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Joshua Foreman has worked in the video game industry for decades. Artist and level-designer,
Josh is infamous for his Gummi Wurm tutorial on YouTube. He does other stuff, too. For instance, he
keeps an entire stable of trolls well-fed. Don’t get him started on talking about cutscenes.
Josh Foreman is happy to receive comments, corrections, and adulation at ________
Lelia Rose Foreman is basically a boring person who tries to write exciting stories. She has raised
and released five children. Cyborg (cochlear implant) and avid gardener, she enjoys collaborating with
her oldest son on stories set on Talifar. Don’t get her started on talking about Rwanda.
At this point in her life, Lelia Rose Foreman wants only adulation at twitter.com@LeliaForeman
Tales From Talifar Vision Statement
By Josh Foreman with contributions from Lelia Foreman
Started on September 15, 2003, using ideas from as long ago as 1990
This is the first document created to record my concept for a fiction world. It will doubtless undergo countless revisions over the course of several years until I have things nailed down, and then a more formal document will be created. This doc will be informal and conversational in tone.
The basic idea is to create a fictional world for artists to create art in. A world that will have as much popular culture weight as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I want to build a company around the idea of an ever-expanding, super detailed universe that maintains consistency in all of its iterations.
I intend to approach the creation of this ‘universe’ and its inhabitants with a scientific perspective. If a fairy’s body mass is disproportionate to its wing’s tensile strength or the caloric intake would be insufficient to power it, the fairy will not happen. Chemistry, biology, physics, etc. all work the same on this planet as they do on earth. I believe that utilizing a known, standard set of rules will allow for a consistency and depth that has never been achieved in a fantasy-oriented fictional world before.
“What are you talking about? Sci-fi worlds are usually scientifically accurate, right?”
Why yes, they are. But no world has ever achieved the depth and detail that the Talifar ‘universe’ will have.
“More than Tolkien’s Middle Earth? He was a brilliant linguist and author who created scores of languages and thousands of years of history. How can Talifar possibly compete with that?”
Tolkien did it alone. I will not. I plan on utilizing the shared knowledge and creativity of hundreds of scientists, authors, linguists, song-writers, artists, and Roman Plumbing experts to forge this world of unsurpassed depth. You see, