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Friday, August 19, 2011

Naming characters in your story


There was a discussion on KindleBoards.com recently regarding how we name the characters in our stories. Some writers replied that they put a lot of effort into them, while others preferred "plain" names with no real significance. Like the former, I spent a fair amount of time coming up with names for the major characters in my scifi novel, Cyberdrome. This was especially true for the hero, Alek Grey:

Alek is short for Alexander which means "Defender of Man" (appropriate for a person who is quite literally risking his life to save humanity.) Grey comes from Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" Why? Central to my story is the possibility of experiencing many years within the space of a few hours (connected to a virtual reality environment) which ties into the theme of Dorian Gray (he sells his soul to ensure that his portrait will age rather than himself).

Also, the main "love interest" is named Maya, which "in Indian religions is usually quoted as "illusion", centered on the fact that we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it, created by us" (from wiki). This directly ties in with the theme of the many virtual worlds inside Cyberdrome which are indistinguishable from true reality.

Less "deep and meaningful" are the many side characters that are named after dead pets. ;)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Could a Cyberdrome film be made in the wake of Avatar and Tron:Legacy?


When I finally went to see James Cameron's movie, "Avatar" back in Feb of 2010, I saw firsthand what many reviewers had been telling me since it opened. There were so many similarities between Cyberdrome and Avatar that realized that my chances of ever getting a film deal were nearly zero. Anyone reading my treatment would say, "been there, done that--by Cameron!"

Similarities include a protagonist in a wheelchair (who uses an avatar to escape his confinement and ends up wanting to stay in his new body), an interface room that is nearly identical in both design and function from what my brother and I created 10 years ago, and Pandora's inhabitants look like a cross between my Blue Sentinels and a cat-like creature I call a CeeAut. Other similarities include a aircraft called a Dragon, and a drop ship that is functionally identical to one of our aircraft. There are numerous others, but you get the idea...

Now, I'm not saying that James Cameron--or one of his CGI designers--ever read our book or even saw some of the many images we have had online during the past 12 years (at www.cyberdrome.org), but the existing similarities will kill a potential film deal unless I rewrite the whole thing. So, thanks Jim! Thanks a lot!

Then things got even worse when Tron: Legacy came out. Below are some central themes in Cyberdrome that were used in Tron:Legacy (warning major spoilers for both ahead!):

1) Hero goes into a virtual world to rescue his father
2) Father ultimately sacrifices himself to rescue his son
3) Both call their virtual space "The Grid." The original Tron mentioned the "game grid" a few times, but not much else. The new movie uses it repeatedly (in fact, the opening voice-over starts with "The Grid...") I felt this was such a problem that I renamed my book's virtual space "The Core" in the newest edition just to separate the two. My book came out 3 years before Tron:Legacy, but many people don't notice little things like copyright dates... ;)

Adding these to the items mentioned previously made me even more depressed. So, my question to you is this: could a Cyberdrome movie ever be made in the wake of these two major films? Below is what has NOT been "stolen" by Hollywood (yet):

1) Cyberdrome's Tron-like, virtual "Grid" space is just one small part of where the story takes place. Much of the story takes place in several earth-like worlds which have been "tweaked" in some way.
Some of the action sequences in Cyberdrome take place between the hero and large robotic spiders and other bug-like machines, while others involve more down-to-earth dangers like escaping from a burning building and allowing yourself to drown in order to save you and your partner (reminiscent of a scene in James Cameron's "the Abyss") 

2) Cyberdrome uses extrapolations of currently planned technology to realistically "trap" people inside a digital world (no fake lasers "digitizing" you). 

3) Finally, Cyberdrome explores real SF themes like downloading a copy of your memories into a digital likeness of yourself in order to "escape" death--but is that copy really you? How much of what you consider "you" is just a collection of memories? For instance, if a person looses all of those memories (like with Alzheimer's) is that person the same? And, even if you could copy yourself digitally someday, would you? Should you? These are themes central to Cyberdrome that I hope might someday make it to the big screen...

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 7 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #7 - Aleks original encounter with Klaxxon

    Background

    In Chapter One, after Alek's encounter with Stacy, he meets an old ally named Klaxxon. In the original version, this meeting was much longer and takes place in virtual reality. I gave up this version because it made readers think this "primitive" version of VR was what Cyberdrome was all about, while in fact it was more of an homage to previous cyberpunk novels. I hope you enjoy this final deleted scene from Cyberdrome...

    Deleted Scene

    As the neural override ramped up to full power, sensory data from the headset computer quickly overrode the normal signals coming from his eyes and ears to his brain. As the digital signals became stronger than the biological versions, Stacy and the coffee shop receded from view, quickly shrinking to a tiny dot. Floating in the blackness that surrounded him, he felt the usual sense of vertigo, but his hand on the table back in the coffee shop steadied him. 

    He made a series of gestures with his virtual hands and a red wire frame room appeared all around him. This formatting cell helped give him the sense of balance he would need to build a virtual vehicle. 

    Moving his hands like a skilled magician, he caused a wire frame vehicle to appear in front of him. He continued making hand gestures, creating a firestorm effect across the surface of the vehicle as he brought into existence inner machinery and additional hull features. 

    When the formatting was complete, a silver, egg-shaped cruiser hovered in front of him. It was crudely rendered and had only a few surface details, but that was the best his interface headgear could produce. 

    He pointed at the vehicle and floated over to it. As he passed through the outer chassis and into the driver's seat, he selected a theme called "Information Superhighway" from a dashboard menu. Layers of floating data cities with freeways passing between them replaced the red gridded room around him. 

    Powering up the vehicle's main drive, he entered the city. Net space was busy, as usual. He sped along a crowded overpass between the Xavier Data Mining Company and Juan's Home Delivery Taco Stand and then merged with an expressway heading in the right direction. He felt something move on his leg, and realized that Stacy must have removed her hand back in the coffee shop. He looked down at his virtual leg where her hand had been, and hoped she would still be there when he returned. 

    As he called up a navigation routine, a circuitry pattern with colored blinking dots popped up on the virtual ship's dashboard. One of the dots was flashing red, signifying that it was heading in the general direction of his Cyberphage. It could be a sentry patrol, which the Phage could handle by itself. Then again, it could be something else. 

    "Is that you, Doyen?" a voice called out. 

    He was startled. Doyen was the title given to him by his fellow programmers long ago. It signified the most knowledgeable, or eldest member of a group. Since no one knew his age or real identity, he had always assumed that the title referred to his skills as a programmer. Either way, he had not heard the name used in years. Signing a message with his virtual hands, he heard his own voice reply. "This is Doyen. Who's in here?" 

