I believe doubt is something all dreamers struggle with, a never-ending battle against that unseen force, always pressuring us to change direction, tone it down, or worse—to give up, to shelf the idea and start over with something a little more sensible, a little more realistic and less ambitious. I know I’m always questioning my ideas, wondering if the scene or chapter I just wrote is as good as I think it is, or if I’m just geeking out on my own characters and plots. Sometimes, it really is the latter, and I’m lucky to have a writing group that I know and trust. Their feedback helps me see the difference and make the right calls during revision.
Turns out, at least for me, that particular kind of doubt is more a fear of sharing the ideas and thoughts in my head than it is questioning the quality of my writing. I realized this last month, when I began sharing a lot of images on my Facebook Page that—for whatever reason—I had been holding on to. In my eye, the were all great images, and really got my imagination going, but week after week I kept passing them over, convinced I was just geeking out, and that they weren’t as share worthy as I thought when I downloaded them. Needless to say, I was more than a bit surprised to discovered they were some of last month’s top images. Like with my writing group, I’m lucky to have an online community of like minds (sci-fi fans) to share and discuss and speculate with. Whether introducing me to new perspectives or expanding or confirming my own ideas and concepts, the feedback and comments I receive have been—and continue to be—extremely valuable, helping me craft better fiction.
Below are the top five images from March. I put an asterisk next to the titles of the ones that I had been holding on to. Silly me. :)
* The Catacombs, by Nic Ames
Images like these seem to invoke thoughts of old civilizations. Races so old, fragments of their society can be found spread across the stars. Whether they still thrive or have long gone extinct, their existence and influence is known and felt by all spacefaring species in the galaxy. Facebook follower, Ian Haygreen mentioned the Gallifreyans, Time Lords of the Doctor Who series. I think that’s a good example, as would be the Protheans of Mass Effect, or the Galactic Empire of the Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.
Planetside Port, by MuYoung Kim
When I look at this image, all I can think about is its immensity. I imagine there being a deep, constant vibration from the thrum of all of the ship’s engines that can be felt for miles. No one needs directions to this port station. Anyone can find it with their eyes closed, just follow the feeling in your bones.
* The City of Clementine, by Tyler Thull
By the size of it, Clementine looks a bit more like a colony than a city, at least to me. But, regardless, it’s a beautiful concept and definitely looks like someplace I’d like to live. The birds are a nice detail and seem to make the image feel more active and less static. Follower, Kathryn Jones commented that it looked like a ship that had been turned into a colony. I agree, and I’ve always liked the idea of colony ships being cannibalized upon reaching their destination. It makes sense, especially if it’s a one-way trip.
* East Coast Mech, by Michal Michlewski
The addition of the swimmer in the water gives this image a sense of scale, and I like that the sun is hidden behind the clouds. The gray, dreariness works well and helps create a sense of aftermath, like this machine is a remnant from a long-ended war, similar to the tanks and equipment that were left behind after World War II.
Takeoff, by Thibault Girard
Thibault Girard’s concepts seem to incorporate a few different influences. Facebook comments from David Hightower, Richard Henry, and Bill Edge, pointed out design similarities with Star Trek, the mothership in Alien vs. Predator, and the Wraith hives from Stargate Atlantis. But, resemblances aside, I think the image conveys a fantastic sense of adventure that makes most sci-fi fans wish they’d been born in a different time.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of worldbuilding for my new novel, Sparrow’s Gate. It’s set in a different universe than Terracova: Archon, so I’ve got a lot of assets to develop. I have the plot pretty fleshed out, but have been doing more research than writing over the past month, collecting images and putting together a soundtrack of music scores to help me define the mood and pace, as well as learning about zoonotic diseases (yes, that’s a plot hint :-) ).
Looking back at the images I posted on my Facebook Page in February, I can see how my research and intent influenced my eye. That’s not to say that all of the images I shared last month are representative of the style and feel of the new novel’s storyworld, in fact, that’s far from the case. But the elements—characters, ships, space stations, portals, etc—do have bearing. It’s like when you’re thinking about buying a particular product, like a car or cell phone. As soon as you narrow your choices down to one or two, you suddenly begin to notice more of them in the world. The need to develop similar elements in my new novel was definitely guiding my eye last month. I found and shared a lot of good images, many of which sparked great conversations and brought some new perspectives to a few old sci-fi theories and tropes.
Below are the top five images from February—follower favorites based on likes, comments, and shares.
