Category My Fiction

The truths and facts behind “Prometheus Rising”

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
Brave New World — Aldous Huxley

 

Though the story of “Prometheus Rising” falls into the category of fantasy/science-fiction, many things mentioned in the world are based on facts. Dystopia always comments on the society it is written in. My intention was to have this dystopian world as close as possible to reality. I wanted it to feel real. To be mindblowingly possible.

In this article, I will share what I was researching for my book.

Please, don’t interpret those connections to real life as any form of a political comment, but rather tools I use to tell the story in a more compelling way and have fun exploring the wonders of our world. View them as a connection to our world that will make you even more excited about the Prometheus Trilogy.

If you haven’t read the first novel “Prometheus Rising”, I would advise you to read it first to avoid any spoilers and understand the places, events or ideas I mention here from the book.

For all my readers: Have fun, comment, share – I love you!

“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”
The Dispossessed — Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Ecstasis

While listening to one of my favourite podcast “The Creative Penn”, Joanna Penn mentioned a book in her introduction that intrigued me: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work.
This book examines a new wave of high performance, rare and controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition. The two authors have investigated several different institutions like the Red Bull’s Training Centre, the Navy SEALs or the UN Headquarters, discovering how these groups have been quietly seeking the same thing: the boost in information and inspiration that altered states provide.

Though still unknown to the general public, the ecstatic state is something many people are chasing. This is a state that can be induced through different means, among them technology, psychology and pharmacology.

Many things I mention in the novel are derived from the research these authors have provided: the shutdown of the conscious mind, the missing feeling for past, present and future, the tanks the Navy SEALs are put in to eliminate all distraction and entertain specific brain waves that cut their time to learn a new language from six months to six weeks.
And although ecstasis is difficult to explain and make sense of, it’s an experience with potential for addiction.

The experience is already present in small doses everywhere we look: alcohol, parties and festivals, high-performance drugs like coffee or Red Bull, or the little smoke break. And these experiences can easily become addictive. It almost seems like it’s in our DNA – the search to get rid of the conscious self and experience the relief of creative and uncontrolled unconsciousness.

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The building in London as Babylonian temple

The MI6 Building at Vauxhall Cross is the headquarters for the Secret Intelligence Service in the United Kingdom.

The British architect Terry Farrell built this site originally with an urban village in mind, but in 1988, it was purchased for the SIS.

“The numerous layers over which the building is laid out create 60 separate roof areas. 25 different types of glass were used in the building, with 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of glass and aluminium used in the building’s construction.The windows in the SIS building are triple glazed for security purposes. Due to the sensitive nature of MI6’s work, large parts of the building are below street level, with numerous underground corridors serving the building. Amenities for staff include a sports hall, gymnasium, aerobics studio, a squash court and a restaurant. The building also features two moats for protection.”
Source: Wikipedia

“The SIS Building, also commonly known as the MI6 Building, is the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service (otherwise known as “MI6”). It is known within the intelligence community as Legoland and also as “Babylon-on-Thames” due to its resemblance to an ancient Babylonian ziggurat. “
Source: Openbuildings.com

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Brain connections with the internet

In Megatech: Technology in 2050, Robert Carlson argues that in 2050, a direct brain connection with the internet will be possible.
“We would expand our thoughts via direct access to libraries, supercomputers and space telescopes” (p.43)

He derives this bold prophecy from a project that already exists. The DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) wants to build a bridge between digital devices and the human cerebral cortex in a $60 million dollar project.

He also warns that with this technology, we will be importing all the network-security problems into our own brains.
“As security agencies today insist on access to phone calls, e-mails and the contents of your phone or laptop, in 35 years will the government insist on a backdoor to your brain?”
Franklin, Daniel. Megatech: Technology in 2050 (p.44)

Massacre of Glencoe

The “terrible thing” referred to in the first book and described in detail in the prequel is inspired by real events that occurred in 1692.

Glen Coe had been home to a minor part of the MacDonald clan since at least the early 14th century. The chief of the MacDonalds of Glen Coe was Alasdair MacDonald, known as MacIain, an old-school highland chief.

