Writing Competition Submission - Liminal

“Liminal”

Elphin

04/02/2022

Logline

A sugar-and-ice Alchemist and his companions are searching, in a dystopian star system full of inequalities and failed experiments, for the Golden Paradox to cure the separation of his body and soul and grant eternal life.

Story Summary

The denizens of the star system are concerned with the pursuit of of immortality. Scientific discovery has enabled transcendence of the natural life span. This evolution is marked by interstellar travel, xenomorphia, invention, and contrasting social structures. The story explores 5 states of being:

Exotypical - The body and soul die (e.g. old age, vaporisation, disease)

Exodeviance - The body and soul live but degrade (e.g. Vampires)

Exochronosis - The body lives and degrades but the soul dies (e.g. Cyborg, human golem)

Exonexrosis - The body dies but the soul lives and degrades (e.g. Digital Cloud, Lich)

Exogenesis - The body and soul are separated to live but attempts to combine cause dissonance, degradation or in extreme cases disintegration

The supreme state, as yet unachieved is that of the The Golden Paradox - the body and the soul live - a state of deity and not of those whose origin is in matter.

While most are Exotypical there are many who have chased the Golden Paradox down other paths. Some have formed factions within star system. A few have been shunned or shun society due to their degradation and appetites.

The Planetary Alliance is the largest faction. It has adopted the appearance of a lawful, benevolent, technocracy. Beneath their slick exterior is a disease riddled society which often utilises abhorrent practices to entertain the wealthiest in their longevity at the expense of the poor. The Planetary Alliance have created a society of relative peace and provision on a foundation of scientific advancement.

Citizens are separated by the extent to which they can afford to extend their lives and capitalise. The majority are Exotypical, able only to have a taste of extended life through medical tech and augmentation. Various other states of being exist in the higher echelons of the Planetary Alliance though Degradation is tolerated only for so long. With each failed attempt to ascertain the Golden Paradox there is a cost. Degradation is the term used to describe the insanity or dehumanisation of individuals who have exchanged longevity for their well-being.

Throughout the star system there are those who have gone beyond the veil of acceptability. The consequences of such experiments are cited below.

The Exodeviance are those that have tried to keep both the body and soul alive and usually require some sort of external vitality to exist. These vampires prowl space in fortresses hoping to reap the life essence of those they encounter. They have built a class of adventurous pirate types with a range of status from the aristocratic to the barbaric. Generally as they age they become more cruel and fragile physically and psychologically. They are usually escorted and served by wealthy Exotypicals who hope to learn secrets of longevity.

The Exochronosis are successful at immortalising their bodies. Their souls have died. Intellect and even emotion can remain intact but self identity and personhood gradually dies. There is a range of types the most common of which are Cyborgs (who are people taking any form they choose) and Golems (who may have been tragically killed Exotypicals or prisoners on death row granted physical life to serve). Exochronosis are different from robots as they once were inhabited by a soul and a person exists within every cell of the being.

The Exonecrosis are those that have shed their physical form. This is usually done to preserve some great scientist or thinker, often by themselves to themselves. With physical loss the soul becomes more fragile to trauma having no physical outlet for experience or feedback. There are two most common avenues of Exonecrosis: Those who have uploaded themselves to a network of consciousness – usually they lose interest in other flesh bags they have transcended. The other category are still very much involved in the affairs of the star system, these are the Lichs. They have transferred their consciousness into a phylactery – a transportable device or devices containing the personality of the body-born person. While those of the network are able to limit trauma, the Lich, is twisted by events of disembodied life. Eventually they succumb to madness.

Additionally there are also esoteric paths to The Golden Paradox. Religions try to find it by getting as close to their Golden Paradox deities while remaining Exotypical, accepting the beauty of a limited life. Theosophical groups tend to be more about money and perceived power than the pursuit of the Golden Paradox. Two other groups are worth mentioning: the martial way of Daokung and the way of transformation the Alchemists.

The Daokung experience a degree of success extending life with discipline and martial prowess. They are often found working as mercenaries or explorers. They are loners and remain neutral unless there is a way forward for their own deepening.

Alchemy was largely replaced by natural sciences but its pseudo-philosophical practices have yielded some success e.g. technological assisted augmentation arrays and mental realignment exercises to split thought. Most significant to those of the star system is the way Alchemy provides a way into neither the body or the soul but the pursuit of the space between. By most, Alchemists are distrusted and considered dangerous as their experiments can lead to destruction.