    "Your fellow Plumber, Klaxon, here. Long time, no talk, good sir. You've been luxuriating in the Big Blue Room for too long." 

    Klaxon was a topnotch programmer he had met online several years back. A bit of a flake and a showoff, he remembered, but he knew how to write code. 

    "Klaxon. What brings you online, good man?" he signed, his voice mimicking Klaxon's trademark surfer lingo. "Seeking winnitude over yours truly?" 

    "Exactamundo, Doyen. Heard from the Big Grape that you were going after the WDB today. Glad to see you're still in the programmification game, my man. Though you are a poet among Plumbers, I didn't think you could pull this one off. Impressed, we are." 

    The red dot he was following on his dashboard turned orange, signaling that it was close enough for a long-range scan. He touched the dot with his virtual finger and a display appeared above it. It was a simple track and recovery program, less than a hundred megabytes in size. He tried to trace the program's root path, but it was blocked. He then tried a localized buffer search but detected no connection ports or transmission strings in the area. Misdirection was a rule all Plumbers lived by, but damn, Klaxon was one of the best. 

    What the hell is he doing here? Alek quickly plotted the trajectory of Klaxon's program and saw that it was on a direct course to his Cyberphage. 

    "You know the rules, Klaxon. Go be impressed somewhere else," he warned, all humor gone from his virtual voice. "This is not a spectator sport. I'll send you V-mail later and tell you how it went." 

    Klaxon's program suddenly doubled its speed, confirming Alek's suspicion that his former ally was not there to watch. "Don't touch it, Klax. My baby is armor-plated. She'll knock you into the next dimension." 

    "You've got the only working Cyberphage in existence, Doyen. I have a client who has already paid me serious mojo for your baby, and he needs it today. Just consider this a compliment, man. You've created a work of true elegance. Theft is the sincerest form of flattery, and all that." 

    "Klaxon, my program is far beyond elegance, it is perfection, and it will defend itself. Violently." 

    Klaxon didn't respond. The expressway ended and Alek had to drop out and continue manually. The Word Data Bank was physically located on a server in Brazil, which had some of the best defenses on the net. As he entered the outer perimeter, he had to dodge the moving sensor drones repeatedly. This required more three-dimension movement than his current theme would allow. 

    He quickly changed his interface to "Star Ship Frontier," and the world around him changed dramatically. He was now inside a small one-person space ship approaching a small planet that represented the World Data Bank. He pressed his ship to maximum speed and entered the upper atmosphere. 

    He approached the sensor web that surrounded the planet. The strands of the web moved in a random pattern and it took great skill to fly between them without hitting one. He checked his scanner again and plotted new trajectories. Klaxon's program was having better luck avoiding the web, which meant he had probably chosen a better interface format. He was about to call up his own format list when he saw a better idea. 

    A transport node was just entering the atmosphere off to his left, and it was moving in just the right direction. He made a hard left turn--barely missing a large sensor strand--then moved his ship right behind the huge comet-like transport and was instantly caught up in its wake. 

    Halfway though the web, the transport node abruptly changed course and he was forced to leave it behind. He rechecked his target--a few seconds closer to Klaxon, but still too far out of range to launch any offensive subroutines. Without the added speed of full neural interface, there was no way he could catch up with Klaxon in time.

    Time to try something radical, he thought as he slammed his ship into the nearest sensor strand. Alarms went off as the sensor web thickened and contracted, closing off all access to the planet, and forcing him to stop his ship. While he waited for the authorities, he rechecked his scanner. Klaxon had just made it into the World Data Bank's lower atmosphere before the web could shut him out. 

    He tried to relax. There was still probably nothing to worry about. His Cyberphage was well armed and could easily handle whatever Klaxon's little program threw at it. He switched back to the remote camera view he had been watching from the coffee shop. He wanted to see Klaxon slaughtered up close. 

    The Cyberphage appeared on the remote monitor. It looked surprisingly normal, standing on its eight pointed legs, drilling calmly into the slate-blue surface of the network firewall as if nothing had happened. 

    There was no sign of Klaxon. Alek was beginning to think that the sensor web had caught him after all, when the remote view went blank. He tried to reset the connection several times but nothing worked. A moment later, the remote came back up, but there was nothing to see. The Cyberphage was gone. 

    He spent several long minutes explaining to the Brazilian authorities that he was there conducting a test. After transmitting his authorization codes twice, security finally allowed him to proceed. 

    A minute later, his virtual ship reached the area where he had lost contact with the Cyberphage. He scanned the local landscape using full spectrum sweeps, looking for a clue as to what had happened. A short time later, he found a small communications node floating in a nearby data lake. He downloaded the node, and after scanning it for viruses and booby traps, opened it. It was a six-word message from Klaxon. "Nice to finally meet you, Alek." 

    Alek slammed his fist into the escape button on the ship's virtual dashboard. His view went blank for a moment, but then the dot in the distance came rushing back. The coffee shop and everything in it reappeared all around him. Everything except Stacy. 

    ###

    His vision was blurry and he heard a persistent high pitch tone. Sometimes his brain had difficulty adjusting to reality after a quick trip into cyberspace, even one as poorly rendered as the last one. His nose was working fine, however; Stacy's vanilla perfume still lingered in the air.

    As his vision cleared, he looked up and saw her halfway across the room, walking quickly towards the door. He realized that he had forgotten to ask for her number. He stood to run after her and fell forward, tumbling over his table and hitting the wooden floor hard. Ice cubes and cold coffee flew everywhere...

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 6 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #6 - Alek's original encounter with Stacy

    Background

    The middle scene in Chapter One of Cyberdrome involves Alek sitting in a coffee shop and having a brief encounter with a woman named Stacy, who was pretending to be a waitress to get close to Alek. The original version of this scene was quite long and involved Stacy playing a much more challenging roll.

    Deleted Scene

    When his vision cleared, Alek saw a blonde woman standing right in front of his table. Although she was beautiful, she looked like she tried to hide that fact by wearing the funky purple glasses and putting her hair up in a ponytail. Then he saw that she was wearing a metallic blue miniskirt and a thin, almost transparent tank top with nothing on underneath, and realized that she was hiding nothing.

    "Can I help you?" he asked, somewhat befuddled.

    "I'm sorry," she said, looking suddenly embarrassed. "It's just crowded in here and I thought maybe I could sit at your table, but I..." She started to turn away.

    "No, don't go," he said, reaching out to her. She was wearing some sort of vanilla perfume and it seemed to overpower his senses. He stumbled for words, but couldn't get his mouth to say them. Instead, he pointed at the empty chair next to his table.

