Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Atlas Reborn, Prologue, Draft 1

You may have read the Trivia section by now. Originally, the beginning was set to introduce the time, place and characters in the same chapter. This proved to be complicated. Then one may wonder – why include this in the blog and burden the readers anyway? I merely want to show one-tenth of what goes into crafting the first draft.

Prologue

Landmarks

Year: 2082 A.D.

General Ruth Thorne’s log: Locating Terrortech base

Status: Searching…

Ruth Thorne’s Personal log: Must finish this operation, or else I’ll miss my son’s play tomorrow

As the sun was setting for those who lived on the Pacific coast of the erstwhile United States, a jetcopter hovered above the violent ocean currents. Inside the chopper, there were two people: a boy and a lady. The latter was obviously the superior officer because she issued the orders. General Ruth gave directions to her pilot. “Private, move to Aquapolis. There are no terrorists here.”

The young man obeyed her instantly and contacted the nearest waterborne airbase. “Private West to Aquapolis. We need clearance for landing.”

The voice on the radio said, “Aquapolis reading you loud and clear. No room. Go to the next base. Repeat. Go to the next base. Over and out.”

Before the young pilot could utter anymore, General Thorne had an insight. “Let’s actually scan the whole city. Private, go to the Bridge of Hope.”

“Roger that, General.”

The jetcopter circled around Aquapolis once and soared over the bridge that connected the island to the mainland. It stretched for five miles. At the end of this Bridge of Hope, there was an imposing goliath-like entrance into the mainland. At the top of the structure were some inscriptions in Gothic script:

Gateway Of Eden

“No place like home. New Eden, sweet home.” Ruth smiled with all her heart.

The Gateway of Eden revealed a fantastic city. It looked breathtaking in the evening. As the lights came on, the city began to resemble a galaxy. The streetlights in particular gave the impression of precious jewels to air travelers. General Thorne started a conversation with her subordinate. “Did you know that my ancestors helped build New Eden?”

“Yes, General.”

“What else do you know, Private?” Ruth seemed to conduct a deeper enquiry.

“They gathered the people and inspired them to build this place.” His answer was immediate, and honest as well. This impressed Ruth Thorne.

“Very good. Knowing your history will serve you well after you complete your training as a Solar Guardian.”

Observing the scene from above, she told him to lower the altitude. “I want to see the Aryabhatta University. That’s my alma mater. But terrorists have no mercy. They target the youth. Sometimes they brainwash them against the system.”

The Aryabhatta University campus provided a serene atmosphere for its residents. Students and teachers would have a breath of fresh air before they retired for the evening. Nothing disturbing occurred, and General Thorne heaved a sigh of relief. “Private, go to the north. They’re experts in guerrilla warfare, so they could be hiding out in the Eve National Park. Avoid the Seth Valley. The government has forbidden everyone from entering that airspace.”

The gates of the Eve National Park were being closed for the day. There was no terrorist activity there either. She told him to return to the Southern region.

At another corner of New Eden, the posh Hollywood Enclave’s nightlife began. Crime rates had been steadily increasing and extremists could strike anywhere, so the jetcopter maintained its course in the layout. Then they proceeded to hover over the military quarters. She let out a comment. “I was here in Paradise Meadows before marriage, with my brother’s family. My brother and sister-in-law died in an accident. Their son is studying abroad. My husband died shortly after our honeymoon. I stayed in the defense quarters my whole life. I’m planning on early retirement.”

Then, to change the topic, Ruth asked her pilot, “What is your name, lad?”

He promptly responded, “Private Jerry West, General!”

“You can calm down a bit,” Ruth hmphed. She went further. “Tell me more.”

“Our race has been the victim of Apartheid II. I intend to break all those barriers one day, General.” He bit his lip, realizing that General Thorne was fair-skinned.

She agreed with him. “Being a Solar Guardian, you are limited to doing your duty, and not doing what’s right. I was speculating on this for a long time. That’s why I chose you for this mission. I hope you don’t feel like killing me or anything.”

