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There’s nothing I love more than perusing IndieGoGo, Kickstarter and other various fundraising sites to see some cool ideas that pop up. This will be an ongoing series spotlighting specific films, comics, books, board games and whatever else might strike my fancy.
Today it’s Natalie Raffaele’s comic series Ananke, a graphic novel series that sounds so smart and amazing, I need to have it funded so I can see the series come to fruition. Drawn by artist Aaron Parks, Ananke deals with man and machine, where man has perfected artificial intelligence, these machines called ConneXions can learn and create, can emote and think all on their own. Latimer Industries has done the impossible, but of course they want more out of their creations. The idea of man just existing is not enough, they must have an actual purpose. So they send out five of these ConneXions to the dwarf planet Ananke, to see if humans can inhabit it. Of course as the mission is underway, something happens that will change A.I. and humans forever.
I contacted Natalie to get a few words about the series and see where it might take us and the concept of artificial intelligence and the idea of man and machine co-existing, even if machines have become sentient. Also, please click the link below because there’s another 4 days to go and it’s so close to getting passed the finish line.
How did the idea come about for ANANKE?
ANANKE was really an amalgamation of all my childhood loves: science, ancient history, space, robots, manga and anime. They came to the surface in my twenties and I found myself getting lost in all those subjects I was fascinated with years ago. I wrote my first scene for ANANKE in 2011, and it wasn’t even for the Prologue! It was for what will now be in Volume I of the ANANKE Series. During these past five years, I became particularly fascinated with our ancient cultures, Eastern philosophies, and this really intriguing phenomenon on the rise, merging science and spirituality. We’re at a time right now, where science is beginning to justify concepts in spirituality that were once leaps of faith, if you will. Every day, we’re being inundated with more and more scientific data that supports these claims. To give you a quick example, I define spirituality as a connected-ness with something, if not everything. If we were to take the scientific route, there’s the concept of quantum entanglement, which explains that entangled particles remain connected despite the distance. So if one action is performed on one particle, it affects the other in the same manner. This is absolutely incredible, and yet it’s part of the science canon. When you go quantum, things start to get really weird and interesting. Imagine if the spirituality of the ancient past, recycled by the religions of today, actually do have some validity and can be explained by science? I believe something like that really changes you as a person, and I wanted to create a story that focuses on this idea as an undertone.
The science part of science fiction tends to interest me more. I like a bit of intelligence in my sci-fi, so how much research has gone into the writing of this series?
I’m on the same page with you when it comes to the importance of science in the science fiction. I’ve actually been researching for this graphic novel series since 2011, so that’s quite a bit of time. Topics that I researched exclusively are electromagnetism, cymatics, and piezoelectric crystals. You’ll see that crystals, for example, take center stage visually and I did this for a reason. While we may love crystals and stones for their natural beauty, they play a pivotal role in old and new technologies. Crystals have been used in radio technologies, computers, LCD screens, solar panels, and that’s just a few of their applications. These technologies alone have changed and will continue to change our lives in the future. Now, imagine if we took it one step further and implemented crystals in A.I. technology? That’s the type of ‘forward thinking influenced by current sciences’ method I’m trying to illustrate in my work!
How did Aaron Parks get involved? Seeing his stuff so far, I think he’s a perfect fit for your concept.
I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to Aaron’s visual style. When I first began writing ANANKE, it was well, just me! But when I finished my first draft of ANANKE: The Prologue, that’s when I started building my team. I worked with story editors Matt Pavone and Vito Ramos to fine tune the work, and sought specific concept artists for the visual elements. Nick Machado, an architect by day, worked with me to design the spacecraft and interiors of ANANKE, and Noelle Raffaele, worked on the initial characters designs and early plot visuals.
Aaron Parks was the final piece to the puzzle! I discovered his work on a School of Visual Arts job post and I was immediately drawn by his sketches of human forms, and knew he was the one I had to work with. Aaron works closely with me to interpret my screenplay and visual ideas to paper, cell by cell. It’s a very meticulous process, that can take weeks to get just right, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
When it comes to designs, I do have a very specific vision for everything involved, but Aaron has this uncanny ability to interpret my script with the exact tone and feel I’m looking for, which is everything to me in story telling. His masterfulness of form, value, and color (three key elements in mood building) have made creating ANANKE a real joy, and I’m really honored to be working with him!
