Several hundreds of years into the future, humans have reached a point in their history where space travel and encounters with alien races have become commonplace. Wars have come and gone, including Mars’ War for Independence, which ended with Mars becoming its own independent planet, but not before causing devastation to both sides involved in the conflict.
Darko Markovic, a Bersian boy living in the most ostracized quadrant on Earth, is one of many injured during this war. Shellshocked and struggling to manage his type 1 diabetes diagnosis in a place of poverty, Darko starts his life as a fearful, small and sickly boy.
Despite all this, he refuses to let any obstacles stop him and follows his dream of becoming an R1 supercar driver. Against all odds, he succeeds and finds himself racing on the planet Reness, where he meets a number of interesting characters — some good, others not so much.
However, his good fortune soon runs out when his speeder is sabotaged and he suffers a near-fatal crash. Faced with devastating injuries and a lack of support from those around him, Darko must rebuild his life, health and belief in the very universe he will later have to save from destruction.
THE STORY BEHIND INSIDE 44
I started working on Inside 44 after my return from Italy in 2015. I’d failed in my attempt to become a car designer, and I was forced to go back to living with my parents without a dollar in my pocket. That year, most of my friends abandoned me. The events had a catastrophic impact on my health.
During that time I spent alone I was able to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life. I remembered that since the moment I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13, I always dreamed of creating a superhero that had experienced the same hardships as me.
At that moment I still didn’t know whether I would recover from my health issues, and since I had no one to spend time with I had to find a way to keep myself busy. The first thing I created was artwork of the Earth Giant, a lunar vehicle which — unbeknownst to those around me — was a part of Inside 44 even at that time. The piece won an ArtStation challenge and I took that to mean that the universe was on my side. I knew I had just been presented with a great opportunity.
After I started to recover I went to Zagreb to attend IFCC Croatia where I met a number of great artists, one of which was Dan Luvisi. While we were there, he asked me, “Why don’t you start your book?” and that was a clear sign for me to begin.
Over the next three years I worked on Inside 44 diligently, day and night, seven days a week. Having this book to focus on helped me get through some really tough times in my life, and sometimes I think it played a big part in my healing process.
The story of Inside 44 and the designs within it were inspired by real events in my life and people I’ve met along the way. The R1 crash experienced by the main character reflects the emotional crash I had after I was tricked by my coworkers in Italy, denied my residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) and deported.
The Mars Independence War against Earth is inspired by the Croatian-Serbian war my friends, family and I all lived through in the 1990s. (Bear in mind that neither of them are evil in this story.)
The characters featured in the book are all reflections of both friends and enemies I’ve met throughout my life, who inspired me either by supporting me or by doubting me enough to motivate me to succeed.
Inside 44 starts with the sentence, “If you are holding this book, know that I have recovered…” because I didn’t want to publish a book until after I had recovered.
With the gift of hindsight, I know now that my crash was the best thing to have ever happened to me, because it rid me of the anchors that always weighed me down. This is exactly the case for the main character of the story, too.
At the moment, Inside 44 has 370 pages of backstory, worldbuilding and design, all passionately created over the years.
Inside 44 will be released via Kickstarter in 2020. I invite you all to step into the world I’ve built and to experience the events that made me who I am today.