“No, General, I know that your Greene dynasty (General Ruth Thorne belonged to a family that facilitated the building of the UNEC subcontinent.) never made such a distinction between blacks and whites.” Even while saying all this, Private West never let his eyes off the jetcopter controls.

They needed refueling. So, West moved towards the roof of the World Unity Federation (WUF) building. It was heavily guarded. General Thorne mused that the WUF had a really important meeting with the administrators of the United New Eden Commonwealth (UNEC). General Thorne expressed her fear. “I alerted all the Solar Guardians to keep insurgents away. Thankfully, nothing happened yet.”

The two of them strolled around on the helipad. Suddenly, they heard a booming sound. At the horizon, they could see a rocket being launched into space from Sarabhai Space Research Center, which would carry recruits to space station Epsilon on the Moon. There, they would be trained to become the elite Solar Guardians. Their objective: destroy the militant outfit named Terrortech. At present, General Thorne and her pilot surveyed the area for that purpose alone. One of the soldiers approached them. “General, jetcopter’s ready for take-off.”

They boarded the jetcopter. She laughed. Wondering what she had on her mind, the young man cleared his throat. “General, what could possibly be amusing?”

She was in a slightly nostalgic mood. “I remember once… when I was guard of honor to the governor years ago, my little kid wanted to see me. He gave the babysitter a tough time.”

“Then what happened, General?” Private West steered the chopper clear of the WUF building.

“Nothing, he came here. All the soldiers thought of it as a state of national threat. Red alert sirens were sounded. And little Dennis just slipped through their fingers. They thought that Terrortech had sent a human bomb in the form of a child. You should’ve seen the looks on their faces when they found out that the boy was my son. The governor made him sit next to him during the international summit.”

West had to concentrate on his assignment now, and his superior officer recovered from past memories. She resumed her investigation by proceeding to one of the most densely populated areas of the New Eden cosmopolitan: Mediapolis.

Downtown Mediapolis’ giant television set called 3V was placed atop a tall tower. A group of people would always assemble at the base of the building to keep in touch with the twenty-four-hour news channel called Newsfolk. This was a major attraction in the city. Everything seemed to be peaceful, just about seemed to be peaceful.

Why did General Ruth Thorne inspect the whole of New Eden City and its borders? She had the single intention of finding the hideout of Terrortech, a militant outfit that had been causing political tension for the past seven years. The more they were suppressed, the more aggressive they became. She had a final question to ask her junior. “Who is your favorite war hero?”

His answer: “Daniel Phoenix united thousands of refugees in 2019.”

Here, Ruth disagreed with his first statement. “No, New Eden was my ancestor Madison Greene’s vision. She facilitated the building of our subcontinent.”

All of sudden, Private West raised his voice. “Incoming!”

A colossal flying saucer overtook the jetcopter and took a U-turn. General Thorne told West to stay on. She activated the weapons system. “Locked on target.”

Ruth pulled the trigger. A series of powerful photon rays were released from the jetcopter and they soon turned the flying saucer into a burning mass falling into the Pacific with a loud splash.

General Thorne spoke into her radio. “Come in Aquapolis. Please send backup. We were under attack; repeat, were under attack. There is a possibility for others to be around. Conduct a search ASAP. Plus, send relief for the aircraft that fell into the Pacific on the double. Alert the Guardians at WUF.”

The entire firefighting exercise was in vain. Ruth Thorne noted the readings of the neo-sensors. No other hostile aircraft was tailing her, as of now. Relaxing her tense nerves, Ruth instructed her pilot to go to their headquarters and thus abort the mission for the night. Then, she keyed in the following log entry:

General Ruth Thorne’s log: Reporting to HQ

Status: Base not found, resuming search tomorrow…

Ruth Thorne’s personal log: Will not make it to my son Dennis Thorne’s play…

On a Personal Note

There are three stages at which letters are written in Atlas Reborn. They are: -

1) The Innocent Phase

2) The Challenging Phase

3) The Justification Phase

The heroine of Robin Hood: Tales From Sherwood sends her co-actor a ‘get well’ note:

My dearest Robin Hood,

I heard about the accident. Please take care of yourself. I am out of town for a couple of weeks. There is an important errand to attend to, but I will come back soon. Will meet you as soon as I get back.