“Liminal” focuses on an Alchemist, Ferrule. From a young age he has experienced a little understood disease called Divergence. This is when the soul and the body are separating of their own volition. Natural death is certain, attempts to lengthen life only results in a faster Divergence. Most suffering from Divergence live short brutal lives.

Ferrule is on a journey to find a way to break his Divergent curse. He has abandoned most traditional pathways to the Golden Paradox and embraced Alchemy as it has, in his mind, the greatest chance of success.

He is accompanied by a young foundling girl, Zoe, who is mute. She assists him and acts as a little sister observer on his adventures. At the beginning of the story he does not know that she is a manifestation of his Divergence.

Along with Zoe, Ferrule is accompanied on his ship The Hermes, by a Golem called Schist and a cyborg bird called Corvus. Together they adventure through the star system as Ferrule interacts with his environment and meets people who might help or hinder his path to salvation.

Each episode is taken from the perspective of a different observer. Originally the story arc was to take place over a 10 episode series in order that the 10 phases of the Golden Chain of Homer (an Alchemical theosophy for transmutation of the philosophers stone. Really for the conversion of the human from merely physical to spiritual) could be a guide for development of the characters. As a 6 episode arc, the process will be shortened but still adhere as close as possible to the Golden Chain.

Over these 6 planned episodes, Ferrule uncovers the impossibilities of pursuing eternal life. Ultimately, he finds out for himself that the Golden Paradox is not life but acceptance of death. In an almost religious conclusion he embraces both death of body and soul. Ferrule’s arc concludes with him accepting the limitations on reality which allows him to glimpse the best expression of life – living. He regrets wasting his time in the pursuit of eternal life. The story does not end here but sees the divergent manifestation Zoe being revealed as a being of between-soul-and-body who upon Ferrules death is made fully and physically manifest.

Main Characters Description

Ferrule is a fiercely intelligent enquirer who is driven to preserve his life. He has advanced through many types of education at an incredible speed. He is a ramshackle expression of an early 20 year old. He playfully engages with his environment in almost childlike wonder while hiding a melancholic and soulful disposition. His naivety is a defence mechanism against those who would disrupt his goals.

Zoe is a mute 10 year old girl who is quickly identified as a foundling with mysterious origins. She is the embodiment of Ferrule’s Divergence and is badly affected by his worsening condition. Normally, only Ferrule can perceive her; he does not notice that no one else can see her. She is pale, knock-kneed and awkward, her hair style changes regularly over the course of an episode.

Corvus is an Exochronosis bird familiar. As a teenager Corvus’s original chose to become a bird because of young love. Over time he has lost his personality and act now as Ferrules computational device and voice of wisdom. Corvus is a black, mechanical, clunky, deep voiced bird. His age is unknown.

Schist is a Golem rescued by Ferrule from a rock of a planet where he had worked tirelessly for generations for a family who had long ago died of starvation while trapped. Schist is a towering creature caked in shimmering dust particles – years of decayed blood and tough rocks have formed an outer shell around his frame. Not much of the human remains. Inside his head is a Tetragrammaton vortex containing the words of power used to overwrite the brain, which has overtime been absorbed by the body. Schists vocabulary is limited.

Hermes is Ferrules ship. It is a modified escort ship with an ex military grade augmented intelligence. Rather than Artificial Intelligence the ships augmented intelligence comprises of a cloud of former veterans. While it operates mostly as expected and requested, occasionally, despite a limited arsenal, it responds to encounters as if it was still in combat rather than on civilian missions.

Setting Descriptions

Ferrule ventures through many settings from the bright, lit, civilised and wealthy to the dark, derelict and dangerous of cities amongst sand dunes; through the isolation of space and encounters far from hope; into the peculiarity of alien landscapes or the familiarity of Earth like situations. Most environments are used to indicate changes in mood of the characters as they interact with each other and the situations: e.g. Sunny for flippancy and gloom for introspection.

