Hello Hypothetical Audience, did you have a good Christmas-solstice-whatever and New Years? Brilliant! But now we must face facts, accept that 2015 has now occurred and get on with things once again. So, for the first column of the year I thought I’d share some thoughts I had while watching films over the break. Over the last few weeks I’ve been watching an awful lot of films that have come out of the Marvel film studio, and for the most part they’ve been very good (the only dud I’ve seen so far being Iron Man 2, which was merely a passable filler), and they’ve been attempting to do what the comics have been doing since time immemorial by tying all the characters and events in to a single shared universe. This is a departure from how this has been run previously, mostly due to the fact that all the licences are now being held under a single studio rather than the mess that previously existed, allowing for multi film-, and even franchise-, arcs to exist. This is certainly the first time something like this has been tried with such a large scope, however it may not be as good a thing as it sounds, depending on how it’s handled, and I shall tell you for why after the read-more-thing.
So there I was, dear hypothetical reader, browsing the wares in a local branch of Popular Music Chain, and I ventured into the basement to look at the DVDs. No, not those kinds of DVDs, mind out of the gutter, please. Anyway, it seems a recent change to the layout of the store has seen a new section added off to one side, hidden at the side of the counter behind the blu-rays. This section is exclusively for Science Fiction films, ostensibly at least. This sort of thing is incredibly common, walk into any branch of Popular Bookshop Chain (and indeed many independents) and you’ll see something similar, Science Fiction and it’s stable mate Fantasy are often deliberately separated from everyday Fiction based on entirely arbitrary distinctions. There has always been this bizarre attitude that scifi, and often only specific kinds at that, is somehow “less worthy” of being considered alongside other works of fiction, that it is somehow a lesser work of creative endeavour. This, folks, is the Science Fiction Ghetto.
Occupying a tiny chunk of its coastline, Atlantia’s Manhattan Sector is perhaps a textbook example of what is meant by “faded glory.” Way back, before the mega-cities and rise of the mega-corps, when the United States was more than a historical memory, this tiny island was one of, if not the, richest conurbations on the planet. The organisations based within its confines dominated the world, financially and politically. But its influence weakened as time progressed, the end of the Cold War opened up new markets that grew quickly to challenge its dominance, and the growing political turmoil across the globe splintered its influence. As the twenty-first century dragged on and urbanisation began to swallow up the American coastlines, there were those in power who still recognised some fleeting notion of status. The first statutes creating modern day Atlantia bestowed Manhattan sector-status alongside it’s much larger neighbours, assuming that the sheen of financial strength would never fade.
Even as this recognition was granted, the groups that had prospered from the good fortune were beginning to spread out and exploit the new city space, leaving streets upon streets of once-luxury office blocks abandoned. Then, as the century drew to a close, came the biggest blow to the sector: The Second Civil War. As a global superpower tore itself apart under the strain of three competing and fiercely independent mega-cities, any international entities with no vested interest fled to safer regions, taking with them Manhattan Sector’s political reach. Even though no fighting ever reached the sector’s shores, it left deep scars across it. After the fires of war died down, Manhattan failed to prosper under the newly independent Atlantia. With no real industry to speak of and very little large-scale commercial development left, the area began a steep decline it has never recovered from. Even it’s once-mighty landmarks either faded or were repurposed, with the Chrysler building being moved up-coast to Boston Sector in the 2150’s, and the Empire State building left as a slowly rotting shell. By the time the twenty-third century started, only a single corporate patron remained on the island in the shape of Santiago Sub-Orbital, but even that didn’t last. The great recession of the 2220s was not kind to the group, leading to bankruptcy and eventual merger with former rival, Lansing Global. This put the final nail in Manhattan’s corporate coffin, as the group eventually departed the area under the guise of “restructuring” and “consolidation,” leaving a broken sector in its wake.
Modern Manhattan bears little resemblance to the former jewel of the East Coast. The once famous skyline has since vanished in between the run-down hab-blocks that were built in previous centuries with no care given to their surroundings, and what little of Central Park that remains is barely more than disorganised scrubland. Some pre-Atlantian architecture still exists, often hidden under facades of modern street furniture and in rapidly progressing states of decay and disrepair. Much of the island still adheres to the grid layout set down centuries ago, however modern developments often take up more than a traditional block size, leading to streets coming to an abrupt halt at the side of buildings, or once straight throughways taking winding paths that were at one time entirely different roads altogether. As a consequence of its dwindling importance over the years, combined with its small and relatively isolated location, the sector’s infrastructure is severely lacking by most other’s standards. The only ways onto the island is via a set of mostly pre-millennial bridges and tunnels–not intended to handle mega-city levels of traffic–or the lone Speedrail station, no Intersector Highway link has ever been built, leading to the sector often gets overlooked by both organisations and individuals alike.
The inhabitants of Manhattan Sector can be roughly divided into three categories: the law-abiding, the criminal and the homeless. Those who live within the city’s law tend to be members of the lower-income bracket, mostly commuting from Manhattan to work in either the vast dockyards of West Long Island Sector or the few non-automated industrial complexes in New Jersey Sector. While technology has certainly improved their lives over previous centuries, the average twenty-third century Manhattanite is still at a distinct economic disadvantage compared to most city dwellers in the developed west.
Those that choose to flout society’s rules within the sector are a far more varied group. As with the vast majority of poorer sectors in Atlantia, street gangs flourish despite the ACPD’s best efforts to crack down on their activities. Organised crime has also crept into the sector thanks to the proximity to a major port and the relative isolation of the area. Both the Weismann Syndicate and Ueno Yakuza Clan claim parts of the island as territory and run several operations through it: varying between drugs and gun running to the more mundane protection and gambling rackets. Alongside the modern groups that have flooded the area, the local mafia, the Manhattan Families, still exists. Once major players in Atlantian (and North American) crime, their fortunes waned along with that of the sector, but they have still managed to cling on to existence by keeping to activities that don’t encroach on those of the other organisations. The current Don has dreams of reclaiming some of the Families’ former grandeur, however, although doing so may bring down ruin upon his struggling empire.
