From Small(ish) to Big(understatement), a look at megastructures in science fiction

I’d like to discuss the idea of Megastructures within science fiction. I’d like to research their origins within the genre, their influence on today’s society, and the concepts and ideas of futurists that challenge what is conceivably possible. I’d start with the ideas of mega cities, seemingly contemporary in construction, but covering exponentially larger areas. Next would com the idea of Arcology or “architectural ecology”, which are essentially self-sustaining (ideally zero-waste) megastructures that house large populations. Then comes a shift into outer space, talking about space elevators and habitats. Lastly I’d like to cover artificial planets, Ringworlds, and Dyson Swarm. Mixed in with the research, I intend to give my own analysis on these ideas, and possible reasons as to why such ideas have come about in the first place.

Oh well, why not include some content on multiple universe theories, fractals, alternate dimensions, and chaos theory. I’m joking of course, but it would be interesting to draw parallels between all these concepts.

I wouldn’t be covering large numbers of works for this project, just key texts that illustrate each milestone. For example, I might use metropolis to talk about mega cities and use resources on real cities to make connections between science fiction and reality. How the former influences the latter. If possible I’d like to draw from different mediums of science fiction besides printed text such as, games and movies I’ve played or seen.

I seems to me that reality or our knowledge and perception of it, can’t keep up with our imaginations.“Now that we know that this is possible, what comes after?” “What else is possible, based on what we know?” We keep asking those kinds of questions until we reach a point where concepts of what is possible become too intangible for us to socially and/or scientifically conceive. Then we just have to wait for reality to catch up. This line of thinking is what I’d like to demonstrate by megastructures evolving from mega cities to interstellar(or galactic) constructs in science fiction.

In terms of the deliverable, I’m not sure exactly how it might look. I’m leaning towards a paper, but I’d like to include images and diagrams to better convey the concepts. I would still need to think on this aspect. What I can do right now, is collect the resources I would like to use in this project.

Steam powered world.

After bouncing though with many ideas i decided to go with creating a world where the advancement of technology continued with steam. How would it differ from current technology? How would society change? Would the most basic things we take for granted change minimally or drastically.

Sources would be scarce since Steampunk is a genre of science fiction that is rarely explored. This is mostly due to not really having fancy FUTURE tech. That being said the sources are out there. One film is wild wild west with Will Smith. One question that could be explored is the reason why steampunk is not that popular.

It will mostly come into fruition as a basic research paper. But the presentation is still up for debate. It will somehow include video to show examples. I was thinking of doing something like Cosmos by Neil Degrasse Tyson guiding you though these worlds.

My Proposal

I decided to move away from my original idea and decided to pursue a section of science fiction that I also love, space. Outer space has always had a connection with science fiction, mostly because of the possibilities for fantastic stories such a setting provides as well as the technology associated with it. I plan to do research into why science fiction has ventured into space and claimed it as its own. Whenever a story is set in space it is automatically a science fiction story and I want to know why. This may still be too broad a topic, but I know I want to do something related to do this. Perhaps I will focus on methods of space travel and how these methods affect the worlds they are in. Perhaps I can do it on how technology levels differ from civilizations. I think I can work with these.

While such a topic may consist of a paper I would like to do something more than that, but I am not sure what exactly. Writing a story may be something I want to do, but I don’t want to commit to that idea just yet.

Inverted pentagrams and stuff. (Proposal)

For project 2 I plan to write about the use of religion in science fiction. Religion is a common theme among multiple sic-fi texts yet it’s not really talked about, so I want to explore it’s purpose and how it is used across different texts, as well as the use of religious symbolism and imagery. An example would be talking about the use of religion in Metropolis, The Machine Stops, and Blade Runner. Metropolis has a positive view on religion, The Machine stops has a negative view on it, and Blade Runner explores the concepts and flaws of religion. I will not use these texts, but rather they are just examples of how religion is used to achieve different goal in different texts. I will, however, use Metropolis as it is the only film I have seen that is simply religious propaganda; it’s message is very positive towards religion, which is rare in sci-fi.

The format I choose to use for my project will be a basic research paper. My research will involve basic google searches of texts that have a heavy use of religious themes, and maybe creator commentary on those themes if available. I have already been pointed in some good directions by the 4 pages that mention religion in the intro to sci-fi book.



Professor Belli,

Since this will be a research paper will the info I use have to strictly be confirmed as religious by the content creators? Or can I also have a bit of my own analysis? Ex: Say if I cant find information proving that Metropolis is intended to be positive towards religion, can I still use it given my analysis of the obvious symbolism shown in the movie?

There’s no Electronic Music without Sci-Fi

For my 2nd project idea, I wanted to take a focus into one of my big passions which is music. I wanted to try and create an analysis of the importance that music has played in science fiction, and also, the equally important role science fiction has had on the development and construction of electronic music. If you take a hard look, it’s a lot more prevalent than you think. Many of the early modular synthesizers and sound generators were in fact developed not only for experimental research, but also to create music soundscapes for a genre of entertainment that was really starting to take off…sci-fi.

