Analysis of Victoria 8/Genesis 8 Female

It’s June, of an odd number year, and right on time, DAZ3D released the new figure line, Genesis 8, with its flagship model, Victoria 8.

Yes, DAZ3D skipped Genesis 4. Their reasons are pretty sound. First, Gen4 is the shorthand for Generation 4, or Victoria 4 and Michael 4. This avoids confusion. Second, it ties in with Victoria 8, avoiding further confusion.

When Victoria 7 appeared in June, 2015, my response was, “Oh, hell, no!” No, that’s being kind. I was vulgar, hostile, and antagonistic.  My resolve lasted fourteen months. Now, I work exclusively with Victoria 7. This time, I decided to buy Victoria 8 on the first day and put her through a series of tests before I said yay or nay.

I said that when Victoria 8 appeared, for me to switch from Victoria 7, V8 was going to have to really impress me. She was going to have to step off the computer screen, perform one heck of a lap dance, build me a stiff Manhattan, and take care of cleaning the place so I don’t have to. Has all that happened this week? Let’s find out.

With Victoria 8/Genesis 8, DAZ3D makes the following claims:

  • The most backward compatibility ever, through included clones for Genesis, Genesis 2, & Genesis 3
  • Includes clones for Male and Female figures for better use of content across sexes
  • New eyes, toes, fingers, lashes, and more
  • More realistic bending and articulation across the figure
  • Enhanced PowerPose support, including an all-new expression interface
  • Major muscle groups now flex automatically as the figure moves and poses
  • Dramatically more realistic skin through an all-new Iray Uber Shader

I’m going to look at the first, fourth, sixth, and seventh in depth. The third, new eyes, toes, fingers, etc., is actually the only major difference between Victoria 8 and Victoria 7 (I’ll get to that in a minute). The eyelashes are now geografted props instead of being part of the mesh. Why, may I ask? As for PowerPose, that only benefits the animator, not the still artist. So, in both cases, DAZ3D is pandering to the game developer. They don’t benefit me, so I could not care less.

As for the dramatically more realistic skin, that is definitely true! However, it’s part of DAZ Studio 4.9.4.177. It comes with an enhanced Iray Ubershader. I’ve used it already on my Victoria 7s and tested it on a V6 and V4. So, to claim it’s a feature of Victoria 8/Genesis 8 is disingenuous.

Victoria 6, Victoria 7, and Victoria 8, Side-by-Side

I loved Victoria 6! The only reason I switched to Victoria 7 was the improved sculptability of the figure, and that was made possible by Xenic101’s Muscular HD Morphs, and Zev0’s Vascularity HD, Shape Shift 3, and Breast Control 3 systems. Otherwise, she was a primitive brick. Here the three generations are, side-by-side:

V8A2

V6 on the left, V7 in the center, V8 on the right. This is something that DAZ3D didn’t tell us. V8 is taller. I put Measure Metrics on V6 and V7, so I know for a fact that they are both 5’11”. So, V8 must be 6’2″. Yet, they advertise her as 5’10”. Someone can’t read a measuring tape.

The Meshes

Here is the mesh for Victoria 6:

MeshV6

This is what I loved about Victoria 6. Notice the complex intersections in the brows, the mouth, the shoulders, the upper chest/collarbone, and tops of the breasts. These mimic the natural topology of the human body, and permit an astonishing array of character morphs that parallel realistic people.

Compare to Victoria 7:

MeshV7

Simplified. Far too simplified for my tastes. This is pandering to game developers. They don’t care about realism. They need maximum movement with minimal resource clogging. It’s funny, however. Victoria 6 still loads and renders faster than the more primitive Victoria 7. That Zev0 can develop morphing systems for this, and Fred Winkler can get astonishingly realistic people out of this are testaments to their talents and genius. If not for those two content creators, I’d still be working with V6.

Now, Victoria 8:

MeshV8

DAZ3D calls her the most advanced Victoria yet. Really? V8 is a copy of V7. In fact, based on the mesh, she doesn’t deserve the name Victoria 8, but rather should be called Victoria 7.2.

The Faces

Faces

Again, V6 left, V7 center, V8 right.

