The future is in the stars.
You might have heard the songs "My Demons" or "Monster." But what you might not know is that these songs are just very small cogs in a larger machine, a multimedia sci-fi narrative story created by cinematic rock band Starset. For the band, music is just one part of their overarching goal. As part of a fictional organization called "The Starset Society," their hopes are to inform humanity on the rapidly advancing fields of science and technology, and the influence that those can have on the future of mankind, from a personal, societal and political standpoint.
At the heart of The Starset Society is a story -- a science-fiction adventure that stretches from the days of Nikola Tesla, to the present and the future of mankind, as a society now living far away from Earth on the planet Prox. Through their engaging music, their fascinating, movie-like videos, their one-of-a-kind "demonstrations" and their highly detailed websites, Starset has begun its worldwide public outreach.
But that's only the beginning. The next phase of their plans is a partnership with Marvel, who have released the graphic novel The Prox Transmissions, co-written by legendary comic book writer Peter David (known for storied runs on series like The Incredible Hulk, and currently of Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider) and illustrated by artists including Mirko Colak, Andrea Broccardo, Manuel Garcia, Marco Lorenzana and Tom Grummett. It's adapted from a novel written by Starset founder and front man Dustin Bates, which tells the story of Dr. Stephen Browning, who picks up a radio transmission that comes from the future. Unwittingly immersed in a vast conspiracy and a race against time, Browning has in his hands the capacity to change the course of human history.
Himself a PhD candidate in electrical engineering, Bates, who was once a teacher at the International Space University in France and who also did research for the United States Air Force, is no stranger to the fields of science and technology. The singer, writer and leader of this unprecedented movement talked to CBR about the release of his upcoming graphic novel, the full scope of the Starset narrative, and the very real potential dangers in the advancement of technology.
CBR: So Dustin, the release of your graphic novel, The Prox Transmissions, is fast-approaching. Are you excited for it to be released?
Dustin Bates: Yeah, I absolutely am. We're getting to do things I've never done before. We're hitting comic book stores in every city that we play in, and even along the way. I'm really excited to see all the comic book stores around the US. I think it's going to be an awesome vibe.
How is it to see your vision come to life, illustrated by these great artists like Mirko Colan, Skan and others?
It's amazing. As the pages were rolling in, right off the bat I was blown away at the quality. It's inescapably Marvel. And that's so cool.
Your music video for “Halo” also tells a little bit of the story of this graphic novel.
Yeah, “Halo” and “My Demons,” they all touch on it. But this is the inception story of The Starset Society.
Legendary comics writer Peter David co-wrote the adaptation. How was it working with him?
Yeah. He adapted a lot of the text and dialogue. You, know it's a funny story. When I first decided that I was going to write comics, I bought books, and that main one on writing a comic was written by Peter David. And then to find out I would be working with him, it was crazy.
Is it safe to say that the graphic novel is a literal adaptation of your novel, or is there more to find in the actual book itself?
Yeah, it's very closely adapted from the novel, but the novel incorporates much, much more details, so I think it's cool the start with the graphic novel. But the novel really is the full experience.
But anyone can walk into their local comic shop, know nothing of Starset or The Starset Society, read the graphic novel and get a full story out of it, yes?
Yeah absolutely, it has a full story arc. It isn't the entire story, however. There's at least a trilogy. The second one is already structured and it's pretty amazing. But yeah, [this first one] tells the entirety of the inception story of The Starset Society. And, then, there will be websites that will be up within three weeks that take it even further, for a further immersion, explaining our scientific goals, science and technological outreach goals, and also furthering the sci-fi narrative experience.
Diving into the story of The Prox Transmissions a little, I was curious as to the choice of having it start on New Year's Eve. Is this a metaphor of mankind being on the verge of the start of something new, the eve of a new start, or could it also be seen as the start of a new cosmic calendar?
Oh that's an interesting question. I think, when I first set out and started writing it, it worked into the narrative of the voyager, which is explored a lot more in the actual novel. But I think inherently I really liked it, when I started writing it, because it does have that sort of, there's a certain vibe that happens on New Year's Eve, and then New Year's Day. And, yeah, it might be a little metaphoric.
The graphic novel moves at a fast pace, like any great thriller would, but much sooner than you'd expect, the story takes quite the unexpected sci-fi turn. The Startset Society was founded to help mankind see the potential in science, both the good, and the dangerous. Would it be fair to say that The Prox Transmissions is a cautionary tale in both regards?
Yes, absolutely. As you touched on, Starset Society is looking at science tech and how it's changing the present and near future, positively and negatively, in many different ways. And The Prox Transmissions looks at a few of those technologies and takes them to their hyperbolic extent. I think the goal is to help us see the changes that we're experiencing in our own times. The Everything Machine, from the graphic novel [a sort of high-tech 3D machine than can print anything], represents the singularity of production -- everything can be produced with zero labor and so there's a two-sided coin to that. It's like a utopia of endless production, but people lose their purpose and lose their jobs, since there's no laborers required. So how do we approach that?
It's not to say that that will ever come to be, a sort of 3D printer which can print anything, but we are approaching that singularity every day as things become more and more automated and people are losing their jobs and entire sectors of the labor force is changing. So, one thing to another, eventually even the service jobs could become under threat. You know Uber, for instance, has brought on a million jobs probably -- I have no idea what the figure is, really -- and those jobs are going to go away once Uber's cars are self-driving, which they're working tirelessly on. And our community leaders and politicians, I don't see them addressing this to the extent that they should. Instead, we're looking at boogeymen. Both sides of the political spectrum are blaming others when this is one of the greatest drivers. And we need to just ask those questions, and be aware of it.
Is the Everything Machine the same glimpsed at in the video for your song "Telepathic"?
Yes actually, or rather, a version of it. I don't want to give away the ending of The Prox Transmissions but yeah, there is something hinted at for how the Everything Machine can be used in a novel way for very rapid space travel or space colonization. An offshoot of that version of the Everything Machine is certainly the inspiration for the “Telepathic” video.