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I've been experimenting with assorted Linux distributions. Currently I'm trying Gentoo ... and I hadn't expected to do a kernel compilation until I'm more familiar with Linux, but that's how one installs Gentoo. So far, so good.

The model of the Great pyramidal Redoubt (from The Night Land) proceedeth slowly. That's partly because I'm just learning Blender, and partly because I've been doing research into:
  • Very tall buildings (since the Pyramid is 8 miles high);
  • Airships (since the people of the Pyramid were flying them early in its history, before the air became too thin and cold);
  • Hydraulics (since I've known little about the subject and I'm going to need to model some hydraulic equipment);
  • Bridges (I don't have any bridges in the model, but I need a way for the airships to dock; more below).
I'm aiming for as much realism as I can reasonably get, without deviating too far from the source material or making unbelievable or ugly models.

The model is still crude, as you can see. I'm working on the airship hangars. I've decided to put a dozen of them around the Pyramid, 2 miles up. (There are modern airships in the works that will be able to reach the stratosphere, so that's a feasible flying height.) Higher up, and they'd be safer from potential missile attacks from enemies in the land; but then, the higher the airships are launched, the sooner the Pyramid folk will have to abandon them in the growing cold. Since in the story, the Pyramid folk only sealed the lowest half-mile against attack, I assume enemy missiles cannot reach the airship platforms two miles up.

Early-hangar-close-up by coadykate

The ellipsoid represents an airship (not yet modelled); it is, to scale, a thousand feet long, a size airships approached in the past and will probably reach again. The hangar opening is a Gothic arch because I assume that the Pyramid folk, though they must have very impressive building materials, will be using familiar and useful designs for strength. I'm going to expand the frame around the arch because if the camera's farther back, it doesn't look good.

The platform is shaped like an arch partly as a matter of aesthetics (to match the opening), and partly because I toyed with the idea of making it swing up to close the hangar like a bascule bridge. It isn't finished yet: it's going to have a support below. It's shaped like an inverted airfoil, as are some bridge sections, so that the winds will press it down against the support, instead of encouraging it to rise or twist.

Docking an airship 10,000 feet up in the winds around a very tall building would be difficult. The Goodyear blimps have trailing lines at the nose which a ground crew catches when it descends; but this ship is too big, the winds will be too strong, and it's docking too high for that. I made the platform a bit longer than the airship, and I'm thinking of making a hydraulic extendable mooring shaft so that the airship can attempt to catch it with a grappling anchor farther out, if I can make it look reasonable. Then it can be reeled in with hydraulics under some control, instead of daring the eddies around the building.

I will probably add some vortex-breaking features to the angles of the Pyramid, but it has to remain a pyramid to be true to the story -- I can't turn it into a very tall round broad-based tower.

The platform, airfoil base of the platform, hangar, and pyramid are separate objects right now. I cut the hangar into the Pyramid as a boolean, but you can't see in because I didn't put a light inside.

I'm probably going to have the hangar closed with a rolling overhead (hydraulic) door.

In a later era the air will be too thin and cold for flight, and the hangar doors will be sealed. Most of the platforms would probably be dismantled so the steel, etc., could be reclaimed, though it's possible they'd leave one up as a museum-piece.

This is all slow because I'm at that stage with Blender where I know that certain things can be done, but I don't know or remember how to do them.
Project: The Greater Pyramid in William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land

Great-pyramid-with-subsurface-base by coadykate



The Night Land is based on the science of an earlier time, but it's science fiction. So I'm going to try to make the Pyramid as technically workable as I can.

The Great Pyramid in which humanity survives after the extinction of the Sun is not the largest construction project in human history: that has to go to the World Road the Moving Cities travelled, when Earth's rotation was slowing, in the Age When the Cities Always Moved Westward. But it's possible that it's the largest single object ever constructed in Mr. Hodgson's universe. It is, at any rate, huge.

For anyone reading who doesn't know the story, the last millions — perhaps hundreds of millions — of humans are surviving after the death of a Kelvin-Helmholtz Sun in a vast pyramidal arcology in a great chasm in the Earth.

The Pyramid is 5.25 miles on a side and nearly 8 miles high. It is built of metal, and it has 1,320 floors.

Around it is an electric forcefield. Beneath it, a hundred miles deep, are the Underground Fields where the humans raise their crops by artificial light. Surrounding it are the weird, dangerous, and hostile creatures of the Night Land (these folk have creatures like Cthulhu for neighbors).

I don't get to change the shape of the arcology without departing too far from the story. Happily, the speculative proposals for very, very large buildings I've found, while they aren't pyramids, do involve some kind of tapering to the top, so the Pyramid isn't completely unthinkable.