Again, V6 has the most pleasing and morphable face. I thought V7’s face was too hard and her mouth just plain ugly. I should have withheld judgment for Victoria 8. She looks too masculine. It’s politically correct these days to not be able to tell men from women, but it’s biologically incorrect. Over on the DAZ forums, V8’s supporters deride those of us who don’t like V8’s masculine face by saying, “I guess they’ve never seen a real woman.” Personally, I think that’s an affront to women. My wife certainly doesn’t look like me! My other complaints are V8’s face is long, where V6 and V7 have heart shaped faces. And, again, V8 has a mouth big enough to fit a tankard.

Flexion of Muscles

DAZ3D claims that Victoria 8’s muscles flex as she moves. Let’s see.

V82D

Well, yes. To a degree. Some. To get that claimed level of flexion, the figure’s arms and legs need to be nearly doubled over onto themselves. That’s fine for yoga poses, but not most everyday or action poses.

Compare to Victoria 7, with Muscular HD in action:

V82E

A superior level of muscular flexion and definition is possible with Victoria 7, with systems already in place. Systems that do not exist for Genesis 8, and may not if Xenic doesn’t want to upgrade yet again.

Backwards Compatibility

DAZ3D claims that Victoria 8/Genesis 8 is their most backwards compatible figure yet. They claim that she will wear all clothes for Genesis, Genesis 2, and Genesis 3, as well as accepting their poses. Is this true? The answer is a qualified no.

Here’s Reason Number One, the zero pose.

This is Victoria 7’s zero pose, one used by V4, V5, and V6 as well.

Zero7

Now, Victoria 8’s zero pose:

Zero8

DAZ3D moved from the classic T pose to an A pose. The A pose is preferred by game developers. Now, I understand the game development community is good business, but DAZ has a sister company called Morph 3D that is specifically geared for that community. So, why muck with us still artists like this?

The A pose throws all legacy poses into a fit. Forget using them! Unless … There is hope. Sickleyield, perhaps one of the best content creators in the business, designed a T pose for Victoria 8, as well as a tutorial for adapting legacy clothes to fit her. It works for poses, too. You can find it in Sickleyield’s Journal on DeviantArt. Highly recommended if you plan to use V8. But we shouldn’t have to resort to that kind of convoluted process.

Now, here’s the second reason V8 isn’t as backwards compatible as DAZ3D claims.

This is the list of all figures supported by Victoria 7/Genesis 3 Auto-Fit:

AutoFit3

Now, for Victoria 8/Genesis 8:

AutoFit2

Do you see who is missing? DAZ3D wants Victoria 4 and Michael 4 to just go away.

Some claim that Victoria 4 clothes were never supported by Genesis. Uh, her name is up there for Victoria 7. As for them fitting, take a look at this:

V7 Iryndelle

Iryndelle here wears AeonSoul’s Classic Fantasy for Victoria 4. Iryndelle is a Victoria 7. For the first two years of her existence, she was a Victoria 6, and wore the same outfit. In fact, it fits V7 better than it fit V4, and it was designed for V4.

How does it fit V8?

AutoFit

YIKES! I stopped right here. This is with Sickleyield’s T pose applied to V8. Auto-Fit tried to place the arm jewels in the original pose. So, V8 will not take V4 clothes.

UNLESS … I can’t remember his name to give him credit, but someone on DeviantArt developed a workaround. He applied V4 clothes to V7. Then, he transferred them to V8. They fit like tailored gloves. So, there is that option.

Now, how do Genesis clothes fit Genesis 8. Well, let’s take a look at Auto-Fit.

This is the Auto-Fit pane for Victoria 7, and it’s the same for Victoria 6:

AutoFit4

Now, the Auto-Fit pane for Victoria 8/Genesis 8:

AutoFit5

Again, see what’s missing? Footwear, capes, gloves, pants, and shirts all qualify as none. For V6 and V7, if we did not specify the type of garment, the adjustment and effects morphs did not convey to the applied figure. They do for V8, regardless, but there are limitations.

Here is what the Auto-Fit looks like in action:

AutoFit8

This is Out of Touch’s Button Up 2 for G3F on a V7. Now, below, is the same on V8.

