This will be the last update I post before the contest ends.

Proteus remains in fourth place. We’ve been absolutely tenacious in keeping up with the top three. We’ve more than doubled our overall orders over the course of this week, and I have it on good authority that we’ve scared the pants off the competition. We are the charging bull. They are fleeing us.

They’re still probably going to win, but at least we’ve given them a really, really good chase.

It’s not impossible to win from where we stand. The last day of my Tantalus Depths campaign I brought in something like 80 pre-orders, so I know that’s a thing that can happen. But I’m also not going to sweat it if we don’t. The top three books have earned their spots, and I won’t be sorry to see any of them win. In any case, I’m already looking forward past the end of this contest. I didn’t get as far as I’ve gotten by not thinking several steps ahead.

Win or lose, I’m enormously grateful for all of you. You really came through in a big way, and I’m proud to have friends and supporters as loyal and enthusiastic as you are.

A few more hours remain in this contest. We might win, we might lose, but either way, let’s make them work for it.



Guys...this is it.

There’s only one day left in the Nerdist contest, and we are STILL in fourth place, despite seeing some absolutely remarkable support the past few days. Our competition is simply seeing as much success as we are, if not more. We were able to close the gap between our position and third place down to just twelve pre-orders...right now it’s climbed back up to 17 and still rising.

Remember: third place is as good as first for this contest. All three get the same prize: that coveted full publication deal. If we place in fourth, though...nothing. I could campaign the hard way and gather 750 pre-orders like I did for Tantalus Depths. But I won’t. I can’t. The last campaign was the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do by far, and I do not have the energy, stamina, or resources to do it again. My physical and mental health probably would not allow for it. Not any time soon. I knew that from the start when I entered the contest: I either make it, or I don’t.

It’s all or nothing, folks. I want to tell this story, but if we can’t place in the top three, it’s going back on the shelf indefinitely. You’ll get refunded, but the book won’t see the light of day for who knows how long.

So I’m appealing to you all one more time: if anything in Proteus seems interesting to you, please support it with a pre-order. If you already have, please get a friend or loved one to do the same. Remember, referrals will get you a commissioned art piece if you want it! Win or lose, I’ll honor that promise.

Thank you all, for everything you’ve done for this campaign so far.

Now cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.

 



My friends, we’ve made another strong push for progress today. We’ve narrowed the gap between us and third place down to only 18, and I’m still pushing to reduce that further. As much progress as we’ve made today, though, a lot more remains. Our competition is still moving forward relentlessly, and I fully anticipate a last-minute surge. We are down to the last two days, so if anyone’s been holding out to the end, now is the time for reinforcements.

No long update today, because I’m honestly too busy trying to drag in pre-orders to write one, so here’s this instead. Share it with your friends! This is not a story about heroes. Nobody comes out of this one with clean hands. This is a story that deals in shades of monstrosity. If you’re ready to see some deeply messed-up characters deal with some even more messed-up situations, hop on board and pre-order this thing.

 

Well folks, I have news and I have news.
None of it is very good, though.

We continue to fall behind in the contest. Right now we’re sitting at 22 pre-orders behind third place. On the plus side, we have been doing really surprisingly well with getting new orders in every day the past couple of days Everyone else has just been doing better than we have.

We all have good days and bad days, though. I’m hoping one of the next couple of days will be a bad one for them, and that all of mine are good ones. I lack the ability to quit, and I’m still way too close to the top three to seriously consider doing so, so I intend to proceed as if my victory is a given.

In other news, apparently Inkshares goofed and announced the wrong deadline. The contest ends not on the 25th, but on the 27th. So two extra days. Honestly, I would have preferred the closer deadline, but I can work with this too.

Please remember: I have absolutely zero hope of finishing this thing without your help. I’ll be honest here and say I am running out of people to ask, and I have nowhere near the time I’d like to find new ones before the end of this contest. I am heavily dependent on you who have already supported me this far bringing in your friends and families to help me. To that end, please remember I am running this promotion for anyone who successfully refers someone to pre-order. I like to think my art is at least passable enough as an incentive.