Andrei Pintea’s Portal was the highest rated image, with 433 likes, comments, and shares. It’s no wonder. Portals go hand in hand with imagination, gateways to far off places. Through them, the future, past, and present have no bearing, and we’re free to imagine whatever we want. Placing it in a beautiful, majestic setting like the one above doesn’t hurt either.
I don’t know what it is about the Sith, but they sure do have a strong presence in artwork. The Jedi may be the heroes of the story, but, to me, the Sith are far more complex and intriguing. They exude emotion and depth and seem to be far better at striking a pose. The Apprentice, by Simon Goinard, received 386 likes, comments, and shares.
John Liberto’s Requiem Approach Vector has a dark, ominous feel to it that just seems ripe for a story. A derelict ship and a giant spherical space station hovering in the void? It’s the perfect backdrop for an epic tale. The image received 383 likes, comments, and shares.
Stephen Zavala’s Diving in the Clouds received 381 likes, comments, and shares. I’ve noticed images like these often do well. I think it’s because seeing a ship rocketing through the clouds, rising higher and higher, taps into our sense of adventure. We’re sci-fi fans. We dream of blasting off to explore the solar system and galaxy beyond. We see images like this and think, “Yes, please!”
Parallel Viking Spacecraft, by Levy Wang came in fifth overall, with 360 likes comments, and shares, but generated more comments than any other image. Most of the comments were related to the blue energy ring around the ship, speculating as to its purpose/function. A lot of good theories were put forth—inertia dampening field, warp field, an orbital stabilizer/anchor, protective shielding, and a few others. My favorite came from Angel Rivera, who speculated it could be a type of ram-scoop, used to collect the exotic particles believed to be caught in the warp field generated by an Alcubierre drive.
This image from matte painter and environment concept artist, Jacek Irzykowski was the top image on my Facebook page last week with 286 Likes. I love the environment depicted, and, judging from the comments the image received, so do others.
Underwater facilities like this remind me of how similar the environment is to space. While not nearly as hostile as the cold, radiation-soaked vacuum surrounding our planet, humans can’t live beneath the water without some form of protection. The pressure, the cold, and the lack of breathable air means we have to bring our environment with us in order to survive. It makes me wonder why we don’t spend more time building underwater habitats and colonizing the oceans. Seems like it would be great practice for space—a low-cost, local, and not to mention far less dangerous way to learn more about sustaining a small population in an artificial environment.
"Totally cool . Perhaps we're looking at our future as the population grows."
~ Melissa A. Hamilton
"Reminds me of seaquest dsv from the 90s and the old 50s/60s tv show which was pretty similar." ~ Graham Hart
"With Earth's population predicted to reach 10 billion+ by 2050, I wonder how long it will be before floating/underwater cities become not just a reality, but a necessity."
~ Evan Hourihan
This book cover art, by Johann Goutard, was last week’s top image on my Facebook page. It was posted Sunday, quickly raked in 339 Likes, and held the top spot all week. It’s a great image and, at first glance, looks like a scene from Bungie’s Destiny. But the planet in the sky lets you know it isn’t Earth, and the orb floating above the city is too small to be the Traveler. Goutard mentions the book La fraternité du Panca in the image description (which roughly translates to: The Brotherhood of Five), a space opera series written by Pierre Bordage. However, I wasn’t able to find a book in the series using this cover art.
Regardless of its association, I think what makes this such a great image is that it captures a feeling shared by many science fiction fans. I won’t try to name it, because it isn’t anything specific. It varies from mind to mind and could be anything—curiosity, pride, longing. Exactly what the image makes you feel doesn’t matter, and I think that’s what makes it great. It captures an emotion, but allows the viewer to insert his/her own vision. As fans of science fiction, we’ve all stood on that platform, gazing out in awe at some epic, interstellar future that exists only in our minds. Science fiction, like this image, can be whatever we want it be. And that’s why we love it.
"I'd love to see sunsets like this every day." ~ Bill Spagnuola
"I'm curious about the close proximity of the planet & moon & their tidal & other effects?" ~ Andrew Miller
"Our homeworld, there in the night sky a reminder of our mistakes." ~ Shawn StClair
Jerad Marantz’s The Blind Ones was this week’s top image on my Facebook page, and quite possibly the best received image to date. It got 337 Likes on the page and another 60 on Shares.