AutoFit9

It looks kinda wrong. Just a touch, like Vicki stole it out of her little sister’s dresser. The biggest problem is the effects morphs do not perform as well as they should. The shirt opens, but the buttons don’t move with it, and it doesn’t open as far as it should.

Now, I haven’t tested to see if Genesis 8 finally avoids the nasty tearing of the mesh on long skirts from previous generations, or avoids the “crash into the cleavage” that happens with tops that bridge the breasts.

Oh. Once again, you can forget about giving V8 any high heeled shoes from previous generations to Victoria 8. It ain’t happening! Sickleyield gets it to work, but I don’t think it’s worth the hassle.

How about the reverse? For a whole fourteen months, I bought V7 clothes to go on my V6 characters. They fit quite well. This is AerySoul’s Aery Mage for V7 on Victoria 6:

AutoFit7

Now, Throne Defender for V8 on V7:

AutoFit6

Well, she’s trying to wear them. It’s that A pose that’s throwing Auto-Fit off.

So, backwards compatibility of Victoria 8/Genesis 8 exists in theory. In practice, is it far less flexible and thorough than that of Victoria 7/Genesis 3.

How about that Male/Female clones so we can transfer clothing across sexes? Take a look at this:

AuraIraySM

Aura wears Pirate for G2M boots. Not only are they designed for Michael (a male), but they’re from a previous generation. Victoria 7/Genesis 3 already does across sex clothing transfer, at least, as far as I need it to go. So, this new feature of Victoria 8/Genesis 8 doesn’t benefit or interest me.

Character Transfer

This is the big one for me, the deal maker or breaker. I have custom made recurring characters, the primary ones being Aura Lockhaven and the Sarethian Seven. According to DAZ3D, characters can transfer from one generation of Genesis to Genesis 8 without difficulty.

So, I tried transferring Aura Lockhaven from V7 to V8. She has been a V4 and a V6 in the past. To transfer her from V4 to V6, I rebuilt her slider-by-slider. For V7, I created a shaping preset of her V6 incarnation, and applied it to a raw Genesis 3 Female. Ninety percent of the sliders transferred without difficulty. The ones that did not no longer existed. The missing 10% was a simple matter of tweaking.

Victoria 8/Genesis 8 has the same exact morphing sliders as Victoria 7/Genesis 3, so the transfer should be 100 %. Was it?

V8E

NOT AT ALL!

Oh, I suppose Aura (on the left) could be standing with her 40 year old cousin. It’s that massive difference between the two base faces. Victoria 8’s face isn’t just long and masculine. It’s also older. Aura is twenty-two. She also doesn’t have a double chin. Her V8 mouth is too wide and her lips too thin. Here’s the profile:

V8F

From the nose up, the V8 version looks great. Below the nose, she looks horrid. Now, granted, Aura is a V7HD. The HD morphs don’t exist yet for Victoria 8, but they will probably appear within the next week. It’s pretty standard for them to be released within ten days of a major character launch. That could make a lot of difference.

I couldn’t test her body. Aura’s body is morphed using Shape Shift 3 and Breast Control 3 by Zev0. He will have to release Genesis 8 versions before I can test a below the neck character transfer of Aura from V7 to V8.

Skin Transfer

DAZ says that V7 skins will fit V8. Do they?

V8G

Well, yes. I’ll give credit where credit is due. They fit perfectly. However, now the V8 Aura looks even worse. Aura’s skins are G3F, designed for G3F, enhanced in Skin Builder 3 for G3F, and worn by G3F. Just because it fits V8 doesn’t mean it works. Again, it’s that totally different base face shape.

Conclusion

As of today, I can’t use Victoria 8/Genesis 8. I have no need. There really isn’t any difference is meshes, so why bother? The major differences are things I can’t use (separate eyelashes) and things I won’t (that face!). V8 offers too much of what I don’t need, and not nearly enough of what I do need.

