A Turbulent Age [HS2035,bioterrorism,deconstruction,GxB/GxG]

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A Turbulent Age [HS2035,bioterrorism,deconstruction,GxB/GxG]

#1 Post by arachni42 » Sun Apr 14, 2013 1:07 am

Image

A Turbulent Age (working title -- suggestions welcome)
Length: estimated 80k words
Last Update 04/24/13

Story:
Emery is a very bright American high school girl in 2035 who is more than occupied with the struggles of adolescence. But it seems that scary things are going on in the world. The news seems to be filled with politics, corruption, and terrorists making nasty bacteria in their basement. But things take a turn for the worse when someone unleashes a new form of the deadly rabies virus. And it's contagious. Unsatisfied with being a mere, helpless kid, she creates a group of four other teenagers determined to research and cure the outbreak that threatens to destroy their lives.*

*Don't let the optimistic summary fool you. This summary represents Emery's point of view; the story is told through her eyes. However, there is quite a bit she will learn about the world, about power, and about science. Even the "new rabies" is not what it seems to be.

Characters:

Emery: A determined sophomore who would have liked to be a normal teenage girl. Alas, that is not to be. She has decided to change the world... while she is also figuring out who she is, what kind of people she likes to be friends with, and how not to fall asleep in class when her biological clock is not on the same schedule as the school. She comes from an educated family -- hey, her father is biologist, so this'll be no sweat, right? She considers herself in a good position to achieve her goals.

Ray: A cynical sophomore. He sees many flaws in the world, and it seems to him that most people are stupid, fake, or both. This results in a lot of BS in the world, and he hates BS. He likes to look like the rebellious type and push people's buttons. Often this pushes people away, but that is not his goal. Rather, he has some amount of hope that in showing some people their weaknesses, they will learn to be better.

Matt: Ray's older brother, a 19-year-old genius who is already a grad student in college. (His field is TBD, but it's something like biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, etc.) He is, however, very stressed out and quite fed up with the expectations everyone else seems to have of him. He's frustrated with people who are not as smart (and don't seem to understand "simple" concepts) but at the same time envies them for not having his responsibilities.

Chase: An energetic sophomore who reinvented himself over the summer and is full of enthusiasm at the beginning of the year. When Emery recruits him, he is not sure if he has anything to contribute, but he is very optimistic about the whole thing and loves the idea of being part of it. He feels they are on the edge of greatness. He has a sharp mind, but struggles with grades, and his seemingly boundless energy doesn't last forever...

Kaylee: A senior girl with great grades and great looks... but even more importantly, an endearing sincerity. She makes herself a social chameleon, wearing a completely different style of outfit every day and interacting with groups of people who would never interact with each other. She is not in "the popular crowd" but a lot of people think she is damn cool. She has a sweet sort of optimism that conflicts with Ray's cynicism like oil and water.

A little more detail:
This was my NaNoWriMo project in 2011. I got past 50k words but never finished it, and I don't intend to go through the trouble of publishing it as a book. I am interested in adapting it to the VN with 3 major endings.

This is not a dystopian future. (There just happens to be a horrible bioengineered virus outbreak. Who doesn't like a good old-fashioned new-fashioned horrible virus outbreak?) The "age" in the title refers both to the setting and to adolescence. The timeline spans from August 2035 to May 2036.

It is a story about adolescence. It also is a deconstruction of several aspects of the portrayal of science in media, as well as individual and teenage heroism. It deals with the struggles of being a teenager, ranging from bad hair days to DSM-IV mental illness... and of course, the horrible virus outbreak. Chase, Ray and Kaylee (who is bi) will be date-able. Dating is not just about romance but about actually having a relationship. Expect breakups to happen. You can also just be friends with them all. (I am imagining it not unlike the way social links are handled in Persona 3/4.)

Art

An experimental vector graphic of Emery (still a bit of a wip):
Image


An experimental vector graphic of Kaylee (very much still a wip!):
Image

My plan is to practice vector graphics a lot, because I don't have much experience in them. I'm trying to develop a style a little different than the anime-type approach you usually see. I am not sure which direction I am going to go in with shading (whether it will be more like cell-shading, or a lot of gradients, or blended in Photoshop, or what), but I will be continuing to experiment.

One things is for sure.. based on my concept of Kaylee, I will be getting much, MUCH better at hair and fashion by the time I'm done...


Progress:
Planning (plot etc): 50%
Writing: 60%
Art: See above. This is going to take time, because I'm looking not only at sprites for 4 major characters, but many outfits and hairstyles for Kaylee. (I might be willing to compromise on how I wrote her if it ends up being something that holds me but, but it's way too early to say. I'm coming to enjoy doing hair.) Because it its length, there will be quite a few backgrounds, too, and I don't have any practice as a background artist. But there's no time like the present to learn, right?? I plan to experiment with Sketchup (to lay out perspective) then painting in Photoshop.
Music: don't know yet
UI/coding: 0% (although all the writing I'm doing moving forward is in script format instead of regular prose)

...
I have another WiP but am a little burnt out on it and could use a break. If I adapt this one, I will probably need a break at some point, so maybe I could keep switching off until I finish them both. ;)

This thread so far has helped me clarify my thoughts and my goals; as always, more comments are welcome.
Last edited by arachni42 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:27 pm, edited 21 times in total.
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Re: Title TBD [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#2 Post by deviltales » Sun Apr 14, 2013 2:54 am

arachni42 wrote:terrorists making nasty bacteria in their basement.

