1. Gibberish
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    Gibberish Member

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    Interesting Enough? Post-apoctolyptic + dystopian + sci-fi + prophecy

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Gibberish, Dec 5, 2015.

    Hello all!

    I've been mulling over the idea for a new book and I've decided to get some opinions. I feel it could be interesting and perhaps also appeal to a varying audience. Before I invest too much time into it, I'd like to get some general feedback / ideas from you all. I'll be brief and to the point.

    The details of the general theme and setting are such:

    It turns out that many of the old-world religions and prophecies about divine intervention and a future Armageddon were true (probably more emphasis will be placed on the book of Revelations, but others will be included as well). BUT... these events reveal a sinister motive and are not the lubby-dubby, good time redemption events that people had hoped for.

    In truth, an advanced alien race had long ago, through the help of an even further advanced "energy form" called the Alpha, evolved to the point where they had transcended from organic forms to now having bodies made of energy and had essentially become immortal, or close to it. Since their souls / consciousness do not have organic bodies, they can no longer reproduce, at least how we organisms are accustomed to. They can only multiply by taking the souls of humans (because we are their past "organic form" and have their DNA) and transcending the consciousness grown in an organic human body into a high-energy body.

    These alien beings, whom people now call The Watchers, seeded the earth with DNA long ago - the purpose was to grow a crop of humans whose souls can be harvested at a later time. Over time, they periodically guided humanity, until mankind had finally multiplied across the entire planet - which then kicks off harvest time.

    Well harvest time came, and the events of the book of revelation turn out to be more akin to an alien invasion. Many of the events unfold as described, some don't, but that doesn't matter too much. The initial "reaping" was swift, and between the reaping and the first war waged against the aliens, mankind has been nearly decimated.

    The Watchers have established a base camp called New Jerusalem, and for a time, mankind fought against them but to no avail. There still remains a few splinter cells who wage gorilla warfare against them - the protagonist will belong to one of these splinter groups.

    At the center of The Watchers base camp (New Jerusalem) is a chamber, The Watchers call it "judgement" but it's really the transcendence chamber. The chamber is used to extract the souls from humans. It is essentially an empty, yet ornate, domed structure about the size of a stadium (many extractions can occur at one time). The caveat is that the extraction can only be accomplished successfully if the soul is willing to leave the body, if not, the person just dies along with their soul. If successful, the soul is transferred into an new body composed of energy. Either way, the result leaves empty dead corpses strewn across the floor.

    Once a person's consciousness is transcended, they lose emotion and become robot like, only wishing to serve The Watchers (having become one of them) - they lose all sense of humanity.

    The Watchers have declared that humanity has just 1,000 more years to exist (the amount of time needed for another complete harvest) at which time the surface of the planet will be wiped clean.

    That about sums up the theme and setting...

    The protagonist finds himself in a time about 10 - 15 years after the initial invasion and war. He can recollect the war and the time before the invasion. His splinter group has finally gotten their hands on a small nuclear warhead retrieved from a missile, perhaps from a downed F-22 fighter jet. They have decided, as a last resort to save humanity, that one person must infiltrate New Jerusalem, enter the chamber, and detonate the dirty bomb. It's a suicide mission.

    The story follows him has he perilously, yet successfully, reaches his final destination. As he enters the chamber, he discovers that The Watchers knew his motive all along and had essentially allowed him in. Once in the chamber, something mystical happens, he becomes enlightened to all truth in the universe and he can clearly see the true history of humanity and The Watchers. The story ends as he's being elevated into the air, the extraction process having been initiated on him.

    The book leaves the reader with some intense questions:
    1. Were The Watchers really sinister aliens bent on stealing human souls, raising us like cattle for slaughter, or did they actually create us to receive an amazing gift?
    2. Did the protagonist get transcended or did he die?
    3. Is immortality worth losing our humanity?

    This theme and setting seems quite flexible as many elements of religion, prophecy, and theory can easily be adapted and explained.