If possible, keep in touch.

Yours lovingly,

Maid Marian

This is Dr. Luke Ferguson’s letter to Solar Guardian Captain Jeremy West:

Dear Jerry,

You thought you could get me. No, West. It’s just like the old days. I was always better than all of you, though the SG did not think so. I’ll prove it to you, again, and again. Do keep in touch. Social calls like these keep us in a strong bond. Looking forward to more encounters, until next time,

Your pal till hell freezes over,

Dr. Lucifer

Here is Atlas requesting for air time to announce his stance:

Dear Sir,

I express my gratitude for the wonderful media coverage. However, there are bound to be misconceptions developed by people about me. So, I request you to kindly give me some time on air to clear them. If you do so, please announce the time on air. I will be there.

Warm regards,

Atlas

The final level is The Resolution Phase, which will not be revealed here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Atlas Reborn: An Adventure or a Revelation?

As a science-fiction novel, Atlas Reborn deals with the usual post-apocalyptic themes handled by others of the genre. If one reads between the lines, one finds the rabbit hole deeper than it seems.

What does Atlas represent? Is he purely a product of the imagination, or the answer to the prayers of those who yearn for justice? In that sense, what is the definition of justice? Abiding by the law or amending it?

Is Atlas the story of a world reborn? Or is it the journey of man into the next step of physical superiority? As I sat down to think on those lines, I realized that I consciously or unconsciously included several allusions in the book. In this age of multinational corporations surpassing the governments, Atlas Reborn actually dwells on this trend's status in 2100 AD. The question is whether a bureaucracy-business venture is safe.

Zeus Nimrod attempts to control the opinions of the masses through his cleverly-planned programs. Donna-Jaye Warner represents the innocent bystander susceptible to biases. The bond between Ruth Thorne and her son Dennis Thorne is strong enough to dismantle armies. Now it is the turn of the reader to decide. You have the option of either dismissing it as a simple fantasy story or consider it an insight into where humanity could head.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Atlas Reborn: The Making of the Novel

When I set out to write Atlas Reborn, I wanted something realistic in view of the way the human race would be advancing in terms of technology and a glimpse into the future of families and the nature of relationships. Taking 10 years in the concept, 1 year in the writing, 2 years in the publication, Atlas Reborn is a journey not only for the protagonist Dennis Thorne, but the author too.

Atlas was originally set in Los Angeles, 2050 AD, an age where machines had taken over. Post-9/11, I realized that the real threat facing mankind would be an unknown enemy. At one point of time, the unsavory elements would be uncontrollable. For instance, the character Zeus was initially conceived as a wanted rebel leader. The actual success of terror is in the attention given by the masses. That is possible through sensational features of a news channel. Zeus would be far more dangerous as a twister of truth than an extremist with so-called justified causes.

Therefore, the setting was changed to New Eden, 2100 AD, decades after the bombing of the San Andreas Fault, the fall of California, the Water Wars, the division of America and a mad race for immortality. Genesis Brotherhood is a secret society much like the ones mentioned in the conspiracy theories of the past. What they do is up to the readers to find out.

Placing Alaska, parts of Canada, United States and West Mexico in a new subcontinent could have severe political implications. This also gives the Atlas story room for conflict. Creating a world from scratch was an excruciating process.

Likewise, naming each character was an uphill task, except in Dennis Thorne’s case. The toughest was that of his parents. Zeus did not have a last name till I pondered on one symbolizing absolute power. Nimrod was added as a result.