The chiefs were to sign an oath of allegiance to King William by January 1, 1692. The terms were threatening – the clans would sign the agreement or be punished with the “utmost extremity of the law”.

Glencoe felt victim to the worst winter that year.
“MacIain, fearful for the safety of his clan, left for Fort William to sign the oath. From here he was turned back by Colonel John Hill, who explained that the oath had to be taken before a sheriff. This involved a 60-mile trek to Inveraray: the principal town of his enemies, the Campbells. Still, MacIain could have met the deadline had he not been captured by Campbell soldiers serving in Argyll’s regiment. They detained him for a day, whilst he was detained for several more days in Inveraray due to the absence of the Sheriff, Sir Colin Campbell. Even then, MacIain had to plead with the Sheriff to accept the late oath.”
Source: BBC

In Edinburgh, the Master declined the late-delivered oath and ordered instead that the MacDonalds were to be slaughtered – “cut off root and branch”.

On the night of February 13, as the clan slept, government soldiers set about systematically killing everyone they could. 38 were killed, including the chief, MacIain. “Many more escaped into the hills, some finding shelter before the elements could kill them, some, including MacIain’s elderly wife, dying on the mountainside. ”

I fell in love with Glencoe the first time I shot the book trailer there, and loved it since (as you can see in my research video). With this reference to the massacre, I wanted to pay a small tribute to the historical occurrences in this place, especially because the old Scottish and Gaelic traditions play a major role in the book.

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Old Gaelic Traditions: Lughnasa / Iómant

In my research, I picked two Gaelic traditions that intrigued me. The first was the fest Lughnasa, which – as in the book – which celebrates the beginning of the harvest season. It is neatly tied to the Irish Mythology.

“The Lughnasadh festival is said to have begun by the god Lugh (modern spelling: Lú) as a funeral feast and athletic competition in commemoration of his mother or foster-mother Tailtiu. She was said to have died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Tailtiu may have been an earth goddess who represented the dying vegetation that fed mankind.”
Source: Wikipedia

The festival is held in Ireland up until this day.

Next, I included the game of Iómant into my story, which is now knows as Hurling. This game originates from an old Gaelic tradition, played for over 3000 years, and is the fastest field sport in the world.

Blackhouses

A blackhouse is a traditional type of house, common to the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides and Ireland.

“The buildings were generally built with double wall dry-stone walls packed with earth and were roofed with wooden rafters covered with a thatch of turf with cereal straw or reed. The floor was generally flagstones or packed earth and there was a central hearth for the fire. There was no chimney for the smoke to escape through. Instead, the smoke made its way through the roof. This led to the soot blackening of the interior which may also have contributed to the adoption of name blackhouse.The blackhouse was used to accommodate livestock as well as people. People lived at one end and the animals lived at the other with a partition between them.”
Source: Wikipedia

Labour Camps & inhumane experiments

To portray the corruption and remorselessness of the government, I chose a common historical occurrence that used to be spread throughout the world, and in some countries is still common practice.

As I have both German and Russian ancestors, I have been confronted with two regimes, listening to stories my grandparents have lived through that seem unrealistic somehow in their cruelty and injustice.

Black cars used to pull up in from of family houses to take one or several members with them, never to be seen again. They always took them to labour camps in remote locations. This way, millions of Russians have perished in their own country.

Read The Gulag Archipelago for more on this vast canvas of camps, prisons, transit centres and secret police, of informers and spies in the Soviet Union.

It is also widely spread that all kinds of horrible experiments were performed on concentration camp prisoners in Hitler’s Third Reich. Those experiments resulted in death, trauma, disfigurement or permanent disability and are considered medical torture. Even children were victims of those experiments, which especially concentrated on genetic experiments with twins.

But isn’t it all a thing of the past?

Last year, my family was so severely confronted with the governmental injustice that my grandparents nearly experienced a heart episode and described it “as if they were transported back to the Soviet Union.” And this happened here, in modern Germany.