Episode Summaries

Episode 1 – Chaos

(“Attachment to the material is detachment from the spiritual - Wong”)

The observer is Ferrule’s bird, Corvus. Two college teens are in love. They are technological early adopters. Their idealistic deep infatuation inspires them to join an experimental program. They are to upload themselves into mechanical birds. However, only one of the couple goes through with transformation. Afterwards, the relationship totally breaks down. The transformed teen cannot return having signed away his body to the Planetary Alliance. This first trauma starts the process degrading his consciousness. Time passes. Ferrule and Zoe are searching through a scrap market on an ice planet. They find damaged Corvus. Ferrule purchases Corvus and fixes him. Corvus becomes a companion. We see Corvus computational skill and a hint of the original teenager. The episode closes on Ferrule wondering about the birds background.

Episode 2 – Universal Fire

(“ Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow.” Morihei Ueshiba)

The observer is the ship, Hermes. Ferrule is talking to himself and conducting normal everyday tasks (humorously) aboard his spaceship “Hermes”. Via tasks the audience is introduced Hermes AI and Schist, Ferrule’s Golem servant. Ferrule is travelling aimlessly hoping to encounter an opportunity. While waiting he performs alchemy: potions, arranging an array, sorting equipment, and reading. An alert sounds. Its a Vampiric death ship. The Hermes is boarded and a fight starts. The vampire fights with Ferrule. The vampire tries to steal Ferrule’s essence. It doesn’t work because of Ferrule’s Divergence (in background Zoe flickers). The vampire suffers a backlash which causes the vampire to dissolve. Henchmen run away. Ferrule loots death ship. They find a hold filled with “product” - people bound for the Planetary Alliance. Ferrule gives them the ship. Ferrule is disgusted by the seeming alliance between the Vampires and the Planetary Alliance.

Episode 3 – Salt

(“But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” Matthew 5:13)

The observer is the Golem, Schist. Ferrule is hired to protect a Molten Salt Factory on a 90% water planet. Opens on old lady on porch of house atop a huge Molton Salt Factory in the ocean watching the Hermes arrive. Molten Salt is a major component in bio-circuitry. Ferrule and crew are escorted to speak with the old lady who appears a very sweet industrialist. They are invited to be body guards against a hoard of marauding pirates. The ‘pirates’ are in fact activists trying to stop the desalination of the planet – it is killing the plant. Unbeknownst to Ferrule, he sets to arranging traps: e.g. augmented arrays to slow time and explosive charges. In the process we are introduced to Schists background and the planet where Ferrule found him. He was alone mining for a family long dead from an accident. The ‘pirates’ attack. Ferrule is confused by their behaviour. His traps work, however, turrets appear from the walls of the Factory to destroy ‘pirates’. Ferrule is alarmed by the destruction. He rushes down to free them. Its too late. He realises they were not pirates. Ferrule, can do nothing but take his pay – Schist sees the questioning. The episode ends with the ship taking off and the factory exploding.

Episode 4 – Ascension

(“The gom jabbar, the high-handed enemy… It kills only animals” Dune Frank Herbert)

The observer is Ferrule. Ferrule, Zoe, and Corvus in a dune buggy leaving the scene of an explosion following a botched array. They are running from an oasis like city on a desert planet and into the slums and tightly crowded surrounding the city. The escape is chaotic and joyful. They hide in a building. It is a nursing home. Residents are experiencing temporal destabilisation (describing issues ranging from dementia to misadventure). A young boy with strange multi lensed glasses calls out to Zoe. She is startled to have been noticed. He leads them to a laboratory. While busy building something he tells them he doesn’t have long. He is a very old and skilled scientist whose consciousness is dying and whose body is regressing. He talks to Ferrule about his radial sprite (Zoe) and tells him he can fix the Divergence. The machine is ready. He shoots Ferrule with a pulse of energy. Zoe flickers violently behind Ferrule. Ferrule wrests the machine. He questions the boy about what he is doing. The boy assures Ferrule and invites him to stand still. He starts the machine again. As Ferrule’s body and soul begin to re-join Zoe flickers and begins to disappear. Scenes of life together appear. Ferrule stops the procedure. Ferrule pleads for another way. The boy tells him about another way at the warehouse of a thousand suns – a book. Ferrule resolves to go. As he does the boy reverts back to being 6 years old. Ferrule plays a bit before the boy goes for a nap. A nurse lets him know that it wont be much longer now.