The craziest thing about the post was, as much as I liked the image, I thought it might be too creepy for some, and never expected it would come close to being the top image. But, in retrospect, I think that despite their leathery skin, black garb, and being shrouded in mist, Jerad Marantz manages to give these beings an air of majesty. Their stance, the flowing tails of their garments, the lighting, and their perceived height all work to overpower the underlying creepiness and peaks your curiosity, instead.
A few questions that popped into my mind were:
Friend or foe?
How do you they see?
Given the decorative nature of their clothes and the structure in the background, I think it’s safe to assume they have other perceptual ways of navigating their environment.
Are they leaders, or do they all appear and dress this way?
They remind me of the Heirarchs from the Halo Universe. I can easily imagine them as a leadership caste/group.
Is that a female on the left?
I’m assuming there’s a reason why that one has four arms and a slightly different head dress.
And that’s just the immediate questions. It’s amazing how a single image can set your mind running. What do you think when you look at The Blind Ones? What would you like to know?
"Holy shi* I want one as a friend." ~ Callum Hoof
"Woah dude, would not want to see them behind the helm of any starship!" ~ Jeffrey Linn
"Something tells me that even without eyes, they "see" just fine..." ~ Evan Hourihan
"Not something too stare at too long before bedtime." ~ Jim Mason
"Run.....run away now!" ~ Matthew Allen
Concept artist Johnson Ting claims this week’s top image on my Facebook page. His image, Frontier Buccaneers, pulled 261 Likes, which, as of today, was actually tied with Dmitry Dubinsky’s Stronghold, but Ting’s image had more comments, so it takes the top spot.
I think it’s a brilliant image, providing lots of great detail, while also leaving quite a bit to the imagination. Where/what are they dropping into? Is it a ship or a station? Derelict or crewed? Are they expecting resistance—civilian or military? And those visors! Imagine the psychological effect they’d have.
A few people pointed out that glowing visors weren’t suited for combat situations—basically acting as a target, telling the enemy where to shoot. While that’s absolutely true today, I wonder if it would be much of a concern in the distant future. Advances in night vision and computer-assisted targeting might make it a moot issue. If the enemy can see at night just as clear as day, then the glow wouldn’t really give anything away. And if a computer is selecting targets and identifying the most vulnerable areas to fire on, then it’s probably already locked onto the head, or, may not be concerned with it at all (contrary to popular belief, center-mass is actually the best place to aim in combat—the chest area providing a much larger target than the head). Of course, if the enemy doesn’t have these capabilities, then their tech must be old. In that case, maybe they aren’t firing anything strong enough to break the tensile strength of the pirate’s visors.
That’s what I love most about science fiction—there are no certainties, regarding the future. The only thing we know for sure, is that new discoveries and technologies will be made. But how they effect and transform our lives and understanding of the universe, is anyone’s guess. When it comes to writing futuristic fiction, the possibilities are truly endless.
“My favorite thing you have shared to date.” ~ Andrew Reed
“Want that armor!” ~ Melissa A Hamilton
“From a person who was born on "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" and who has two Pirate Captains (One with the surname Morgan) in his family tree . . . Liam M. Approves!!!” ~ Liam M. Edwards
“If someone were to make these visors, they would be rollin’ in the doe. LOL.” ~ John Bumgarden
“When I am a high tech engineer, I am gonna make some of these and send one to u.” ~ Callum Hoof
This amazing concept art by Jean-François Liesenborghs was last week’s top image on my Facebook page, grabbing 239 Likes, and it’s easy to see why.
What I like about the image is the cropping. The structure is immense, but you’re left wondering just how big it is. The two ships provide a sense of scale, and let you know that even if it doesn’t extend too far out of view, it’s still enormous—decades beyond our current construction capability, maybe even centuries, depending on how large it actually is.
Another thing I like—and quite possibly the most—is the fact that it’s not solid. I’ve seen a lot of concepts of extremely large, dense buildings that could possibly hold tens or hundreds of thousands of people. But as much as I love looking at the art, I’m always left wondering how it would actually work, infrastructure wise. Ventilation for one thing. How do you get fresh air to the inner most parts of a structure that’s several kilometers, or more, wide? Perhaps that’s what prompted the civilization depicted in Jean-François Liesenborghs’ “Labyrinth” to build in an open, maze-like pattern around a central core. Either that, or it was built by Replicators, and they just happened to be into spirals that year.
“Oh shit, better get SG-1 on the case...” ~ John C. Scott
“It was left by the Forerunners.” ~ Philip Archer March
“Love it. Love it. Love it.” ~ Jyothi Kuruvilla