.. You won me over with this. Aaaand the fact that otome isn't the main part of the whole game. Be warned, I'm stalking this! Good luck! :D
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Re: Title TBD [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#3 Post by Seigetsu » Sun Apr 14, 2013 3:28 pm

So, the first time I've read your post, I was compelled to reply, but I just don't know how to formulate a response.

Coming from someone working in the field of biotechnology, I'm tremendously interested in the premise, however...

I really do have some concerns about the rather fantastical premise with your promise that it would be hard sci-fi. Firstly, I can't see terrorists making nasty bacteria in their basement as being feasible, considering you actually need certain materials for that, and hiding hulky, energy-consuming biosafety cabinets along with the complicated ventilation systems probably doesn't work (else the terrorists would kill themselves before they can spread their nasty bacteria elsewhere). It's more likely that terrorists either 1) make their own labs in regions where the local government supports their activities or 2) make their own labs in regions where there is no government control or 3) infiltrate labs and do this secretly

Then you mention a new form of "contagious rabies". I suppose that since you mentioned it is a viral outbreak, you recognize that it is a virus, which makes me wonder how it would tie in to the previous statement about "making nasty bacteria" because the methods for the two would be relatively different. Unless you mean to say that the rabies virus turned more contagious all of a sudden, on its own, which is actually rather unlikely since the rabies genome is not segmented, and therefore cannot reassort freely to change its genetic makeup. Not to mention, it has a strict neurotropism, and due to the slow replication rate of neural cells, the virus replicates slowly, and by the time it becomes contagious, the person is close to death and symptomatic (so easy to recognize and isolate), limiting its spread to other people. The less a virus spreads, the less chance it has at changing its genetic makeup. This also brings to the question of why engineer a more virulent form of rabies anyway? It would be easy to make a vaccine through the original ways a vaccine was derived. It seems more feasible to make a dangerous form of the flu instead (reassortment leads to quickly mutating virus) if the goal is just to get as many people infected and killed.

Another thing that concerns me is that four teenagers would research for a cure for the virus - it brings to my attention whether four high school teenagers would have the education, technical skill set, and the facility for such research. Research is also rather costly, so even if they have the capability of doing research, they must also be able to secure funding, and funding agencies are very unlikely to provide that for a teenage team. It also seems like the person who would guide them is Matt, a chemistry major. Chemistry majors, in general, don't have virology background. They have much knowledge in related fields that can aid with the research, but they are also lacking in the biology compartment, so they need to be supplemented with someone with that field of expertise. In general, undergraduates also lack the wet lab experience to provide proper guidance.

I think that if you shift the focus to character development and tone down on the hard sci-fi department, this can all work out. If you include too many technical details, you'd likely attract an audience looking for more realism in the story.

That's all for now. I sincerely hope it was helpful to you. Feel free to ask any questions about what I've posted and I would gladly help if I can.

I look forward to reading more about your story, and wish you the best of luck in your work.

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Re: Title TBD [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#4 Post by arachni42 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 2:49 am

Seigetsu wrote:I really do have some concerns about the rather fantastical premise with your promise that it would be hard sci-fi.


Well, I certainly don't need to make that promise. :) Obviously there has to be a point somewhere where it goes into the realm of fiction, although I have a hard time not evaluating ideas based on some amount of plausibility. But I can easily retract the words "hard sci fi" in order to avoid any expectations.

I'll get to viruses and bacteria in a minute, but I do believe one thing is very implausible: the idea of 4 high school students and a 19-year-old in college doing something that teams of scientists fail at. It's pretty much a choice based on "Rule of Cool" and explained somewhat by the teenagers getting lots and lots of outside help, including guidance on actually reading research. They certainly won't be doing any useful lab work themselves, because that doesn't even seem remotely in the realm of possibility to me. The angle I am taking has to do with being able to put together information.
(Basically, I want to avoid the montage on the left: http://xkcd.com/683/)
I will definitely admit that is a tall order. I completed NaNoWriMo but didn't fully complete the novel, which is good in that it makes it easier to write multiple endings (I don't need to re-work anything), but bad in that there are some things I still need to figure out about that. It might require more hand-waving than I want right now.

Seigetsu wrote:Firstly, I can't see terrorists making nasty bacteria in their basement as being feasible, considering you actually need certain materials for that, and hiding hulky, energy-consuming biosafety cabinets along with the complicated ventilation systems probably doesn't work (else the terrorists would kill themselves before they can spread their nasty bacteria elsewhere).


