4, 5, 6 hyperdimensional spacetime

I’m melting my brain right now – I’m working on a very long term project, a comic book series I intend to write and draw some time late this year and into the next. It involves superheroes and hyperdimensionality. No, it’s not Final Crisis 2, although it is an idea that’s definitely been influenced not only by my reading Grant Morrison for many years, but also by being influenced by some similar things including, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals and magic.

In researching the basis for the story, I’ve slipped down the rabbit hole of physics. And not just common-or-garden physics, but the big (or small, depending on perspective) stuff, quantum physics, hypertime, ultradimensionality and other such minor subjects. In reality, a lot of the stuff I’m reading won’t directly make it into the book, but in order for my cosmology to be internally consistent, I need an advanced enough background on it to then be able to fictionalise properly.

It’s very interesting stuff, playing around with constant mental experiments, like, what would a 4-dimensional being see with? What visual apparatus would they have?

One of the hardest things so far has been the thought experiment of how upper dimensional beings relate to their own dimension, and to ours. As this is fiction, I’m playing fast and loose with the “real” physics of it, and have made certain choices in doing so. For instance, I’m using the Minkowsi non-euclidean model of spacetime as a starting point, where I posit time as the fourth dimension. This is a problematic theory in its relation to general relativity, but this is fiction, so I can choose which theory I prefer. And I actually think that there’s something in it.

Have you seen those moving gifs of tesseracts?

Now you have! This is a theoretical 4-dimensional object. It involves following the vectors of a 3-dimensional cube (with x,y and z coordinates) into the ‘w’ dimension, also known as ‘ana’ and ‘kata’, taken from Greek words meaning “up, toward” and “down, away”. As you rotate the hypercube in these dimensions, the only way we can represent that properly in “3-dimensions” is by using a 2-dimensional animation showing a 3-dimensional object  moving. Movement involves time, the necessary change from one state to another. So in my humble opinion, even if we envisage the fourth dimension as being a spatial one and not “time”, the two things are intrinsically linked. That’s a hard concept to explain, especially when I’m still grappling with it myself.

But to go back to Morrison for a second, his Invisibles comic popularised the notion of 4-space being a hyperdimensional solid which contains the 3-dimensions we know, plus the effects of time. A being looking at Earth from a higher (read fifth) dimension would see all the matter of the planet at once, along with all the time, so that each human would be like a time snake, with its tail being its conception, and its head the death. More than that, all of humanity would appear as one undulating creature, as one human begets another in this endless process. This 4-dimensional being would also see cities in the state of planning, building and destruction, all “at once”.

This 4-dimensional supersolid contains all growth and entropy inside 3-space, all the various decisions made and actions taken. In effect, the 4-d being looking ‘down’ on Earth would have the privilege of seeing all time,  past, present and future, as one.

Why a 5-dimensional being and not 4? Well, this is where my research and thought experiments have become kind of philosophical and argumentative. I started by looking at humans. We are beings that are 3-dimensional and exist in a 3-dimensional world, but we are bound by the effects of time – in my cosmology, the forward-dimension of time. So effectively, we live in a world of 4-dimensions.

That being the case, if 3d beings exist in 4-space, 4d beings exist in 5-space and so on.

So, 4-d beings are able to interact with time in the way we do with space i.e. they can move backward and forwards in it. In Morrison’s Invisibles story, the invention of the timesuit transforms the wearer into a 4-dimensional being, capable of jumping “up” off the 3-d plane, out of the fourth dimension of time and effectively into 5-space.

In my cosmology, 4-d beings in 5-space can interact with time, able to see the 4-dimensional supersolid and choose any re-entry point they like, but effectively still bound to the surface of the 4-d supersolid. Remembering that “We are beings that are 3-dimensional and exist in a 3-dimensional world, but we are bound by the effects of time”. 4-dimensional beings are still subject to the laws of the 5th dimension, which I see as also pertaining to time, but in a different way. They are bound to the laws of that universe.

So, 5-d beings are those who are able to see the past, present and future of the supersolid, and recognise its existence as one of many supersolids. This would be 6-space. They would not be bound to the surface of the supersolid, but able to move freely between these structures. If we imagine for a moment that these supersolids are alternatives to our original supersolid, then these beings exist in the multiverse, and can freely move between a variety of parallel worlds.