Press on, loyalists. Like the dedicated crew on The Somnambule, we are dedicated to one mission and one only: Always keep the ship moving forward.


My friends...our situation is grim. Our campaign has slowed to a crawl while our competition soars. We remain in fourth place, ten orders behind third, although by the end of the day that could turn into twenty orders if we can’t build up some momentum again.

Remember: the top three all win the full publishing deal. Fourth place gets nothing. 

On the plus side, we’ve gathered 120 people to support Proteus so far, and I am extremely thankful to each and every one of you. I hate to ask even more of you who have already done so much, but picture this: what if everyone who already ordered a copy managed to convince one person each to order a copy for themselves? We would soar to 240 orders, and all but guarantee our place in the number one spot for the duration of the contest.

So let me ask once again: please, try to find one person you know will help. Ask your spouse, your child or parent. Ask your best friend, or a good friend who loves science fiction. Ask anyone. I know each of you must know at least one person who would do this if you asked.

Remember I’m still offering a promotion for new referrals: a hand-drawn portrait, done by yours truly, for anyone who has bought a copy and is able to refer just one person to do the same.

We can still do this. We can do this together.


Well, folks...this has been a rough week. We were holding on to third place pretty soundly all weekend, until a new dark horse showed up and blasted past us. We’re more or less keeping pace, but it’s been a rough road, and as of right now we’re back down to fourth place, by three pre-orders.

Less than four days are left in this contest, and we need to make every one of them count. People are going to be fighting tooth and claw over that third place position. I plan to get it, but I’m going to need all the help we can rally.

So it’s time to bring out the incentives.

You know the awesome character portraits I’ve been sharing lately? I drew those (except for the Shakespeare one, that was my amazingly talented sister.) In case you missed them, you can check them out herehere, and here, or just look at the new one below. Pretty cool, right? Well, if you like them, you’ll like this incentive:

From now until the end of the contest, anyone who successfully refers a new reader can have a personal portrait drawn by me, for free. I’ll do it in charcoal (like the ones featured so far) or pencil, your choice. I’ll do a portrait of you if you like, or your kid or girlfriend or whatever if you’d rather have that. If you’re a fellow writer who would like to have someone draw a portrait of one of your characters, I’ll happily do that. I’ll draw you as a cyborg, I’ll draw you as an elf, I’ll draw you as a mutant bullfrog if that’s what strikes your fancy. If you want two or three portraits and you can refer two or three people, they’re yours. The only conditions required for eligibility are as follows:

  1. You must have ordered Proteus.
  2. You must have referred someone else who successfully ordered Proteus
  3. You take responsibility for coming to me to ask about getting your reward. You have to opt in for this.

I can’t guarantee a time frame for fulfilling those commissions, other than "by the end of the summer." I’ll start working on them as soon as the contest wraps and do them on a first-come first-served basis.

I can’t promise they’ll be works of art, but I can promise they’ll be works from the heart. I take great pride in my work, just like our ship’s new head scientist, Dr. Elizabeth Marshall.
(Am I killing it with these segues or what?


Elizabeth Marshall

Dr. Elizabeth Marshall was one of the brightest and most promising members of her generation on The Somnambule. A third-generation crewman, Marshall was born and raised by parents who were themselves born and raised on the ship. Like everyone else born during the first 75 years of The Somnambule’s flight, Elizabeth knew her fate and function from birth. From the beginning, her education was keyed toward developing a skillset in her that would fill a necessary role among her crewmates. In her case, early childhood dispositional assessments led to her being trained as a medical specialist

While some children born on The Somnambule rebelled against their pre-determined roles in the ship’s hierarchy, or simply took to them with the smallest possible amount of enthusiasm, Elizabeth fully embraced her assigned profession from the very beginning. Learning about the inner workings of the human body fascinated her. She became especially interested in the field of applied cybernetics, and the various ways in which electronics could be used to improve the functionality of the human body.