Many of the sounds we’ve been accustomed to associate with aliens, spaceships, and robots all come from sound modulators. Think of that classic sound from “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” all came from the development of an electronic instrument called the theremin, where you basically move your hands along an electro-magnetic field to create sounds. Also important to note is the importance of classical music as well.

Now vice versa, science-fiction has done a lot to push the boundaries of electronic music and the musicians that make it. Just off the top of my head, huge albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, David Bowie’s Space Oddity, Rush’s 2112. All of these 70’s albums have themes and concepts that deal with outer space, robots, aliens, time, etc. What these albums also have in common is a big amount of electronically synthesized instruments and sounds. The two just go together and are so important to one another when you step out of just the literary genre.

I’ll probably flesh this out a little more, but these are just some of the ideas I want to explore.

Here’s some videos of some examples.

Theremin instrument

Dark Side of the Moon Full Album

Project 2 Proposal

For project #2 I was thinking about doing my own sci-fi story. In my story i was thinking about teaching a lesson like the bradbury story. For my research i was going to look up an issue that’s currently affecting us that way readers can relate. I have sort of an idea of what issue i want to tackle. I was inspired by 2 things that were covered this sememster.

One thing was the moma exhinbit, The moma exhibit gave me an idea on whats going on with society population wise. The Bradbury story showed me the advancement of technology. With my story i will try to incorporate the style of the authors with my own twist on it.


The Bene Gesserit

As a teen, one of my favorite sagas to read was the Dune books. Author Frank Herbert has created a fantastic universe where he introduced many interesting concepts that dealt with religion, politics, and the human Genome. For my project #2, I would like to explore the ideas and themes behind a specific group, the Bene Gesserit (BG). Considered witches by some, these women are trained from an early age in the ways of the BG. These women have powers such as the Other Memory, The Voice, and their breeding program which has been secretly conducted for thousands of years. The goal of my paper would be to explore the theme of control that the BG uses, such as how they manipulate those in power, as well as the masses. From the works we’ve looked at this semester, i have found that there are many similar themes that can be related to this sect of individuals. I was thinking about perhaps comparing some of the ideas to other texts we’ve read, but only in small areas, as i would prefer to focus on this universe.

This universe had a feudal system of government, and had a strong Religious tone to it. The BG have actually made it known that other religions have been absorbed into their methods and teachings. A full BG is called a Reverend Mother, who uses a drug concoction using spice which allows them to unlock their other memory, which is all of the past Reverend Mothers.They follow the Missionaria Protectiva which states that when entering different societies/worlds, they use the established religion of that society to protect themselves. Their ultimate goal is to manipulate different people in the effort to create the Kwisatz Haderach, which would be a male version of them.

For reference, i will mainly be using excerpts form the MANY dune books as well as:

Grazier, Kevin R. The Science of Dune: Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe. Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2008. Print.


Emotion Score (Proposal)

Being in Entertainment Technology, and having a lot of interest in sound design, I want to create sections of audio or score that essentially targets key emotions or moods that we usually see in science fiction (romance is probably not going to be included).

I’m going to describe what goes through a composer/producer’s mind when it comes to choosing the right sounds or instruments and the process we go through when we try to place it all in sequence; thus trying to connect and align it with the actual story being told. Adding to that is probably going to be research from some composers/producers and how, when they/we see moving pictures or are given an idea or story from another person, how we are able to materialize notes based on visual stimuli.

Proposal, Project #2: What does it sound like to not be human?

I propose for my project to create a collage/composition of sounds, whether using pre-made sounds or creating my own, to represent what the “organs” of an android or cybernetic human would sound like to us. It will be no more than 1 minute long, in the interest that I will be presenting this in class and would not want to take up too much time. I will be using my expertise from what I have learned in my major, Entertainment Technology, to create this collage/composition. This is to explore a topic from our class on what it means to be human, the conflict of authenticity. In general, this will be a sound design of the innards of an android.

Sound design begins with research and analysis. I will be taking a specific excerpt from Philip K. Dick’s: “Do Androids Dream Of Electric sheep”, and I will pick something that expresses what the innards of an android sounds like and analyze it in order to get an idea of a sound that I will be creating. I will also be researching articles on the school’s catalog and other sources for prosthesis, human augmentation, and A.I. to understands how the mechanics work, to get an idea of what it would sound like. Also a very important part of sound design is visual analysis, which is to search pictures that relate to the topic in order to help imagine what your sound design concept will be like.

With all the research I can find for my project I will then look for sounds online on and search for specific items to represent what I want for my project. If I can’t find exactly what I want I will also create it on a DAW, Digital Audio Workspace, or simply a software to create sounds. In it I will use certain instruments but especially synthesizers. A synthesizer is just like an android, the android imitates life and a synthesizer imitates other instruments. The point is to make the sounds very industrial and inorganic.



Project #2 proposal – Real or not real?