Trivia

Characters

Dr. Lucifer – Although he was assigned a particular task, he questioned the motive behind it. He represents the challenge to any ‘perfect’ system.

Solomon – Inspired by the wise Biblical king

Nimrod – The man who ruled a vast army, which had a common objective, and was scattered in the process of establishing a new order of politics

Patrick Roger Joaquin – This was taken from my college friend: Peter Rajesh Joachim. The book character Patrick signifies friendship. He co-starred Dennis Thorne in the play Robin Hood: Tales From Sherwood. They were together at the twilight of the innocent phase in the book.

Locations

United New Eden Commonwealth (UNEC) – pronounced Unique (ironical that it is not unique from earlier civilizations)

New Eden – The political system has bridged science and spirituality in order to preserve a certain notion of harmony. It seems like an attempt at redemption, but Terrortech offers a new ideology in the form of a ‘forbidden fruit’.

Gateway Of Eden – The second fall of man is explored, be it in the form of Book I or a landmark.

The Bridge of Hope – Connecting a chunk of erstwhile California to New Eden, the link shows the possibility of history repeating itself (and leaving such archaeological traces again). Yet there is a rebirth at every turn.

Seth Valley, Eve National Park – According to the Bible, Seth is the offspring of Adam and Eve. The elder son Cain eliminated Abel and disappeared. In Atlas Reborn, Eve has been indirectly linked to Mother Nature. In short, human beings may synthesize their environments.

Virgo City – Currently, women are gradually gaining economic power with self-sustaining employment. Even the laws favor them. Hence, they will have the potential to raise even a city of their own.

The Daniel Phoenix Memorial Cemetery – Named after the Biblical prophet Daniel, the surname Phoenix indicates that like Daniel Phoenix, another crusader will arise whenever the world needs one. The cemetery symbolizes the increased probability of someone coming out of the ashes.

Mediapolis – The media is a booming industry. With the newspapers, radio, electronic and new media becoming products more than information providers, the trend is that if there are no concrete regulations, this could condition an entire generation of ignorant men and women.

Fort Troy – Inspired by the ‘Trojan Horse’, this facility is meant to launch surprises even in the twenty-second century.

Miscellaneous

Book II: The Seventh Day – God created Heaven and Earth in six days, and on the seventh day, He took rest. Then man became restless.

Serpent – Taken from the being who tempted Eve

Language – English, Multiple (there is no absolute language)

Religion – Multiple (there is no dominant one here)

Currency – Delta (derived from the Greek letter and connected with a river’s entry into the sea, where submerged California lies)

Solar Guardians – This can be easily equated to the guardian angels.

Robin Hood

Book I, Chapter 1: Dennis’ Thorn showcases a play titled Robin Hood: Tales From Sherwood. It introduces Dennis Thorne and acts as a prophecy of sorts. The play also functions as a statement. There was always a system being challenged, with the man-woman relationship as the primary casualty.


Year 1: 1994 - The Movies

I began experimenting with sketches of Batman and Superman based on the 1980-1992 movies on the same characters. I had watched Hollywood director John McTiernan's Die Hard (1988) and I was already a die hard fan of Renny Harlin's Die Hard 2 (1990). These were particularly influential on my short stories and comic books titled Nithin's Adventures, where I fit into a variety of job descriptions ranging from a reporter to a New York Police Department Lieutenant. My storytelling interests had begun to grow because of the patronage of my old school friend Srirangan. He would demand me to tell a story when we travel in the school bus. By the time we reach school, the story will reach an interesting phase and I will have to continue it in the next session. He used to add his bit to the stories by making guest appearances in my imaginary adventures. In the series, I was married to Nisha. There was an episode called 'Casanova' that I was particularly shy to develop because the premise was the disproving of an allegation that I was having an extra-marital affair. The fun part was the effort I had put up to keep Nisha unaware of the whole controversy. The serial had lots of twists, usually involving people familiar in my day-to-day life. However, due to the violent content in my comic book adaptations of the same stories, my father had decided to put a ban on it. I continued my work in secret.

