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.
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 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….
Greetings all! I can proudly say that we are now on day five of holding on to third place in the Nerdist contest. Our position is far from secure, however. The fourth place contender is tenacious, and second place keeps dodging our attempts to overtake them. At the moment, we are only three orders away from falling back down to fourth, and I don’t like that margin. I also don’t like not being in second place, and right now only five new orders stand in the way of seizing that coveted spot for ourselves.We can get there, no doubt. I haven’t played all my cards yet. But we definitely need as much support as we can muster! Remember, keep sharing our content, keep telling your friends and family about it. If you’ve already ordered a copy, find one other person you know you can convince to do the same. If everyone who’s already ordered a copy got just one other person to do it too, we’d be in first place right now.I’m planning on launching an incentive for you soon, so stay tuned. But don’t wait for it! We’re so close to taking second and securing our place on the final leaderboard, I can taste it. It tastes like victory.I like victory.You know who else likes victory? Our protagonist: Jacob Sicarius! He might like victory a bit too much, in fact. Let me take a moment to introduce him to you all....
General Jacob Sicarius stands as one of the most respected, and most decorated, soldiers in the entire Expansionary Coalition.
Enlisting in the Coalition Marine Corps at the age of 18, Jacob showed great promise from the very beginning of his military career. His coordination on the battlefield was exemplary, and his dedication to every mission was second to none. His tenacity in the field earned him a reputation among allies and enemies alike. Jacob’s excellent combat effectiveness swiftly earned him placement with the Razorbacks: an elite commando unit specializing in particularly hostile combat arenas on the Coalition’s frontier worlds. As part of his initiation into this elite unit’s ranks, Jacob was implanted with a CE 1500 Erymanthos cybernetic AI implant named Proteus. Proteus enhanced Jacob’s already formidable combat abilities well beyond the range achievable by any normal human being. Though all members of the Razorbacks were implanted with an Erymanthos, none seemed to work quite as flawlessly together as Jacob and Proteus.
Shortly after Jacob’s younger brother Lucas joined the Razorbacks, the team was deployed to a contested strip of land on the perilous desert world of Buyan. Tensions between the Expansionary Coalition and the Colonial Hegemony had risen to the point of open armed conflict, creating a localized war on the frontier world’s constantly shifting habitable zone.
The conflict between Coalition and Hegemony troops lasted several months. During the latter days of the conflict, Jacob’s dropship was shot down near the trailing edge of Buyan’s habitable zone, leaving both him and his brother badly wounded and the rest of the squad dead. Acting quickly despite being crippled by the crash, Jacob managed to save himself and Lucas from Buyan’s deadly day cycle by burying them both alive, protecting themselves from the lethal heat and radiation emitted by one of Buyan’s paired suns.
When they were rescued by the rest of the Razorbacks during Buyan’s brief second night cycle, both men were on the verge of death from exposure and blood loss. Jacob’s injuries were more severe, requiring extensive cybernetic reconstruction, including both legs below the knee and his left arm at the elbow. Both men were decorated for their bravery in surviving the ordeal, and both were given the option to retire with honors. Lucas took this option, but Jacob refused.
Jacob remained with the Razorbacks for another two decades, eventually becoming their commander. Many further engagements left Jacob with injuries that required further cybernetic replacements, and he had some of his existing replacements enhanced to increase his combat effectiveness.
Despite never losing his edge in battle, Jacob’s continued promotions led to his seeing less and less time in the field. He proved to have a natural gift for strategy, which was further enhanced by Proteus. As a general, he became a master tactician, and helped the Coalition come out on top in many subsequent conflicts with the Hegemony and numerous other hostile nations.
As a reward for his service to the Coalition, Jacob was selected to be the commander in chief of the Coalition’s planned colony on the newly discovered resource-rich planet of Bella Rosa. Though reluctant to leave the field of battle for good, and more reluctant still to embark on the one-way 150 year journey away from civilization as he knew it, Jacob eventually accepted the position.
Submitting himself to a long sleep in cold stasis aboard the colony ship Somnambule, Jacob found himself dreaming…of war.
Let me paint you all a very pretty picture:
That’s right, Proteus is still sitting firmly in the top three, and only climbing higher. There’s plenty cause for celebration for coming as far as we have, and I owe everyone who’s supported it so far a huge debt of gratitude. But there are some significant impending challenges ahead as we gear up to enter the final two weeks of the contest. What obstacles are those, you ask? One word: syndicates.
Syndicates are groups on inkshares that collect contributions from their members and pour all of them into one book every month. You may remember that Tantalus Depths received support from many syndicates during the last campaign; in fact I’d venture to say the campaign could not have succeeded without support from the syndicates.
So why are syndicates a problem for Proteus? Well, most of them more or less make their decisions about which book they plan to back at the beginning of the month, or even earlier. Some of the bigger ones are already narrowing down their choices to one or two options, and they’ll make their final choice within the next week or so. Because I launched my campaign for Proteus as late as I did, most of the syndicates who might have considered supporting it had already turned their attention to other books in the contest. Some of these syndicates are large, and if they pick a book I’m competing against, that book will instantly jump ahead by twenty or thirty orders all at once.
