Saturday, January 05, 2013

Venus Daedalus One Review

One of the interesting things about Kickstarter comic projects is that you often don't know what you're getting into. I mean, sure, they've got their video and additional copy explaining what they're trying to do but, typically, the projects aren't done yet. So unless you're really familiar with the creator already, you're often taking a good chunk of the project's success on faith. It sounds good and the previews are enticing, but you (generally) can't flip through an actual copy of what they're purposing.

Of the completed projects I've backed so far, I've been at least reasonably happy with the final result. I was happy to help the folks out monetarily, so even on the ones that struck me as being a little less successful, they still turned out okay.

That's me going into Venus: Daedalus One. I got a copy of it for backing Mars: Daedalus Two, which they're still working on. As writer Jeffrey Morris describes it, "The story centers around an engineer named Dez Clarke and a team of explorers who travel to our deadly neighboring world... There to witness a historical geologic event, the scientists have brought along a number of exospheres -- cybernetic organisms with artificial intelligence." The drama comes from both the problems inherent in the scientific study of space, coupled with some of the tensions that arise between the humans and their AI workmates. It's a little along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey but only at a really high level.

There used to be bit of an argument in science fiction fandom (well before "science fiction" was shortened to "sci-fi") about the emphasis of the genre. Some folks claimed that it should focus on the science end of things, while others preferred the fiction end of the spectrum. This is basically the rift between Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Popular culture seems to favor the fiction side, with the commercial successes of Star Wars, Star Trek and the like. Consequently, you don't see nearly that much of what's called "hard" science fiction. But Venus: Daedalus One (and presumably Mars: Daedalus Two) fall more into that less travelled category. While the inclusion of AI robots might be a bit into the straight fiction, the rest of the book is very rooted in real (and current) science theory. Offhand, I think this is the first comic I've ever read so far into the hard science fiction category.

But what struck me was that, despite a clear effort to get the science right throughout the books, that wasn't actually the focus. There was a very real and well-thought-out discussion about the rights of (for us in the real world, potential) AI beings. What is sentience? What is it about the possibilty of computers gaining it that really scares the crap out of some people? How would those types of people act if/when AI is made a full reality, and why would they act that way?

This is what really good science fiction does. It presents us with the possibilities of our future, both in terms of the technology itself but also the social and ethical implications of same. Venus: Daedalus One does that well.

As far as I've been able to determine, this is the first comics work of co-writers Jeffrey Morris and Ira Livingston. And they knocked it out of the park! I was really impressed with not only the story itself, but the wealth of thought and consideration they put into all the implications of the future they created. I'm really eager now to see Mars: Daedalus Two and hope that they're commercially successful enough that we see (what I'm spit-balling would be titled) Io: Daedalus Three.

Venus: Daedalus One can be ordered now for $16.95 through their FutureDude website. Mars: Daedalus Two should be available through there as well in a couple months.

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