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Symbiosis: A High-Resolution Look at Steven Sanders’ Immersive, Crowd-Funded Sci-Fi World [Exclusive]

Symbiosis is a combination universe bible, concept art collection, and visual narrative created by Steven Sanders, who’s probably best known to ComicsAlliance readers for his contributions to Wolverine and the X-Men, S.W.O.R.D. and Our Love Is Real. Stevens’ first solo project, the world of Symbiosis is one in which humans have become completely dependent upon bio-technology implanted in their bodies at puberty, which allows them to interact in the far future world of Stevens’ imagining. The narrative element follows Katherine Aeneas, a young woman who serves as the reader’s guide through the Symbiosis universe — which is particularly complex, including ethnic groups, politics, ecology, physics, agriculture, war, medicine and religion. Budgeted at $50,000, Symbiosis is only less than $5,000 short of its fundraising goal with six days left for readers to back the project.

Beyond the fact that Sanders is creating Symbiosis under a Creative Commons license — giving readers the legal right to create their own stories, games and other works of art based on the Symbiosis world — and producing it as an extremely deluxe 100+ page book in an 11″x17″ landscape format (with a clamshell box, gold foil and debossed logos, vellum sheets for informational overlays in various parts of the book, and Smyth-sewn pages) — what sets Sanders’ Symbiosis apart are the copious world-building elements. As he told ComicsAlliance last month, the world-building is the art for this artist.

Sanders provided us with a beautiful high-resolution illustration that demonstrates the immersive nature of Symbiosis. The artist also provides commentary that reveals more about the fascinating world inspired by physics, alchemy, history and technology.

(click image to enlarge)

Steven Sanders:

The structure of the story is based around the names and concepts in Alchemy. These stages vary from four to fourteen, depending on when in history you are looking at and what school you are pulling from. I don’t want to be too spoilery and go into detail about how exactly I’ll be telling the story via this method, but one can learn more about some of the stages here. If Symbiosis makes a stretch goal where we increase page count, I’ll take advantage of the additional chapters.

The design of the ritual wear for the Order Hermetisk, in the drawing showing their resonance tooth ritual (above), uses alchemical symbology as well. The colors of their sashes, their robes, the shapes in various locations, all serve as visual cues regarding the function of the person wearing the clothing.

(click image for a massive, high resolution version that is several megabytes in size)

When making the background of the “Falling” piece,I pored over old WWII aerial reconnaissance shots. I was so pulled in by the detail that it ended up going into the drawing. So many little houses, and factories, and parks, and a thousand other things that could be viewed through the lens of Symbiosis. I think I spent a good eight hours just on that part, thinking about what each building was for, and I still didn’t get the level of detail that was in those photos.


(click image to enlarge)

We haven’t seen much of the Apocrylites (Ah-pah-kreh-lites) yet, but this drawing gives a bit more information. The Apocrylites are a, scavenging, nomadic people, like the Bezrodnym Empire, but are not aggressive in their movements. (Every culture/country/ethnic group in Symbiosis is based on an aspect of the human personality, using a modern personality trait system/model that I’ll keep secret to see if people are ever able to figure it out. It’s pretty obscure, so who knows.)

(click image to enlarge)

At the core of the Apocrylite people is their spiritual connection with the bio-ether that allows technology to function in Symbiosis. They never let themselves experience the outside world without apparatus that let them see and hear not with light and sound, but with the bio-ether’s interactions with matter and energy.

The concept of a “bio-ether” is central to Symbiosis in general. I adapted obsolete physics theories of the “ether,” a medium that permeated everything, that were rendered obsolete by General Relativity. Old theories of mechanical gravitation that used a concept of the ether were borrowed from as well. Something that was interesting, though, is that the etheric theories weren’t discarded because they were wrong, per sé. After a major experiment to detect our movement through the ether failed to produce a positive result, the mathematics of the theory were adjusted to accommodate those findings. General Relativity was just chosen because of Occam’s Razor, it being the simpler of the two theories.

Anyway, through some long train of thought the idea of a biologically generated ether came to mind, as it allowed me to have a localized change in the physical laws of the universe, without actually changing the universe itself. The bio-ether is generated by two layers of bacteria: one residing in the deep crust of the planet Symbiosis takes place on, and the other in the stratosphere, near the ozone layer. The area between the two is “pressurized” by the bio-ether emitting bacteria, (The Lovelock Scale is used to measure this pressure/density) and now we have our medium that allows me to make up a whole new sphere of physics.


(click image to enlarge)

As we said, Symbiosis is less than $5,000 away from reaching its target goal, with six days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign. Rewards for backers include the exclusive book described above, hand-made props, digital comics, portfolio reviews, prints and more. We strongly urge ComicsAlliance readers to check this project out, because we really want to see Symbiosis happen. You can learn more about Symbiosis in our interview with Sanders and of course back the project at the official Kickstarter page.

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