|Aigis, from Persona 3|
Aeon - Postmortem
Now that I've had a little bit of time to distance myself from Aeon (and prepare for my next projects), here's a brief blurb on how I designed, plotted, and was inspired to write the story, as well as some tidbits on its development. I will try to refrain from all spoilers.
Aeon was initially developed as a work of experimental fiction. I was playing Persona 4 Arena of all things, and one of the character's stories was from a robot's perspective. I liked the story reasonably well, but I felt it was lacking a good deal of information that would make her more interesting. So, I thought it might be cooler to write a story completely locked in a machine's perspective, just because it would be fun to try and "think" like a machine as I wrote.
The concepts that the story brings up regarding what makes a being sentient, the development of said sentience (are we born with it or do we learn it?), and the idea of a "ghost in a machine" and if you can kill said ghost are not necessarily new concepts, especially to sci-fi. However, I hadn't recalled someone telling the story strictly from a first-person's perpective of a robot. Most are in third-person, or deal with the concepts of robots wanting to "be human" or "feel love" or some such nonsense. I honestly never really thought this made sense as a robot "wanting" an emotion (such as Data having "desire" to have human emotions and tendencies in Star Trek: TNG basically means he already has emotions because he wants something) or the whole "what is love?" thing, because psychologists have defined love and broken it down and any robot would be able to just use that definition.
No, I want the story to be more on development, and how it would be different for a machine that was created to develop rather than a person. For those who know/don't know, I have a major in Psychology, but have always had a deep intrest in programming, robots, and computers (my original major was CS). Being able to combine both these things with my love of writing is where this story came from.
Back to inspirations, the Persona 4 thing also ties into Persona 3's Aigis (pictured above), who was starting point in terms of design for Seventy-Seven. Again; another game with a concept of a robot who has to learn things, but really is shoved aside and none of the deeper concepts examined. You could argue Data from TNG is also an inspiration, but I didn't start re-watching TNG until I was nearly done with the book, so I don't think it really applies.
Weirdly enough, the old anime Metropolis might have had the largest influence, despite me watching it nearly a decade ago. I re-watched it after finishing Aeon (and seriously, it's worth watching. It's still phenomenal) and many of the ideas regarding robotic development are there, even if they're a bit corny. It's also a visually striking picture, using a lot of contrasting art styles to paint a particular picture, and overall is just a great film if you like robots.
Initially, the story's point was extremely shallow, and it didn't have a plot arch. The story was designed to be simply the machine booting up, gaining sentience, and that was the end. I'll argue this is because it was "experimental," so I didn't want to dig to deep.
I added the concept of "Infusion" (no spoilers here) to the book after about the second chapter, which ties into the scientists' goals. I actually quit writing, however, about half-way through the third chapter. Partially because I sunk back into a writing rut, and also because I had no idea where this book was going.
Vita saved this book. The character and friend of Seventy-seven added an arch, character motivation, and lots of fun scenarios that made the book enjoyable to write again. It wasn't until I finalized that she should be in the story that everything came together, and the story essentially "wrote itself." It's worth noting I usually think of novels in terms of key scenes, usually an ending twist and one or two middle ones. All other scenes I often plan just the day before, when I go on walks and brainstorm the next chapters. I have a start and an end, but what happens in the middle is up to the magic of discovery writing.
But back to the point: Aeon ended up being much longer than I anticipated because it just ended up needing so much stuff to cram in. This was especially when the scientists started growing personalities and backstories that were necessary for the plot and actually proving relevant to the overarching story. Initially, they were all going to be bland and singular, a sort of contract to the extreme dynamic between the machines. While this might have been an interesting "moral message," in the end I tried fleshing them out a bit more (though early Alphas indicate it still might not be enough) and actually making them somewhat unique. Humanizing them made what they had to do all the more interesting, whereas if they'd simply been faceless beings their goals would have appeared shallow.
Overall, I enjoyed writing Aeon, more than most books I can think of in recent memory. It certainly had its moments where I got stuck or annoyed, but as a whole it was a very fun project to simply sit down and just churn stuff out. I got quite attached to all the characters, so much so that certain scenes were hard to write, and actually ending the novella was a bit sad because I knew I'd never revisit them. Either way, it was a fun experiment, and I'm glad I did it.
Moral: I should write more sci-fi.