Let’s have a look at Guantanamo Bay – a prison operating up until this day. Inmates are detained indefinitely without a trial, and there are many cases of alleged torture. Why? All because of the term “terrorist”, like in Nazi Germany, it was “non-Aryan” or “Public Enemy” in the Soviet Union.

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Geography and national parks

The Geographical situation of the Outer Areas and the Cities is not a mere coincidence.

Most of the Outer Areas are situated across current National Parks, and the latest Outer Area is in the Scottish Highlands, which is even now a vast and fascinating wilderness.

When travelling the country, I deliberately choose the landscapes and also the culture, trying to match the Prometheus world with what I found there. This is how the geographical world of the Prometheus Dystopian Trilogy was created.


Have you enjoyed the facts behind the book? Historical research is one of my favourite stages of plotting my novels! If you still haven’t, go ahead and download the Prometheus prequel, “Shanakee’s Tale” FOR FREE and let me kidnap you to a thrilling and fascinating ride!

DOWNLOAD IT HERE

Book Research – My Scotland Travel Vlog

After the first and second draft of “Prometheus Rising”, I became aware that I haven’t been to several places that appear in the story. There is a lot of movement and exploration in the novel, and the main characters cover an extensive route from the Isle of Skye all the way down to Pembrokeshire and finally, London.

It was a spur of the moment that made me realize I needed to cover all the stops on this route myself – see the landscapes, the distances, get a feeling for those places. So I set out on an exhausting journey of seven days: from Skye to Loch Lomond, Lake District, Pembrokeshire and London.

This adventure changed the course of my novel, added significant detail and made me fall in love with the British Isle all over again.

Follow the “Prometheus Rising” route with me, walk in the footsteps of Adama and experience all those places mentioned in the novel first hand.

Have fun!

Behind the Scenes of the Book Prometheus Trailer

Let me transport you into the craziest three days I have ever experienced.

As a writer and film director, those exhausting, humorous and rewarding days were both torture and blessing. I learned lessons like:

  • never walk through a highland forest by night (spoiler alert: it’s pitch dark)
  • Glencoe village inhabitants are like family and enjoy the occasional evening bus ride
  • midgies are a plague that cannot be defeated
  • London can look exactly like Scotland in the right angle

I arrived a day earlier to scout the locations, my poor crew & cast finally followed suit late at night, exhausted from the long bus ride from London, unable to appreciate the beauty of the highlands in the darkness.

I had an extraordinary ride myself where I returned the rental car in the nearby Fort William and barely managed to take the last bus to Glencoe, a ride that felt more like a nice family reunion. As I had driven the car through the forest earlier that day, I knew that there was not one street light to illuminate my path me when I had to return by night to our hostel – by foot. The Highlands greeted by with more insecurity than I already had as a young director.

The morning started promising. We marched to the Glencoe mountains where famous film scenes from Braveheart and James Bond have been shot, to follow suit and shoot our first scene (secretly hoping to acquire the same fame). The wind restlessly blew around our ears while at the nearby parking side a man in a traditional kilt was playing the bagpipes. I felt like William Wallace already. Especially exciting turned out to be our “epic drone shot” as everybody came to call it.

From here, we went to a nearby secluded mountain bothy that stood at a stunning backdrop of the Glencoe mountains – a panorama that one had trouble believing was real.

The stunt coordinator had arrived and was preparing the actors for the stunt scenes with the soldiers. These, by the way, were crew members, who had the time of their lives learning how to fight on camera.

The wind had ceased by now.
We shot the wide scenes at the cabin when suddenly, an unforeseen plague of parasites infested us like the Egyptians – midges. How else can I describe midges but tiny little vampires the size of a breadcrumb? They come like a horde and befall everything that has a warmer temperature than the 15 degrees of the Scottish Highlands. There was no escaping them. No spray, to shield, nothing.

We had to wrap up before we could get all the shots, in the hope the plague would subside in the morning. It didn’t.

Without any solution yet, we moved on to the next location – a former military airbase in the southwest of Scotland. As this was a night shoot, we began with the inside shots and moved outside as soon as it grew dark.

The crew was enthusiastic but exhausted by now.
The D.O.P. made an amazing job of lighting both interior and exterior. We could even ignite some fires in barrels. The rest was inserted in postproduction.