    With a look of relief, she put her coffee cup on his table and quickly slid into the chair. "Thank you so much," she said, then leaned towards him and lowered her voice. "You can't imagine the number of creeps who have been hitting on me this morning."

    He glanced briefly at her see-thru top and shook his head. "I can't imagine why," he said.

    She smiled and reached out her hand. "I'm Stacy, by the way."

    Her eyes were light green and they seemed to skip back and forth behind her glasses, almost as if she was having difficulty looking directly at him. "I'm Alek," he managed to say as he shook her hand.

    "I know," she said with a nervous smile.

    He was startled, but then guessed that she was probably just making nervous conversation. "What are you, a mind-reader?"

    "Actually, I'm studying parapsychology, so you're close," she said, her eyes still bouncing strangely. "However, to be honest, the waitress told me your name."

    He wasn't sure how to respond to that. He was not the kind of guy that beautiful women hit on--at least not in the last couple of years--so he didn't have any snappy comebacks. Hoping to fill up the awkward silence that was already several seconds too long, he concentrated on what she was studying. "Parapsychology, huh?" he managed to get out.

    She seemed to relax. "Actually, I'm hoping to become a licensed clairvoyant when I graduate."

    "A clairvoyant? You mean like those people who talk to the dead?"

    "Those are mediums," she corrected him; "I am talking about palm reading, tarot cards--things like that."

    "Do you actually believe in all that metaphysical stuff?" he asked without thinking, and then immediately regretted it.

    "You were going to say, 'crap,' and I understand, since most people have that reaction. However, a lot of what it takes to be a clairvoyant is actually just being good at asking the right questions and reading people's facial movements and body language in response to those questions. Do you want me to show you?"

    "I guess," he said, relieved that she didn't take offence to his stupid comment. "So, what do I have to do?"

    "Nothing," she said as she pulled a small yellow box from her waistband and placed it on the table between them.

    "Are you any good?" he asked.

    "Well, like I said, I'm still a student, but I think I'm pretty good."

    "No, I mean good at games," he said, glancing down at the yellow box.

    "I don't play games," she said, looking confused.

    Suddenly, it dawned on him what the box really was. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were blind."

    "Don't apologize," she said. "I've been this way since birth." She managed a half-smile. "Like they say, you can't miss what you've never had."

    "So, that's some sort of scanner," he said, wondering how else he could screw up the conversation. He looked down at the box. "Looks like a nice system. Is it Korean?"

    She reached out and pulled the box closer to her side of the table. "I don't know," she said. "The salesman said it was state-of-the-art."

    He glanced again at her clothing and realized that she probably had no idea how revealing her shirt was. Some lecherous hump at a clothing store had most likely told her it was the latest fashion, and she believed him.

    "All right," she said with a quick smile. "Let's start the reading." She reached out with both hands and gently caressed the contours of his face. "Based on a combination of what my scanner sees and physical contact, I would say you are about thirty. The combination of your blue eyes and dark brown hair with a slight widow's peak tells me that your family originated in Northern Europe, but your somewhat wide nose and full lips tell me that you have some Northern African, or perhaps Middle Eastern blood."

    "That's pretty good," he said. "I didn't realize that you could get color scans from that thing."

    Without responding, she slid her hands down his neck to his shoulders, then down his arms to his forearms. Her hands were soft, and her gentle touch sent a shiver down his back. "Highly developed upper body," she said with a slight grin, "but no calluses. I would say you make a living using your brain, but work out to impress the girls."

    He felt his face turning red and a part of him wanted to run away. "I do work out a lot," he said, "but not to impress anyone."

    "Don't worry. I believe you," she said with a slight grin as she turned his left hand, palm-side up. She began sliding her fingertips gently back and forth over his palm. "I see that you had a serious relationship a while back. It was someone you almost married, perhaps." She pointed a part of his hand where a thin line that split off from one of the others. "It looks like you were the one who broke it off."

    "Her name was Maya," he said without hesitation. "We dated back in college, but I haven't seen her in almost three years."

    She tapped another part of his palm repeatedly. "Well, this is bad," she said. He looked to where she pointed. The thin line signifying Maya rejoined the main fold a short distance away. "It's bad news for me anyway. It looks like this Maya-person will be coming back into your life very soon, and I don't see her leaving."

    She suddenly dropped his hand and looked down at his table. "So, is that octopus-thing on your table part of a game?"

    His mind skipped a gear as he tried to adjust to the sudden change of topics. He looked at his hand again. Should he tell her that he had lost all contact with Maya, and that she was definitely not coming back into his life?

    "Alek?"

    "Sorry." He looked down at the small, robotic creature with multi-jointed legs attempting to drill its way into the white plastic surface of his table and wondered for a moment how she was able to see his creation. Could she be a fellow Plumber? Then he realized that he had simply forgotten to encrypt the visual telemetry. He was broadcasting the holographic image to anyone with a desire to eavesdrop. Stacy's little yellow box must have picked up the signal. "It's called a Cyberphage," he finally said. "It is modeled after a Bacteriophage virus, which some people call nature's first true nanobot."

    "Why does it look like a mechanical octopus?" she asked. She was leaning so close to him that her vanilla perfume was almost too much. He wondered briefly if she was lacking a sense of smell as well.

    "That's just how I chose to render it," he said, leaning back slightly to get a little more breathing room. "All modern programs have rendering parameters built into them, just in case someone wants to look at them in virtual space." He smiled. "I make all of my programs look like robots. I think it makes them more intimidating."

    "If I remember my high school biology correctly, bacteriophages inject DNA into other cells. So, what does your program do?"

    "Something similar," he replied. "I use it to transport potentially dangerous programs past system security. Right now, it's drilling through the main firewall of the World Data Bank."

    She grabbed his arm, a look of shock on her beautiful face. "Oh my God, you're a hacker?"

    Definitely not a fellow programmer, he realized. No one on the inside used the old "hacker" and "cracker" labels anymore. Now that computers had taken over writing all commercial software, having the skill to create programs from scratch was quickly becoming a lost art, even in the underground world he used to frequent.

    "Actually, I'm a Plumber," he corrected her. "I get paid to locate and fix problems in big corporate databases--problems that the A.I. systems either can't fix or maybe even created."

    "Plumber," she repeated. "Where does that term come from?"

    "If you ever spent a hundred straight hours trying to debug a multi-terabyte database, you would see the analogy to being a Plumber trying to find a leaky pipe inside a mountain-sized hotel.

    She looked back down at the table. "So what do you need that Cyber-thingy for?"

    "Sometimes, the only way to find the problem is by going in from the outside."

    A thin smile crossed her mouth. "You mean by breaking in."

    "Right," he said, unable to cover his own smile. "My Cyberphage is one of several remote ways that I do that."