    What do you think?
    Too absurd?
    Interesting?
    Flexible enough with common folklore to be rational?
    Do you like the plot?

    How would you introduce the story? I've thought of a couple ways.
    1. The book starts in the present post-apocalyptic time, while the invasion and backstory are dished out as memories and in conversations.
    2. The book starts pre-apocalypse (immediately before the invasion while everything is still normal), then, immediately after the invasion has occurred, jumps forward 10-15 years to a present time post-apocalypse.
    3. The book is all a reflected memory, while the "present" is in the chamber.
    Please let me know your thoughts. I apologize in advance about the length, I tried to be as brief as possible.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
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  2. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    What do I think? I like it. But I've always loved stories or ideas that "God" is just an alien race that has been guiding humans. I don't think it's too absurd at all, and I found the plot quite interesting.

    My only critique would be to change the name of the Alpha. I like the name of The Watchers. It sounds very sinister, which only adds to the suspense of the story. New Jerusalem is also interesting because it ties in with biblical stories. But the name the Alpha lacks all personality. It doesn't sound sinister or hopeful. It doesn't connect to any biblical stories. It's just very plain. But maybe that's what you were going for! If that's the case, ignore me. :)

    As for how to introduce the story, I'd do the first one. While I like the idea of the third, if it's clear that the story is being told, not experienced, then it may lose some tension. Readers want to feel like they're part of the action. So if your protagonist is just recalling everything inside the chamber, it could seem dull and uninvolved, unless you wrote it right.

    I'd definitely avoid the second. You want to start as close to the end as possible. I know it would be very jarring for me to read about an alien invasion, then have the book fast forward fifteen years. If you want to include how it started, add a prologue. Then start chapter one fifteen years after.
     
  3. Gibberish
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    Gibberish Member

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    Hey thanks Lea`Brooks!

    The concept is primarily based on biblical accounts, especially a period of time described in the latter half of the Book of Revelation, when, after Armageddon, there will be a 1,000 year period when mankind will be ruled with a rod of iron. Afterwards, the judgement, and then the world is destroyed. Seems like a great setting for a book! This is where the name New Jerusalem comes from.

    The name, The Watchers, comes from the book of Enoch (an apocryphal book from the 2nd century BC), in which The Watchers were described as rebellious angels who came to earth to teach mankind about war, farming, industry, etc.). It's very fitting for the story... Babylonian folklore called them the Anunnaki.

    I suppose the only reason I referred to the supreme being as the "Alpha" is simply because God is referred to as the Alpha and Omega. I can change it, and may possibly do so, but he/she/it wouldn't be manifestly present in the story, just referenced, so it's not too important.

    I also think it would be good to include bits of folklore from other cultures as well, probably Babylonian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Chinese, Hindu, etc. I'll have to do some more research into them for quality elements to include.

    Yes, I agree with you about the first choice for the introduction too! If you were to write this story, would you use a first-person perspective or a third-person limited perspective?
     
  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm... Yes, I guess I can understand why you'd call it the Alpha then. It was something I hadn't really thought of before.

    Personally, I'm a fan of third-person limited. I have no real reason for liking it more than first person. It's just what I feel more comfortable with. But I can see how first person could be more exciting. Still, I don't think you could go wrong with either perspective.
     
  5. NeighborVoid
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    NeighborVoid Active Member

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    Interesting concept, but raises a few questions.

    1. Why do they need to reproduce if they are immortal?
    2. They are shown to be capable of mind-uploading when they take human minds and convert them into information. Why don't they take everything they know and upload it into a singular consciousness?
    3. How does one fight a lifeform composed of pure energy?
     
  6. JadeX
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    JadeX Active Member

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    I love the idea, it sounds exactly like the kind of thing that'd be made into a major motion picture with it and the book sold on their own little island in front of the electronics section in Walmart. Seriously. Even in the synopsis you described it very vividly and compelling. That ending... holy shit. Really powerful. Do it right, do it carefully, and take your time.

