The Lowline – An underground park and lab for hard sci-fi writing.

Concept:

“The Lowline is a plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. Our vision is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.” Lowline project
How fitting a name in answer to the already popular High Line of NYC.

LowLine_ConceptArt1

 

I have been an early supporter of the Lowline and finally donning my Kickstarter Tee shirt, I had the opportunity to visit the Lowline Lab down on Delancey & Essex.  As I emerged from subway and walked the streets of this lower east side, it was not hard to imagine what the city must have been like years ago in this lost quadrant of time, with its polished grit and scattered markets of low rise buildings.   I must admit, as a NY’er, we tend not to travel much from quadrant to quadrant–my own being Hell’s Kitchen.  In a peculiar way, NY’ers mimic so many of the dystopian sci-fi societies we read about, siloed into self-contained communities reminiscent of Hugh Howey’s Wool series.

LowLineIf you are not careful, you will breeze by the lab’s opening with its undressed foyer of concrete floors, black curtains and little else.  I was greeted by a smiling volunteer handing out cookies and eagerly willing to answer questions about this fantastic project.   There is a collection jar for donations, cool Lowiine stickers for my already crowed MacBook cover and pamphlets of the project.   Then it was time to follow the exhibit where you step behind a curtain and read a few stationary billboards about the history of the site, the project, designers… and yes… contributors 😉  LowLine_Supporter

LowLine_tech

 

The technology is fantastically simple yet highly complex and elegant.  It concentrates the light from above and shoots it down tubes where reflectors receive and disperse the light onto ceiling tiles that seem to be as organic as the plants they feed.

LowLine_CeilingPortDon’t try to look into the light source from above–it is blinding and more powerful than any spotlight I have ever seen; so bright it seems powered in this dark space.  Click on the image to the right for a better look as it enters from the ceiling. I was amazed at how much light showered onto the lab exhibit from one source.  IMG_1178This technology should be used in every building in NYC.  For about the first ten minutes, I observed the technology.  It was as beautiful as it was technical, making sure to diffuse the light evenly yet spot certain areas to accent and showcase the living lab, making it easy to forget that these plants have not seen the outside in almost a year.

LowLine_Exhibit

For about the next half hour, I enjoyed the exhibit, studying the plant varietals and the design of cascading layers of plywood adorned with mosses, bromeliads, Rattlesnake plants, stick plants, etc.   During the second round of the LowLine_HangingPlantsKickstarter campaign, my contribution awarded me the opportunity to pick a plant LowLine_Display(Rattlesnake plant) and give it a name–which I chose Nori, after my protagonist in an upcoming sci-fi novel called Silversides.  Eventually, I will get to pick where in the lab and where in the finished Lowline underground park, Nori will take up permanent residence.  I found this a IMG_1180bit ironic because my protagonist, Nori, was named after a seaweed and for my love of Phycology–study of seaweed– as a former marine biologist.  However, the snakeplant was so beautiful and does reflect a slight attribute of my protagonist.  I am looking forward to one day seeing Nori in the Lowline Park of NYC.
It was easy to get lost in thought and during my visit, something very profound hit me.  As a writer of hard sci-fi, what better a place to study the technology of living under artificial means?  I thought back to all the novels I have read, where societies lived under ground or were tucked away in star ships for generations in space, but very few of those stories ever really brought out the true mechanics of living away from natural light.  Sure, the locals are described beautifully but most of the feeling I got as a reader was the longing for being back in natural light.
Standing in the Lowline Lab provided me with a real-life experience I would not have received otherwise.   I stood there with my arm outstretched into the splash of light, it was cooler than I thought it would have been and the earthiness of the air around me was absent.  Yet when I looked up into the main source of light coming through the ceiling, it was blinding and the thought of reaching into that beam projected images of my hand being vaporized.  That’s when I felt the tap on my shoulder, “It’s time to leave,” she said.  “Come on… let’s go outside…”
I am going to suggest to the Lowline they set up some WiFi, power strips and writing nooks for writers in the Lab/Park.  I will see if there is any equipment I can donate from a few companies I know.  This is and will be a working lab for not only the project of the Lowline, but for any hard sci-fi writer.  Try and get to the Lab before March and Don’t miss this opportunity to get involved in this project–it is truly fantastic.
Click here to donate.  It is free to enter the exhibit and well worth the trip.  While down in this area, visit the Essex Market for some fantastic eats.

