ALEX PAKNADEL & ERIC SCOTT PFEIFFER on creating Arcadia for BOOM! Studios

This interview will blow you away as Arcadia's creators open up about the world and nature of reality behind Arcadia.
        BOOM! Studios is set to release an exciting new science fiction series this May 6th, 2015, titled Arcadia, which is written by the very talented Alex Paknadel and amazingly penciled by the book’s illustrator  Eric Scott Pfeiffer. Arcadia is quite simply a thrilling and exciting story that dives head long into the unknown, complex and future moral issues of artificial intelligence, in the vein of Chappie and the more recent Ex Machina, albeit with a twist all its own.
         In this juxtaposed and dream-like world created by Paknadel and Pfeiffer, a viral and global pandemic has literally killed half of the Earth’s population and attempts to save what is left of humanity by transplanting their consciousness into the electronic reality of the Cloud, called Arcadia.
While Arcadia serves as a safe haven for the billions of living souls in the electronic ether of the Cloud, their essence and reality must be maintained in real time by the humans tasked with maintaining the precious energy consuming servers, which Arcadia is housed within. Interestingly, the very humans maintaining Arcadia in real-time are also relying on the greatest minds now living within Arcadia to find a cure for the virus threatening all human life on Earth.
         What seems to be the central nexus of this fascinating story is the political, social and real-time interplay between the Earthly world hanging together by a thread and the Artificial Intelligence and electronic reality of Arcadia, which seems to be growing in ways totally unimagined and understood by those who created it.

        BOOM! Studios has been kind enough to allow SciFi Pulse access to Arcadia’s creators, Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer in order to get their thoughts and feelings on creating this great story. So SciFi Pulse and BOOM! Studios hope you enjoy this interview with Arcadia’s very own Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer.

 

SciFi Pulse: What was the impetus or spark that allowed Arcadia’s story to grow and did the story change much once it was being written?

ALEX PAKNADEL:The spark was really this suspicion I share with many people that as a culture we’ve replaced an unquestioning faith in higher powers with an unquestioning faith in technology.

Our planet’s in bad shape and the gap between the wealthy and those in grinding poverty is widening daily, but I always read or hear the same refrain: “Technology will sort that out eventually.” How is that any different from pitching a tent in the middle of a desert and sitting on your ass waiting for rain because “God will provide”?

No, on some level we all know that sooner or later it’s all going to come down to hard work. How could it not? We can’t simply outsource the work of compassion and cleaning up our own mess to the machine. With Arcadia I guess what I’m really trying to say is that while technology is undeniably a boon to mankind, eventually we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and just fix some sh*t. It’s unavoidable.

To answer the second part of your question, the truth is that the story’s always changing. Our artist (Eric Scott Pfeiffer) and our editors (Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn) are always suggesting ways to make the story the best version of itself it can possibly be within my capabilities as a writer, and I’m unreservedly grateful to them for that. I can’t give you any specific examples because they’re all quite pivotal to the story, but there are some very, very good subplots and resolutions in the book that arose as a result of wise editors gently steering me back onto smoother terrain. These BOOM! cats really know what they’re doing, I tell you.”

SciFi Pulse: I find it interesting that reality in this comic is really nothing more than illusion depending on any character’s given perspective, with the exception that Arcadia is more dream like and has similarities to The Matrix. Which of the realities has more to say about the human condition, the Arcadia Base station in Alaska or Arcadia itself?

PAKNADEL: “Neither world has a 100% legitimate claim on being reality, and that’s quite intentional. If reality is nothing more than a consensus then surely Arcadia is reality because the majority of the world’s population live there, right? On the other hand, if Philip K. Dick is right and reality is simply    ‘. . . that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away, . . .’ then the base station (and by extension “The Meat” as a whole) is reality because it’s the least malleable.

Regarding any similarities to The Matrix, comparisons were inevitable and I’m honored to see the book being mentioned in the same breath as those movies. That said, we’ve moved on from the millennial anxiety that spawned The Matrix trilogy and The X-Files, etc. The truth is that there is no pill, blue or red. Our way of life and our values are so entrenched it’s impossible to conceive of any real alternatives. There are no true outsiders because there’s no “outside.” That vantage point overlooking our present crisis simply doesn’t exist, and perhaps it never did.”

SciFi Pulse: When or how soon can the reader expect to see the true nemesis step out from the shadows, or is the true nemesis humanity itself?

PAKNADEL: “There’s certainly an existential threat, but I’ll stop short of calling it a nemesis if that’s cool. A nemesis generally has a choice in the matter, and this threat… well, that would be telling. You’ll meet it in issue one, but you’ll be able to hang a name on it after you’ve finished issue four. You’re absolutely on the right track when you refer to a “true nemesis” though. As ever, we always sow the seeds of our own destruction.”

SciFi Pulse: Does Arcadia speak more about how humanity understands and lives life, whether there is life after death or whether sentience is perceived or real? OR does this question totally miss the mark? If so, how best should this question be asked?

PAKNADEL: “I’m not all that metaphysical so I’d say the book’s definitely more about how humanity as a whole understands and lives life. Related to this, though, is the notion of a political afterlife if that makes sense. To clarify, back in the nineties we were sold this idea of the ‘End of History’. In short, the idea here was that our triumph over Soviet Communism meant that human civilization had arrived at its final configuration and that the grand periods of social experimentation and large-scale conflict had come to an end.  According to this theory, the worst we’d have to contend with in the ensuing peace would be sustained periods of boredom. In other words, we’d been good consumers and the free market was going to give us our reward right here on Earth in the form of a kind of tediously tranquil political afterlife. Well, it didn’t quite shake out like that.