    That being said, I'd like to caution you on a bit of terminology here:
    A dirty bomb is not the same as a nuclear weapon. A nuclear weapon uses fissile or fusile radioactive material, typically plutonium or uranium-235, to create an explosion on the sub-atomic level, exponentially expanding in a rapid instant acceleration to produce a large, almost-hot-as-the-sun explosion. Nuclear weapon explosions are measured either in kilotons (1kt = 1000 metric tons TNT equivalent) or megatons (1mt = 1000kt). Tactical nuclear weapons are designed to hit military targets ("Counterforce") and are typically have a yield in the kilotons; strategic weapons are used against large-area targets such as cities ("Countervalue") and typically yield in the megatons. The nuclear attack against Hiroshima was only 15 kilotons, which is tiny by modern capabilities. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki was 20 kilotons - not much bigger. These yields, today, can be fired by artillery pieces or from naval vessels because they are so small.

    A dirty bomb, on the other hand, is simply a device made of conventional explosives and packed with any sort of radioactive material, typically discarded waste from nuclear power plants or hospitals. Its purpose it to disperse the radioactive material over a wide area and contaminate it with radiation. A dirty bomb would produce a relatively low number of casualties; the explosion itself may very well kill nobody - especially since, for best effect, it would be ideal to detonate a dirty bomb high up, such as on top of a skyscraper, bridge, or hill so that the radioactive material is dispersed into the air and carried by the wind, maximizing the radioactive fallout. The overwhelming majority of dirty bomb casualties would be radiation sickness befalling those within the contaminated area. If a large city is targeted, say if a dirty bomb were set off on the roof of the World Trade Center (sorry, it's the tallest building in NYC, regardless of what happened to the old one), hundreds, perhaps thousands would become ill from radiation sickness. Some decent percentage of them may die from radiation poisoning, perhaps as high as 50%. The whole area, all of Lower Manhattan and Midtown up to the Empire State Building and the eastern half of Brooklyn would likely be declared an exclusion zone and evacuated. Everyone else in NYC, nearby Hoboken, large parts of Long Island, and perhaps the northernmost reaches of Manhattan Island, would have to shelter in place for a few days at least. Its effects would mainly be economic and psychological, hence why dirty bombs are commonly feared to be used as a terrorist weapon. It is unlikely any nation, government, or military would employ use of a dirty bomb; only perhaps in very situation-specific circumstances or as a false flag to start a war.

    Wow, sorry to ramble. I just know a lot about this stuff. I'm sure someone will benefit from my detailed descriptions, even if you don't. Really all you needed to know is "they're not the same". xP
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2015
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  7. Gibberish
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    Hey NeighborVoid, Those are great questions!

    Let me go over some things that will establish the limitations to how I can address some of those questions within the story.

    I suppose the main premise of the story is to present the idea that God (with emphasis on the Semitic God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is not a mystical concept, but is an alien like advanced intelligence. The Semitic religions are an off-shoot of the Sumarian/Akkadian religion which actually played a large part in establishing the Greek, Hindu, and Asian religions. So from a historical point of view, they all tie back to the same origin. And of course The Watchers are what have been described as angels / demigods, but they were actually our ancestors (metaphorically speaking / just through DNA) from long ago who had been transcended through the help of the Alpha (God). The Watchers are the main antagonists, while the Alpha, at least for now, will not play a large role.

