I spent my secondary school years in a boys-only school. It’s getting closer now to end its long gender restriction, apparently. It’s one of the first schools set up in Chile, and it’s rather huge: during breaks you would cross a field that was being used by at least 4 improvised futbol (soccer) matches happening at the same time. A contingent of boys running in all directions, like startled ants, dodging the other balls like in those fast quidditch scenes in Harry Potter movies. Being IN the game was like playing a video game on acid.
It was also a mean, cold, big, old institution where we would go out during recess, screaming like just-released cockatoos. It was sometimes a scenery for violence, alienation and cry. And sometimes, it was a place to learn to call strangers friends (we were separated every year as to not form distractive bonds with classmates), because there was something meaner and bigger that every one of us calling us names, and judging us poorly, reminding our place as contestants on the verge of replacement. Some teachers and all ‘inspectors’ were reiterative about this mantra: there was always someone else who could use our spot in this traditional, renowned school.
I knew some of that would permeate one of my stories one day.
What I didn’t know was when and how: that when my mind wandered as far as it could go, right to the edge of a universe that’s ending its run, I would find another boys’ school, alike and different at the same time, to put some of the violence and exultation I relate to teen dreams. The rest is driven by images mostly. It’s clearly an unapologetic romantic story. I ended up finding its setup a bit rushed to land any deep sentiment, but I think it works as a fast prologue to the rest of the story: I’m finding now clear paths to show the larger world where it happens, in an episodical way, with different main characters. That’s why I’ll leave some major points out of the “Head Canon” of this dossier, in order to avoid spoilers. The purpose of the school itself is one of those, as it will be shown gradually along the story. I hope you get into the mystery of it all.
These were all visual cues for the more cosmic aspects of the story world:
"Moon Colonies" By John Berkey
I can't find the author of this illustration. It seems it's been pirated a lot, and I only was interested in it for the lines effect in the sky.
These are references for the 1910’s inspired style of the school, as well as the elizabethan inspired party fashion:
and for the boarding school itself:
Some early sketches:
3. Head Canon
(I’m not sure this is is proper head canon, since some of it is actually background lore for the series and may show up in-story later)
- The model of universe collapse used in the story is one of “expansion and ripping away of the cosmos”. Red stars and supernovas should be a common sight for the dome operators, as well as huge cosmic gas trails crossing space, from the rests of collapsed celestial bodies.
- The Dendrils, as earth humans called them, are hyper intelligent artificial life forms that made contact with humanity at the beginnings of XX century. That first contact influenced the architecture and fashion of the school, even though the institution eventually gained access to most places and eras of this universe. Their bodies resemble anthropomorphic plants, at least when they decide to mold their shapes in a sympathetic way to humans. They take most occupations in the dome, from clerks to pilots of the dome itself. The only role they don’t take is teaching. They have an alien concept of individuality, closer to a group mentality, and don’t communicate through sound. We will see their social ways in the next episode.
- The space-time displacement technology shown to humans by the Dendrils is featured stealthily in several human art and architecture works, maybe by creators who were part of one of the out-of-time schools. For instance, the specific principles of time travel used by the Dendrils are depicted metaphorically in this 1955 painting by Remedios Varo called “Revelation (The Watch)”
- Plant computing is the main digital technology in the dome. Plant computers grow, reproduce and “die” like the plants we know. Humans and other species interact with them by a mixture of hand gestures and hormonal reactions to which they are sensitive. It also allows some forms of psychic projection, as we see with the “porn glyphs” and the sneaky message Dan gets in the comic.
- There are other institutions alike in space. Some are for girls only and some don’t have a gender restriction, or have a different set of limitations. They don’t necessarily look like the one in the comic: one may be a swanky 60’s inspired aseptic-white complex, while other may be built as a medieval scriptorium and embrace monastic routines.
- There are also several non-human species among the students, while some phenotypic traits such as Simon’s yellow eyes come from branched human space exploration.
That's it for this dossier, I hope you have enjoyed this look behind the curtain! I appreciate any input or suggestions about what is discussed here.
I'll see you soon with: a new short Secret Knots story called “Survivors”. All this work gets done thanks to your generous support. Have a great weekend and feel free to comment, and recommend the comic to kindred spirits.