Let’s see if you can tell that the close-up shots at the cabin were actually shot in a park in London? You’ll be amazed at what film magic can do.

Those three days have been exhausting. But during this time, we produced amazing imagery, met incredible people and learned a lot about film production and adventure.

Now here’s the result:

The “Prometheus” Idea

“If Prometheus was worthy of the wrath of heaven for kindling the first fire upon earth, how ought all the gods honour the men who make it their professional business to put it out?” – John Godfrey Saxe

Dystopia – done carefully – can kidnap us into a story world which incredible depth. At least this is what happened to me countless times. “The Hunger Games”, “The Handmade’s Tale”, “Brave New World” or “The Giver”.

I wanted to break the current trend of the young adult dystopian book, returning to the roots while transferring them into the modern world.

Dystopian novels have the power to reveal new worlds, interesting characters, deal with science, politics and be critical while not imposing. If the world is created with enough plausibility and a strong concept, deep and multi-layered characters, it has the potential for a highly thematical page-turner.

So let me invite you into the journey of the Prometheus Prophesy, the fire brought unto mankind and the idea that lies behind it.

There are three ingredients that compose the Idea of the Prometheus Trilogy. Let’s start with the most obvious one.

 

The Prometheus Myth & its meaning

Prometheus is a titan in the Greek Mythology who created mankind from clay. He defied the gods by stealing fire from heaven and bringing it down to humanity, enabling progress and civilization.
For this transgression, Zeus sentenced him to an eternal punishment. He was bound to a rock, where each day an eagle was sent to feast on his liver. As Prometheus was immortal, each day, the liver would grow back to be eaten again and again.

This myth had found its way throughout the centuries to art, poems and stories, music and even science, signifying the theme of invention, discovery and scientific-progress (for example the name of the sixty-first element, promethium). In political terms, he symbolizes revolution and freedom from suppression. Several connections to the Bible have also been considered because Prometheus is seen as the “creator” of humankind.

 

A dystopian novel with a strong male protagonist

Dystopian novels are often characterized by young adult protagonists, mostly female. I wanted to break this cliché and work with a strong male protagonist in his late twenties/early thirties. I intended the series of novels to become a story about themes of science, morale and politics rather than focusing on coming-of-age.

I chose Adama (the first man), a red-haired doctor who had a military background and was in the middle of questioning his life and his values. From own experiences and the people around me, I wanted also to focus on the quarter-life-crisis which is not very often discussed in novels but is a huge deal for most people around thirty.

 

The Fascinating Highlands of Scotland

Braveheart, Merida. Those movies tear at something deep down inside of me. They evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Since I visited the Highlands for our book trailer shoot, I knew that I wanted to explore this region, it’s culture and the fascinating nature. This is why the Highlands have become a place that is very central in the Prometheus Trilogy.

I myself grew up in the mountains of Middle Asia, so I am a mountain child.
Still, the Highlands are very special. Their beauty evokes something mystical, a secret and an invitation to explore – if you dare.

Historical and Science-Fiction elements

To predict and understand the future, we have to throw a serious look into the past. I am fascinated by history, and I wanted to bring in historical elements into a futuristic world of Prometheus.

In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, said this about the fall of the Athenian Republic: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. […] with the result that every democracy will finally collapse […] always followed by a […] The average of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been 200 years.”

Consider this: Hitler and Stalin are only 70 years away. North Korea has a dictatorship next door.
This society seems so progressed that dictatorship or any other form of political suppression seems madness. But history proves that this is only realistic.

I incorporated elements from those dictatorships, like labour camps and media propaganda, trying to see how this would work in a society of a modern world – a hidden dictatorship with freedom on the surface. A merge of futuristic and historical elements is what I was striving for in the Prometheus Trilogy, deriving from patterns of the past and the predictions of scientists for the future.

 

From those elements, the Prometheus Saga was born.
Let me know if you have any thoughts. Have you read the first book already? Don’t miss the opportunity to get the free prequel novella that deals with themes of future science and explains the origins of the world as well as Adama’s past.