6-dimensional beings move in 7-space, which is a metaverse, a sea of branes, almost infinite, solid planes onto which the entirety of the probabilities of each universe is ‘painted’. These branes interact with one another, striking each other at intervals and forming new universes from the debris. In my cosmology, this metaverse is made up of fictional universes, all the possibilities that one might create. Using Morrison’s comic-book-as-dimensional-analogy as a basis, the branes in 7-space would be like comics themselves, each one containing an infinite amount of pages of a different universe. So, one brane would be akin to DC, another to Marvel, and another still to underground comix. Each would have the possibility of referencing the other by “colliding”, one fictional universe imprinting on another and creating an entirely new ‘brane’, or fictional universe.

This last one seems like a diversion, but it’s meant to reference the fact that by the time we reach 7-space, we’re in such a rarefied and conceptual space that further attempts to continue the model break down. At this point, it’s worth folding in the actual context of the model i.e. the fact that it is designed as an analogue to the real world. It is from the start a fiction, and a recognition of this in 7-space is represented by the existence of other fictional models and cosmologies. In my model, 3-d space is actually the 2-d plane on which the comic takes place, but which is designed to emulate the 3-dimensional world we live in. All of the models of higher dimensions from there are in fact fictitious constructs which act as anaolgues designed to help me (and the reader) theorise about higher dimensions in our own universe.

6-dimensional beings in this cosmology would be characters that can traverse the fiction of the story, and likely the internal consistency and rules. It would be like Bugs Bunny appearing legitimately in Batman.

7-dimensional beings in 8-space…

Well, that’s where the model would start to uncomfortably intrude into the real world. This is where ‘God’ appears, if you like, the creator, who would be revealed as merely one of a pantheon of creatures, actual human beings, writers and comic creators. So let’s not call this 8-space, but in my cosmology, let’s call this Ω-space. And it’s the point where characters and creators meet.

Okay, so far so Grant Morrison…


So far few comic writers have explored this concept, which I think is a valid and interesting magical method of engaging with ones creations. In my comic creation I have no intention of pulling an Animal Man and entering the comic myself (although I reserve the right to do that at any point if I wish 😀 ) but I do intend to influence the cosmology of the comic in ways beyond just writing it and trying to ape reality through it.

I’ve always had issues with the “narrator” voice in comics, the omniscient presence of the writer through captions etc. Well, let me clarify that. I actually think I preferred it when it was the Stan Lee wink and a nod – the voice that said, we both know you’re reading a comic, let’s enjoy it. It’s the po-faced descriptive narrative voice that reached it’s nadir in the 90s, when Chris Claremont, among others, flexed his novel-writing skills by liberally dousing pages of X-Men with his verbiage. Even then, but far more so reading it as an adult, I felt this insistent voice was telling me how to experience the comic, driving the story forward instead of relying on the character and situations to do so.

So I have some ideas as to how I want to involve that “editorial” voice in a way that’s folded into the story.

Basically what all of this does is give me a model that allows for the creation of my characters, the cosmology of the comic around them, the ability to bring in all kinds of other entities, and to allow a ‘backdoor’ through which I can access the story itself. In a sense, it’s an attempt to do what Morrison couldn’t do with Final Crisis – he was bound by the rules of the DC universe to restore order back to that universe by the end of his masterpiece. This is Final Crisis backwards, an exploration of how you can invent an entirely new comic universe that is aware of it’s place in a multi- and meta-versity, and see what happens.

And do you know what? None of this is the main thrust of the comic itself, which is instead about the birth of the superhero ushering in a post-scarcity, resource-based world.

Fuck’s sake. I’m revising my expectations. Expect to see the first issue in 2015.


Manky malingering musings

I did training the other day, with the East Dunbartonshire Council, as I’ll be starting as a supply Cultural Assistant. I got to look inside the Auld Kirk museum in Kirkintilloch, an amazing place, very small, but quite densely packed with interesting things.  I sometimes have a problem with information-heavy museum displays – not enough evocative objects, too much narrative, but the Auld Kirk has it pitched just right. There isn’t a lot of stuff there, but what there is is interesting, and backed up by some very interesting displays as context.

