A quick one to hold you over: People have been PM-ing me to check out projects they have been working on. SSJKamui is one of the most recent, drawing (sic) my attention to a comic of his over on DeviantArt. It’s actually a remake of a previous comic of his to improve the quality of the story and pics. Though nowhere near DC/Marvel studio quality, this comic still manages to get its point across, making you wonder about the nature of humanity and “fear.”
The Story: At a time when cybernetic implants, planetary colonization, and megacorporations rule, an alien force obliterates a Mars colony and are now appearing on Earth. Because the “aliens” appear to be human, they are called the Caine.
Because the Caine kill people, whether accidentally or on purpose, the World Government classify the Caine as terrorists. A computer algorithm was developed to predict Caine “attacks”, but with a huge margin of error. An investigative group is being formed to improve the algorithm, but when a member of the group is “attacked”, the World Government is ready to destroy the group and the city of Kyoto to stop the Caine.
The Nature of Fear. The main theme of Essence is the nature of fear: What is it that scares us, and what do we do to reduce the fear? What freedom do we sacrifice for (the illusion) of security, and does the loss of that freedom only generate more fear?
Sounds familiar? Those are the questions we’ve been fighting with since 9/11/01. Only now SSJKamui has put those questions into a cyberpunk comic. Or as Benjamin Franklin one put it “Those who give up much liberty for a little security deserve neither and will lose both” (or something similar).
And for that matter, who are the Caine? Are they alien beings beyond human comprehension, or humans that paranoid-addled minds have twisted into something inhuman?
Conclusion: While some may balk at the quality, the dialog is easy enough to follow. And the themes of fear and security makes this 25-page comic a good read. Though you might want to keep the lights on, and only turn the page when the Caine says it’s OK.
The Ghosts of Zero by “The Digital Alchemist” (No audio track)
1. Geist Anthropic 1:4
2. Too Much Is Never Enough
3. Cenotaph, or We’ve Been Reduced To Lo-Fi
5. Love Simulacra
6. Cold As The Gun
7. …And Weave The Spider’s Web
8. Geist Threnodic 2:4
9. Best Served Flash-Frozen
10. Geist Eidetic 3:4
11. All The Good Things You Are
13. Made In Brazil | Living In Japan
14. Crossed Swords
15. Geist Intrinsic 4:4
16. Anodyne Fading: The Wolf Without
18. Deep In The Deep: Reaction-Diffusion Dies Tonight
19. Unto The Interface
Overview: Cyberpunk continues to inspire writers and readers some 35 years after William Gibson wrote his first short story. Now a new group of writers, artists, and musicians have come together as the Very Us Artists to create the latest cyber-anthology complete with its own soundtrack. It’s not so much a book and CD, but a multimedia package. But does it work as a whole, or should certain parts be omitted?
The (Back) Story: The prologue (The Ghosts of Zero) gives us the basic back story of the rest of the book:
Corporations became bigger than “too big to fail;” they became governments and nations unto themselves and the established powers were unable to stop them, especially when the corporations began absorbing military forces or creating their own as “security.” That’s when the Multinationals Wars(TM) started as the corporations screwed the law over and courts became battlefields. World economies virtually died out as currency was replaced by World Bank Currency, a.k.a. WBC, the W, or simply “dub.”
Technology advanced as the corps wanted the best weapons for “hostile takeovers.” Robots and nanotechnology soon appeared, but without Skynet or SHODAN (which was good news or bad news depending on how you wanted to see it). The Internet slowly died out as privacy and freedom was overrun by surveillance and censorship, but was replaced by Worldnet, though nobody knows how it came to be.
The (Front) Stories: At first, this anthology may seem like 19 separate stories set against the backdrop of the above scenario. But once you start reading the eighth story, you suddenly realize that there are more common threads running through the book than just the back story. In particular, the four “Geist” stories about a former pyra-play addict who risks everything to hunt down a creature called the “Geist” (as in zeitgeist, the spirit of the times). The Geist attacks systems like a mosquito feeding on blood, but in doing so causes major disruptions. The other stories gives background on the technologies, people, events, and the Geist itself.
Not all the stories as connected. Some are simply stand-alone, side stories. Even so, they further enhance the dystopic scene of the (post)Multinational Wars(TM) as couriers, Stomp Brawl (a future MMA) fighters, librarians, and even children fight for personal and human survival in dark and dangerous times. My personal favorite is the librarians who are trying to save the data from an ice-based computer that’s shutdown and melting.
The Soundtrack: Have you ever tried reading a book while music was playing in the background? Sometimes it helps to read with music from a radio, CD, iPod, or pirated MP3s playing as a “soundtrack” for your book. If only all books had its own soundtrack…
A CD with the book (or MP3s with the ebook) has 19 tracks that correspond with all the stories (except the prologue) ranging from ambient synth-instrumentals to outright rock songs. I listened to the disk after reading the book and the tunes brought back some memories of the stories. It would have been better if I was listening while reading to get the full effect. But with or without the book, they still make good ear-candy.
An example of the music from the Foreshadows CD: Bilian’s “Love Simulacra”
Conclusion: The Very Us Artists have made their case for the next generation of cyberpunk, and it’s a pretty bold statement. A broad collaboration that shows what multimedia should have been in the 90s. Even now there’s word of more than could be published in a book. Webshadows continues where the book leaves off.
Some might balk at the $36 US price tag for the book/disk combo, but given the amount of work that went into this project, the whole being more than just the parts, and current prices of books and CDs, the price is well worth it.
Update: Just got word from John LaSala, one of the masterminds behind the Foreshadows project, that he is willing to cut 10% of the price for the physical package. Just go to their website, purchase, and when asked for a coupon tell them ROBOTO10 sent you.