Draft #1, 04/24/2015

The topic for Project #2 that I discussed with Prof. Belli in our meeting asks the question “Does Scientific Accuracy Matter in Fiction?”, and if it does, why? Let me explain.

Many times in stories we are presented with a set of facts. Depending on where the work falls on the Science Fiction Scale of Hardness the audience can either interpret the facts as just an invention of the author as a plot point, or as a representation of real life science. In some cases it’s pretty obvious what has been made up by the author, such as light-speed space travel, or matter-disintegrating lasers, or something like that. However, in more “serious” works that feature topics that fall under ‘real life’ scientific theory, like genetic engineering for example, the facts presented in the work can be so convincing that it may lead the audience to take that made-up ‘fact’ as a representation of actual scientific thought.

The matter becomes even more complicated when a work actually blends the latest research on a certain topic into its narrative, and becomes a stellar example of the theory at the time of its creation, but becomes an issue when science marches on. In other words, because of either technological advancements or new discoveries in the field, the knowledge presented in said work becomes outdated. However, that “knowledge” already made a lasting impression in the minds of the audience, even more so if the work was successful enough to reach a wide audience and became a cultural icon.

When such arguments are brought up, many individuals who identify with said work and hold it dear to their hearts (aka fanboys/fangirls) argue:


What these individuals fail to notice, however, is how that “knowledge” presented in the work has become so entrenched in pop culture that the majority of the audience (who, let’s face it, don’t keep up with the latest research in the field) take it for granted, and keep passing on the made-up or outdated views presented in the work onto others, which go on to become the inspiration and basis for other stories, merchandise, toys, etc. All based on what is basically false or outdated knowledge.

For the project itself, I’ll try to find examples of popular movies/stories that have skewed the audience’s perception of certain facts. I already have one in mind, which is one of my favorite all-time movies, but since I’m aware that my tastes are… different, I’ll try to find at least two more good examples to make the paper/presentation stronger and less biased towards my own preferences.

Draft #2, 04/30/2015

I was told to be more specific about what movies I plan to analyze, so here it goes.

As some may know, Jurassic World is coming out this year in June, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to address an issue that has been a topic of conversation within the paleo-community (that is, the community formed by scientists that work on prehistoric organisms, artists that specialize in creating reconstructions of said organisms, and members of the general public that have a personal interest in the field).

The original Jurassic Park came out in 1993, based on the novel of the same name by author Michael Crichton. It is a science fiction & action/adventure movie whose plot revolves around the revival of dinosaurs through genetic engineering, and the consequences of using science for basically entertainment purposes by manipulating nature. At the time before the movie came out, dinosaurs and other prehistoric organisms were perceived by the general public as giant, sluggish creatures that lived in swamps, doomed to extinction. The filmmakers of Jurassic Park worked in collaboration with scientists and artists to incorporate the latest science regarding dinosaurs (the so called “Dinosaur Renaissance”) into the movie, and the result was a film that challenged the views of dinosaurs at the time, portraying them as the active, agile and intelligent creatures that they actually were. To add to that, Jurassic Park became an iconic movie of the 90’s, with it pioneering advancements in special effects.

Although the science presented in Jurassic Park was top-notch at the time of its release, further discoveries in the field of paleontology (dino-science) have proved that dinosaurs were even stranger than we ever imagined. One of the main aspects that have come to the forefront is the fact that they were all not just scaly giant versions of lizards, but that many of them had some form of covering on their body (what is known as integument), consisting of feathers, fur-like fibers, spines and quills. Adding to that, when we look at animals today we realize that their skin doesn’t lie snugly against their skeletons and muscles, they have all sorts of tissues that give them their unique appearance. This all has lead to what some people call the “Feather Revolution”, which is a movement that tires its best to break the mold of the old scale-face monsters and portray dinosaurs and other extinct organisms as living, breathing creatures as accurately as possible with the data available.

When the trailer for Jurassic World, a sequel 22 years in the making, was released a couple months ago it was revealed that, unlike the creators of the original movie, the filmmakers decided to keep the dinosaurs “retro”, portraying them not only using the inaccurate science from 1993, but also incorporating or prolonging common misconceptions regarding dinosaurs.

The response from the paleo-community was one of dissapointment, as can be seen in this article by artist John Conway, whereas some folks outside of the community find the scientists’ concerns a matter of ridicule.


The goal of my project is to raise the question of why it is important for creators in sci-fi, whether they are authors, screenwriters or filmmakers, to present current scientific thinking within the context of their work, and I will be using the Jurassic World conundrum as a springboard for discussion. In addition, I would also like to have examples of other films/works that have been criticized for portraying science in an incorrect manner. I might talk about the movie Gravity, which although I haven’t seen it, I’ve heard that it also portrays many misconceptions regarding space travel and physics. I’ll have to watch the movie and conduct further research of course.

Also, while thinking about other examples of incorrect “facts” being portrayed in movies I came across this video where they demonstrate a common misconception portrayed in movies: the supposed fact that humans only used 10% of our brain capacity. The narrator is a little annoying, and you can stop watching at 2:22, but it basically makes the point.