    "Remote," she repeated, then cocked her head to one side. "You mean you don't go in yourself? I thought all you software jockeys-"

    "No," he said with more force than he meant to. He searched for the right words. "I had an accident during neural interface a few years ago," he finally managed to get out. "Now I have these blackouts. Total loss of sensory input."

    After a few moments of awkward silence, she patted him on the shoulder. "So, now they won't let you play with the cool toys, right?" When he nodded his head, she added, "Well, I've had to live with people underestimating what I can do, all of my life. It's their loss, right?"

    He felt his shoulders relax. "You're probably right," he said.

    She glanced back down at his table. "Hey, your program just disappeared. Did you just change the frequency?"

    He looked at the table. A yellow message was flashing in the space above the Cyberphage. "Proximity Alert. Unidentified program in local memory."

    "No. My wrist computer just began encrypting the transmission. It's telling me that something is wrong."

    She picked up her yellow box from the table. "I'm sorry. Maybe it's my scanner. I dropped it on the sidewalk a couple of days ago. Maybe it's transmitting some sort of interference."

    "I don't think that's the problem," he said as he quickly drew a series of command shapes on his watch's touch plate, requesting a local memory scan. The Cyberphage begin to spin in a circle. Half way around, the yellow-alert message turned red. He grabbed his backpack from the floor and pulled out a thin wire headset.

    "What are you doing?" she asked.

    He adjusted the headset's transducers to press on his temples. "I'm sorry, Stacy. I don't usually do this in public, but something is happening to my program. I need to jump inside to see what's going on."

    She slid her hand under the table and grabbed his thigh. "What's the frequency? I want to watch."

    He tried to concentrate on what he was doing, but her hand on his leg made that difficult. "Your display glasses won't work with this technology. It's neural-based."

    "Wait a minute. I thought you just said that you don't interface any more."

    "I don't," he replied as he entered coordinates on his wrist computer. "This is a level-2 neural override headset. It transmits audio and visual signals only."

    "You mean like an old-fashioned virtual reality set?"

    "Right," he said as he glanced at her. "It overrides my senses--it doesn't replace them. There's a big difference. Anyway, I still won't be able to see or hear you while I'm logged in, so please just wait here. This should only take a minute."

    He griped the table with one hand, and with the other, pressed the headset's connect button...


    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 5 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #5 - Maya returning to the real world 

    Background

    In the original version of Cyberdrome, following Maya's conversation with Dr. Grey on board the Snohomish, she returns to the real world. Below is how she did it.

    Deleted Scene

    Maya was tempted to run after him and demand to know what he was planning, but didn't. That would be ridiculous. Mathew was her boss and owed her no explanations. Whatever he was up to, at least it did not involve additional interfacing, and that should be all that mattered.

    She stepped through the doorway, took a deep breath, and headed down the hall back towards the main elevator. As usual, within five minutes, she was lost. 

    She passed a group of people in one hall and considered stopping to ask directions, but didn't. The Survey Vessel was filled with more than 500 people, but the fact that none of them were real made her feel alone most of the time. She wondered around on her own for a while and eventually found the elevators.

    She felt light as her elevator shot straight down the glass tube, passing several open levels, then slowing to a stop in a circular room. As she stepped out of the tube, she faced six equally spaced doors along the outer wall. 

    She passed through the first door she came to and entered a room with a raised circular platform in the middle and seven egg-shaped chambers embedded in recessed coves along the outer wall. Judging from the bio-displays above each chamber, the room was full. Apparently, a new shift was about to wake up, which meant that she had to search through all six interface rooms until she found an empty pod.

    As she stood next to the chamber, she pulled the datapad out of her pocket and slid her index finger into the reader port. She felt a slight tingling sensation as the pad transferred the contents of its memory into her body. 

    The idea was simple; electrical impulses from a data stream conducted through her body would be converted into sequenced DNA strands by the device, essentially storing digital data in a biological form. 

    The rule was; what goes out with an Avatar must come in with it; a simple conservation of mass and energy. Since part of every researcher's job was to bring back data from the simulations, all online bodies, or Avatars, had one kidney replaced with a biochemical storage device. 

    This was important because the bio-transmitters that moved people in and out of the simulations only worked with living material. When she woke up from the interface, the DNA patterns stored in her Avatar would be automatically converted back into readable data. In a system as complex as Cyberdrome, this method was simply the easiest way to get information in and out of the simulations.

    When the upload was complete, she stored the pad away and typed her destination coordinates into the panel beside her chamber, then double-checked it to make sure she had it right. She didn't want to accidentally transfer to one of the other Survey Vessels, or even worse, wake up inside Earth-Zero, the home of nearly everyone else onboard the ship.

    She had never been there, of course, but they said that Earth-Zero was a close copy of the real Earth, updated constantly with data from the real world. None of the crew of the Yakama, or the other researchers for that mater, realized the truth of their existence. They believed that they were humans like her, studying recreations of Earth. They had no idea that they were simulations themselves, designed to study other simulations.

    Then she had a weird thought. What if she entered the wrong address and woke up in Earth-Zero, inside a copy of the real Cyberdrome facility. Would she know it wasn't real?

    The thought sent a shiver up her spine, so she took a deep breath and pressed the "off" tab on her armband. The remnants of her outfit slide like liquid across her body and down both arms. Within seconds, her armbands had retrieved all of the nano-particles making up her clothing and she was left standing naked. 

    She unsnapped the bands and slid them into charging sockets in the wall, then climbed into the oval-shaped interface chamber. As soon as she was lying comfortably on her back, the top half of the chamber quietly slid down its track, sealing her in total darkness. Seconds later, she was fast asleep.

    ###

    Her eyesight was blurry when the pod opened again. The room was much brighter than before and a dark-skinned woman wearing a white uniform was looking down at her...

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 4 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #4 - Maya returning to the Snohomish 

    Background

    The first scene in Chapter One of Cyberdrome ends with Maya on her way back up to the Survey Vessel "Snohomish" after having a conversation with Dr. Mathew Grey on the Planet. Originally this was a lengthy chapter and followed Maya up to the Snohomish where her conversation with Dr. Grey took place in her office. To get the readers into the heart of the story more quickly, a great deal was cut from this chapter. Below is part of what was removed.

    Deleted Scene

    As the aircraft quickly gained altitude, leaving both the child and the planet behind, Maya leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes, and whispered under her breath, “Neither are you, pal. Neither are you.” 

    The Dragon continued to rise until they were several thousand meters in the air. Then it began moving forward as the thrust from the twin engines transferred from the lifting vents to the rear exhaust ports. Soon, they were screaming along towards the Yakama, floating high in the atmosphere several hundred kilometers to the South.