There is something I didn't explain in my brief summary: this bacteria thing is largely a backdrop and it is very prone to media exaggeration. It bears more than a little resemblance to media stories in the past about terrorists making explosives in their basement with instructions they can find on the Internet and materials they can find at their local hardware store. In the name of drama, some important details (like the risk of blowing themselves up) are... er... glossed over. Things like equipment, materials, infecting themselves, and whether the bacteria created this way really are all that nasty are huge things that somehow the news will "forget" to mention, and it will be pointed out. No serious terrorists would be working in their basements.
But, although I've done some research I should do more. (If you're willing, I'm interested in contracting you down the line as a resource.) Bacteria are more complicated than explosives, and I do plan for there to be people that really are pushing the envelope in their basements.

Seigetsu wrote:Then you mention a new form of "contagious rabies".


It's definitely not the rabies virus mutated on its own. I actually forget a lot of the details (I haven't reviewed my notes since the end of 2011), but it is something released as an act of terrorism, chosen because of its deadly nature and the fact that actual cases of rabies is very rare in the U.S. It kind of starts off the whole thing, yet its role in the plot is somewhat short-lived. It's used to get attention (followed by a message, "FAR worse is yet to come, MUhahahaha"), but not a great choice for widespread bioterrorism. (No, that needs to be something that is not deadly, at least not until it infects everyone.)

Seigetsu wrote:(so easy to recognize and isolate)


The other reason its role is short-lived.

Seigetsu wrote:It seems more feasible to make a dangerous form of the flu instead (reassortment leads to quickly mutating virus) if the goal is just to get as many people infected and killed.


I agree... although for the fun of fiction, I'm going with something much more creative and designed to be particularly elusive. (Why create one virus to do everything when you can create multiple viruses that work together as a big middle finger to anyone trying to study them?) The reason? Well, ok, that really comes down to Rule of Cool, too.

Seigetsu wrote:Another thing that concerns me is that four teenagers would research for a cure for the virus - it brings to my attention whether four high school teenagers would have the education, technical skill set, and the facility for such research.


Yes, I think it's a pretty big stretch to make them the heroes, as mentioned above. Their chem major hasn't even had organic yet. I'm steering away from the lab work, but I might be overly generous with their ability to become educated enough to understand anybody else's lab work.

Although, I wonder if there is much purpose in Matt actually being a chemistry major, besides the initial "Oh cool, you'll make a great member of the team!" I mean, he could be a useful guide... for the first two weeks. After that it becomes a little arbitrary. Hmmm.

Seigetsu wrote:I think that if you shift the focus to character development and tone down on the hard sci-fi department, this can all work out. If you include too many technical details, you'd likely attract an audience looking for more realism in the story.


Yes, the level of technical details is a definite concern. I'm going to do my best to strike a good balance, but I'm sure I'll need an editor or two to help with that. That's a good point about audience. There's a point at which more realism creates more plot holes than it resolves. I'm also not sure exactly what audience would be interested in reading this, because it's almost like there's two things I'm trying to accomplish (the details of the setting and the characters). My goal would be for the story to be a seamless whole, but I do think there is a danger of it feeling split instead. It's definitely something I'll think about.

Seigetsu wrote:That's all for now. I sincerely hope it was helpful to you. Feel free to ask any questions about what I've posted and I would gladly help if I can.

I look forward to reading more about your story, and wish you the best of luck in your work.


Yes, I think it was helpful. :) Thanks!
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Re: Title TBD [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#5 Post by Seigetsu » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:30 am

Very nice, that answers a lot of my questions. Thanks!

(If you're willing, I'm interested in contracting you down the line as a resource.)

I don't mind answering any questions as best as I could. Admittedly, science is such a broad field that I only have knowledge on a very limited spectrum of it, but I can try :)

Although, I wonder if there is much purpose in Matt actually being a chemistry major

You know, I was thinking microbiology or immunology major might be more relevant. But of course, chemistry plays a big part in those aforementioned fields as well. The problem is mainly because he is just a first year. How about making him a genius so at age 19 he's already in grad school? Grad studies give you a lot more research opportunities, chemistry degree or in another field. Plenty of chemistry labs are now overlapping/collaborating with biology-based labs for understanding and trying to cure various diseases.

There's a point at which more realism creates more plot holes than it resolves.

I agree wholeheartedly. The amount of detail to add in for sci-fi has been a great problem for myself as well. Naturally, I tend to rant on about things I'm familiar with, and I end up with people telling me that they don't understand what is going on and what I wrote is inducing a headache for them. And yes, the more realism you try to incorporate, the more plot holes may appear simply because this is fiction, and the reason why it is fiction is likely because it is not possible in real-life. I think you can probably keep it simple, and just say something like "oh, they discovered a rabies-like virus that is spreading through the states" instead of actually going into the details of how the bioengineered virus was made. If it's a fictional virus, then you make the rules, and so long as you stay by those rules, there won't be plot holes.

Your plan sounds really good and if the execution is done right it'll turn out really novel and fantastic. You mentioned the media playing a part in the backdrop of this story - will it continue to have an impact throughout?

I was also wondering how are the art assets going? It'd be really nice if we can get some visuals on the characters to better imagine them.