Long story short, it’s unlikely any syndicate will pick Proteus, and it’s highly likely some will pick competing books. One already has, in fact. This means we can expect some of the books we’ve already passed in the leaderboard to instantly leapfrog over us if we can’t get some more traction and build up a buffer between Proteus and the rest of the leaderboard. Since we can’t count on syndicates, we have to push forward the old fashioned way: one order at a time. So even though we’re doing really well right now by making it to the top three and holding our position, it’s crucial that we keep pushing as hard as we can to increase our numbers.
Remember, please tell all your friends and family to pre-order, and keep sharing our posts to boost our visibility. Victory is in sight, but it’s not within reach yet, and it’s going to take all of us to get there!
Ladies, gentlemen, and sapient AI, I have a phenomenal announcement to make:
As of right now, Proteus is in THIRD PLACE in the Nerdist competition!
All we need to do to earn the full Inkshares publishing deal for Proteus is come in third. If we can hold onto this position, it’s as good as first place. BUT we’re only ahead of the competition by one preorder right now, so there’s no time to rest yet. I want to get some space between Proteus and the competition (well, the competition behind us, anyway. The competition in front of us can get as close as it likes). In fact, I intend to keep going and seize second place just to be safe. First place too if I’m feeling frisky.
Please keep up the support! So much can happen in the next two weeks, and success can only come with your continued support. If you have a significant other or sibling or parent or child who you can convince to put in an order, please do whatever you can to make that happen. If everyone who’s ordered a copy so far gets one other person to do the same, we could tie with first place in a day.
Once more into the breach!
It’s our fourth day in the contest and Proteus is in FOURTH PLACE!!! Actually, just kidding, we’re tied for sixth, but for some reason we’re showing up on the leaderboard as being in fourth place when we technically aren’t. Still, though. We are VERY close to breaking the top three. In fact, we’re only SIX pre-orders away from tying with that coveted third place position.
We can do this, guys. This is real.
We can make this happen, and I’m confident we will. If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, now is the time! Competition is neck and neck at the moment, and just a little bit of support could tip us over the edge.
Today’s story update gives us a look under the hood of our protagonist. This sophisticated targeting AI is designed to help turn a soldier into a literal killing machine in the field by boosting his lethality and survivability in any combat scenario. This may come with a few trade-offs, however...
Jacob Sicarius’s implant served him well on the battlefield, but his days of war should have ended a long time ago. Now on the embattled decks of The Somnambule he must take up arms once again. But can a soldier ever really retire anyway? Can you take the fire of battle out of a warrior’s blood? When that warrior has a machine in his head that automatically evaluates everyone he sees in terms of threat level, it would seem unlikely...especially when that machine develops a bloodlust of its own...
When a battle of wills between man and machine rages within a shared brain, who will triumph? Moreover...who should?
Find out when you order Proteus today.
Day three in the Nerdist Science Fiction contest, and Proteus is still climbing the ranks, sitting solidly in the top ten. The support you’ve been showing has been amazing, and I cannot thank you enough for it. As promised here comes a story-focused update. Introducing the city-sized marvel of deep space travel, The Somnambule:
The Somnambule is a home to thousands, many of which will live their entire lives on its vast decks. It is an ark. A refuge. A prison. A tomb.
Thousands of lightyears away from the home they left and the home that awaits them, the inhabitants of The Somnambule are well and truly on their own. When conflict erupts in the chambers of this colossal monolith, more than 50,000 lives hang in the balance. One man will take it upon himself to save them from destruction. But the question must be asked...who will save them from him?
Order Proteus, and find out!
p.s.: It’s pronounced "SAHM-nam-BYOOL" I know someone’s gonna ask. ;)
Two days into our campaign for Proteus, and we’ve already worked our way to tenth place in the contest, out of 150 entrants. The support we’ve seen already is phenomenal, and it personally warms my heart to see how much faith so many of you have in me that you’d be willing to rally for me a second time even though the first book is still in production. I promise you, I won’t let you down.
We’ve made it to the top ten in record time, but now we have to climb through them. At the time of writing, 17 pre-orders stand between Proteus and the coveted third place position, and I fully expect those numbers to rise significantly by the end of the contest. We mustn’t lose momentum!
Only 18 days remain in this contest, and after that, we’ve either won or we’re done. There will be no long pre-order campaign this time; it’s total victory or defeat. We’ll be getting Tantalus Depths no matter what, but with this contest won, we’ll have the beginning of a franchise rather than a single novel. If you can spare as little as ten dollars, please lend Proteus your support, and tell all your family and friends about it. I’m passionate about this story, and I am so eager to share it with you.Expect to see some new story content updates in the next coming days. We’re exploring a completely different side of the galaxy that we were introduced to in Tantalus Depths so expect to see some brand new story elements with a familiar feel to them. For now, I leave you with this new promotional video for Proteus. Please feel free to share it with anyone, anywhere!