May 01 2015

May: Brain City Heroes

I want to make neuroscience more exciting, so I’m launching a new site, Brain City Heroes, which will be the home for a series of stories about superheroes inspired by neurotransmitters, like Sera Tonin and Dopa Mean. The first story is almost ready, but I’m launching the website today, because it’s May, and I post a new project each month.

Ever since I wrote The Brain Ingredient, I’ve been more and more curious about how those little bundles of flesh in our skulls define who we are. Every experience we have comes through our brains, and there is so much to learn about them. I’ve been doing some research the past year and a half to try and understand the physical processes behind that and better yet, to explain them in an interesting way.

Stories have been used to help explain the world since the most ancient mythologies. Science continues to discover more about our world than any of those ancient storytellers could have even tried to explain, only now we use textbooks too often to teach those discoveries, when we could still be using stories.

I considered setting my stories in the mythic Kingdom of Telencephalon, which is a cool alternate name for a big part of the brain, but I realized, our modern myths are superhero stories. That’s how I settled on using a team of superheroes.

Then I spent a while trying to write them as children’s stories, but it’s incredible how complex the world of the brain is, complicated enough to give rise to all of human experience. To show even a sliver of that complexity is an intimidating amount of information for your average kid. I’ve written several stories with the characters now, and the more I write, the simpler the explanations for everything gets. I think I’ve got it down to a story which serves as a good introduction, but it still requires some abstract thinking.

A friend of mine is creating illustrations in a comic book style, to help ground these heroes in a familiar medium. I was hoping to publish that story today, coinciding with the release of the Avengers: Age of Ultron, but good artwork takes time. It’s not ready yet, and I want to do this right. For now, the site is launching with only a short blurb and a few pages about the characters, but more will be up soon.

I’m in some good company, and not just with the Avengers. The upcoming Pixar movie, Inside Out, plays with similar ideas, but without the same focus on science. I look forward to seeing what they do with it, but in the mean time, Brain City Heroes is my Herman’s Head.

2 pings

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