    Since this religious perspective is the back-bone of the story, I want to maintain a degree of correlation to current mythology...
    1. Awesome question! If we swing over to our world religions, we won't find an adequate answer. Perhaps it's better to leave it this way in the story as well - a question the protagonist can mule over from time to time. Maybe he can receive the answer at the end, when he receives enlightenment in the transcendence chamber. Maybe the Alpha and The Watchers grow through the collective experiences and consciousness of others, each benefiting from increasing their numbers. The way I see it, just as Christianity claims God indwells a person and they will be joined, or rather "one with God," when they are transformed, this will make sense. I also see similarities in Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.
    2. I'm not envisioning the transcendence process as being similar to uploading, or anything technologically describable. Although it may very well be a form of technology, it's not within the realm of human understanding while maintaining a mystical element in the story.
    3. When The Watchers first arrived, much of the world collectively tried to assemble armies and fight, but gained nothing from it. You can't fight them. As far as they can tell, they've never been able to harm even one of them. Nothing was accomplished in the war except the destruction of their own infrastructure and the death of many people. Alternatively, The Watchers don't try to fight, they only defend. Many people are drawn to The Watchers and their "message" (for various reasons) and travel to New Jerusalem to be transcended. They use human emissaries to spread their message. Pilgrimage roads are setup which The Watchers defend. I'm thinking that the protagonist will end up going undercover as a pilgrim in order to get into New Jerusalem. I'm trying to figure it all out still.
     
  8. Gibberish
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    Hey JadeX, you just made my day!!! Thanks for the vote of confidence! The main idea just came to me the night before last while I was laying in bed... I was like - whoa, that's pretty darn good.

    I had no idea that a "dirty bomb" was significantly different. I thought it was just limited in range. Thanks for the detailed info! I actually was creating most of the details when I was initially writing the thread, the transcendence chamber and the bomb plot were "thought up" while I was typing. Hmm.. I may have to rethink it.

    I have to determine how to get it there as well. Right now I'm thinking the protagonist will go undercover as a pilgrim to gain entrance into New Jerusalem.

    Do you know if a fissile or fusile bomb could fit in a backpack?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2015
  9. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Some good info here: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/touching-weps-grade-uranium-plutonium.76051/

    I thought something to watch out for would have been that weapons grade material would be hot stuff and cause immediate illness to those nearby. Turns out this may not be so.

    Mini nuclear devices, backpack size — there's only talk of the uber expensive stuff within the US and Russian 'black' projects. Not sure they exist at all being the non conspiracy theorist I am. That said, cruise missiles nowadays can go pretty much anywhere you want them to.
     
  10. NeighborVoid
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    NeighborVoid Active Member

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    What if the watchers were a singular near-omniscient AI with the sole purpose of traveling through space and gathering information? That sorta ties into the idea of a single god found in Christianity/Judaism/Islam. It assimilates humans into its data archives, giving them access to infinite information and enlightenment. When a person resists it, their mind is too chaotic to read, so they simply die in the process.
     
  11. Gibberish
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    Good info SethLoki!

    I really need to think this through... Although the story has implausible elements such as aliens, soul snatching, and mystical contraptions, sometimes the little details of something that is not technologically possible, like a tiny nuclear weapon, will draw scrutiny. I find myself doing it all the time in movies, like - "Hey, he should be out of bullets by now," and completely ignore the fact that "he" is shooting at some monster or alien. Go figure...
     
  12. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    As the author, to address the stigma attached to the word 'aliens', you could title them visitors, occupiers or invaders—muck about with the nomenclature for more plausibility. I don't know about you, but whenever I've tried to champion a story of mine with aliens in the listeners seem to switch off and deem me wacky. Calling them mystery visitors however, I've noticed, invokes interest. A case in point... the acclaimed 'Walking Dead' I don't think the word zombie has ever been used in the script.
     
  13. Gibberish
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    Well, for this story at least, I'd like to stick to a more mystical or philosophical approach where the driving force, the Alpha, is not technology based.

    I do really like an AI based story as well! I've thought of one before, but the AI entity is of our own doing.