Her interests and her dedication to learning quickly made her a favorite pupil of head scientist Marion Krieg, herself a brilliant cyberneticist. She worked closely with Krieg from adolescence to adulthood, and by the time Marshall had finished the ship’s most sophisticated medical education programs, it had become clear that Krieg was grooming her as a successor.

Elizabeth was involved in the development of Krieg’s new quantum cortical implant, though she did not volunteer to be implanted with one. Krieg claimed the implant could give its user the ability to view future events, and while Elizabeth did not actually believe this to be possible, she did believe the implant had the potential to significantly improve its user’s mental sharpness and processing speed. The first human test subjects made a compelling case for Krieg’s claims, but Elizabeth remained skeptical that they could actually see the future.

That is, until Krieg claimed to have perfected the implant. Wishing to be implanted with the new device herself, Krieg was unwilling to entrust the delicate operation with anyone but Marshall. Reluctantly, Dr. Marshal agreed, and implanted the new quantum computer into Krieg’s brain.

Immediately upon completion of the procedure, Krieg’s demeanor changed. She claimed to have seen terrible things in the mission’s future; a horrific cataclysm at journey’s end. She tried to convince the crew that the mission must be aborted at all costs, and began amassing a significant following among the crew.

When Krieg attempted to convince Marshall to join her resistance faction, Marshal refused. As much as she’d respected Krieg most of her life, she believed the woman had begun to finally grow senile in her old age, and suspected that something may have gone wrong with her operation. Beyond that, Marshall held on to the values that had been instilled in her as a child; her greatest calling in life was to preserve the mission and the lives of the colonists the ship carried. She would not play a part in mutiny.

Mutiny came, nonetheless. When Krieg made a play for taking over the ship, Marshall remained loyal to the captain and the ship’s mission. When Krieg’s initial attempt at an uprising failed and her rebels were pushed back to the lower decks, Marshall took Krieg’s place as the ship’s head scientist.

Krieg’s rebellion against The Somnambule’s mission felt like a personal betrayal to Marshall. The woman she’d looked up to as a mentor her entire life had betrayed the most important purpose any member of the crew could have. As heartbroken as Marshal was about Krieg’s uprising, she was determined to put all her skills to work in preserving the mission, the precious lives of the ship’s colonists, and the final defeat of Krieg’s insurrection.




Now is the cryonic stasis of our discontent…

Just kidding. That would be super goofy. Though, for Proteus, it would be fitting. As I’ve mentioned throughout the campaign, Proteus is indeed an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Richard III. Up until now, I haven’t really gone into any great depth on what that means, and I’m sure it’s had some people baffled. How does one take a 435 year-old historical play about a conniving English king and set on a massive spaceship full of cyborgs?

I’ll tell you.

The idea of taking Shakespeare’s stories and retelling them in new settings is not new. It’s possible you’ve even seen one without realizing it (The Lion King, for instance, or Ten Things I Hate About You). By far my absolute favorite of these stories is a cult classic 1956 science fiction film called Forbidden Planet.

 

You may recall that I’ve spoken about Forbidden Planet before: it was a huge inspiration for Tantalus Depths. The exploration of a planet filled with ancient technology left behind by an extinct race, the pervasive tone of dread that permeated the movie, the presence of a robot that can build anything its master demands, these are the elements of Forbidden Planet that influenced Tantalus Depths. Something else about that film inspired the very concept of Proteus, however.

Forbidden Planet is a direct adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. From the moment that I learned of this connection (which was long after I’d seen the movie several dozen times) I became obsessed with it. In several classes throughout my academic career, I wrote lengthy essays deconstructing the parallels between The Tempest and Forbidden Planet. Some parallels are obvious: the planet Altair IV is home only to a brilliant scientist and his naïve daughter, who has never known the outside world. This lines up easily with the wizard Prospero who raised his daughter alone on the island they’d been marooned on. Both Prospero and Dr. Morbius discover sources of incredible power on the island left behind by long-gone predecessors: the hyper-advanced technology of the Krell in one case, the lingering magical influence of the witch Sycorax in another. The comparisons go on and on.