    An hour later, she felt the Dragon's engines change pitch as they switched back into vertical lift. She looked up from her datapad to the forward window image and saw the S.V. Yakama floating motionless like a large balloon, a few hundred meters ahead. 

    The Yakama, like all the other Survey Vessels, served as a base of operations for the study of Cyberdrome's planetary simulations. It was saucer-shaped and housed nearly five hundred scientist and crew. Its topside hangar held several dozen Dragons and twice as many Rovers, yet, despite all of this capacity, the designers had only included a single landing pad. 

    They explained that it was because of the downward thrust of air along the outer rim of the saucer, caused by the ship's fusion-powered electromagnetic drive, that made it impossible to maneuver an aircraft anywhere near it. Landings and takeoffs were thus limited to the top center of the saucer. 

    There were times when she missed putting on interface headgear and simply blinking into existence inside a simulation. That, however, was impossible inside Cyberdrome, where time itself was passing much faster than normal. She knew that she was partly responsible for making this radical form of fast-interface possible, so who was she to complain? 

    A few minutes later, the pilot announced that the Yakima had cleared them for landing. Maya felt the ship lunge forward as the Dragon headed for the pad. They climbed high over the saucer and then descend vertically to the landing pad.

    They touched down rather softly, considering the combined weight of the Rover and Dragon. Rosa must be flying, she thought with a grin. That girl had finesse. As soon as the Dragon touched the surface, Maya felt the floor tilt backwards as the lower fuselage dropped down. The Rover's driver quickly powered up the motors of the four independent wheels and backed out of the aircraft. As soon as they were clear, he turned and drove into one of the two nearby hangars.

    They parked in one of the open slots along the outer wall. Maya heard the hiss of air as a docking ring attached itself to the side door. She and the others then stepped through the door and into the busy Mission Preparation Room. 

    Dozens of people were crisscrossing the room, carrying duffle bags and containers of various sizes. The synchronized bustle reminded her of a swarm of ants collecting food. Some of the people were loading equipment, while others, like her, were trying to unload theirs.

    She grabbed her bag and plunged into the throng, somehow reaching one of the unloading stations without colliding with anyone. After dropping off her stuff and signing out, she headed for the exit.

    The hallway was pleasantly quiet and devoid of people. As Maya headed in the direction of the elevators, she felt a strange tingling sensation all over her body. She looked at her arm and saw a series of holes beginning to appear on her sleeve. She looked down and realized that her entire uniform was dissolving off her body.

    For one panicked second she thought she'd been exposed to some sort of acid, but then sheepishly realized that her Omnisuit was merely running low on power. Like many of the high-tech items developed in Cyberdrome, Omnisuits were far too expensive to produce commercially in the real world; therefore, no one outside the company even knew the technology existed. They also used a lot of power, and had to be recharged every 24 hours or so. She pressed the backup power tab on her armband, which restored her clothing, and headed back down the hall.

    After a minute, she realized that she was going in the wrong direction and cursed to herself for getting lost again. Even though the inside of the Yakama was almost an exact copy of the Nevada-based Cyberdrome Research Facility she had been working in for the past six months, it never ceased to confuse her. A few turns later, she found the correct hallway and headed towards her office.

    Ten minutes later, Maya sat alone at her desk. With her Omnisuit fully recharged, she was now able to change it into something more suitable for a meeting with her boss. What is he doing in here?

    "Maya?"

    She glanced up and saw her boss standing in her office doorway. "Come in, Dr. Grey," she said. "What's up? I thought you were on the Snohomish this week...

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 3 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #3 - Final Prologue from 2006

    Background

    Since the previous two Prologues made many test readers think that the story was about fighting the plague in Utah (which it isn't), I decided to write a new version. I had an idea that Alek suffered from seizures caused by a previous deep-interface accident, and decided to make that my new Prologue. In the final version of Cyberdrome, published in 2008, I decided to give up on Prologues altogether and just jump right into the action of the story. If you have already read the book, I hope you will agree with my decision. Here now is my final attempt at a Prologue for Cyberdrome.

    Deleted Prologue

    "Is this where I belong?" Alek Grey asked the empty room as he stared at the white padded walls surrounding him. The sleeves of the matching white straightjacket hung carelessly down to his sides.

    "You tell me," the psychiatrist's disembodied voice said. Her tone was at once soft and caring, like his mother's, yet dispassionate and professional, much like his father's. "You have felt a sense of displacement ever since the accident."

    "Do you do that on purpose?" he asked, now lying on his back on a leather sofa inside an archetypical psychiatrist's office. "I mean, the whole mother/father, good cop/bad cop role-playing game. Do they teach you that in shrink school, or is that something you thought up yourself?"

    "You tell me," she said from behind the oak desk. He was facing the white featureless ceiling of the office but he knew where she was sitting. It was where she always sat; behind the big desk, behind the wall she put up every session so that she didn't have to feel his pain. So that she didn't have to deal with what he was going thought.

    "What do you mean?" he asked. He knew what she meant, of course, but he liked playing the game as much as she did.

    "I mean simply that this is your dream; you define what is real and what is not real."

    That threw him. "Dream? You're telling me that this is all just an effing dream?"

    "You have difficulty swearing, don't you? Even in dreams." she asked, changing the subject as she always did. Asking questions when she should be answering them. 

    "You're effing right I do," she said, looking around the room. "This place could be monitored. I could-" He froze when he saw the small static cloud sitting quietly on another leather sofa on the other side of the room. "What the eff is that thing doing here?"

    "As I said, this is your dream. You tell me."

    "Oh, I get it," he said when he realized that he was looking at a mirrored wall. The couch on the other side of the room was his couch. "Oh, I get it perfectly well. That is me, right? The cloud is me."

    "Is it?"

    "Of course," he said. "Isn't it obvious? I was locked in a neural interface for umpteen hours, no sensory contact, no brain activity whatsoever, and so I invented that thing to keep me company. I invented that cloud to keep me sane." He looked at the thing sitting on the couch. His nemesis, his ally. "Isn't that what you want me to say? If I admit to that, if I admit that it is all in my head, you will let me go? You will let me out of this prison?"

    "What makes you think you are in prison, Alek?" she asked in her best impression of his mother's voice. 

    "Because I can't get out," he screamed, suddenly angry. "No matter how hard I try." He took a deep breath and lowered his voice. "It follows me everywhere. Every time I close my eyes, it is there, waiting for me like a faithful dog, or a hungry wolf."

    "Which is it?" she asked, knowing full well what his answer would be. "Faithful dog or hungry wolf?"

    "Both," he said for the umpteenth time.

    "You have said that it helps you." 