History is still very much with us and we haven’t even managed to take care of the basics, like making sure we’re all fed and clothed and loved. Progress and utopia have become largely synonymous, but progress for its own sake—i.e. absent a noble goal like social mobility or gender equality, etc., is just vanity. The tragedy of course is that it’s really not that hard on paper. Kurt Vonnegut put it beautifully: ‘There’s only one rule that I know of, babies: God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’

SciFi Pulse: How if at all, do super powers come into play in Arcadia?

PAKNADEL: “Superpowers in the traditional sense exist in Arcadia, but they’re quite commonplace as long as you can afford them. It’s a consequence-free world for the most part, so super strength and flight are all possible because if you hurt yourself or others you can just reconstitute and go about your day. In terms of actual manipulation of reality though, that’s the exclusive preserve of ‘Homesteaders.’

These folks were coders and developers while they were alive, but they can bend Arcadia to their will and make shortcuts for themselves now. The governments of Arcadia hate these guys because they tend to manipulate Arcadia’s code without permission, so they tend to keep their heads down by and large. That’s all set to change after issue one though.”

SciFi Pulse: Will Arcadia also speak to the state of the rest of the world from a geo political perspective where other countries and related conflicts are concerned? Or is the world so close to the edge that Earthly war is no longer an issue?

PAKNADEL: “Current geopolitical tensions certainly still exist in this story’s real world, but survival has a way of keeping them in check. What I will say is that a number of the ethnic and religious tensions in the real world have either dissipated or been exposed as the territorial and resource-based disputes they always were. In Arcadia, meanwhile, some of those geopolitical tensions have been dialed up to 11. Imagine if a culture could impose its local values on the fabric of reality. Imagine if Norway, Saudi Arabia, or even New Hampshire could tailor the laws of physics and biology to their own collective needs and desires. I can’t double down on this stuff just yet because this first arc has to be quite focused, but if the book’s a success then I plan to explore this theme in much greater detail. For now I’ll just ask you to keep your eyes peeled for hints and clues.”

SciFi Pulse: Can people still freely talk with and interact with their loved ones between Earth and Arcadia or is this somehow taboo?

PAKNADEL: “People in the real world used to be able to speak to their dead loved ones in Arcadia, yeah. That privilege was revoked a few years ago though because the emotional toll it was taking on the living was too great. Imagine only being able to Skype your loved ones… forever! The sense of them only being in the next room would become unbearable after a while. What I’m describing here is basically the world’s first industrial-scale haunting, and that wasn’t really conducive to either good mental health or the intensive reconstruction work the world needed. That’s why communication is now restricted to official channels. Personal contact is highly illegal, which isn’t to say that all of our characters are going to abide by this law.”

SciFi Pulse: What challenges did the artist have in translating the writer’s vision?

ERIC SCOTT PFEIFFER: “Arcadia’s world (worlds) needed to be built from the ground up but unfortunately, given the fast-paced nature of comics it’s hard to dive into every little detail as much as I would have loved to. The great thing about that is it forces me, as an artist, to show just enough and to use restraint in the right areas, letting the reader imagine much of the world themselves, which I usually find more interesting anyway. I subscribe to the theory that the viewer’s imagination is always more exciting to them than my own.”

SciFi Pulse: What was the hardest aspect or most challenging part of penciling Arcadia?

PFEIFFER: “This is my first monthly series so I’m definitely on a steep learning curve. I still have a huge urge to explore the art style I envision for Arcadia and so I have to fight the urge to change my penciling/inking techniques. My biggest problem is feeling restless after drawing in the same “style” for more than a few dozen pages so I really have to be aware of that and keep the issues consistent, at least as much as I can. I’m not without my slip-ups but hopefully the readers will find my exploration interesting and feel excited that they were able to not only see the world of Arcadia come together but also the art style that will hopefully define the look of the series.”

SciFi Pulse: What message should the reader take away from Arcadia and what is the overarching moral of the story?

PAKNADEL: “Ideally I’d like it to be open to interpretation, but if pushed I’d say the message is quite a simple one: Don’t believe in magic bullets. We can absolutely have a finer world, which according to the great Donna Haraway would be characterized by ‘finite freedom, adequate material abundance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness’; however, the rules haven’t changed and they never will. We’re going to have to work our butts off to get there.”

SciFi Pulse would like to thank everyone at BOOM! Studios as well as Arcadia’s creators, Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer for what was a great interview and we wish you all the luck in this world as well in the next on what is sure to be Arcadia’s smashing debut this May 6th, 2015, at a comic shop near you.

Interestingly, The writer of Arcadia, Alex Paknadel, as well as the cover artist for issue #1, Matt Taylor, will be appearing and signing copies of Arcadia, at Orbital Comics in London, which is located at 8 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JA, this Wednesday, May 6, 2015, which coincides with the debut and release of Arcadia from BOOM! Studios.

Tye Bourdony is the co-owner of scifipulse.net as well as the U.S. based content editor for Sci Fi Pulse. Tye is also a Sci Fi cartoonist and creator of ‘The Lighter Side of Sci-Fi’, a mediator, deep space traveler, and the lead interstellar reporter for the Galactic Enquirer. He is also a graduate of the Barry University School of Law, SUNY Purchase and H.S. of Music & Art. Tye currently works in Florida’s 9th Circuit as the staff Family Mediator and has a regular self-published column in Sci Fi Magazine. You can visit Tye on facebook and at www.thelightersideofscifi.com or send your thoughts and story/article ideas to [email protected]

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