What interested me even more than the parallels between the stories were the areas where they diverged, however. For instance: Prospero’s two servants, the ethereal spirit Ariel and the treacherous troglodyte Caliban are essentially merged into one character in Forbidden Planet: Robbie the Robot. Morbius himself is less of a direct interpretation of Prospero and more of a dark mirror, showing what could have happened if Prospero allowed his pursuit of knowledge and power to go too far and consume him.

I could go on and on for ages about this (and I have, as several of my professors can attest) but obviously you’re not here for an essay on Forbidden Planet. So let me tie that in with the story I’m telling in Proteus.


The story of Richard III is, to oversimplify things terribly, about a man’s quest for power. Richard is the youngest of three brothers, and last in line for the throne. After having played an integral role in securing the throne for his family following a lengthy war of succession, Richard now finds himself underappreciated and ill-used. His physical deformities and his notoriety on the battlefield have left him ill-suited for a time of peace, and he feels that society has left him behind.

So Richard goes on a campaign of regicide, manipulating and backstabbing his way to the top with a devious plot George R. R. Martin wishes he was twisted enough to conceive. Richard kills off his own siblings and their entire families down to the last child, he seduces the widow of a man he killed at his own funeral purely to see if he can get away with it. He relishes in his own villainy as he stabs his way to the top, and, for a time at least, he gets everything he wanted.

This is the story I’m adapting. Jacob Sicarius is my Richard. He was destined to receive a crown of his own when The Somnambule arrived at its destination, but when his pod is sabotaged, he loses that promised glory forever. Like Richard, he too is “deformed, unfinished, scarce half-made up,” but rather than physical deformity, Jacob is a cyborg, with mechanical parts replacing those he lost in his own war. He too has three brothers, all three of which posing a threat of some kind to the kind of order he wishes to establish on this ship.

As Forbidden Planet took some plotlines and characters and reworked them, so does Proteus. While Richard gleefully states “I am determined to prove a villain,” Jacob is more morally complex. He is capable of horrific deeds, but his goals are noble, and his constant conflict with the targeting AI fighting for dominance of his brain creates even more complexity in his character. The war in Proteus is not about seizing a throne for a ruling family, but about preserving the fate of the thousands of colonists aboard the ship.

Many characters have been changed. Some have been combined, some have been flipped around to mirror versions of themselves. Some are as perfectly true to their original nature as they could be in an environment so unlike Shakespeare’s version of the tale. If you’re familiar with Shakespeare, you will certainly find dozens of fascinating interpretations of the original story. If you aren’t, you’ll get the benefit of reading a story ripped off of one of the best storytellers of all time, so either way, you can’t go wrong!


We now officially have less than 9 days to go in this contest. This next week will be absolutely crucial to the success of Proteus, and there is so, SO much that can happen. We remain at number three in the contest, but we are still just barely ahead of the competition, and the number two position is still rocketing up the ranks, soon to be threatening first place. I don’t feel anywhere close to safe about our place on the leaderboard. Right now, all it takes is two orders for the book behind us, and we’re back down to fourth again.

I know some of you were waiting on paychecks to come in this weekend before putting your orders in, so if you’re able, PLEASE consider ordering it now! We’re in a position where we can regain some lost ground if we can get a surge of support right now. It’d be really helpful if we could close this week off on a high note.

Meanwhile, I give you another little piece of lore from the shared universe of Proteus and Tantalus Depths. While the entire story of Proteus is set on the vast colony ship Somnambule, some of the defining events of our central character’s 

life occurred on the freak desert world of Buyan: a treacherous world of the Expansionary Coalition, bombarded by deadly sunlight on both sides at all times...


Jacob Sicarius and his brother Lucas were both shaped by their traumatic experiences on Buyan. In some ways, literally. Jacob’s injuries on that world led to his transformation into a mechanized killing machine, and the scars both men received on that harsh world manifested as much in the mind as the flesh.

