In the mid 21st century, the world enters an epochal winter. Stripped bare of resources and driven to ecological ruin, humanity is poised for a population collapse from which it will never recover. Determined to save us from extinction, the great polymath Tapan Ramachandran embarks on a project to preserve the human genome through the eons – Startomb. But the world we awake to is not the one we remember. For in the intervening eons has arisen new orders of life, new dangers, and a new form of intelligence.
I’ve developed the Startomb concept on and off over the last 15 years as both a writing and concept art project. Originally envisioned as an animated movie, it has changed format to both a comic and a novel. Part of the fun of this project is developing the alien ecosystem of the deep future, some 500 million years in the future.
The Blue Forest
The world of Startomb is set in the supercontinent of Pangea Ultima, over a half a billion years in the future, in a world transformed by a second Cambrian explosion that took place in the wake of humanity's fall. The blue forest, comprised of many creatures that are seemingly comprised partly of plastics and other strange substances, forms the backdrop of the first act of the story.
Nerve Gas Fly
Propelled by jets of noxious gas, this creature rests by skewering itself into the forest floor.
This strange creature spends the bulk of its life fixed to the same spot, absorbing moisture from the soil. It can, if startled, move itself about on a raft of tiny legs, but prefers not to do so due to the energy expenditure. It has a small nipple near the base, to allow other creatures to extract some of its moisture in exchange for being left alone.
The Torch Bird has a powerful bioluminescent sensory disc on its "head" over which it can droop one or all of three coloured orbs that alter the nature of what it can sense.
Other forms of life
The Eved are an entire ecology of various insect societies that have united into vast super-colonies; living cities which ebb and flow like oceans, occasionally forming enormous structures for subspecies to inhabit. They can assemble themselves to mimic forms they encounter in attempts to communicate with them. They eventually become allies of the newly reborn humans.
The mystery surrounding the Heliopods is a driving force in the plot. The enormous five-storey creatures live in a single city at the centre of the supercontinent, from which our heroes - in Campbellesque style - must escape part way through the story. The design was a conscious nod to the bulbous brained horrors of 1950s B-Movies that had originally inspired the story, but with a regal twist.