Skin colour in sci-fi writing – a future perspective

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The hands represent the top five corporations in my book

When I set out to write a sci-fi novel set over a thousand years into the future, I wanted to dissolve culture down into its basic building blocks and then rebuild it in a distorted and twisted corporate image. Imagine being locked in a room all your life with nothing but a bunch of Dyson hoover manuals for company, you’d be pretty messed up. By the end you would be shouting out phrases and bullshit, taking about nozzle collectors and brush length like it was gospel –this is Future Grim— well, my interpretation of a solely corporate dominated future.

What does that mean? What does it have to do with skin colour?

Good point, but I feel you need the set up to understand the problem I presented myself with.

Prejudice as a concept is never going to disappear. It will take a few more generations for us to stop discriminating against women, let alone against different skin colours. I feel that prejudice is here to stay for the long haul and is just a basic element of our fear abiding brains telling us to be scared of the unknown, get to shelter and feed yourself and your family.

In my future, your life is devoid of the culture we understand today. You grew up in a heavily designed and controlled environment (know as the corporate culture) where political correctness has been taken to its peak (you could say, a political acceptance). This leaves a prejudice vacuum in which hatred is directed at rival corporations. Initially this would be to incentivise healthy competition, but after generations it would soon grow to fill the discrimination gap.

So I was left writing my story set in a world without the standard culture or discrimination that we are so familiar with today. Initially to combat that I left out skin colour description all together so that the reader could imagine a character as looking Asian, European, African ect. This however backfired as most of my characters ended up feeling European, because of the heavy use of corporate terminology and ideas that permeate throughout my universe. I didn’t want to describe characters as being from certain countries as this then brings along the cultural baggage that those countries have. Suddenly a character who is described as having a Latino complexion has a slight Spanish twang with every word they speak.

This lead me to my recent revelation of how to describe skin colour in my book. As with all great corporate things, it stems from categorisation. This one being standard plus or minus one.

Standard = Light brown

Standard plus one = Darker brown

Standard minus one = Lighter brown

It goes on in either direction to the different shades, with plus or minus three being the limits on either end. This should hopefully elevate my current cultural problems until I find the next common thing I need to describe.

Of course this doesn’t solve all the problems, but it does allow me to limit the focus on race (and allow myself to have a racially mixed set of characters) while still following the corporate culture that my universe demands.

What have other people done in their fiction to tackle these subjects, are they a part of your plot or have you done something similar to be because the world demands it? I’d love to hear from fellow creators.

In other news, I recently purchased www.klcarter.co.uk, which currently just leads to this blog. When I get some spare cash I’ll invest in a website or something.

I’m still editing Future Grim: Origins at the moment, but it’s coming along leaps and bounds. I’ve had plenty of great suggestions from my test readers (both happen to be crazy scientists) that has allowed the little kinks in my story to be ironed out.

Keep it spacey,

Kyle Carter

Long time no post – Part three: “Shit son, seven months…”

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The book is dragging on by knuckle skin and tendon splinters.  63,000 words or something; it’s not about the words anymore (it was never about the words). I have three important topics to cover. The editing, the contest and the future. Let us start with the start.

The Editing

I’ve never edited anything for this long (and I trained as a video editor). The book has lost all meaning and I have been bored of several chapters several times over. I’ve taken the obligatory ‘month off’ to recoup and re-evaluate. It did help but only felt like a temporary fix.

My outlook has changed now Another friend has offered to help and they happen to be someone who is critical. It feels a good time to seek advice and my writing is benefiting from this approach. My first ten chapters have never been better. Some chapters have been moved and the whole text flows a lot more than it has ever done. It’s starting to make sense and it doesn’t need me constantly chiming in with exposition–because it’s all in the blood text! To create a science fiction world isn’t just about ideas, you need to really sell it as a genuine situation.

And then bam, I realised that I’m enjoying working on my book again.

So that ends this post, I’ll post about the contest tomorrow (If I remember).

