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Friday, April 6, 2012

Art of 'Diary of a Second Life' Part II

We're getting into the really spoilery stuff now, so you'll find the rest after the JUMP.  (All pics are embiggenable.)  In the meantime, go ahead and buy Diary of a Second Life  for just 99¢ at Smashwords HERE (coupon code EC76Q) or for the regular low price of $1.99 at Amazon HERE.

That's the rider from New Jerusalem.  Note the symbol on the flag.  Yes, it's the Pentagon.  As our heroes get near New Jerusalem, they encounter a large mound with New Jerusalem's flag atop it:
Of course, the divided circle is the symbol found on the shirts of the terminals.  The pentagon represents the Pentagon, natch.  The crown ... I'll save that for a moment.  The mound itself is built up in between two tall bridge support pillars that one can find in the "Springfield Mixing Bowl" south of Washington, DC.  The holes up front are tombs where the dead of New Jerusalem are placed.

Let's go ahead and see New Jerusalem:
Much more will be forthcoming in a post on the geography of it all, but the mound is in the south, near present day Springfield, VA.  The ridge (the barrier wall erected around all New Jerusalem) follows the path of Interstate 495.  The Holy Keep is the Pentagon, of course.  The River of Life is the Potomac.  The Trees of Life grow over what is now Arlington National Cemetery.  The western gates are in Tyson's Corner, VA. ...  More on that stuff in a later post.

On to the Pentagon.  Here's how it looks in 2355 as Wess and Remi get near it:
Tall towers have been erected at each of the five corners.  Windows for guards and archers have been carved into the walls.  Banners drape on each side.

After three hundred years, how can this building still exist?  It was built to withstand a direct attack in the early 1940s and essentially did so in 2001.  Plus, thousands of people worked to maintain and refurbish the building in that ensuing time.  It's not like every other building in Diary: fallen to the barest features because no one worked to preserve it.

In the center of the Pentagon is a large courtyard, over five acres worth.  It's huge.  I wanted this area to serve as an amphitheater for New Jerusalem's regent.
A wooden and fabric canopy provides cover, the inner walls have had viewing galleries carved into them and into what were once offices.  A stone platform sits in the center, surrounded by a few symbolic fruit trees and a fountain of water.  In the far northern corner, you see two thrones: the tallest is for the Lord High God and the other, on his right hand, is for Jesus the Christ.  (Now you can guess what the crown on the flag is for.)  Hanging above the thrones is the main symbol for this community and what gives us the symbol on the terminals' shirts.  The wooden cross, on which Jesus was killed, and the circular stone, which was rolled away from the front of his tomb.  Of course, given the beliefs of these people, the stone has special significance.

Yet again, I can't draw for shit.  This picture, therefore lacks in perspective and proper scale.  Oh well.

Moving on.  Wess departs New Jerusalem and heads to the northwest for a place called Doom.
"Fort Doom," by the way, has long been a nickname for Fort Detrick, where biological weapons were tested decades ago.

Detrick in 2355 serves as a learning and research center for a group of about a dozen communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  Much of it is underground, just like Lee, but there are still buildings on the surface that are used by the people.

At the time of the apocalypse in 2047, a married couple decided to preserve elements of mankind's culture by storing books, art, films and music.  Now, the books and pictures of art can be kept and preserved, if they're looked after properly.  But films/television/news footage and music?  That's harder.

For a society that has been forced to eschew electronics, they can't very well pop in a DVD or iPod.  So, there are generators kept in a large room that acts as a Farraday cage so the excess EM energy doesn't affect anyone outside.  Great!  Problem solved.

Nope.  After three hundred years, with or without electricity, the components in the electronic devices would fail.  Luckily, these cultural librarians knew this.  They stored DVD players, film projectors, CD players, iPods, tape decks ... you name it.  As many formats of stuff they could get their hands on and players for them to be seen and heard.  Also, they stored schematics so the devices could be repaired as needed and when people were able to.  In 2355, at the time of our tale, most of the devices have failed and the people of Detrick are not advanced enough to repair them.

OK.  I wanted Wess to be able to see movies and news footage and to also listen to music.  But I also knew the limitations on our technology.  I needed to simplify things down as much as possible.  For the music, a phonograph is the obvious choice.  Now, the one that's functional in the Greene Room is an amplified phonograph, meaning the sound comes though speakers.  This is the most complex device still functioning in Detrick.  When it fails, they'll have to use the basic phonograph, which has that speaker/horn attached to the needle arm so the sound comes right out of the arm.  But I wanted the sound to engulf Wess in that room, so I kept the phonograph and speakers.

Movies, though.  Hmmm.  You might think a film projector would be the most simplified way to view moving pictures.  It's not.  The simplest way to watch stored moving images is via a flip book.  But there's a better way still.  A mutoscope.  Hundreds of sequential still images are stored in a cylinder and turned with a crank.  Oh, it exists:
That cylinder holds between eight and nine hundred photos.  Mutoscopes were invented in the late 1800s and were used into the early twentieth century, usually for peep shows.  Seriously.

So, a mutoscope provides a simple and easily preserved means of showing our hero some of our culture and a creepy glimpse at how bad things were when the terminals took over New York City.  He got some hope, though, thanks to a cylinder of the Apollo 11 mission.  Thus, this picture:

After a time, Wess heads back to New Jerusalem to help out Remi and things get ... crazy.  I won't spoil anything, except to say that the climax involves a solar eclipse:
The date in the diary is 4 December, 2355.  The time is 1:30.  Oh, look.  There really is an annular eclipse on that date and at that time visible from Washington, DC.  The magnitude is high (0.967) so the sun would nearly be completely covered.  Pol obviously suggests that the invasion of the Keep begin at 12:00 so it would time out well ... for our heroes' purposes, anyways.

And that's the end of the art.  In future posts, I'll type up the outline I wrote a few years ago for the book (way different) and a post on the geography of it all.  Maybe even one on the theology, too, if you want it.

(First mutoscope pic comes from

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