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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 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.