Laters,

Kyle Carter

 

The Cover – Mk.2

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Writing wise, part way through chapter eight. Although I’ve been doing a bit of a mid-book review the last few days, just checking over a few chapters to make sure my writing style is consistent.

I’ve noticed that when reading back chapter one, I’ve already learnt a lot and my choice of words, flow and formatting have considerably improved.

Onto the topic at hand, a while ago I created a set of logos for the top five corporations (I will post them later on and go into some detail about the design). These logos looked good and I wanted to include them in my cover. My old cover was already quite busy and the text was hard enough to read anyway.

This lead me to design a new cover, I had the basic idea for just before I went to sleep (the place where all good ideas tend to reside).

Future Grim Mk2 

I’m very please with how it’s turned out, the text is much easier to read and it’s a very striking look. I’m not sure if this will stick or if I will come up with a better idea.

Have a nice day,

Kyle Carter.

 

My motivation to write a book

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Like some people in their early twenties, I was suffering from a lack of motivation. I’d get up in the morning and have no enthusiasm to get on with writing. Maybe I’d make a logo, or figure out the backstory of an obscure character. It was all jobs relating to my book, but none of it was important. My 12,000 words sat still with no additions.

For a while I blamed it on the lack of ideas for the middle of the story. I had the beginning written and it felt good, it flowed and introduced the world.  My end stood far away in the distance, but was clear in my mind. The middle however was a jumble of scraps, nothing really interesting was happening. It was just a journey to the end. What I needed to do was buckle down and plan, figure out all the nuances that would propel my story from being a boring trog into an interesting read.

I’m not trained in creative writing, but I have a lot of experience in generating ideas and I feel I know some of what it means to create a good story. Of course these are all skills that can’t be taught, things you learn over a long period of time after trial and error. One of the lessons I learnt was from my time at college. My tutor always told me to never stick with your first idea. I’ve written a few episodes of two different sitcoms and a comedy series for radio. I couldn’t hold onto the world, I had no feeling and no connection to my stories. Everything centred around comedy and a big problem I found was creating meaning in comedy. It’s only recently that doing something a bit more serious came to mind. Opening up my horizons to the idea of a world not hemmed in by jokes. I set out to create something a bit more grim.

Early last year a friend of mine (Sam Bowhay) told me he was writing a book. Not only that, it was serious and contained characters rather than just jokes. Before that point in time writing a book had seemed like an alien concept to me, but suddenly something clicked. It was weird, we had worked on comedy scripts together in the past and I have ended up spending a huge chunk of my time writing dialog and coming up with comedic concepts. However it was only when he mentioned writing that it suddenly felt like something I could do.

Writing a book was now a plausible idea and an outlet for my mind. Videos are an amazing experience, but they are limited by budget. Radio drama can be very engaging but that all depends on the cast.

I approached Sam Bowhay with the prospect of me writing a book for his world. Which in hindsight seems like a silly idea. He was writing a historical epic set in an alternative world, not my cup of tea at all. The plan was for me to write characters that would then appear in both of our books. It was an interesting idea but it wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped. The world was limited by someone else, my ideas already trifled before they had begun. I found myself in the same situation I had tried to escape while making videos (I even dabbled at doing a stand up show, which was a moderate success). In reality I think Sam got me so excited that I forgot to write about something I liked.

It all lead to me to build up concepts for a sci-fi book, which was something I really wanted to do. I was working on both the Sci-fi and the historical book. Building on concepts and writing ideas. I ended up feeling bogged down. Sam was not as motivated as me and he had his own writing troubles (making it too complicated) and I felt like the historical novel should be put on hold. Tips I had read online confirmed it, ‘only work on one project at a time’ and ‘focus your ideas’.

I’ve ended up reaching 35000 words as of 4th Jan 2014 and I’m about to start chapter eight tonight. If anyone is writing all I can say is to keep your focus on the idea you care about and concepts that you are actually interested in. For too long I worked on projects to create a cheap laugh when really all I wanted to do was tell a story of anger and hidden oppression. Sure it’s a big leap, but it’s defiantly one I’d do again.

I hope to write more on here, I just need to make some time to do it.