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Re: Title TBD [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#6 Post by arachni42 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:57 am

Seigetsu wrote:I don't mind answering any questions as best as I could. Admittedly, science is such a broad field that I only have knowledge on a very limited spectrum of it, but I can try :)

I've found that the more I learn, the less I know!!
(Limited spectrum = no problem because no doubt it's different from my own)

Seigetsu wrote:You know, I was thinking microbiology or immunology major might be more relevant. But of course, chemistry plays a big part in those aforementioned fields as well. The problem is mainly because he is just a first year. How about making him a genius so at age 19 he's already in grad school? Grad studies give you a lot more research opportunities, chemistry degree or in another field. Plenty of chemistry labs are now overlapping/collaborating with biology-based labs for understanding and trying to cure various diseases.

You know, that's an interesting idea I hadn't considered... well, the being ahead thing. For me to write characters that are geniuses, well that happens accidentally. ;)
I'll think about some different possibilities. (Well, not immunology. I had an immunology class during pharmacy school. It went something like this: http://y3so.tumblr.com/image/12407800371. The rest I blocked from memory, so I'll have to stick with microbiology.)
I never went to grad school, but I could always pester somebody in academia about their experiences.

Seigetsu wrote:
There's a point at which more realism creates more plot holes than it resolves.

I agree wholeheartedly. The amount of detail to add in for sci-fi has been a great problem for myself as well. Naturally, I tend to rant on about things I'm familiar with, and I end up with people telling me that they don't understand what is going on and what I wrote is inducing a headache for them.

Yeah... I may have a tendency to write
Emery: "What's a p-value?"
Matt: "When discussing statistical significance, it's the estimated probability that the null hypothesis was rejected when it is actually true. Five percent is a commonly used but arbitrary significance level."
Emery: "...." [See? Even she doesn't get it.]

I could just leave out any mention of "p-value," but I'd like to try something like this:
Emery: "What's a p-value?"
Matt: "Oh, it's just a way to say how likely you are to be wrong. It's a percentage. So when they say, 'p<0.05,' they're saying 'There's a 0.05 (5%) chance our study's a fluke.' By the way, 5% is a cutoff they just pulled out of their ass."

At that point I'll need someone else to tell me whether or not the mention of "p<0.05" strikes terror/boredom into the hearts of the less interested.

Seigetsu wrote:I think you can probably keep it simple, and just say something like "oh, they discovered a rabies-like virus that is spreading through the states" instead of actually going into the details of how the bioengineered virus was made.

I'm not too familiar with the details of the actual process of making a bioengineered virus myself. I hope to focus on things like what it was designed to do (eg. to spread person-to-person) as long as it's somewhat plausible (no viruses traveling at FTL speed or anything).

Seigetsu wrote:Your plan sounds really good and if the execution is done right it'll turn out really novel and fantastic. You mentioned the media playing a part in the backdrop of this story - will it continue to have an impact throughout?

Well, I am glad you are interested! Yes, the media will definitely be playing a role!

Seigetsu wrote:I was also wondering how are the art assets going? It'd be really nice if we can get some visuals on the characters to better imagine them.

Well, I didn't have any, but since you asked, I did some experimenting and updated my thread. This is some preliminary work (Emery):

Image

Character art takes me quite some time, and I don't really have an established style. In other words, it'll be awhile before I have images for other characters. (Plus I'm still thinking about my artistic approach.) But I'll probably have a logo up on the sooner side.
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Re: A Turbulent Age [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#7 Post by Seigetsu » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:51 pm

Well, not immunology. I had an immunology class during pharmacy school. It went something like this: http://y3so.tumblr.com/image/12407800371.


Oh Qiagen posters XD. Immunology went like this for me: http://www.scribd.com/doc/112946182/Cluster-of-Differentiation-Antigen-Poster (not to mention all the markers had alternative names...)

What I meant by immunology major is more like what are the basic types of immune cells (neutrophils and other granulocytes, T cells, B cells, NK cells, monocytes and DCs...) and how do they mount immune responses (innate vs adaptive, antigen presentation, clonal proliferation...) I think that alone is confusing enough for the majority of your audience, so you may need to simplify as you go. Concepts like "cytokine storm" may need to be included simply because they play a huge role in pathogenesis.

Virology (I think it is lumped into the microbiology department, at least where I work anyways) would be very relevant to your topic, although it also depends heavily on immunology knowledge.