One far more worrying group to have set up in Manhattan recently is the North-Am Unionists. This group claims to be a political organisation seeking the reunification of the three mega-cities that once made up the United States and the territory between them, though after a recent bombing of a G11 trade summit in EuroState was blamed on them the group has been classed as terrorists by governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Their leaders went into hiding shortly after an ACPD crackdown in 2242 led to their Savannah Sector headquarters being seized-however several high ranking members have been spotted openly in public in Manhattan Sector. There are growing worries amongst the sector’s population-on both sides of the law-that there will be a confrontation between the Unionists and the government that might spill over into something far larger than the island has seen for over a century. What is certain is that Manhattan Sector’s status as an overlooked and unimportant area may not last for much longer.
Good afternoon, to start things off today I’m going to recount a tale, one that I hope some of you are at least partially familiar with. Nevertheless it is a vital scene-setter for what we will be covering in the coming weeks.
If you look at the dead centre of explored space you will find a small, yellow Category G star, and orbiting it at a distance of roughly 1 Astronomical Unit is a small blue marble. To modern observers this world may not seem like much, but that blue marble is the most significant world in all of humanity’s reach. It is the Home-world, it is Terra. Up until relatively recently it considered itself the centre of the known universe, both literally and metaphorically, and indeed for the majority of history it was the only thing in the known universe. For our first few hundred millennia humanity toiled in obscurity amongst the dirt of that world, fighting our own petty differences, though we were almost constantly looking to the stars.
When I wrote the first entry here the other week I mentioned in passing that I’d be uploading ” the fiction I write for my own entertainment” and thought I’d elaborate on that point a bit, talk about my writings and what I was talking about and give some info on current and future projects. This is also a way of both coming up with something to post this week, and a simultaneous update for my “scores” of Weasyl and DevArt followers, so two birds with one bloggy stone as it were.
Anyway, to abuse an oft-paraphrased and misquoted movie line “All my life, all I ever wanted to be a writer.” Ok, maybe not all I ever wanted to be, my career path shows as much, but you get the gist. From an early age I was coming up with random weird stuff, which friends and relatives can attest to (possibly to my eternal embarrassment). As time progressed the random weird stuff became less random, and more crafted, turning into stuff that, while rough, actually resembled stories and similar. At school I loved creative writing, so managed to get duped into doing the LangLit flavour of English A-Levels on promise of doing more (which turned out to be something of an exaggeration at my school, both courses did the exact same amount). Despite heading into a career of Graphic Design, I kept at the writing mostly out of fun, and fell in love with the art of world crafting. Often coming up with how a setting worked was as, if not more, fun than writing within it. It was around about that time I decided, in spite of my erratic levels of self-confidence, to start uploading whatever I was writing to the internet. The reception was… almost nonexistent but I kept at it, which brings us nicely up to today.
Moving in to the here and now, currently I upload my work at the art sites Weasyl and DeviantArt (links under the blog title), and am planning to upload anything new simultaneously at both and here if possible, although certain things may be limited to one or the other due to the different way sites handle formatting. While I’m not particularly tied down to any particular style or genre, though because I’m a massive geek I do write a fair bit of science-fictiony stuff, simply because it interests me how much can be done with it. There’s also usually a cynical edge to a fair bit of what I write, which is mainly a reflection of my world view.
Which brings us neatly on to what I’m currently working on, which will probably be what you fine people will be seeing soonest (unless I write something in it’s entirety on a whim). As of now I have two major projects in the works, both extending onwards from pieces I have already written:
First off is “…But It Pours,” the follow up to an earlier piece of mine “Ricochet”, part of setting I’m calling “Century23.” Essentially it’s a cyberpunk piece, currently in short form, following the exploits of a nameless hitman in a 23rd Century urban dystopia. The setting started off as an affectionate parody of things like Blade Runner and William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy, but has evolved into a slightly more serious world, but I’ve still used some opportunities in the background notes to parody the world as it is today. Currently “…But It Pours” is working out to be a longer piece than Ricochet, but still within the realms of a short story. Unless I really go overboard it should be split into 3 parts when finally posted, although currently I’m not giving any time frame for it due to other concerns. Depending on how I feel after it’s out in the world, there may be more Century23 stories coming in the future.
Secondly is an ongoing project called “Redshift: The History of the 36th Century,” which started with this piece (which I may repost here at some point for continuity’s sake). This one is a bit more unusual, as it’s going to be a series of pieces written in false-document form chronicling a future history heavily inspired by things like Battletech, Firefly and the 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica. This means, unlike the previous, it’s unlikely to be prose based or indeed tied down to a single style and format, since I want to be able to experiment while writing entirely from an in-universe point of view. Also, unlike the previous cyberpunk world, this one will be more harder sci-fi than the “rule of cool” employed in Century23. I’m currently trying to keep the “One or Two big lies” method, meaning beyond a couple of unavoidable breaks from reality, the whole thing will be grounded in plausibility (if not possibility). Since I’ve got over a millennia of time to play with, I imagine this will go on for a while, and depending on how long and how well received it is I may spin it off into its own blog to avoid filling here up.
And there you have it, that’s where I’ve come from and where I plan to go with my little writing hobby. Honestly, I don’t write for anyones pleasure beyond my own, but hopefully someone will get something out of it. And as always, any opinions and criticism are always welcome (although please, constructive criticism), so if you have something to say on anything I type, factual or fictional, please speak up, I do like to hear what others think of my work!
–A Man Of Words!