Kyle.

The Cover

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I’ve been working on cover art for a while. I really enjoy working with photoshop and I’ve been plugging away at some concepts, most revolving around the image of a face looking over a planet.

Below are the first two concepts I put together. The one on the left being the original conception of the ‘the face’. The right image a evolution of the idea. I tried to add some leather looking texture. Looking back on it, it just looks cheap.

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More adaptations on the same idea, with the right one being an image I stuck with for a while (and what I used for the imagery on this blog). However the readability of text isn’t ideal and there wasn’t enough contrast.

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A few days ago I decided to go in a completely different direction to see what I could come up with. The one on the left is something I saw just before going to sleep, but I wasn’t completely happy with how it turned out. Sure it’s intresting to look at, but doesn’t really reflect my writing and the text is quite hard to read.

The right image was thought up after doing some research. Making the text larger so it’s easier to read when viewed as a thumbnail. Also trying to capture a science fiction feel to appeal to my target audience.

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I showed the three main designs to Bregan (the musician on the project) and he like the right one above the most, he said he liked the readability and the contrast of the text. It just stood out the most. My favourite was still the original design with the face. This gave me the idea to combine the two which brings me to my final set of designs below.

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I’ve created some variations of the above design, but I’m not sure which one to pick. I’m leaning towards number 2 but I’d like some advice, feel free to pick one and enter it into the poll below.

On the writing side of things, I’m just cleaning up the first chapter and adding in ideas for the rest of the book to the chapter plan as I go along.

Keep believing?

Kyle Carter

Spaceships, what do they look like?

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I’ve always wanted to design my own space ships. The style of the ‘Corporate Punk’ world allows me to design something unusual, but could still exist.

I made this image in photoshop a while back and finished it off today. It’s a combination of many skyscrapers. The idea is a spaceship evolving into a horizontal Spacescraper of the void.

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The image itself is created to reflect the style of propaganda posters. I’d love to get an engineer in there with his thumb up on the right hand side, but my drawing skills just aren’t up to it at the moment.

It’s only a work in progress, so the design is likely to change, but this is at least the base.

Writing wise I’ve nearly finished the synopsis and I’m starting the bulk of my research. Research is an odd one for me. I really enjoy doing it but I find I get distracted easily by related topics. I’m meeting up with a friend to hack down my synopsis in a week or so, he is going to be acting as my ‘publisher’, in that I want him to be critical of my story.

In other news I’ve been helping a friend work on an alternative history fantasy pirate story. It’s coming along nicely and I should be able to share some of that on here soon.

Keep on trucking,

Kyle Carter

Logo Exploration

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A story taking place in a universe embroiled in corporate style must have a set of stunning logos to match. I may be writing a book, however I feel I need to explore these visual avenues first to get a grip on the identity of this fictional place.

To start, I’ve created a pair of logos for two rival corporations, Kennerman and Volan.

ImageFirst up is Kennerman seen above (Click on it for detail). Orange is the working colour of this corporation, so it’s used heavily. The shape is a fist, representing the strength of the Kennerman people.

ImageThe second one, this time for Volan, whose colour is red (Again, a more detailed version just a click away). I wanted to capture the feel of them being in the same world, but not being too alike. I feel I’ve captured that to some degree. Volan’s logo uses circles, this is to reflect the patterns in the eye. One thing’s for sure, a Volan is always watching.

The overall vibe I tried to capture is a world in admiration to the 21st century, the 80s in particular. In the same way the victorian’s looked back on the classical period for inspiration in architecture, my universe has looked back upon 70s, 80s, 90s as a prosperous time of human civilisation. However, just as the inspired greek architecture was mistakenly depicted without colour, the future’s narrow view of the past means they have only picked the bits they admire and have ignored all the rest.

Writing wise it’s been slow lately, been trying to get a job to pay the bills. It’s quite hard when you are young and lacking experience (also my location is bit seasonal). The sooner I can get a bit of a schedule in my life the more time I feel I can dedicate to working on what I love.

Keep calm and stay armed,

Kyle Carter