And while I'm at it, might as well complain about grad school. It goes something like this:

- design an experiment
- make a list of what to buy
- PI tells you things are too expensive
- go back to step one, trying to find the cheapest method
- finally you go to orders, only to find things are out of stock, and you wait two weeks
- you start your experiment, it doesn't work because you were cheaping out on things
- redo, redo, redo (euphemistically, this is called the optimization stage, but you won't go anywhere)
- go back to step one again, trying to convince your PI that you have to buy that reagent you really wanted from day 1. If you're lucky, some grant money magically appears from nowhere and you finally get to buy your precious 1ml worth of whatever colourful liquid was on your wish list.
- if you're lucky, this time you would actually see a trend, but don't even talk about p-values - they do not exist when you have no replicates (because you don't have enough money to buy reagents for them)
- go back to the begging your PI stage. He'll likely tell you to go back to your cheap method even if it doesn't work, because it is cheap. You just must wait till grant money poofs on your PI's desk again...
- maybe half a year later, you finally have replicates, only to find your trend isn't even significant
- go back to step one. At this time, you have a committee meeting coming up and no results to present, but that's okay, because nowhere in this process thus far did I even mention your thesis

OK, so I exaggerate (my PI isn't that bad, although horror stories go that plenty of people experience what I wrote above), but you can imagine, p-values won't be the concern when people are dying off from an epidemic. Just the logistics of getting reagents to test replicates would take way too long, not to mention, you'd try to treat as many people as possible, forgoing the usual good scientific method of controls. When they treated SARS, for instance, they just used whatever antiviral they could find, but since you come from a pharmacy background you probably know way better than me what happened there.

I'm not too familiar with the details of the actual process of making a bioengineered virus myself. I hope to focus on things like what it was designed to do


Good call. But if you do want to know the process, you can find it all over the internet. I think it would be similar to how viral vectors are used for gene therapy. Remove the genetic material, do site-directed mutagenesis (likely PCR-based), shove it back into the capsid, shove that back into the cell, ramp up the viral titer, purify. Probably something like that.

I feel like she looks a little bit older than she should

I have to agree with you here. She looks like she's in her late 20s, early 30s here. I think it's probably the shading - makes her features look too angular for her age (should have more fat on her face in her teens). It's especially evident between her brows, under her nose, and under and around her lips. Try to soften the shading and the lineart on her features and maybe she'll look a little younger.

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Re: A Turbulent Age [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#8 Post by FatUnicornGames » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:43 pm

Seigetsu wrote:I feel like she looks a little bit older than she should



I think changing her haircut and shirt would help too. They both make her look matronly.

http://www.latest-hairstyles.com/teens/spring.html - for hair

http://store.delias.com/ - for clothes

The art style is cool though!
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Re: A Turbulent Age [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#9 Post by Seigetsu » Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:54 pm

Just noticed you started working on Emery's design. I think it's a little better than before. Maybe try to relax the brows a bit and put more space between the brows and the eyes. Also, avoid lines that curve downwards (like the chin line, and the sides of the mouth). Try to put more of an upwards lift and she might look even younger.

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Re: A Turbulent Age [high school 2035,bioterrorism,GxB/GxG]

#10 Post by arachni42 » Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:38 pm

Seigetsu wrote:Just noticed you started working on Emery's design. I think it's a little better than before. Maybe try to relax the brows a bit and put more space between the brows and the eyes. Also, avoid lines that curve downwards (like the chin line, and the sides of the mouth). Try to put more of an upwards lift and she might look even younger.

It's cool that you're watching. ;) I do think it's better, but I'm far from satisfied, so I'll look at it again tomorrow and re-read your suggestions, maybe watch another video about drawing people at different ages. It's been a good learning experience for me as an artist.

FatUnicornGames wrote:I think changing her haircut and shirt would help too. They both make her look matronly.

Thanks for the input -- agreed. Right now I'm focusing on her face, but I will certainly start looking at some less "matronly" haircuts, hehe. The shirt is 100% placeholder, but lower on the priority list. I'll keep those links for later.

Seigetsu wrote:Oh Qiagen posters XD. Immunology went like this for me: http://www.scribd.com/doc/112946182/Cluster-of-Differentiation-Antigen-Poster (not to mention all the markers had alternative names...)

Your teacher was more left-brained than mine. =)

But yes, immune responses (even the basics) can be quite interesting. I'm thinking that I will hold off deciding Matt's role until I've decided what I want to REALLY do with the story, especially in the later parts (which I haven't written much of yet). I don't want it to feel "divided," and I think adolescence itself is the stronger theme. I'm actually toying with the idea of going full-blown deconstruction (in the tropes sense): how far can teenagers (even genius ones) *really* go? A lot of the groundwork is already present in what I've written. I just don't want it to be lame, like, "Oh, I guess they're completely powerless. *yawn*" On the other hand, as it is now I think there is an obvious prediction for a good ending (cure the virus) and bad (fail to cure the virus). Nudging this in a slightly different direction might make things more interesting.

Seigetsu wrote:And while I'm at it, might as well complain about grad school. It goes something like this:

LOL! I've heard rumors to this effect, but not a detailed account. *scribble scribble*

Seigetsu wrote:but you can imagine, p-values won't be the concern when people are dying off from an epidemic.

It was just the first example that came to mind, but that is a good point. They won't exactly have time for clinical trials.... even when they discover the nefarious drug-virus interactions, MUUUhahaha!
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Re: A Turbulent Age [HS '35,bioterrorism,deconstruction,GxB/

#11 Post by arachni42 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:16 am

I gave Emery a new haircut (the hair website was useful!), but I did not change her facial features today except for some minor eyebrow changes. I omitted a lot of shading because it's changed, both because of the haircut and finding more reference photos for a light source. I shall continue my experimentation and keep updating.