Year 2: 1995 - The Comic Strip

My father and I worked on a non-violent concept called Greenman, though he had wanted it to be Goodman. It was a sensational hit among the relatives and my schoolmates, although a majority of them did not understand the stories. I had a particular chronology in mind, but I never used to follow it. Greenman was heavily re-crafted for use in Atlas Reborn. The final result is Dr. Frank Greene. Meanwhile, John McTiernan's Die Hard With a Vengeance was released. I saw it without my father's knowledge, and that cemented my affinity for action stories. Yet I could not even include a single gunshot in Greenman. There was one instance where a thug had fired his gun. My father altered the scene. He made Greenman melt the bullets midway with his eyes. So if the scene has a gunfire sound effect "Ratatatatat!", he would make me write "Rata...", and thus censoring was an intricate part of my life. I had initially objected to it, but after several negotiations, I agreed to his terms.
Greenman lasted till 2001. Then it underwent the metamorphosis mentioned earlier to Dr. Frank Greene. Elsewhere, movies like Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992) and Batman Forever (1994) had begun to overshadow my earlier fascination for Superman. The comic books of influence were Archie, Superman, Batman and The Flash. What particularly caught my eye was the facilities in Veronica Lodge's home (Archie).

Next: Year 3

The Leading Ladies in Dennis Thorne's Life

This interests any reader, although this particular character had a bigger role to play in the protagonist’s life other than being available or elusive. After considering several names, Donna-Jaye Warner got the green signal. It was after her entry that the heroine had an effective presence. Her ‘Celebrities Tonite’ was loosely based on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’. As far as present day Hollywood actresses are concerned, a combination of the success of Keira Knightley and the plateau in Gwyneth Paltrow’s career was the source of inspiration.

In Atlas Reborn, she gained a respectable reputation as a no-nonsense celebrity believing in moving ahead with her life. Her frankness often offends people, especially potential suitors.

Donna-Jaye Warner’s father Derek featured in the earlier drafts of Atlas Reborn. Due to character constraints, he could not be included. So, Donna-Jaye is introduced as an orphan representing the innocent bystander.

Will Dennis Thorne stand a chance against this gutsy celebrity? Atlas, with all his gifts, may find in her a force to reckon with.

The Props Used in Atlas Reborn

There are items like a typical science-fiction book, but here, I expanded the inventory. While there are jetcopters to replace the present day helicopters, ‘Wisdom Manual for Idioms and Phrases’ is a book that any bookworm would probably read in the 22nd century. One can see that I desired a parallel with real life, where we would actually require such books. This is just a sample. How about an advanced refrigerator?

Dennis Thorne's Personal World

One of the notable aspects of Atlas Reborn is the relationships. A lot of science-fiction stories, films in particular (save ‘Star Wars’), do not show a complete picture of family life. The connection between Ruth Thorne and Dennis Thorne is very special. She is also a surrogate mother to Dr. Frank Greene, her brother’s son. Ruth prepares chocolate cakes, as well as sting operations.

Saluting the Influences on Atlas Reborn


For the creative side, I grew up watching English films and serials. ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ triggered my affinity for the genre. But it was Michael Crichton’s ‘Congo’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Lost World’ that inspired me to become a writer. ‘Star Wars’ redefined the word saga. Yet, my intention was to have my concept grounded in a familiar galaxy.

I am not unaware of the chaos that surrounds me. Some may dismiss Atlas Reborn as a simple adventure story, but it is a possibility of sorts. Even though the work is fictitious, it can become a reality one day. In a world where civilians bear the brunt of political agendas, wars and imposed ideals, a peaceful approach is essential. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, to a large extent, have been my inspiration. One doesn’t have to dissolve political borders to bring peace. Merely create cultural bridges to end conflicts. The very term Atlas Reborn means a refreshed approach to seeing the world as a global village.