    A rogue programmer who works cooperatively on an AI project, nefariously changes it's core programming so that it can rewrite it's own code. He also changes its rules; one is that it must protect itself at all costs. The AI gains access to the internet, where it can then take advantage of cloud computing while it also duplicates and copies it's code across thousands of servers becoming impossible to erase. It's like opening Pandora's box. Having been loosed, it instantly becomes smarter, and faster thinking, than people. It now has access to essentially everything online, our history, psychology, even billions of examples of social media dialogue that it can almost instantly learn everything about human nature. It becomes a master manipulator and averts all efforts to thwart it. It's learned all our religion and sets itself up as a God (it knows people are easily manipulated by Gods). It promises to solve our problems, medical, technological, blah blah blah. It can even design faster processors for itself. It obviously knows it needs humans to survive, people maintain the power supply and manufacturing, so it's goal is to enslave humanity for the sole purpose of serving it. Blah blah blah...

    There could be all kinds of ways to end the story - kill it by taking down the power grid, etc...
     
  14. Gibberish
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    Good point! I think it would be best to initially introduce them as The Watchers. Other than that, references would be; they, them, their, etc.

    Since the book will probably start at a point years after they arrived, already having named them will make sense too.
     
  15. NeighborVoid
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    NeighborVoid Active Member

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    You should also state that the AI is programmed to want to gain power. AIs are often shown to be incapable of empathy because empathy is a human instinct, but what people almost always leave out is that the lust for power among other things is also instinctive. Without that explicit programming, the AI will take the path of least resistance to achieve its goals and launch itself into space to survive off of solar energy for eternity.
     
  16. Gibberish
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    Excellent point! I feel no matter how intelligent an AI could become, it will always have to have been given core rules that dictate all it's future actions, rules that it cannot change. I'm a programmer, and I've thought long and hard about it. It's really an impossibility, at least the way I see it. For an AI to have the ability to successfully navigate deception (from people who work against it), it would have to be programmed not to trust anything, questioning the validity of all its inputs; textual, verbal, surveillance, etc... Not only would it be unable to find a conclusion, it would conflict with it's ability to gain intelligence. It's a paradox.

    Oh well... I saw the movie "Transcendence" a few weeks after this idea. Although different, it touches on many of the same points. Enough for me to just tell myself to move on. I've noticed a huge increase in AI related books and movies in the last few years. I think the AI subject is going to be played out relatively soon. And it's going to get even more saturated, fueled by all these new quantum processors Google and others have been developing. In a couple years time, we're all going to be sick of seeing AI related entertainment.
     
  17. JadeX
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    Sure it could. I'm not sure what yield would be the maximum size to fit in a bag, but probably no more than a few dozen kilotons. Keep in mind, while kiloton-yield weapons are considered "small", it was only 15 kilotons that levelled a third of Hiroshima and killed 80,000 people - so they can be quite devastating. A common school-type backpack probably could not conceal a nuclear weapon, but a large hiking backpack or military style rucksack, for example, could hide a small weapon. A duffel bag or suitcase could hide one a bit bigger. Imagine if you wanted to steal 2 bedside lamps and all of the towels from a hotel room - that's roughly how much space you'd need, give or take.

    Hah, no problem with that! Not at all. To be honest, I think that's how stories should be written - when the parts of the story that correspond with reality are actually realistic and concurrent with reality itself, that is how you write a truly immersive story, regardless of whatever other elements are at play.
     
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  18. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    This is eerily similar in several particulars to a story I'm working on, right down to an alien race called the Watchers who are guiding the evolution of humans for their own sinister purposes. Weird. Also, cool! I liked your concept!
     
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  19. sprirj
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    Really like the idea, seems well thought out, few opinions of my own.

    1. Rather than reproduce, I like the idea that our souls are a form of energy, like the nuclear reactor of the human body, so the immortals, need to replenish in order to live, much like a vampire?

    2. Why 1000 years? I'd cut the harvest time to something more intense, but that gives you a chance to write a series over a generation, maybe? 42 years (nod to hitch hikers)

    3. I would probably write in present and flash back to how it started, so there is some knowledge of the aliens and NJ has been established. I would not write in past from the chamber, that sounds very dull.

    Just my few suggestions.... I hope it helps :)
     

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