I'll post it here for posterity ;)
Image

I also uploaded a logo and updated my tags. Even though I had 50k words written for NaNoWriMo, not many of those words pertained to the later part of the year, so I've been doing a lot of brainstorming. When initially writing this I didn't care if there were parts that didn't fit together, but I think now is the time to make the themes solid, interesting, and more focused. (Especially since VNs give the opportunity to have different branches!)

Damn, I'm going to actually have to think about backgrounds and music, concepts and sprites... but I would like to see it through.
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Re: A Turbulent Age [HS '35,bioterrorism,deconstruction,GxB/

#12 Post by Seigetsu » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:51 pm

I think adolescence itself is the stronger theme. I'm actually toying with the idea of going full-blown deconstruction (in the tropes sense): how far can teenagers (even genius ones) *really* go?


That really depends on which genius you are talking about...the world's youngest professor earned her position when she was 19, so can a 19-year-old be an important researcher? Certainly, though it is very, very, very rare. (Though taking into account the fact that she was in college at age 10, she has the regular number of years one would spend in post-secondary education before earning such a position, not to mention, even with her genius, she hasn't made great leaps as far as her research goes...)

Can a team consisting only of teenagers make a tremendous contribution to modern science? I doubt it. It's already exceedingly rare to have one teenage genius, let alone 5 of them (and even if they do have that potential, there are many bureaucratic barriers to their success). Realistically speaking, teenagers are, generally, still at the phase when they are sorting their own lives out - it makes it exceedingly difficult for them to change the world (or even have the world take them seriously) when they are still at that phase.

But what I find teenagers have, and some adults don't, are dreams, and the courage to pursue them. Perhaps you should consider placing an older cast alongside the teenagers rather than just having them separate, trying to sort out their lives all on their own. Maybe the older cast can provide guidance and that stark, realistic mindset to the teenagers, while they, in turn, encourage the older cast to *believe* in solutions that may only hold slight possibilities of working? That would also tie into your adolescence theme - while many teenagers try to deal with their problems on their own, try to just think about their own group of young people, the real world consists of people of all ages, all with different goals and ambitions and exerting different pressures on society as a whole to push it towards a direction they believe in.

On the other hand, as it is now I think there is an obvious prediction for a good ending (cure the virus) and bad (fail to cure the virus). Nudging this in a slightly different direction might make things more interesting.


I agree with you here. Personally, I don't think good ending = cure virus, bad ending = fail would be the most interesting way you can proceed with this. Once again, as adolescence is the main theme, I think it might be good to not put the teenagers in the global spotlight, but rather, let them shine in their own lives. And VNs don't necessarily need good/bad endings - why not just write whatever ending comes to mind and let the readers decide for themselves whether they are good or bad?

I also uploaded a logo


Is that DNA in the background? *gasps*
All I can recognize is the double helix...it can be anything else really...

And about Emery, I think she looks much younger compared to before. Still she looks a little older than 15-16...I really think it can be those sagging lines around her lips. The lineart under her eyes might be a little too dark too...but not sure if lightening or softening those lines would help at all.

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Re: A Turbulent Age [HS '35,bioterrorism,deconstruction,GxB/

#13 Post by arachni42 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:32 pm

Seigetsu wrote:That really depends on which genius you are talking about...the world's youngest professor earned her position when she was 19, so can a 19-year-old be an important researcher? Certainly, though it is very, very, very rare.

I didn't know that -- that is pretty cool!

I think it would be very hard for me to write a character like that, because it's very different from my own experience... and, like you said, making a tremendous contribution to modern science... Well, science is so broad today, I think it's extremely difficult even for individual adults. I mean, there are definitely individuals out there making big innovations, but IMO our biggest strength is the ability to pool information and build upon the successes and failures of others. If a terrorist released a virus, people all over the world would be on it.

Seigetsu wrote:Realistically speaking, teenagers are, generally, still at the phase when they are sorting their own lives out

Yes! This is one of the things I'm most interested in exploring. As you mentioned, it makes it hard for them to change and yet they may form dreams and ambitions with a lot of passion. Not being taken seriously is frustrating.

Seigetsu wrote:Perhaps you should consider placing an older cast alongside the teenagers rather than just having them separate, trying to sort out their lives all on their own.

I do have some vision of this, and I agree with you. Emery's father is a biologist (though I've been remiss in deciding what kind), and was always meant to give some guidance (even though he is busy himself). In many stories about teenagers, the adults are relatively "absent" or bascially useless. I want to avoid that. However, the parts I have written don't include much of that yet. I really need to brainstorm some more on this.

Seigetsu wrote:Maybe the older cast can provide guidance and that stark, realistic mindset to the teenagers, while they, in turn, encourage the older cast to *believe* in solutions that may only hold slight possibilities of working?

Yes, that can definitely be an element... although I think there are even interesting and unusual possibilities beyond that. Among adults, I've seen a somewhat complicated spectrum of views on ideals and realism.