    "Of course it helps me," he said, already tired of the repetition. "I've told you so many times."

    "Tell me just once more."

    Alek threw up his hands. "Didn't you tell me this was a dream?" he asked.

    There was a slight but perceptible pause before she answered. This was something knew he realized; something she was unprepared for. "Yes, Alek. I did say that."

    "Which means that I can end it, right?"

    Another pause, this once longer and more obvious. "You are a lucid dreamer, Alek, which means that you have some degree of control of your dreams. It is possible-"

    "Then shut up," he yelled, and the dream ended. 

    ###

    Alek opened his eyes, but the latent image of the psychiatrist's virtual office continued to display across his field of vision. He blinked three times quickly, switching his contact lens displays back to transparent mode. 

    He took a drink from his somewhat diluted triple-shot iced mocha, and wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead. Another seizure, he thought to himself. Third one this month. The automated psychiatrist program and was supposed to help him work though the episodes, but from what he remembered of them, they weren't working.

    He glanced around the interior of the "All Day" coffee shop and breathed a sigh of relief that no one seemed to be looking at him strangely. The coffee shop had become one of his favorite early morning hangouts since moving to Washington, DC from Seattle the previous year. The iced mochas were always perfect, that is, with extra chocolate, and Cheryl, the server, always saved the back corner table for him. He would hate to have to give it up because his seizures were scaring people away.

    The projection TV up near the ceiling in the far corner of the room was showing maps of the quarantined section of Utah...

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 2 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #2 - Modified Prologue from 2005

    Background

    In my mind's eye, Cyberdrome was (and still is) a movie. The following Prologue is a more "theatrical" version of the original Prologue I came up with in 2005. Ca you see the opening credits being displayed while the aircraft flies over the snow-capped mountains of Utah? Maybe if a Cyberdrome film is actually made some day, they will want to use this. I can dream, can't I? ;)

    Deleted Prologue

    The snow-capped mountains of Northern Utah passed beneath the sleek, unmanned aircraft as it flew just beneath the heavy cloud cover towards its destination; the dead city once known as Salt Lake. As it crossed over a final ridge, the darkened area of the city came into view. When the onboard computer confirmed its location and trajectory with the satellite navigation system, it released its cargo---a small pyramid-shaped container---then banked right and climbed quickly back into the cloud deck. 

    The box, having no parachute or other means of slowing it down, fell quickly and silently through the rain-filled night sky. As the box shot past the level of the tallest buildings, a series of thick-skinned balloons covering its shell quickly inflated. 

    A second later, it hit the pavement hard, creating a wide but shallow crater, and then was instantly airborne again. Tall buildings raced past on either side as the box reached the apex of its bounce and began to fall again. It hit the street below once more, this time with slightly less force. Before it climbed much further, it smashed into the side of a building directly in its flight path, rupturing several of its protective balloons. In a shower of broken glass, it fell straight down to the sidewalk---taking out an awning and a light pole on the way---and landed in a heap next to an abandoned car. 

    After echoes of the crash landing died away, the box began to open, deflating what was left of the landing balloons. A moment later, a two-meter long beetle-shaped machine lifted out of the box on a cushion of air. It was a Scarab; a military grade reconnaissance probe especially outfitted for its current duty---that of surveying the streets of the city and broadcasting the data and imagery it collected live around the world. 

    A suite of sensors rose out of the top of the Scarab, and began a detailed survey of the landing zone. Simultaneously, a series of numbers appeared across its visual imager's field of view showing the status of its metal body. Main batteries were at 95 percent, hull integrity was positive, and both primary and secondary systems all showed green. 

    As the Scarab floated towards the middle of the street to begin its survey of the downtown area, it logged the effects of the acid rain that was falling in sheets from the overcast night sky. As expected, the rain had melted the plastic signs that once welcomed visitors to city center, and turned the long-abandoned plastic-skinned commuter-cars nearby into skeletons. It had also dissolved the outer casing of the city's underground wiring, shorting out all electrical systems, leaving the city in total darkness. 

    The synthetic rain was the Government's latest attempt to stop the spread of a growing colony of microscopic, nanotech-engineered robotic machines. Approximately the size of human red blood cells, these Nano-cells, or N-cells, had been designed to augment the human immune system; providing a defense against everything from the common cold to bio-terrorism. Some believed that they would one day provide a defense against the effects of aging and even prolong life. 

    While being tested in a research lab in central Utah, an error in replication caused one batch of the N-cells to begin mimicking a virulent strain of the influenza-A virus. With surface proteins changing spontaneously every 42 hours, the human immune system was unable to build antibodies fast enough to resist the virus. Infection and mortality rates were essentially 100%, which meant that everyone exposed to the manufactured virus became infected, and everyone infected, died within a few days. 

    What made this plague even more deadly was that the microscopic N-cells were being transported by a growing colony of larger, macroscopic, carrier machines. One-half the size of a flea's head, the carriers were designed to be simple and efficient delivery systems. By housing the delicate N-cells inside their machine stomachs, the carriers were able to protect and nurture the cells until their release inside a human host. In addition, since the carriers came in four distinct body styles, they could adapt to any environment and spread the virus more efficiently than other, more natural methods. 

    Since every attempt to kill the N-cell virus during the past year had failed, the current strategy was to destroy or cripple the carriers that spread it. The 'acid rain' was actually a chemical solvent, specifically formulated to dissolve the monolayer film surrounding the metallic atoms that made up the body of the carriers. Without the plastic layers to separate them, the individual atoms of the carriers would fuse together and become inoperable; thus ending the spread of the plague. At least, that was the plan. 

    To the onboard intelligence routines of the Scarab, this plan was a total failure. During the first hour of its survey, its high-resolution scanners found that the carrier population had, in fact, adapted to the acid rain. By recoded their regeneration routines, they insured that the bodies of their offspring would include an additional outer layer of fused metal, protecting the inner joints from the solvent. Like all life forms on Earth, the carriers had evolved into something stronger, something better. Unlike their biological cousins, this species-wide evolutionary adaptation had occurred in less than 24 hours. 

    The Scarab began to detect a number of failures in its sub-processors, most likely a result of the acid rain. It should have been concerned, but like all modern robots, it was not much smarter than the average well-trained dog. Ever since the infamous robotic butler incident three years earlier, only programs confined to simulated worlds were considered safe enough have anything approaching human-like intelligence. This trip to Utah was a one-way mission, but the Scarab was not smart enough to care. 

    Sensors detected movement in the distance and the Scarab focused its cameras and sensors on the location. Something faintly human-sized stood in the middle of the street, but the rain and the darkness made it difficult to see. A subset of the image display then zoomed in on the object and changed green as infrared spectrum filters kicked in. 

