Like the main character in his trilogy, author Armen Gharabegian is embarking on his own adventure. Lucky for readers, we, too, get to experience his journey with his ‘Arctica’ trilogy.
Protocol 7 is the first novel in the trilogy where we follow our protagonist Simon as he uncovers the mystery of his father’s supposed death and travels to a quarantined Antarctica.
Sciencefiction.com had the opportunity to interview Gharabegian and got a glimpse into his artistic process. By focusing on creating a world and a story within it, Gharabegian originates ARCTICA’s framework in a place that many write off as cold and lifeless. He summons an atmosphere that is so intricately sculpted and brilliantly illustrative that I found myself describing it as “James Cameron-esque”.
It is interesting to learn how Gharabegian thinks, correlating the written word to environmental design. However, what is most inspiring is that Gharabegian created an niche for himself and it is fascinating to see his journey unfold.
ScienceFiction.com: How did you come up with the idea for Protocol 7? Why the Antarctic?
Armen Gharabegian: Protocol 7, which is part one of the ARCTICA trilogy, started as a concept when I was a graduate student. Originally, it started as a curiosity to design environments for research in Antarctica. Over the years as I designed structures for my own interest, I started thinking about the machinery that would create the tunnels and dig into the ice. I started thinking about transport vehicles, about survival. These ideas moved into the next phase. My interest of conspiracy theories and science fiction made me start thinking about alternate scenarios. This is how the story began.
Antarctica has always fascinated me. It is the last unknown continent left on the planet. Shrouded in mystery. An extreme environment that baffles the mind. Several thousand feet of ice and a world of resources underneath. I started reading up on the Antarctic treaty and started imagining what would happen in the future. This was the basis for Protocol 7 and what began the world of ARCTICA.
SF: You created a world that has become so dependent on AI. How much of coming up with that world was research-based and how much of it was your own creation?
AG: The AI component is not really from my imagination, but based on the fact that we are exploring a substantial amount of AI at the moment. I wouldn’t say this was diligent research but just insight on different things that I have read over the years. I imagined that AIs would be prevalent in our everyday lives in the future.
SF: Hayden is such a memorable character. Can you talk about your process with coming up with his character? Is he based on anyone in real-life?
AG: Hayden is created from a hybrid of different attributes I enjoy in someone’s character. I have huge respect for inventors and scientists, especially scientists like Hayden, who have a cynical sense of humor, and who are driven towards their creations to the point of madness. Perhaps, the one influence (although, not in physical features) was Dr. Tyrell in Blade Runner. There were certain aspects of Hayden’s personality that are similar to mine. Also, my love of chess, and the love of creating things. I guess subconsciously I would’ve enjoyed designing AI robots and an amphibian submersible.
SF: There’s a lot science fiction stories in our culture that depict father-child relationships. What challenges did you face with making Simon’s struggle original?
AG: Although I wrote the story of Protocol 7, which is deeply rooted in Simon’s search for his father, the originality for me was not Simon’s struggle, but the world of ARCTICA itself. Oliver was not the end to this story, and Simon’s journey will continue after Oliver’s death in books two and three. For me, ARCTICA has multiple angles, Simon had his own agenda, but the other characters have their own.
Some of these characters will continue into books two and three of ARCTICA. Perhaps, at the end of the trilogy, Simon’s relationship with his father would be one small aspect of the entire series.
SF: Finally, can you talk about your transition from being a designer into being a sci-fi writer?
AG: I actually have never thought about a transition, as I do not see myself an accomplished writer, but merely somebody who has a story to tell. Similarly, I do not consider myself a designer, although I’ve designed for twenty years. I see myself as a person who is interested in creating things.
I’m fascinated with the world around me and I have a love for both making things and imagining things. I have a great passion for film, and I’m drawn to the concept of making movies. I continue my fine arts, but much like my design, I don’t call myself an artist.
Maybe years from now, after several books, I will be asked the same question and I think my answer will be the same. My wish is to express and share what I create with other people, and I hope that the readers will enjoy the world of ARCTICA as it unfolds in the next several years.