Seigetsu wrote:I agree with you here. Personally, I don't think good ending = cure virus, bad ending = fail would be the most interesting way you can proceed with this. Once again, as adolescence is the main theme, I think it might be good to not put the teenagers in the global spotlight, but rather, let them shine in their own lives.

That's the direction I'm going in now.

Seigetsu wrote:Is that DNA in the background? *gasps*
All I can recognize is the double helix...it can be anything else really...

Of course not, because then I wouldn't be able to be snobby to everyone who asks if it's DNA! What fun is that? ;)

Just kidding. About the snobby part. It's RNA (apparently pre-mRNA) using a render from Wikipedia Commons. I just wanted to use something similar to DNA but without actually being DNA, and it gave me some curvy lines to work with. It doesn't really apply to viruses, but it applies to humans which is what the story is actually about.

I'll keep massaging my picture of Emery. I feel like there's a LOT of massaging to do!
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Re: A Turbulent Age [HS2035,bioterrorism,deconstruction,GxB/

#14 Post by Seigetsu » Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:10 pm

I think it would be very hard for me to write a character like that, because it's very different from my own experience... and, like you said, making a tremendous contribution to modern science... Well, science is so broad today, I think it's extremely difficult even for individual adults.

I completely agree. 99% of the time I read about some fictional genius, the first thought that comes to me is "sure doesn't sound like that much of a genius the way you are describing him/her!". Whenever I try to write a genius into my stories, I keep drawing from my impressions of a genius friend of mine...although even so, I keep thinking, "am I making him/her too dumb?" "am I imposing traits on him/her that belongs solely to my friend, rather than all geniuses?"

I also agree with your second point that contributions are difficult for an individual, and it's unfortunate that the public still attribute contributions to A PERSON rather than THE TEAM even today (usually the PI gets all the credit, but most likely he/she only provided the funding and the general outlook on how the project should proceed, rather than the wet lab work or on-the-bench decisions that can very well change the successes/failures of the project. Of course, this is not to say PIs don't contribute a lot. They do! It's just that the team behind the discovery is usually completely pushed aside and neglected). What I would disagree is that major discoveries are based on data-pooling. Yes, bioinformatics are playing a huge part today, as novel technologies are yielding much more data than we have ever previously imagined (check out next-gen sequencing and metagenomics projects, for instance. Or mass-spec based proteomics projects). But labs still tend to operate in a "closed" manner, or at the very least, closed off only in the little box of themselves and their collaborators. They don't just release their raw data to the public - what you can find on NCBI, for instance, are data that are already processed to some degree, and whoever got that data already extrapolated the useful information from it, to the best of my understanding anyways. And while it is really sad, a lot of quality data are still hidden in private databases (check out the databases on the CHO genome, and how the only one public one isn't even complete...) Sure, NCBI and other databases are great when I get my own data and want to check against known information to see what kind of weird stuff I'm getting, but for somebody who does not generate any data of their own and just try to make a huge discovery by pooling what is already known? I highly doubt it, not to mention there are thousands and thousands of curators (with their PhDs and many years of experience) doing just that, verifying the experimental workflows and data generated and putting up their expert opinions on the issues. Of course, feel free to disagree with me, as there are people doing what you've suggested, although from the couple of talks I've attended on these bioinformatics projects that only try to make specialized databases from larger, more general ones, or trying to find trends like "look, I think proteases cleave each other and form a network, oh my god!", I'm entirely unconvinced that they are going to come up with something major. I digress. My point is, if you plan on making the teenagers be able to find something crazy from primary epidemic data that all the scientists have missed (I may be completely misunderstanding you here, so feel free to correct me), I would say "no", I don't think that can happen. Take the current H7N9 epidemic for instance. Multiple news reports have cited that they are monitoring the genomic changes in the virus, which means genome sequencing must have occurred (unless they are just citing PCR results from specific loci...), but I have yet to see any of these sequences floating around in public databases. In fact, an American scientist was just complaining about how they don't even know how the Chinese are getting any of their data!

(even though he is busy himself)

Oh yeah, he would be if he were directly involved in the epidemic control. True story - during a certain epidemic, genome sequencing facilities in the world were working non-stop for two weeks to get it figured out. People were sleeping at the facility for two weeks to do it! Pretty crazy, eh? I really wonder how you can work him in, and work the kids into the research. It'll be challenging, but it'll be really interesting to read about.

It's RNA (apparently pre-mRNA) using a render from Wikipedia Commons.

No way I can tell between uracil and thymine on a ball-and-stick figure - I'm no chemist, so to me, they are just U and T and I have no idea what are their actual structures unless I look them up, lol. What I do find interesting is the double-helical structure. Is it just me or does it seem like the bases themselves are interacting? It's interesting in the sense that I always imagine mRNA to have minimal secondary structure (would be stabilized by proteins so can be translated successfully), unlike tRNA, rRNA, miRNA, etc. which I know have secondary structures to induce their specific functions. (I'm so off topic, haha, which is totally why I should never write hard sci-fi as I will rant on forever about totally irrelevant things). I must argue that RNA has a huge importance on viral pathogenesis. Entire virus families have RNA as their genomes, and even those that use DNA genomes, require RNA from host transcription to express the viruses. OK, I really should shut up now. I've ranted long enough...

