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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 fiancĂ©e, 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