: Dee Sinclair

Sex sells. And Dee Sinclair is all about sex. Not just a sex worker, she is a sex performer, taking high-paying jobs to perform for exclusively perverted clients in remote locations such as French Polynesia, Greece and Qatar.

She is an orphan girl, her only sister dead, an alcoholic, drowned. But she won’t talk about that. She won’t talk about anything except her exotic cat, a serval, named Apollo.

Photo credit: Michael Nichols (National Geographic)

She doesn’t actually talk about Apollo either. She doesn’t talk about anything to anyone. She feels herself as distinctly separate, an adjunct, an afterthought, a second thing. She feels like she doesn’t belonged anywhere, except sitting alone on the fire escape. She knows that no one who really cares, that no one who would miss her. She just wants to be left alone.

Dee makes her first appearance in My Bad Side and then in Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy. She spends much of her time in the ice-choked emptiness of Greenland, a place she treasures because of its mind-numbing isolation.

And then she is suddenly being chased: Dee watched her hands flash up in front of her face, first one and then the other, fists clenched, just her pinkie out on her left hand. She had heard the helicopter come over the glacier, the rotors reverberating off the ice, sharp and then suddenly faded. She heard nothing now. She was mute. Not her footsteps on the hard ground, not her gasping for breath, not the truck door swinging wildly open, not the engine starting, nothing. Dust swirled up ahead, other trucks going to the launch tower. She couldn’t get the truck to go fast enough. The tunnel took forever. She heard something on the other side, helicopters again, as she headed to the tower. But she couldn’t see. There was only the dust and then Valerie on the edge of the first platform.

As the protagonist, Dee operates as the reader’s stubborn vehicle entering the impossible parameters of science fiction – the space ships, three dimensional internet, artificial skin, and most of all, the idea of leaving Earth for another planet. She doesn’t buy any of it. And neither does the reader. Until it is there and there is no denying it. As much as she (we) can’t accept it, it is there.

Dee works especially well for this book because of her personality. As hard as she tries to separate herself from everyone in the world, she becomes more drawn into a mission that aims to do just that – leave the planet altogether. The irony is that, in her efforts to be apart, she of course becomes deeply committed to the others on the journey into the emptiness.

Thematically, the book is a challenge, as it focuses on abandoning, and ultimately rejecting, our society for something else, and the impossibility of doing that. After all, wherever we go, we are still what we are. And so as impossible as Dee might be to access, it is because of that that she works as an excellent conduit for the book.

You Look So Alone

Being alone isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. It’s actually good. It’s a time to collect thoughts, reflect and be and all of that. It can even be reveled in.You Look So AloneThat said, it’s not good to look alone, when someone is likely to approach with the dreaded words, “Oh, you look so alone.”

“I look alone? Really? Well, I am. We all are, don’t you know?”
You Look So AloneWhat’s wrong with staring off into the distance? Why must standing apart be seen as a telltale sign of depression? What is so bothersome about being alone?You Look So AloneIt’s sure as hell better than having to listening to someone else chatter on. “Can you give me a couple of bucks? I lost my bag. They took everything.”

Doll Man: The Un-Pitch

Doll Man is the story of a hard-working carpenter who makes dolls that he sees in his dreams and slowly removes himself from everyone, his wife, family and friends. bushwick5The first arc features him visiting a friend who has a doll castle in the basement. The carpenter can’t focus on dinner, excuses himself again to look at it, until the host becomes concerned, goes downstairs and finds the carpenter, naked, playing with the figurines around the pink plastic castle. pinkcastleThe film moves from terse and intense dialogue of the real world – his mother in another city, his brother who visits from New York, his daughter and husband and family – to the luxurious fantasy of his doll world. dollworldThe carpenter becomes wholly absorbed in his doll existence, and the door closes the audience out in the final scene.

David Bowie’s Death on Facebook

Social media – yes, like you are reading now – is fatuous and inane, worse than anything ever produced on radio or television – and that includes The Bachelor. getting aa roseFacebook posts on the death of David Bowie serve as sad exemplars.

Mark Pautz 06h30 this morning. I was awake. Strange, as I’d only got to bed four hours earlier. But it was then that the musical soundtrack of the first 55 years of my life came to an end.

Terry Boyd I am 43 and I have always known David Bowie to be singing he was an iconic singer, and there will never ever be another David Bowie of his kind.

William Lemos David Bowie a true hero

What is it about any of these people – indeed anyone, you or me – that makes one a David Bowie expert? Our facile love of his music? Our hyperbolic connection to his lyrics? Good god, even The New York Times sounded ridiculous in their piece on how Bowie “transcended” music and art. 20160112_BOWIE_HP-slide-DMXR-videoSixteenByNine1050-v2The truth is his music didn’t transcend anything. He was a great musician, and all of this  blather only acts as a depressing testament to how lonely everyone is too scared to admit. 20150820_162923While keeping up to date with each other’s life moments on social media can be a nice thing, as is watching cute red pandas, reflections on the importance of an artist for an individual is irrelevant and utterly pathetic.20151205_162003Someone to claim us, someone to follow
Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo
Someone to fool us, someone like you

We want you Big Brother, Big Brother

Isolates

We had the dream when we were young. We believed that there might be something in our future. There really would be. It wasn’t just this lonely room, this place of now, more than a lifelong drift toward an abyss, the same from which we had emerged. 20150916_221843We moved and did, sat and listened, and then hunched, thin, dreams not what they had been, instead looking into a screen, our hope now in that, the expectation, then knowing how we made our-self something we had dreaded, a dream made memory. 20150203_173951But there is no such thing as regret. Or just a bit.

Dead Things in the Street

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I can’t move my head. Not even my shoulders. I am pinned, a bright side light on my face and neck.

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I am flat and horrible, my eyes wide, stuck against the ground. Stuck there, panicking. I can’t even move my leg. I have no control. I am completely helpless, trapped by monsters, people I don’t know, who have left me here to die, to be tortured and think nothing of it.

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I try to close my eyes to make it go away, but it is still there. I can’t move. I want to scream but I can’t even do that. I am stuck in this silence with not even myself, with nothing but my labored miserable loneliness.

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(Yeah, I know. I always end with a tree.)

Al Worden: Reflections in Lunar Orbit

While fellow astronauts of Apollo 15 explored the lunar surface, Al Worden piloted the command module. His solo journey in lunar orbit lasted three days.Apollo_15_CSM_Endeavour_during_rendezvous I didn’t feel lonely or isolated. I was much more comfortable flying by myself than with others. In fact, I most enjoyed the back side of the moon, where Houston couldn’t get hold of me on the radio. 3770132559_43e9b4aec0_oThe moon looked enormous from such a low orbit. I glimpsed tall central peaks of craters before I saw the surrounding low rims. With no atmosphere to soften the view, every crater and boulder was sharp and crisp. Timocaris_Cr-sharpenedMountains cast long slashes of blackness across the landscape, and features stood out as if I had placed a flashlight against a rough stucco wall. The moon was overwhelmingly majestic, yet stark and mostly devoid of color. Earth riseEvery orbit, however, I was treated to the sight of the distant Earth rising over the lunar landscape. (Pages 188-92, Al Worden, Falling to Earth.)