Good luck massaging the art and story! Looks good so far.

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Re: A Turbulent Age [HS2035,bioterrorism,deconstruction,GxB/

#15 Post by arachni42 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:23 am

I've made some updates, including edits to descriptions and an early design for Kaylee. I'm still not sure what exactly my art style will be, but I'll just keep playing with it.

@Seigetsu
Meant to reply to your comments but didn't get around to it.

As far as writing geniuses, I feel like I can fudge 10-15 IQ points above my own, which would put them in the arbitrarily-defined "genius" territory, but a 10 year old going to college is wayyy out of my league, holy &@#$@. ;)

I think writing a convincing savant would be right out.

The word "genius" itself is kind of loaded; I think a lot of fictional geniuses are just dumb stereotypes. If I end up calling Matt a "genius," it'll probably be bad news for him because I would feel obligated to load him down with the requisite amount of expectations, responsibilities, frustrations, and prejudice that someone like that could have. Hmm, it might be fun. My main concern is... my lack of grad school experience... but he's kind of a minor character; I can probably have him allude to frustrations without going into detail, which he wouldn't expect the high school kiddies to understand anyway. I can see it now:
Matt: "Let's face it, you're not even going to understand when you're older!!"

Seigetsu wrote:What I would disagree is that major discoveries are based on data-pooling.

I was thinking not so much of data-pooling but of information-pooling and building on top of previous discoveries. However, you definitely had some interesting thoughts to think about. I'm also biased because I'm in the position of not researching things myself, but finding what existing research there is and making a clinical judgment based on it. (And, I'm not even trying to make discoveries, only decisions.)

Seigetsu wrote:And while it is really sad, a lot of quality data are still hidden in private databases (check out the databases on the CHO genome, and how the only one public one isn't even complete...)

It'll be interesting to see where this goes in the next several decades. I do imagine that if there's a worldwide threat, researchers would be more likely to actually pool data. But, it doesn't sound like things in general are going in that direction. It is sad.

Seigetsu wrote:My point is, if you plan on making the teenagers be able to find something crazy from primary epidemic data that all the scientists have missed (I may be completely misunderstanding you here, so feel free to correct me),

Well, I kind of had that in mind when I first started, but then I realized, "You know, why should I struggle coming up with some bizarre way this happens? It not only would make more sense to have a reversal of that expectation, but it would be more interesting, more fun, and it would fit MUCH better with all of the themes I've introduced in the parts I have written." So, no, I'm not going in that direction now. Your feedback really helped in this process. ;) That's why I'd tagged it with deconstruction. Why try to crowbar in a cliche "good ending" for the last 1/3 of the story? It would kind of undermine what's in the first 2/3.

Oh yeah, he would be if he were directly involved in the epidemic control. True story - during a certain epidemic, genome sequencing facilities in the world were working non-stop for two weeks to get it figured out. People were sleeping at the facility for two weeks to do it! Pretty crazy, eh? I really wonder how you can work him in, and work the kids into the research. It'll be challenging, but it'll be really interesting to read about.

Well, I am imagining him involved in actual research, and Emery having unrealistic expectations regarding that. He might initially be there for guidance but become increasingly occupied, coming home late, not coming home at all, not wanting to talk about work, and so forth. His absence itself can become a statement. (Which means, of course, if I want "adult guidance" -- and I do -- I really need to work on some other adults. I mean, I'm thinking of guidance counselors, teachers, etc, but I don't have specific characters defined. I don't think they need to play a large role but I would really like to have them there.)

No way I can tell between uracil and thymine on a ball-and-stick figure - I'm no chemist, so to me, they are just U and T and I have no idea what are their actual structures unless I look them up, lol.

Meh, I wouldn't be able to tell either, although if I stared at it long enough I might notice that there's a hairpin turn you wouldn't normally see in DNA. ... ... nah, I probably wouldn't notice.

Plus, I learned something about pre-mRNA. It didn't take much, though; I didn't even know pre-mRNA existed. ^_^ To be completely honest, I chose a form of RNA because it looks DNA-ish but if anyone was ever like, "Hurh, DNA is sooo cliche" I could truthfully tell them it was not DNA. I mean, nobody here is going to say that, but if I release this onto The Internet, you never know...
Besides, RNA is cool!!

(I'm so off topic, haha, which is totally why I should never write hard sci-fi as I will rant on forever about totally irrelevant things).

It relates... because.... er.... I'm investigating whether I should call this "hard sci-fi" or not. Yeah.

I must argue that RNA has a huge importance on viral pathogenesis. Entire virus families have RNA as their genomes, and even those that use DNA genomes, require RNA from host transcription to express the viruses.

Hmmm.... It's true, even if it's the host's, and not their own. Yay!! I can claim my logo is 100% symbolic. Er... except for the "adolescence" part, but that's socially constructed so I don't have an image for that.

In any case, I shall keep massaging everything. Thanks!
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