Location:
140 Essex Street
(between Rivington and Stanton Streets)
Lower East Side – New York City
Subway: J/M/F Essex Delancey Street

Hours:
Saturday and Sunday
11am – 5pm
Free and Open to the Public
October 2015- March 2016

Advertisements

Silversides – Character Study – Nori – Protagonist

SilverSides_CoverThis is a character study of Nori Matsui, the protagonist in my upcoming sci-fi novel, Silversides.  This particular excerpt may or may not make it into the second volume, but it is no less accurate of the events to unfold.

Silversides: Excerpt – Exiting the Necker Cube

“Nori,”  he said attempting to regain her attention.  He was speaking more softly this time, very controlled in a commanding tone he knows gets questions answered.  He waited for eye contact and brushed at his scalp as though having just walked into a cobweb.  “Who exactly are you?” and not waiting for an answer, “Where did you come from?”  Then leaning in closer,  “Tell us again, why did you come here?”

Nori paid little attention to the talking suit, instead focused on her cuffed wrists locked into the grommet of the table, which like her chair, was bolted into the concrete floor.  She studied the burn marks and scratches on the metal, wondering how many others had sat here to the drone of these same questions, whether they were a petty thief or, as she was, someone who had just traveled twenty light years and back through time.   

She raised her attention to the decorated suit of the man, with the port of his belly and chubby arms braced on the table-top, with his manicured fingers rolling inches away from her own.  How easy it would be to reach out and break every one of them before you would ever feel the blinding pain of it, she streamed into him.

Without knowing why, he curled his fingers into his palms

“As I stated earlier,” Nori answered.  “I am here alone.”

The suit pushed up and away from the table with the crack of his back the only audible sound in the concrete room.  He stood there momentarily then began to  nervously massage the folds of skin on the back of his neck.  Unsurprisingly to Nori, he hammered his fist onto the metal table and leaned in close to her face.

“Stop fucking around and answer the goddamn questions!” the spittle from his charge landing on her cheeks but her eyes never blinked.

Nori had been mouthing every word the suit was saying before he did, her blue left eye and green right eye, unnerving him as she did.

He could see the slight extension of her smile, and lost it.

She knew what was coming next and took the blow of his back-hand across her mouth, pausing briefly for the effect before sweeping her tongue beneath her lip, watching him shake off the hurt like he had just punched a brick wall.  He could see there wasn’t a mark or expression on her; just the feeling of deep hatred streaming into him.

“CHIEF!” Shouted a woman’s voice from behind as she stepped out from the shadows. “That will be enough! Now leave here immediately or–by God–I will see to it you spend the remainder of your career at Shemya!”

Knowing she did not hand out threats, only promises, he turned away from Nori to face his Commander-in-chief.

“Madame President,” The Chief Executive Officer acknowledged with a submissive nod, then he turned to the the Marine standing at attention, who opened and closed the steel door behind him.

The president asked for a chair and sat opposite Nori.

“I deeply apologize for my Chief’s behavior….  Inexcusable,” she said with disgust. “I assure you, that will never happen again.”

Nori did not respond, nor did she care.

The President felt something slip over her and brushed the flip of her hair.

“Tell me.  Why did you come here?  Why Times Square, the most recognizable place on this planet?  Surely, you could have picked someplace more hospitable, say–“

“Paris?” Nori said finishing her thoughts.

“Yes… Like, Paris…” the President reiterated, her throat suddenly dry and her alarm apparent.

“I thought about that…” Nori paused. “Paris will always remain a place of inspiration for me, but New York?  New York seems right… So here I am, Times Square… The center of the Universe.”   Nori could feel the hidden fright of the President, having just read her mind.

“You need to shut down five-eighty-one,” Nori cautioned.

“What is five-eighty-one?” the President questioned, the chevrons on her forehead lifting and indicating she was clearly in the dark.

“Start with your Chief,” Nori suggested.  “He’ll be sitting in your seat…”