But just how deep was the damage, and how lasting its effects? What else did Jacob lose on Buyan? Events were set in motion then that will soon culminate in a struggle over Jacob’s very soul. 

Find out how it all ends when you pre-order Proteus today.


So I tried fourth place for a little while. It wasn’t for me.

We’re back in third! And still climbing, too. I don’t like being passed, so I’m pretty determined to snatch that second place position soon. There’s still an irritating chance that we might get knocked down to fourth again, and I’d very much like to put some distance behind me asap to keep that from happening. So please keep up the good work and share our updates, and ESPECIALLY tell your friends and families about this book. The more people we get on board, the better our chances are of really securing our place in the top three. We’ve only got ten days left. They all have to count.

I am way too stubborn to lose this contest. Much like today’s highlighted character: Captain Lucas Sicarius: the man so determined to hold onto his power, he simply refused to die.

 

Lucas Sicarius

The youngest of three brothers, Lucas spent most of his life trying to live up to the expectations set in place by his eldest brother. When Jacob joined the military at eighteen and became an all but overnight war hero, Lucas followed in his brother’s footsteps. His skills were impressive, enough to get him assigned to the elite taskforce known as the Razorbacks, alongside his brother. Upon joining the Razorbacks, Lucas was implanted with an Erymanthos combat AI named Eidolon, which further enhanced his skills. However in spite of his impressive natural talents, Lucas and Eidolon continued to be overshadowed by Jacob and Proteus throughout most of their military career.

While Jacob’s skills were focused on ground combat, Lucas’s talents were keyed more toward combat support. He was especially adept at piloting various aircraft and spacecraft. Eidolon assisted with this, adapting its primary function as a combat assessor and target finder to aid Lucas in performing complex flight maneuvers. It also adapted its battlefield memorization programming, allowing it to memorize the controls of every vehicle Lucas piloted, enabling him to feel as familiar with a new vehicle as if he’d been piloting it for years. Lucas became one of the Razorbacks’ best combat pilots, and at last it seemed that he’d begun to make a name for himself, rather than merely being “Jacob’s younger brother.”

This all changed when, during a mission on the perilous sun-blasted planet Buyan, the dropship Lucas was piloting was struck down by a surface-to-air missile. All hands were lost in the ensuing crash, save for Jacob and Lucas. Though both men were gravely injured in the crash and one of Buyan’s two deadly suns was about to rise, Jacob managed to save both their lives by burying them both in the sand until rescue could come during Buyan’s brief dusk.

Battered, bloody, and deeply discouraged, Lucas found rescue worse than death. Once again, Jacob was hailed the hero, while Lucas was merely the one who’d crashed a ship. When both men were offered the chance to retire from active duty with honors, Lucas accepted, while Jacob did not.

Lucas served for a few more years in the military in various behind the scenes functions, but found no fulfillment in it. Several years later when Jacob was offered the coveted honor of being the leader of the future colony on Bella Rosa, Lucas was invited to join the mission. Initially, he was to join Jacob and their other brother Isaac in cold stasis, the three of them being revived together upon arrival at their destination.

But Lucas knew when they arrived at Bella Rosa, it would only be the same old story again. Once again, Lucas would be living in Jacob’s shadow, forever known as “Jacob’s brother.” He saw an opportunity to choose a different fate.

Instead of joining the colonists, Lucas applied for the captaincy of the Somnambule. His service record was more than satisfactory for the job, and Lucas was declared captain. As his brothers bid him an emotional farewell, Lucas watched them submit to the deep sleep of cold stasis. He knew he would never see them awake again in his lifetime. He knew, from this point on, he was the only Sicarius people would talk about.

For decade upon decade, Lucas served as the absolute authority on The Somnambule. The entire crew answered to him. He was the master of all he surveyed. At last, he had found his own importance. For 75 years he ran The Somnambule. When his body began to fail from old age, he had his life prolonged through cybernetics.