One of the displays was about the old coal mines underneath the area, and the miners who worked there. It wasn’t pretty – one display discussed how a family noticed their father had hundreds of pussy sores running down one side of his body, leaving him uncomfortable. It was from working on his side in dirty water for hours. Another brutally honest display quoted a miner as discussing what happened down there when you had an upset stomach. I hadn’t even thought of going to the toilet down there, never mind when a bunch of guys have the shits. It’s not a pleasant thought.

All of which got me thinking – you know generally, we’ve never had it so good. I mean, I know sometimes we say this, and I know at other times things are really tough, but I personally think it’s worth remembering that we (in the West, certainly) are living in a time of privilege and good living standards. Our fathers don’t have miner’s lung. We don’t have miner’s lung. We don’t have to be out there slogging our guts out on the coal face. Sure, we call it the coal face, and it really, really gets us down when we’re stuck in our soulless, mind-numbing jobs, trapped in a spiral of debt or consumerism, always waiting for the next big milestone as our jumping off point. But we don’t know the hardships of our grandfathers and grandmothers, and their fathers and mothers.

I think that’s worth remembering, but not for the reasons you might think. In an age when we’ve never had it so good, I think it’s worth recognising that in some ways, shit-faced governments like ours have us over a barrel oven more. There’s more available to us, more for them to hold back, and in making us think that we’re dirt poor, we become it. We don’t think we deserve to rise above our place, to demand more. In this day and age, it’s all there for us to take. Of course there are people whose circumstances make that incredible difficult. There are people who will never be able to achieve more than what they have right now. Of course that’s true. But to listen to the majority of us right now, you’d think we were all living in some crumbling Eastern bloc country right after the fall of the USSR.

That’s because we allow our leaders to make us think like that.

As part of my personal transformation in 2012, I’m going to try and remember those quotes from the miners, and remember that when I’m feeling downtrodden and put upon, I don’t know what real suffering is, and I’ll be thankful. And then I’ll remember to do my absolute best to make my life as exciting and interesting and self-fulfilling as I have the right to make it, because the opportunities are finally there.

New Year New Resolve

I decided to begin 2012 with a series of new goals. I don’t want to call them “resolutions” because that word comes with all the baggage and cliche of failed resolutions. So, as I’ve done before, I’m calling them goals, things I want to achieve.

In the spirit of magic, I’ve broken them all down into achievable aims that will help me reach them. One of the biggest is to “draw a comic page a day”. This is part of my longer-term goal of getting paid work in comics, not back-end deals. In order to do that though, I’ve chosen a number of projects with “back-end deals” or profit-sharing, in one big push to improve my skills and get as much work out there as possible.

I’ve got some really interesting projects lined up, and so far, I’m sticking to my schedule. Sure, today is an example of a day I haven’t completed a page, but that’s because I’ve been in and out of bed with some bug. Even still, knowledge of my aim is still pushing me to thumbnail and sketch, even when a full page seems like too big a task. I learned a lot last year about failure to prioritise properly, and letting plans get away from me, and this year, the aims are about giving me more time in a sense, not less, even though I’ve set myself a bundle of them.

Anyway, here’s a page from Taking Flight, the first comic written by my new pal Stephen Sutherland. It’s a belter, and is my first proper shot at a superhero book, for which fact I’m both very grateful, and very excited. Here is is:

I managed to complete this page pretty quickly, and my entire process has speeded up. Instead of thumbnailing, then printing actual size, redrawing, scanning, bluelining and scanning again, which is the very long-winded process I started using, I’m now drawing the thumbnail at the edge of the Bristol board and drawing straight onto the page with blue pencil before adding finished pencils over the top. It’ll get blasted with ink outlines before it’s done, but that’s it. Quick and easy. There’s some looseness in here that bugs me a little, but I don’t want it to look too mechanical.

Hopefully the book will be finished pretty soon.

Other than the comic work, I’ve also set myself the task of doing at least one exercise a week, like the Whitechapel forum’s Remake/Remodel challenge, so I’ll post some of these up too.

I plan on updating the blog with some other bits and pieces in the next few days, including some reviews and things.