Russian TFP AU World Building: Imagining Cybertron + Commentary on the Canonical Depictions of Cybertron
In theme with the AU concept, I’ve been looking at Russian and Soviet sci-fi classics to get an idea of how Cybertron might look in this universe.
We see Cybertron depicted here and there throughout various Transformers shows and media, but it’s all very influenced by Japanese and Western sci-fi architectural elements, because of course that’s the primary frame of reference for the concept artists involved and so on.
But I really love the creative and distinctive Eastern European sci-fi architectural designs, particularly those featured in old issues of Tekhnika Molodezhi / Техника молодёжи (Technology for the Youth) Magazine.
First, here are some canon depictions of Cybertron from various Transformers media:
We typically see the planet as primarily blue and orange, with the surface either being totally grey from battle damage and destruction, or depicted as a Blade Runner city style metallic but very grim and foggy environment on the actual ground level.
Designed by Humans vs. Designed by Mechanoid Aliens
Personally, I feel like the architecture and colours and atmospheric environment may be entirely different. The above environmental designs could fit into concept art for Fifth Element or as I said, Blade Runner-- But this isn’t a cyberpunk future Earth environment, it’s a whole other world with an entirely different type of lifeform.
I feel like colour would be more prominent on Cybertron, even if diminished by the effects of war. After all, Cybertronians have thousands of different paint jobs for themselves, why wouldn’t their architecture and environment emphasise their increased technological capabilities and nanite based paint? Would some buildings change colour? What about signs, decoration, public art works?
Would roads and road signs feature prominently as transportation is an innate part of their physical being and culture? Would walkways be distinguished, or would all pathways be wide enough to accommodate root mode and alt-mode travel, and how would that be coordinated?
The environment designs we see of Cybertron are often very human in terms of design; Generally focusing on the “war devastation” theme and not the fact that before the war, these would have been fully functioning alien communities and cities and workplaces and leisure areas and so on.
Looking to the Past to Design the Future: Tekhnika Molodezhi Designs
I feel like Eastern European sci-fi art remains some of the best in the world, entirely just my personal opinion, and I love the vibrancy and genuinely liveable feeling of many of the environmental and architecture concepts.
These designs are unique, creative, and integrate the concept of living and working functionally in such an environment as well as the maximum possible application of technology and cutting edge creative engineering design to make sci-fi environments that feel plausible and believably alien and futuristic, despite their impossibility.
Below are a couple pieces that give me a very Cybertron vibe:
So I think that when I get to that point in the Russian TFP AU story, I’m going to depict Cybertron in more of a colourful, truly alien and technologically oriented way, as opposed to the canon depictions.
I just personally feel like an alien world with a people and environment based on incredible technology with a totally different culture and history to anything on Earth wouldn’t look like New York at 11 PM on a Friday.
For example, we know Iacon is described often as having tall skyscraper type buildings and lots of glass like material; That’s totally fine, but it still shouldn’t be immediately familiar to humans.
I feel like Iacon could have towers made of materials that can’t possibly exist on Earth, different types of flexible metals etc. that have no equivalent on Earth, the “skyscrapers” being these shining beacons that shimmer in the way that rainbows appear in sheets of Titanium-- But instead of the light causing the reflection, the buildings are painted with the same nanite paint that the Cybertronians use to coat their armour, living pigment, that can’t help but ripple every now and then as it adjusts to weather conditions and so on.
Emotionally Connecting to the Loss of Cybertron: What, Exactly, Was Lost?
To see a vibrant, fantastical Cybertron-- And then to see the same places in ruins due to centuries of war-- Would have a far more significant impact, and drive home just how much has been lost to this ongoing conflict.
We only ever see the planet as this dark, gloomy, grim place even before the war, and it’s hard to fully appreciate or understand what it could have looked like prior to it’s destruction, or prior to extensive damage.
We know it’s been destroyed, we are shown the destruction, and inherently we can understand the loss and pain of that especially on a planet wide scale. But what, exactly, did it used to look like? Just how much was lost? Because it is an alien world, we can’t necessarily look at the rubble and reconstruct it in our minds reliably as it used to be; We don’t ever really see that much of Cybertronian design, all things considered.
So seeing it before the war, clearly, and then after the war with most major territories in ruins-- That would emphasise how stark the damage is, how totally obliterated Cybertron has become over centuries of war, and the emotional reactions of the characters would be immediately that much more relatable to the audience.
It would also help provide context for why some bots dislike Earth. Is it because Earth is so different as to drive home the feeling of being permanently displaced? Or are there actually some commonalities between human and Cybertronian design that may emphasise painful memories of what was lost on their homeworld? It could add a lot of subtle depth here and there.
Again, all of the above is mostly just my own personal feelings about sci-fi foreign planet design in general, but hopefully it’s still interesting to read!
(Tagging @milabazal2002 and @everdino!)
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