    The Scarab passed the image through its pattern recognition software. The creature was human-shaped, but just barely, and its body temperature was ten degrees lower than expected. Perhaps it was human, the software concluded, but wearing some sort of bulky covering. Logically, nothing human could still be alive after a full year of exposure to the plague, but there it was. 

    The creature lunged sideways and disappeared from the camera's field of view. The Scarab switched its camera back to the visible spectrum and returned to normal magnification. In the distance, the creature was running directly towards the Scarab, splashing through the water-filled street. 

    The rapid approach of the creature suggested a greater than 50% chance of aggressive behavior, and triggered the Scarab's self-preservation routines. It began a slow retreat, moving backwards up the street; its speed cut in half by the degradation of its thrusters by the chemical rain. Navigational sensors quickly scanned the street behind it, trying to find a place to hide, but could find no solution. The creature was just too fast. 

    Turning its sensors back towards the creature, the Scarab's camera caught a large misshapen hand reaching out for the lens. Then suddenly, the image froze, and a message appeared at the bottom of the broadcast display. "Transmission from Scarab terminated at source. End of live broadcast."

    ###

    Alek Grey opened his eyes, but the latent image of the strangely deformed hand continued to reach out for him. He blinked three times quickly, switching his contact lens displays back to transparent mode. 

    He took a drink from his somewhat diluted triple-shot iced mocha, and surveyed the interior of the "All Day" coffee shop. It had become one of his favorite early morning hangouts since moving to Washington, DC from Seattle the previous year. The mochas were always perfect, that is, with extra chocolate, and Cheryl, the server, always saved the back corner table for him. 

    Of course, it didn't hurt that the coffee shop was one of those rare "null spots" in the world where the InfoSphere satellite network was unable to get a triangulation on users during a few select hours each morning. Software plumbers from all over the world would literally kill for a few minutes at his table, that is, if they knew about it. It was a secret he would keep for as long as he was able...

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes, Part 1 of 7

    Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
    Part #1 - Original Prologue from 2004

    Background

    This is my original Prologue for the Cyberdrome Novel, and it was titled "Dead City" for reasons you will soon discover. The scene was fully illustrated by David because we were hoping to make a digitally-illustrated ebook.

    Deleted Prologue

    Acid rain fell from a starless night sky, pooling in shallow ditches and covering the barren asphalt streets. It melted the plastic signs that once welcomed visitors to city center, and turned long-abandoned plastic-skinned commuter-cars into forgotten skeletons. It also dissolved the outer casing of the city's underground wiring, shorting out all electrical systems, and leaving the city in total darkness. 

    The man-made rain was the Government's latest attempt to stop the spread of a man-made plague; a bio-engineered version of the influenza-A virus. With surface proteins changing spontaneously every 42 hours, the human immune system was unable to build antibodies fast enough to resist the virus. Infection and mortality rates were essentially 100%, which meant that everyone exposed to the virus became infected, and everyone infected, died within a few days. 

    What made this plague even more deadly was that the virus was carried by a growing colony of nanotech-engineered robotic bugs. One-half the size of a flea's head, these nanobugs were originally designed to spread antibodies and serum throughout the human population as a defense against bio-terrorism. Now they carried the virus cells inside their machine stomachs, protecting and nurturing them until their release inside a human host. In addition, since the nanobugs could travel across land and water, and were small enough to be carried by the wind for short distances, they could spread the virus more efficiently than other, more natural methods.

    Since every attempt to kill the virus during the past year had failed, the current strategy was to destroy or cripple the machines that spread it. The acid rain was actually a chemical solvent, specifically formulated to dissolve the monolayer film surrounding the metallic atoms that made up the body of the nanotech bugs. Without the plastic layers to separate them, the individual atoms of the machines would fuse together and become inoperable, thus ending the spread of the plague. At least, that was the plan. 

    To the onboard intelligence routines of the Telebot Series R-1, this plan was a total failure. Since being parachuted in to the quarantined section of Northern Utah by the news media the previous day, the human-sized robot had already surveyed half of what was now called the "Dead City," and found no sign of weakness in the metallic bugs. High-resolution scanners showed that the nanobugs had, in fact, adapted to the acid rain. 

    Analysis of the scans showed that the nanobugs had recoded their regeneration routines so that the bodies of their offspring would include an additional outer layer of fused metal, protecting them from the solvent. Like all life forms on Earth, the nanobugs had evolved into something stronger, something better. Unlike their biological cousins, this species-wide evolutionary adaptation had occurred in less than 24 hours. 

    Following the road map stored inside its digital brain, the Telebot continued its search pattern by turning a corner and heading down the center of the next street. A full three years old now, the Telebot went online just months before the emergence of true artificial machine intelligence in 2026. While all of the other Telebots in the R-series were now a collection of spare parts in some storage bin, Channel 9 had purchased the R-1 for this singular purpose. It was a one-way mission, but the Telebot was not smart enough to object. 

    The data and imagery it was collecting were being broadcast live around the world, against government orders, thanks in part to a hijacked Canadian Holo-TV satellite. To the humans around the world watching the images being transmitted by its holographic camera, the dark, empty streets might look like something out of a science fiction movie, the Telebot concluded. It might look like the end of the world. 

    Sensors detected movement in the distance and the Telebot focused its camera on the location. Something faintly human-sized stood in the middle of the street, but the rain and the darkness made it difficult to see. A subset of the image display then zoomed in on the object and changed green as infrared spectrum filters kicked in. 

    The Telebot passed the image through its pattern recognition software. The creature was human-shaped, but just barely, and its body temperature was ten degrees lower than expected. Perhaps it was human, the software concluded, but wearing some sort of bulky covering. Logically, nothing human could still be alive after a full year of exposure to the plague, but there it was. 

    The creature lunged sideways and disappeared from the camera's field of view. The Telebot switched its camera back to the visible spectrum and returned to normal magnification. In the distance, the creature was running directly towards the Telebot, splashing through the water-filled street. 

    The rapid approach of the creature suggested a greater than 50% chance of aggressive behavior, and triggered the Telebot's self-preservation routines. It began a slow retreat, moving backwards up the street; its speed cut in half by the degradation of its own systems by the chemical solvent in the rain. Navigational sensors quickly scanned the street behind it, trying to find a place to hide, but could find no solution. The creature was just too fast. 

    Turning its sensors back towards the creature, the Telebot's camera caught a large misshapen hand reaching out for the lens. Then suddenly, the image froze, and a message appeared at the bottom of the broadcast display. "Transmission from Telebot Series R-1 terminated at source. End of live broadcast."