Episode 5 – Life

(“For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.” Simon Wiesenthal )

Zoe is the observer. It is in her memory. They are travelling in the Hermes to the warehouse of a thousand suns. Zoe looking out on stars remembers a time when she travelled with Ferrule. Zoe speaks – not much but a little. We hear her devotion to Ferrule. She refers to him as her “beloved-self”. Her voice is a womanly and her behaviour is like that of a mother. In the past they went to a lush green planet. Invited by a Daokung practitioner he trained with to see an ancient tree. During the walk he plays with Zoe. At the hilltop they see a huge tree. Its long life has given it sentience. Ferrule and the tree talk about its very long life. Zoe does not feel well. She notices a dark line on the side of the tree. The tree matter-of-factly says it is dying. Ferrule offers to help but is refused. A little later Ferrule meets some so the creature who live in the tree. They tell him that the tree will go mad if left. Ferrule can: leave it, heal it, or kill it – no good solution. The tree speaks directly with Zoe about her own consciousness. But freedom comes with a cost. The tree choses death. Ferrule can’t understand. Zoe helps Ferrule see that the tree prefers the dignity of a clean death. Ferrule creates a toxin that will kill the tree and hopes that it will send death back to the source of the tree killing vein.

Episode 6 – Quintessence

(“All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin” Mewithoutyou)

The observer is the audience. The warehouse of a Thousand Suns is a moon that has been hollowed out to contain a vast repository for the entire universe. It contains artefacts, fauna and flora, and archives. Ferrule is met by the Quartermaster utilising AI drones that serve the warehouse. The Quartermaster introduces herself and gives a tour. Ferrule is shown around the myriad wonders. He explains what he is looking for. The Quartermaster is unhappy because everyone who has viewed it has died shortly after. The book looks like a yin-yang symbol (not exist in this universe) but it is square and the colours are purple and yellow. The book has no writing but there is a pheromone that permits one who is experiencing the Divergence to see a story. This story weaves an alternative past for the reader. One where they take in the world instead of flying through it. Ferrule describes what he sees. All of life passing him by in his pursuit of eternal life. How it corrupts totally. How even if he could fix himself it would not solve anything for him. His life would become pointless. Ferrule undergoes an epiphany. Ferrule gives up his pursuit of life eternal. He pats Zoe on the head. Sitting down to look out on the stars his soul and body abruptly separate completely. As Ferrule dies and takes his final breath Zoe becomes real. Her body is covered with golden circles. The closing scene is as she reaches down and logs her print with Corvus and speaks her name.

Tone

Each episode uses a different observer for its perspective. The tone is a mixture of light humour and deep seriousness. I imagine this show to be aimed at adults and teenagers. Quite stylistic and vibrant with lots of details in the shots. The speed of events is quite variable with languid moments focussing on interactions and frenetic chases and equipment gathering. By using the different groups of people mentioned at the beginning a full world can be expressed in the background of Ferrule’s adventures.

Theme

Many of the envisioned themes are relevant to today: dementia, the singularity, transhumanism, medical advancement, resource management, societal shifts due to technological advancement. It covertly asks ethical questions of the viewer. Ultimately it invites the viewer to consider acceptance of the existential and to see that as valuable in and of itself.

Contact Information

Discord:Elphin#2524

E-mail:jgpickles@hotmail.com

2 Likes

the vibe of this is unmatched! there are so many creative opportunities to build off of it. exploring the dynamic between civilization & transhumanism is deeply thought-provoking.

1 Like

Thank you so much for your comment - really encouraging! I’ve not done anything like this before so I am happy you like it.

I’d love this to become an animation because there is so much room to explore ideas visually that would normally take a lot of explaining. I think many of the theme’s (as you point out) are ones that people are considering now and will preoccupy thought for a long time to come. Better to try and find new language which is what sci-fi is about instead of rehashing ones that have had huge exposure.

Its imho a unique IP :smiley:

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I would recommend this as the log line: Ferrule is accompanied on his ship The Hermes by a girl, a Golem called Schist and a cyborg bird called Corvus. Together they adventure through the star system as Ferrule interacts with his environment and meets people who might help or hinder his path to salvation.

I think you are right. What I have at the moment is not catchy enough. I appreciate what you have written and if I could change my logline I probably would. I think I’d change the title too - not sure what at the moment but its a little too abstract.