For me to use Victoria 8/Genesis 8, Xenic101 and Zev0 will have to release new Genesis 8 versions of their morphing systems. Morphing systems to turn this androgynous supermodel into a real woman are underway. Powerage has released Breast Factory 8 for Genesis 8. I use the G3F edition on my standard models to give them a different look. Fred Winkler is already performing his magic. His V7HD characters were some of the reasons I switched from V6 to V7. He got the granite slab of the Genesis 3 mesh to look like a real woman. He’s doing it again for Victoria 8 with his new character Elizabeth. She has a feminine face, and a natural height.

With any luck, perhaps Zev0, or someone, will release a Face Shift 8 that will take care of that ungodly mouth and horsey face on V8.

That does not in any way mean that I can ever use V4, V6, or V7 clothing on a V8. Not without a lot of effort and too much work; effort and work that I should not have to do. Perhaps, a Genesis 8 version of Wear Them All will take care of those issues.

Until then, I’m sticking with Victoria 7. If I have to make my own Manhattan and vacuum my own carpet, I’ll do it with a trusted friend.

 

 

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Country Come to Town

Country

“It’s this one!” Holdric growled. He thrust his dagger down, pinning the card to the table.

“Yes, sir, you’re absolutely right,” Chumley stammered. “Today is your lucky day. You win the jackpot. I’ll even throw in a few gold coins for the lovely lady.”

“You’re a smart man,” Sieglinde said.

Chumley vowed to himself never again to try to take those naked rubes from the hills. It was just too dangerous.

Tariman the Druid watched, a gleeful smile on his face. For years, he sought a way to put the conniver in his place. These “hicks” from the country just did it for him, with no effort on his part. Leave it to the unclouded eye of someone unaccustomed to the city’s ways to see right through Chumley’s scheme. Tariman thought the leatherclad Holdric and Sieglinde might make splendid company for a round or two of ale.

DAZ Studio 4.9 Pro -> Reality 4.3 -> Luxrender 1.6 -> GIMP 2.8.

 

“The Fires of Tallen Hall” Update

For weeks, I was stuck on the first chapter of The Fires of Tallen Hall, with only nine written. That first chapter was just too choppy. Not poetic enough.

My wife had a brilliant idea. She suggested I write the entire book. Just write it, as a skeleton. Then go back and flesh it out. That way, I progressed and would end up with at least an outlined complete story. Capital!

A skeleton for me is dialogue, action, and description. Then, I add the muscle (the expository that holds it together), and the skin (the lyrical language). I planned to focus on the skeleton, and ignore the muscle and skin.

I am happy to report that as of last Friday, I have completed nineteen chapters. They’re anemic and emaciated, but they have flesh and skin over the bones.

This is an interesting point in the story. I began Aura’s initial tale in 2010. It morphed through six different incarnations: the first graphic novel, and five novel versions. At no time did I ever complete it. From Chapter Twenty forward, I am in new territory.

It would be easy to say that I have the story outlined in my head. In fact, it’s outlined on a dry erase board to my left. However, it has changed. In Chapter Eleven, I wrote a few paragraphs to reintroduce a character from A Path of Stones so the reader wouldn’t forget he exists. Those few paragraphs radically altered what I planned to be a confrontation with the villain’s henchman. Based on those paragraphs, someone else will have to deal with him.

So, there is no telling what Chapter Thirty, or Twenty for that matter, will do to the ending.

To the Death

Duel

Ygraine Pagel looked up from her work table as Aura Lockhaven entered her chamber. She cast Aura a cold glare. She said, “I know who you are.”

Aura frowned. There was a note of cynicism in the sorceress’ voice. It was not that of a merchant receiving a customer. She said, “You should. I wrote you last week. I’m interested in the emerald sphere you have for sale.”

“Hmm,” the sorceress said. “We’re both initiated magicians. There is no need for subterfuge.” She looked Aura up and down, and sneered. “Crimson. I expected death to wear black, and reveal much less skin.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Feigning surprise is disingenuous of you. My order sent you here to assassinate me,” Ygraine said.