As he continued to cling to his twilight years of power and life, eventually becoming so dependent on his cybernetics he served as more of an autopilot than a captain. His body was plugged directly into the ship; it’s systems became as much a part of his mind and body as his own. Even as death tapped its foot patiently waiting for him, he refused to relinquish the control he’d found. He refused to let go of a life he’d already prolonged too far. He had found his kingdom; a world all his own.

Then, with a freak act of sabotage in the stasis bay, Jacob Sicarius awoke once again…


I’m afraid I have some bad news, friends. For the first time in almost a week, Proteus is not in the top three. We had a long and trying battle with the book that had been in fourth place today, jumping back and forth between being one order ahead and one order behind. Then today, that book blasted right past us straight into the second place spot with more than a dozen orders in rapid succession. Quite an impressive feat, I must say.

The good news is that the book that was in second place that is now in third is now only three orders ahead of us, so we can retake our rightful place in the top three soon enough. But only with your help! I need a real outpouring of support, guys. The danger of not making it to the top three by the end of the contest is very real. Something like what happened today could happen at any moment, and there’s no way to see it coming.

Unless, that is, you’re the Crone of the Lower Decks, Marion Krieg: one of our story’s antagonists. She sees everything coming....

 

Marion Krieg

Marion Krieg was one of the most brilliant minds to come out of Crisium University. At the age of 18, Krieg graduated with twin PHDs in quantum computing and AI engineering, with minor focuses in cybernetic engineering and cyberneural integration.

Despite having a broad variety of career paths to choose from, young Marion Krieg opted to accept an invitation from the Expansionary Coalition to serve as head scientist aboard the newly built colony ship Somnambule. Not being a naturally social person, Krieg felt no particular qualms about spending the rest of her life aboard a starship thousands of light years from settled space. The opportunity to conduct unlimited scientific experiments with no government oversight or restriction was, to her, its own reward.

On The Somnambule, Marion spent the first several years developing technologies to assist future generations of the crew, including an exceptionally adaptive level-five AI designed as a universal tutor in any field of study on record. In spite of this invaluable educational resource, Marion also took to training her scientists personally.

Marion’s career on The Somnambule’s science staff spanned more than seven decades, and she taught and worked alongside four generations of scientists. She never considered retirement, nor did her impressive intellect dull with age. In fact, it was in the later years of her life that Krieg developed her most impressive, and most divisive, scientific breakthrough yet.

Krieg developed a quantum cortical implant so sophisticated, it could allow its user to literally see future events. Or at least, this is the claim Krieg made. The handful of initial volunteers who underwent the procedure to receive the new implant did demonstrate an uncanny ability to predict events several moments before they occurred, lending credence to her claim, incredible though it may have been.

Krieg was not satisfied with the implants’ performance, however. As impressive as they were, she believed she could enhance them to project even farther into the future. Following several waves of improved versions of the implant, she finally implanted one into herself, granting her the ability to see so far into the future that she could witness The Somnambule’s arrival on Bella Rosa.

The future she claimed to see was dire. She had witnessed a vague and terrible catastrophe at the journey’s end; some threat unknown and imperceptible, but utterly devastating to the mission and the lives of crew and colonists alike. Having witnessed this disaster, Marion insisted that the mission, already 70 years underway, must be aborted.

The captain refused to alter course for any reason, but Marion persisted. By this time she had amassed scores of followers among the scientific and civilian communities aboard The Somnambule and, after multiple fruitless attempts to convince the rest of the crew of the danger at mission’s end, Krieg declared outright mutiny.

She led her followers in an ill-fated attempt to seize control of the ship, but were ultimately repelled and temporarily subdued by The Somnambule’s loyalist security team. They managed to push Krieg and her rebels back to the lower decks of the ship. A stalemate was reached: Krieg’s forces had the advantage of precognitive enhancements, making them all but impossible to capture or kill, while the security team was far better armed for combat. Neither side would relent, and so began a long and bloody civil war for control of The Somnambule….

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