    ###

    Alek Grey opened his eyes, but the latent image of the strangely deformed hand continued to reach out for him. He blinked three times quickly, switching his contact displays back to transparent mode. He glanced around the coffee shop, and realized that no one else looked bothered at all. Was he the only one who had tuned in to the broadcast? Was he the only one worried about the plague?

    He took a drink from his triple-shot iced mocha, and glanced out of the window to his right. Sunrise was still two hours away, but a holographic version of it shown brightly over a stand of swamp oak trees on the other side of the parking lot. The simulation was so accurate; it even fooled his contacts, which darkened automatically to protect his eyes.

    He turned away from the window and surveyed the interior of the "All Day" coffee shop; one of his favorite early-morning hangouts since moving to the Washington, DC area the previous year. The mochas were always perfect, that is, with extra chocolate, and Cheryl, the waitress, always saved the back corner table for him. 

    The projection TV up near the ceiling in the far corner of the room was showing maps of the quarantined section of Utah...

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Cyberdrome Footnotes - Part 2

    Now let me tell you why I think Cyberdrome will be the hardest novel I will ever write (and at the same time, why it might be worth reading.)

    First of all, most science fiction novels start out as a central idea, or plot, and then the author creates the universe surrounding the story (filling in the details as they write). Cyberdrome was created the other way around - my brother, Dave, and I created the excessively-detailed universe first, and then came up with one story (of many) to tell within that universe. What made this story the hardest I will ever write, is that the universe was based on a computer game and artificial life simulator my brother and I created many years ago. I made it my goal to put as many elements from the game into the background universe as possible, while at the same time, trying to NOT make it a simplistic "novelization of a game" story. This was not easy and it took a dozen false starts get it right.

    My second major challenge was creating a believable and realistic method of getting people trapped inside a computer simulation, which I honestly don't think any author has accomplished yet. This is my opinion, of course, but it's based on a lot of research. (If you know of a better method used in a story, please tell me.) If you can't make the reader believe your characters really are in danger, then you have failed as a writer. I know my technology is realistic, because it is based on current research, but whether or not the reader sees this, is the big question. So far, based on feedback from reviews, emails, and online workshops, my method works pretty well.

    The third major challenge I faced was depicting the state of artificial intelligence 30-40 years or so from now, and what, if anything, will happen when we face the "Technological Singularity" (Google this if you don't know what it is) predicted to occur at about this time. This is a subjective field but at least I think my depiction is both believable and unique. Your results may vary.

    The fourth and final challenge was to create a character-driven story-arc within a plot-based, fast-paced techno-thriller. I also wanted the book to be enjoyable to as wide an audience as possible. To this end, I chose a classic "Hero's Journey" format (see my last post) to tell the story of Alek Grey, a young ex-soccer player forced to give up his career, his sport, and his fiancée, after a car crash leaves him paralyzed. Now he is a programmer who specializes in preventing break-ins to secure computer systems. When a company owned by his estranged father calls him in after their system is compromised, he is shocked to learn that his father is one of over forty people trapped in a revolutionary new form of neural interface. When an attempted rescue mission goes horribly wrong, Alek realizes that there is only one way to save the people he loves. And that might mean risking the fate of humanity itself. 

    So, in conclusion, if you are a science fiction fan who was bothered by the way Kevin Flynn was "digitized by a laser" in TRON, or the way humans were being used as "energy sources" in The Matrix, or any other the hundreds of "machines are going to kill us all" stories that have been written in the past 50 years, please consider giving Cyberdrome a read. You just might be pleasantly surprised...

    Thanks for your time.
    Joseph Rhea

    Cyberdrome Footnotes - Part 1

    I consider Cyberdrome "hard" science fiction in that every bit of technology is based on current cutting-edge research (I'm a scientist in real life and I had access to a lot of stuff while researching the book). However, in an attempt to make the book as widely acceptable as possible (especially as a debut novel from an unknown author), I made a decision to write Cyberdrome as a classic "Mythological Hero's Journey" (See Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces"). As Carl Jung said, "The repeating characters of the hero myth, such as the young hero, the wise old man, the shape-shifting woman, and the shadowy nemesis, are identical with the archetypes of the human mind, as shown in dreams. That's why myths, and stories constructed on the mythological model, are always psychologically true." If you are familiar with this concept, you will probably recognize each of these archetypes throughout my book. 

    Of course, it doesn't hurt that many modern film makers, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Coppola, follow this format as well (and don't we all want our books to be made into movies? ;)

    One thing that separates Cyberdrome from from other "hero's quest" stories (including The Matrix and Star Wars) is that Alek (the protagonist) does NOT believe that he is "following his destiny" - in fact he says he is not, right in the story. So maybe he is a bit more of an anti-hero like Thomas Covenant in Stephen Donaldson's "Unbeliever" series (or even Malcolm Reynolds in the movie, Serenity), in that he is following the most obvious path that lies before him, but he doesn't believe it has anything to do with destiny. It's just a path and it is one that he has chosen for himself, not the other way around.

    To be continued...

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Introducung Cyberdrome: The Science Fiction Thriller by Joseph Rhea and David Rhea

    CYBERDROME
    A disturbing glimpse into a digital future, not far from now.

    Mathew Grey is a brilliant scientist who accidentally unleashed a man-made plague that ravaged America’s heartland, and now threatens the rest of the planet. Riddled with guilt and running out of time, he decides to use a dangerous technology to enter a computer-generated reality called Cyberdrome, hoping to unravel a mystery that could be the key to Earth’s survival.

    Alek Grey was an athlete whose career was cut short by a near-fatal accident. Now he is a software hacker with the unique ability to outsmart the best Artificial Intelligence programs of his day. When he is called in after one of his programs inadvertently attacks Cyberdrome, he is shocked to learn that both his father and ex-fiancée have become trapped inside the simulation, unable to be removed without risk of death. 

    Alek knows of only one way to rescue the people he loves, but will he risk all of humanity to save them?

    As you can probably tell by the cover, Cyberdrome is similar to the movie "Tron" and "Tron:Legacy" in that much of the story takes place inside a computer-generated virtual reality. However, it also shares similarities with other, more current, movies like "Avatar" where the disabled hero finds freedom in an alternate body (avatar), and "Inception" where there is the real fear of becoming trapped inside this alternate reality and even living whole lifetimes in within a few minutes of "real" time.

    Beyond those, however, Cyberdrome distinguishes itself by dealing with cutting-edge topics like the Technological Singularity, DNA-based computer systems, and using nanotechnology inside a person's brain. The story takes place around 30 years from now and all technology is based on extrapolation of current research.

    If this sounds like something you might like, then by all means, buy the book. If not, then just walk on by, and thanks for looking.