“Wait. Excuse me?” Aura asked. She couldn’t believe her ears. Rumors abounded that Ygraine had turned her cloak, surrendering to the lust for power that seduced some sorcerers. The idea that the Order of Sorcerers would send someone from another magical order to deal with one of their own was ridiculous. The mere thought that that someone would be an enchantress, a member of an over-wrought and far-too-sensitive order that the aristocratic and rib-numbing tightly-corseted sorcerers despised, was beyond absurd. The sorcerers had the best internal constabulary of all eight magical orders, and were notorious for dispensing swift justice against members who violated their oath of non-manipulation. If they wanted to execute Ygraine, then Aura would have found a week old corpse. Aura shivered at the thought that she may have just walked into an unpredictable situation. Still, Ygraine was the finest purveyor of magical crystals in all of Ayrdland. “I’m here to buy a stone, Ygraine. I am customer, not an assassin. I don’t kill.”

“Then, that shall be your downfall!”

With that, Ygraine launched herself at the young enchantress. Before Aura could brace herself, Ygraine knocked Aura’s staff from her hand. Then, she grabbed her by the throat. Aura did not need to ponder what the sorceress had in mind. She felt that intent in Ygraine’s right hand as a malignant spell poured down the woman’s arm and flooded Aura’s neck. Aura knew some of the sorcerers’ spells, but not enough to counter them. This one was new. She didn’t have to tighten her hand. The spell did the work for her. It felt like an iron vise upon soft pine wood. Aura felt her windpipe cramp.

“Ygraine,” Aura said with a gasp. “Let me go. You’re killing me!”

“That’s the whole idea, you stupid tart!” the sorceress said.

Aura grabbed Ygraine’s arm, trying her best to break the sorceress’ hold on her throat. Ygraine’s hand was fixed to her flesh as ivy to brick. All of Aura’s respect for elders vanished. The sorceress meant to murder her. She threw her considerable weight and height into Ygraine, but her hand and spell remained fixed. Around the chamber they danced their waltz of death, knocking over the bookcase, overturning a chair, then spilling a rack of tinctures. Dozens of small bottles shattered on the stone floor, their contents mixing in a bubbling brew. Then, Aura slammed Ygraine against her table, in an effort to knock the woman loose. It only served to upset the table, sending books, rats, and even a skull into flight. A lit candle fell onto the ruins of the tinctures. The mixture erupted in flame.

The inferno diverted Ygraine’s attention long enough. Aura employed an old tactic she used against boatmen who lusted for her budding breasts when she was younger. A woman lacked the necessary external appendages, but it would still hurt. She kneed the sorceress in the groin. With a yelp, Ygraine released Aura’s throat and fell back against the table.

“Ygraine,” Aura wheezed, trying to catch her breath. “We have to get out of here.”

“I shall. The only way you’re leaving is in a coffin, assassin!” With that, Ygraine advanced.

Oh, merciful heavens, Aura thought. Ygraine was mad. It was bad enough that she wanted to kill Aura. Now, she continued her murderous assault as fire spread the floor of the windowless chamber. Noxious smoke, the result of igniting tinctures that should never be mixed, filled the air. The flames would soon reach the wood of table and bookcase, and the chamber’s timbers. If the fight lasted much longer, both women would die.

Ygraine pounced. Aura turned, dashing toward the back of the chamber. The sorceress grabbed Aura’s cloak and pulled her backwards. Let her have the cloak, Aura thought, gripping the clasp and tearing it open. Ygraine threw the garment across the overturned chair, and dove toward Aura.

As the enchantress turned to flee around Ygraine, she slipped on broken glass and spilled potion. She went down on one knee. That was all the sorceress needed. Again, she gripped Aura by the throat. Again, the vicious spell poured into Aura’s neck. Again, her windpipe constricted. Aura tried her best to wrench free, but her boots kept slipping on the wet floor. If she fell, Ygraine would simply sit on her and kill her. She had to maintain her footing. To keep herself upright, she locked onto Ygraine’s leg with her own.

Black specks appeared in front of Aura’s eyes. The spell was strangling her, ending her life one failed breath after another. Her mind reeled in panic. Aura gasped for air. None came.

“Here’s a kiss for the leader of my order,” Ygraine said.

A ball of pure life force formed in Ygraine’s left hand. It was enough to turn a human inside out. This woman not only could cast one spell, while maintaining a second of a different type, but she cast both without a single incantation. Aura had to speak an incantation, and speech was now lost to her.

