Monday, 11 January 2016

Adaptation B: Exploring Iobe Cavern City

  In my excitement for the new project I forgot about the blurb for Surface detail. Of which reads "Lededje Y'breaq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture. It begins in the realm of the Real. it begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself"

  It is a large read, with considerable escalation from start to finish considering it staarts with a single death and ends with a war ''against'' death. But I believe going in the direction the direction of environment design might help me make something more manageable.

  Speaking with Phil I decided to look further into Iobe Cavern city, as it sounded like a rather inspiring source to develop from. Later sections of chapter 19 detailed other aspects of the city. In my initial readings of chapter 19 of Surface Detail I passed notice of a lake of mercury. Upon further reading this lake is described to be an artificial formation half-filling a spherical cavern and heated from the bottom by a volcanic fissure. This heating made the mercury bubble and, according to the novel "these bubbles produced the gases that made the air in the chamber poisonous to pan-humans and many other biological beings, as well as next-to-impossible to monitor any vibrations through the air by laser or any other form of surveillance" Apparently the vapour played up with Veppers' Oculenses (a brand of vision-enhancing sports glasses that somewhat resembled insectoid eyes).

  Later paragraphs detail more about the city, as Veppers appears to be a local business magnate as "[He] had been coming to Vebezua on business for decades and possessed one of the finest mansions in the inner city; however it was being remodeled, again, so he elected to stay in Iobe's finest hotel, his suite of suites taking up the top two floors. He owned the hotel, of course, so making the arrangements, even at relatively short notice, had been trivial."

  One of these meetings was a reception at a ballroom "The Iobe city authorities held a reception for him that evening in a great ballroom complex suspended on cables in the centre of the single greatest circular piercing above the main city caverns. The ceiling was opened to the night.
Vebezua was uncomfortably close to its star and Iobe lay almost right on its equator; by day it would have been insufferably hot and bright in the ballroom with the ceiling irised back, but by night the full glory of the stars was displayed, a distant speckled wash of multi-coloured lights enhanced by  a large waning moon and the layered not-so-slow-moving sparkle of junk and hab light as the planet's various halos of artificial satellites rotated overhead."

  As for inhabitants, the planet is described as being on the furthest reaches of a civilisation called the Silchurian Enablement. Veppers and Jasken however, are a pan-human, a term used in the Culture novels to describe either humans or humanoids with characteristics similar to humans. Given that the Enablement is multi-species and that Veppers (a citizen and oftentimes representative of the Enablement) had extended commercial interests in the city for decades it is possible that the city isn't exclusively designed for one species. The references I have found to what the Enablement's species look like have been a little more tricky.

  Chapter 18 introduces us to Kreit Huen, a Silchurian described as "A tall statuesque woman, slightly oddly proportioned for a Silchurian, but still attractive in a haughty, formidable sort of way." the paragraph goes on to hint that Veppers has occasionally thought about using a simulacrum of her for erotic fantasies had he not a deep-seated prejudice for the Culture (to which she was an ambassador for). As inappropriate as this last bit may be for a university project, it does suggest that Silchurians might be another sort of pan-human, though I think Veppers himself may be Silchurian given his position and the Silchurians' dominance in the Enablement. At the time Veppers meets her in chapter 18 she also has a blonde-haired son/daughter with human-like hands in the office with her. However that is all I can get as the child spends most of the scene behind a large sofa. Another Enablement species - possibly the same species that operates the ship Veppers was taken to Vebezua on as it is a mid-ranking officer - is mentioned to have twelve limbs.

  Regarding the cave architecture I looked into what karst is. Briefest description could be "your average stalactite-laced cave" as they are made when limestone rock is eroded by flowing water. The cavern that the crew visit is the largest of many, which could lead to some interesting level design aspects as there could be platforms, columns or ledges to break up the tunnel. Or more vitally, openings into other caves - one of which being the mercury lake. The hotel Veppers stays in is also implied to be partially built within the rock - Veppers' personal suite being a grand bedroom carved into the cavern wall.

Figure 1: A diagram demonstrating common features of a karst cave network
  "the cave averaged a kilometre or so across; a huge pipe whose floor held a small winding river." the bold words give me an idea as to the shape and dimensions of the cavern. And what I am imagining is a slightly winding cavern that isn't strictly one kilometre across - there will be points where it is wider and narrower than that. Which is good for scale as from what I can guess, A kilometre is the breadth of New York's Upper West Side. But the inclusion of offshoot tunnels might help expand the scale of the city. That and the hotel, ballroom and Veppers' mansion are not strictly stated to be in the opening the group travel though, nor is it specific that this is the largest cavern, merely the one that connects to the mercury lake and the view that introduces us to what the city looks like.

  One thing I am definitely starting to build in my head however is Veppers himself - his wealth, indicated by the business dominance, the multiple mansions, the city council arranged reception, numerous foreign political connections, the enormous entourages and his leisure life is phenomenal, painting him as among the mega-rich mentioned in chapter one (If he is not, I'm not sure I can imagine just how wealthy the real galactic one percent are). Later on he manages to commission a customised "Murderer" class Culture vessel, while earlier on he is informed that the ship he arrived on (implied to be a Culture vessel) would realistically value at "More than the entire gross domestic product of the Silchurian Enablement", although there exists the strong possibility that Veppers was able to get a close friends discount on the Murderer.

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