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Here are some illustrations done in Bryce2 and Photoshop. I've been printing some out in color, framing, and selling them at SF cons. It's hard to get convincing depth of detail using Bryce by itself. Still, for textures and easily-created water, Bryce2 can't be beat!

Cluster Explorer

Our Galaxy possesses something like two hundred globular star clusters, roughly spherical aggregations of several tens of millions of stars each packed into a region several hundred light years across. These clusters -- most lying within 100,000 light years of our Galaxy's center -- define the Galactic Halo. A few globular clusters can be found as far as 300,000 light years from our Galaxy, while others, following their vast, eliptical orbits about the Galaxy's center of mass, actually lie within the plane of the spiral arms.

Globular clusters are composed of ancient Population II stars, most less massive than our own sun and all extremely poor in elements other than primordial hydrogen and helium. Such stars are not likely to possess families of Earthlike worlds. Still, younger and more fruitful suns might be captured by a cluster during its passage through the Galactic plane or lie by chance within a few hundred light years of the cluster's center. On such a world, the night sky at certain times of the year would be incredible, and the mysteries of the beehive swarm might attract visitors from nearby starfaring civilizations.

This illo depicts the passage of the exploration vessel of a technic civilization through a cluster's outer fringes. The scene is taking place at least 20,000 light years from Earth, and the ship is not the product of human minds.

Composed in Photoshop, using a Hubble Space Telescope shot of NGC1850 as backdrop.

Galactic Voyagers

Intelligence must be common throughout the universe.

Drake's Equation hints at the possibility of millions of other worlds inhabited by thinking beings. Planetary systems, we are learning, are common. Our experience on Earth suggests that life assembles itself from basic molecules with dazzling ease; life filled Earth's oceans within a scant few hundred million years of their creation.

Given that our Galaxy is at least twice as old as our own Solar System, there may be beings among the stars who are members of cultures billions of years old. Some of those cultures, at least, must possess a humanlike curiosity about the universe, and the will and the technology to explore it.

This illustration shows an advanced starship passing some tens of thousands of light years above the core of a galaxy that might be our own. It was created in Photoshop, using a Hubble Space Telescope photo of the galaxy M-33 as a backdrop.


When the Pyramids Were Young

There is growing evidence that the Great Pyramids of Giza and the attendant Sphinx nearby were already ancient by the time of the Egyptian 4th Dynasty, 2500 years before Christ. Traditional Egyptology demands that all three pyramids were raised within the remarkably brief span of some eighty years and that they were built as tombs for the bodies of kings whose bodies were never found and, indeed, were almost certainly never placed inside. Recent studies of the Sphinx, supposedly built by Khafre, who was also supposed to have raised the middle of the three largest Pyramids, suggest that over the centuries it has suffered considerable erosion from rain water ... and yet the last time it rained heavily or regularly in the Nile Valley was at the close of the last ice age, some six thousand years before Khafre's reign.

The ancient astronaut theorists claim that the Pyramids could not have been raised without help -- extraterrestrial help. Accepting this requires something of a leap of faith ... but it is true that even today, human engineering skills and technology would be seriously strained by the challenge of raising such monuments.

Of course, I don't really believe aliens built the Pyramids. Well, not usually....

The illo here illustrates two of the three Great Pyramids after their completion, sometime before the dawn of recorded civilization. Whatever the facts of their construction, it is known that their outer surfaces were once covered with white limestone slabs -- slabs that were carried off by the locals during the construction of nearby Cairo. Their caps, we believe, were covered over with pure gold, and the rising sun must have gleamed from their surfaces in a dazzling, magnificent display. And there was a time when the desert was green and alive.

It makes you wonder, though. If the Pyramids were not built as tombs ... just what was it they were built for?

This illo was created using Bryce2.

Future City

A view of a city in the far future on a distant world.

Rendered in Bryce2.



An attack on an alien city on a distant world. Who is attacking, and why? Would we even understand what they are fighting about? The physics of death, however, are common to all worlds.

Rendered in Bryce2, with touch-up and details in Photoshop.


Return to the Moon


When we realize that our future, our survival as a technic species, and our hope of immortality lie beyond the narrow boundaries of this Earth, we will realize that space is the true venue for intelligence. Our return to our Moon will be a first, small step.

Rendered in Bryce2.


Another World

The scene at left was one of my early attempts in Bryce2, a fairly simple view of an alien base or city on an alien seacoast. Bryce has been a major aid in helping me visualize other-worldly environments for my writing.

Of course, as Arthur C. Clarke found out with VistaPro, it's also a great way to productively and creatively get nothing done!



The shipwreck theme is a favorite of mine. Advanced technology has failed, and the survivors are forced to adapt, reverting to earlier, more easily sustained technologies. The ship their ancestors arrived in rusts away beneath a blanket of vegetation. In a few millennia more, there may be no trace left of a vessel that fared light years to reach this alien world.

The identity of the planet is unknown, but it's obviously hospitable for humans, with the basic amino acids and proteins available necessary for our kind of life, matching our biochemistry. One thing we do know about this scene. It is not Earth, and the figures are not Adam and Eve! That particular hoary old chestnut of the poorer variety of science fiction -- that humans are the descendants of shipwrecked space travelers from some long-ago interstellar expedition -- simply doesn't stand up to scientific examination. Humans share better than 98% of their DNA structure with chimpanzees, our nearest relatives, and even lowly starfish, mollusks, and bacteria share parts of our genome. Humans evolved here, on Earth, speculative claims by the UFO/Ancient Astronaut crowd not withstanding!

This illo was created in Bryce2, with the figures added in Photoshop.

All text and artwork copyright (c) William H. Keith
This page was last updated on 05/29/2011