The Enchantress of Hartshorn had only moments left. She lashed out with her left hand. She grabbed Ygraine’s face. Claw her eyes! Tear her skin! Rip her mouth! Anything to get her to let go. Not enough. Her hand still grasped Aura’s neck, the vile spell pouring into her throat.

Aura felt her fear and desperation coalesce into a ball of pure vitality, will, and emotion. It formed on its own volition, without any conscious thought from the enchantress. It formed without an incantation. It rushed from her chest, and poured into her right arm. It erupted in her hand as the most lethal spell in her entire arsenal – the Divine Thunderbolt.

I don’t kill, Aura said only moments earlier. If Ygraine did not release her throat, then Aura would violate that statement by shoving the ball of solid light into the sorceress’ face. The woman’s skull would survive. At this range, her flesh would be incinerated. Aura knew, as entwined as they were, that she too would take the force of the spell. She would crawl away with massive burns, burns that could be healed tomorrow. If she did not launch the spell, there would be no tomorrow for healing anything. Aura gritted her teeth. Someone was about to die, and the determining judge was Aura Lockhaven herself.

DAZ Studio 4.9 Pro -> Reality 4.3 -> Luxrender 1.6.

This is not canon.

The Evolution of Aura Lockhaven

For the fun of it, I put all three of Aura Lockhaven’s 3D incarnations in the same scene. The result reveals her evolution as a 3D character, as well as serving as graphic touchstones of her evolution as a fictional character.

Left: Victoria 6 incarnation. Center: Victoria 7 incarnation. Right: Victoria 4 incarnation.

Auras II

Victoria 4 Incarnation (April, 2010 — January, 2013):  She wasn’t even Aura Lockhaven when I designed this character. She began as my feeble attempt to create a model based on Playboy Playmate Lindsey Vuolo. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, there is no resemblance between the figure and the Playmate. How she became Aura is chronicled on my website if you’re interested. This is the graphic novel version of Aura.

Victoria 6 Incarnation (January, 2013 — August, 2016): I suspended the graphic novel when I started grad school. Upon graduating, I decided to write a fantasy novel, using the graphic novel as the foundation. That required a new physical representation of my heroine. So, I chose Victoria 6. That base figure much more human like roundness than the earlier V4 (I skipped Victoria 5 completely). Her appearance is based on her written description, so there is no resemblance to the V4 counterpart. Around 2014, I decided the gold body jewelry was too blooming difficult to describe in a written narrative, and gave her the outfit worn by the V7 version.

Victoria 7 Incarnation (August, 2016 — Present): I refused to upgrade to Victoria 7 for an entire year. Eventually, the improved posing and sculpting systems won me over. I transferred Aura from V6 to V7, slider by slider. They don’t quite look alike. The V6 base face is more heart-shaped than V7’s, but the new version is close enough. I really like the new muscular body. Aura’s transfer from V6 to V7 occurred at the same time I determined to finish her first novel by the end of 2016 and publish it. It also happened at the time I cut the opening trilogy down to a duology. This is the incarnation who appears on the cover of A Path of Stones. It is how I see Aura at the end of the series, transformed from the unsure wizardess in the brown dress into the powerful enchantress who fights tyranny.

Most of us in 3DLand anticipate the release of Victoria 8 this June. I said no to Victoria 6 and Victoria 7. We see how well that resolve lasted. So, I shall see what Victoria 8 has to offer. She best impress me. As in, she needs to step off the computer screen, perform one heck of a lap dance, and build me a stiff Manhattan. If she does, I will once again, transfer Aura to a new rig.

This is what that one, silly, little Victoria 4 figure back in 2010 started.

The Fires of Tallen Hall

2017 hasn’t been friendly to writing.

I lost January and February to releasing A Path of Stones and the subsequent marketing campaign. March fell to a hard drive failure, and doing my best to keep the old computer running. April was consumed with learning the new computer, as well as a few bouts of depression.

It’s May.

Yesterday, I resumed work on The Fires of Tallen Hall, the second Aura Lockhaven novel. I am happy to report that it is 50% complete.

In honor of that mark, here is the first promotional image of the second novel.

TallenHallSM

Aura Lockhaven in Iray and Comics

Yes, you read that right. Aura Lockhaven comics!