Pyramid modelling so far: I started out with a cube, shrunk the top, and bevelled all the edges slightly so they don't look excessively sharp close in. Then I scaled it to match the dimensions of the Pyramid in the story. I might scale that upper face down a little more later, but the Pyramid has devices up there and I want to figure out what they look like first.

The big red-purple disk? ... A preliminary notion for how to support the Pyramid.

The structure is 8 miles high. It's going to be heavy.

I don't build enormous buildings in real life, and no one has built anything this size, so I'm going to have to guess a lot.

The Great Valley, in happier sunlit days, had a normal ecosystem. I can expect it to have soil, therefore. But the volcanic activity is comparatively recent, so we probably have bedrock near the surface. Since the description of the chasm's formation sounds like a rift to me, it's probably basalt.

Lower down in the Great Valley, we still have active vulcanism. Nearby are "fireholes" where the heat radiates freely to the surface.

We're not trying to stand this immense building up on sand or some other soft substrate. Still. It's unbelievably heavy, and, worse, Mr. Hodgson put enormous hollows below.

Let us therefore assume that the builders of the Pyramid floated it on an enormous, strong, comparatively light 'raft'. I'm assuming the raft is not a single solid object — that it's a framework-and-composite structure; it will be jointed to relieve earthquake stress; it isn't necessarily cylindrical. It's not going to be visible in most renders, so I don't have to figure out what it really looks like now. I imagine it covered with soil.

(I am prepared to revise this if I learn better.)

The mechanism for generating the forcefield (the Electric Circle) must also be worked into the supporting 'raft,' if I ever render from a perspective where it might be visible.

There are 12,000 embrasures on the Pyramid, through which the people can look out on the Night Land. But there are none in the lowest half mile. Clearly depicting the embrasures on a model of the full Pyramid should be done with texture maps. Modelling is impractical.

The Electric Circle is bright. It's not more than 2 inches thick, and some of the monsters can peer over it. (Some of the monsters are pretty darned big, so this doesn't give me a vertical dimension.) But they don't like it, and don't cross it.

The Pyramid is placed with the corners at the cardinal points of the compass.

On the northwest face is the Great Gate. The Great Gate has an Eye Gate in it, out through which some unwise youths once climbed; since climbing is not a usual method of going out something intended to be a door, I presume the Eye Gate is a transom (I'm guessing round, from the name), through which the Watch can look out at anyone seeking to come in. There is a lesser gate, not named, intended for walking: I presume it's a postern gate.

Behind the Great Gate is a Great Causeway: if the Causeway lights are on within when the Great Gate is open, the light shows in the Night Land. I have no dimensions for either the Great Gate or the Causeway, but the entire Watch once assembled in the Causeway, and 10,000 men marched out through the Great Gate. These are large, singular elements and should be modelled. I don't have many details, so castle and fortress architecture will inform my design.
In 1912 William Hope Hodgson published a science fiction novel called The Night Land. It's the best bad book ever written, or the worst good one. It combines brilliance and genius with a couple of whopping failures of technique. He wrote other works, too, with less extreme contrasts of virtue and vice. I run a website dedicated to the speculative fiction of this neglected author.

I didn't found the website. Andy Robertson did. But he died in 2014.

For various reasons, I am short of illustrations of particular objects and time periods in the Night Land setting. So I'm going to make some, mostly by rendering 3D models.

I have some Daz Studio and Poser models I've pressed into service, but I need some models I'm never going to find pre-built. I've moved to Linux, too, which means I'm going to be doing my 3D work in Blender or (maybe later) modo.

I'm not a Blender expert, but I've worked through some Blender tutorials already -- enough to do some modelling. I'm at the stage where I'm saying, "Hey, I know I can do that ... now what was it called?"

For Blender tutorials, I recommend Professor Neal Hirsig's Blender 3D Design Course first, and BornCG's series to review and fill in:

gryllus.net/Blender/3D.html
www.youtube.com/playlist?list=…

There is no substitute for working through the examples and the modelling exercises. You need to develop the badly-named 'muscle memory' in order to model with any speed. I'm using Blender for a couple of reasons:

1. It works on Linux;
2. It's free;
3. In the settings, you can usually make the menu text, etc. as large as you want. Most modern graphics packages have abominable user interface design -- tiny text often with low contrast to the background -- which gives me headaches. On Blender I can pick my interface colors and resize the text.
4. I can resize most other elements, too. Since I'm now working on a 4k monitor, that's important.
5. Blender's workflow is a bit different from any other 3D package, but it's a perfectly good one, and you can get used to it.

Next post, I'll come back with a screenshot of a preliminary model of the enormous Night Land pyramidal arcology known variously as the Great Pyramid or the Last Redoubt. I don't especially need Pyramid pictures, because the Greater and Lesser Redoubts are popular objects for artists to depict. But it's likely to be a fairly simple model, compared to the other objects I want to make, so it's a good place to start.