Artificial intelligence has been in the news lately, and in pop culture, with Westworld being the newest series to showcase the idea on a grandiose scale. Have you been watching the series? What do you think of their portrayal of A.I. and how close to reality does it and your series fall?
I actually did watch the first episode of Westworld, but I haven’t had the time to watch the other episodes because of this Kickstarter! I can’t really embellish on it further than that, but from the first episode, I would say that we’re approaching A.I. in different ways.
You’ve been working on the blueprint/skeleton of the prologue for over a year now. Do you have the rest of the series mapped out yet? Volumes I, II and III are to follow the prologue, so will they occur if the funding hits the mark? Or will you fund each volume via Kickstarter, which I know plenty of people do in order for the series to continue.
When I started researching and writing ANANKE in 2011, I actually wrote my first scene for Volume I, not the Prologue, so I worked backwards on this story in a way. I do have the first screenplay for Volume I written, with skeletons for Volume II & III written as well. Regarding the overall storyline, I’m very David Lynchian when it comes to revealing my secrets. I don’t like to reveal too much, and I want my readers to make the discoveries I’ve planted on their own! It’s a much more fulfilling read that way. If I could give just a little but away, I’ll say this; our ConneXions are sent by Latimer Industries to the planet, ANANKE, to see if habitability is possible for humans. But our ConneXions discover something on this planet that changes the course of their programmed lives, along with the inhabitants of the Earth. It continues to haunt our characters in Volumes I,II, & III, and they’re forced to come to grips with what this discovery is and how it motivates all of our characters throughout the entire series.
On the subject of funding, I always intended to take the Kickstarter route. I wanted the freedom to create a work in my own vision, with the help of my handpicked team who understands what I’m trying to accomplish. For the ensuing books, depending on how well this Kickstarter goes, I would love to self-publish them. This is not to say that I won’t consider indie publishers in the future, but ANANKE is so personal to me, and I wanted to have the chance to self-publish this first book in its purest form.
In the art and the concept, I see some influences, such as Alien, Blade Runner, Fifth Element and even Asimov’s idea of robotic life becoming sentient. Anybody else that kickstarted this idea for you?
Blade Runner is my favorite film by far and has inspired me greatly. But other film works include Alien (as you noticed), the works of David Lynch (like Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, & Twin Peaks), and more recently; Under The Skin. I also really liked The Neon Demon by Nicholas Refn. For comics, I have to say I lean more towards the Japanese interpretation with manga. My favorite manga is Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita from the 90s! The connecting theme with all of these mediums is a very dystopian present/future shrouded in mysteries for the audience to slowly unravel. This approach is what I take with me as I develop the ANANKE Graphic Novel Series.
Any other ideas on the horizon? Any other genres that interest you?
Besides graphic novel making, film is a big creative outlet for me and I’d like to invest time in developing some ideas for a horror film short that I shelved when ANANKE took center stage. Some people have asked me why I haven’t created ANANKE straight to film. For me, the ANANKE graphic novel series is my storyboards on steroids. I view comics and graphic novels as an essential medium for sequential art. I have a very specific vision for ANANKE and I felt it was appropriate and natural to make it into a graphic novel first. Do I imagine ANANKE becoming a film series one day? Absolutely.
Also, any other comics that you’ve been reading that you think deserve a shout out to our readers?
Since developing ANANKE, I’ve been kind of in the dark when it comes to new comics, but I will say that the visual style of Tomer Hanuka and his use of color as a means to convey the emotional spectrum of a scene are unbelievable. Another Japanese Horror Manga that has impressed me a lot from a visual standpoint is, I Am a Hero, by Kengo Hanazawa. The unique composition, attention to detail and warping of camera angles in his work are so refreshing. Plus, it’s a zombie comic, who doesn’t love that!
You can check out the Kickstarter HERE.