I’ve been experimenting with the Iray rendering engine, and the results are beyond what was expected. So, I had to see what Aura looked like.

Usually, I render her in Reality-Luxrender. That texturing system and render engine gives me more control over the look, and has far greater textural fidelity than Iray. It is, however, slow. Luxrender is the Treebeard of the rendering world. It never does anything hasty. A six hour render is just too time consuming for a comic, or even an illustrated short story. A page of a comic per week is reasonable. One panel per week is not.

Iray, however, is lightning in pixels. I can expect a render to complete between 20 minutes and 90. Extremely complicated sets and lighting require more time, but that is usually limited to fine art pieces, not the panels of a comic.

So. Here is the first image of Aura, rendered in Iray.

AuraIraySM

Aura looks great! Her skin is fantastic, and comparable to Reality. The clothes, however! They’re too orange. I can control the colors better in Reality. She’s the “red enchantress,” not the Orange Bowl Queen. Well, they are three years old, and date from her incarnation as a Victoria 6 figure (she’s a Victoria 7 now). Time to give the lady a new wardrobe.

This scene was … interesting. Iray should have rendered her in 20 minutes or less. It’s just one figure, a few clothes, a simple set, and two lights. She took an hour to reach 15% completion! That is not acceptable. This required some drastic measures. I could only surmise that the issue lay in the fact that Aura is a custom made, slider-by-slider, character. All those morphs had to slow her down. So, I made a single character morph and applied to to a stock G3F. If you don’t know what that means, I essentially turned her into a character I can sell. Instead of ten different morphs for her mouth alone, I have just one that says Aura Lockhaven, and it controls both face and body. That cut load time in half, but did not significantly increase render time.

Oddly enough, I experimented by rendering her in the Beta edition of DAZ Studio 4.9, instead of the public release of 4.9.3. She rendered much faster. At eleven minutes, she had only reached 10% completion. Not great. Not good enough for a comic. Better than 15% after an hour. At that point, I stopped the render to check her pose. Satisfied, I resumed the render. Within four minutes, she shot from 10% to 55%.

What the heck! There is no difference between 4.9 Beta and 4.9.3. They are identical. Why would stopping and resuming the render cause that much of a speed increase? My wife speculates that stopping it freed tied up resources in either the cache or VRAM.

It does matter. I’d like to know the answers so I can correct them. However, this opens the door for Aura Lockhaven illustrated short stories and comics.

I plan a few short comics, as in ten to twelve pages. They will fill in the gaps between novels, and provide a bit of backstory to some of the characters and situations. They will be free, on my website. Why not? Give them away as promotional items, and as fun things to fans.

This also opens the door for the Sarethian Seven to be that series of illustrated short stories I’ve envisioned for three years.

I will leave you with a scene I call “Night of the Wraiths.” Aura seems to be in a wee bit of a predicament.

Wraiths

The Painting

A friend of mine on Facebook found a copy of John William Waterhouse’s gorgeous painting “The Soul of the Rose” at a garage sale. She contacted me and asked, “What’s her story?” Well …

===

The young woman didn’t know why she stopped at the garage sale. It offered nothing she needed, just clothes and toys and furniture of toddlers now outgrown them, and CDs for her father’s favorite bands. Ancient DVDs for people too silly to abandon that antique form of entertainment. Stuff called books. Oh, look. A blender. How quaint.

Then, she spotted the painting. It was a simple painting, really. Just a woman stopping at a wall and smelling a rose. She liked the woman’s face, caught in a moment of rapture, the same look she had when she closed a major account. The painting would look pretty against the teal semi-gloss walls of the entertainment room. So, she bought it for a measly $ 50. She made that much it one minute.

For a week, it hung over the Harmon Kardon stereo on the western wall. Most of her friends cast it a quick glance as they sipped their martinis, before turning their gaze to the latest movie she acquired on Amazon.

Then, seven days after the painting’s purchase, the young woman sat in the entertainment room. She pondered which of the Netflix offerings upon which to spend her leisurely afternoon. She heard an unmistakable feminine voice. It said, “Look within.”

The woman leapt up. She glanced around. She lived alone, and the alarms had not alerted her to anyone entering by door or window. If the two Persian cats talked, then she would check herself into the hospital immediately. Someone had said, clearly, “Look within.”

“Who’s there!” she snapped, trembling.

“You are,” the voice answered.

The woman turned her gaze from one side of the room to the other. In the direction the voice seemed to come from, she saw only the painting. She gulped, and whispered, “That’s impossible.”

“Is it?” the voice asked. “You brought me home. Did you not expect me to talk to you?”

This only happened in movies and to lunatics, she thought, slumping to the floor. “What … what do you want?”

“I already told you. Look within.”

“What does that even mean?”

“You live alone in a 3,500 square foot house. You make six digits a year, working only twenty hours per week. Yet, you have never once examined your life. You have never looked at your own mind and heart. Have you ever stopped to sniff a flower for its own sake?”

“That’s silly,” the woman said. “How does smelling a flower get me ahead?”

“It doesn’t. It just makes you more human. Try it. Look within. Find the flower inside yourself, and sniff it.”

“How?”

“Close your eyes. I will guide you.”

She did. All she saw was darkness. The voice said, “Now. Imagine yourself as me in the painting. Smell the rose. Can you?”

“No. I’ve never smelled a rose. It’s silly.”

“Try. What is the most wonderful aroma you’ve ever smelled? Your mother’s chocolate chip cookies? That first cup of coffee in the morning? The sweat on your lover’s chest?”

“The leather upholstery of my new Lexus,” the woman said, with the first hint of enthusiasm since this ordeal began.

“Oh, dear,” the voice said with a sigh. “Well. Just watch.”

The world erupted inside the woman’s closed eyelids. She saw the painting. A woman in a morning gown, her hair elegantly tied back, paused at the wall of her estate. She clutched one of the pink roses and drew it to her nose. The woman’s face changed from that of the figure in the painting to her own. The aroma of the rose intoxicated her. It smelled like life. It smelled like freedom. It smelled like a world beyond corner offices and titles and new imported automobiles and exorbitant houses and vacations to the Caribbean and lovers wearing Rolex watches and carrying stock portfolios. It smelled like the Earth and Creation and being pursued by Pan in the forest and deliberately not running fast enough. In the heat of her back against the floor of the forest and Pan’s body and hands and piercing eyes, she saw the entire world. For once, it was beautiful. She saw beyond the accounts and clients and meetings and cocktails and sometimes betrayals. In one single rose petal, she saw it all. In one single whiff of a perfumed flower, she inhaled it all.

Then, the woman saw all of Denton, all of Dallas, all of Texas. She flew over the United States. She flew over the hemisphere. She saw the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Parthenon. She watched the first man walk on Mars, the battle of Gettysburg, the Great Pyramid being built, and the first strike of flint against stone bringing fire to people. She saw her father, her mother, her brother, herself, you, and me. She saw … a puddle on a road in Texas in August. The water shimmered in the sunlight for the briefest of moments. Brilliant, like a diamond held up to the light. Then, the water vanished, turned into steam by the relentless heat. It left behind a hole not even deep enough to bump the car that passed through it.

The next day, the woman held a garage sale. The tables held the usual items of someone of her status: last year’s purses, last season’s shoes, the previous model Cuisinart, a stack of CDs for a band that no longer played headlines. After all, she had to make room for the newest offerings at Macy’s. The tables also held a single painting, marked $ 5.

 

dawn

 

Philip K. Dick: Writer or Prophet?

Philip K. Dick was a prolific science-fiction writer. He usually depicted a bleak, dystopian future. His works have become more famously known as the motion pictures Blade Runner, Total Recall,  and Minority Report, as the current television series The Man in the High Castle. He died of a stroke in 1982 at age 53.

Below are some of the things he said during his life. Now, remember, he died in 1982.

Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.

There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’.

Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then.

It’s the basic condition of life to be required to violate our own identity.

There are no private lives. This a most important aspect of modern life. One of the biggest transformations we have seen in our society is the diminution of the sphere of the private. We must reasonably now all regard the fact that there are no secrets and nothing is private. Everything is public.

Look at the world around us today. I ask you, was Mr. Dick a mere writer of science fiction, or a prophet?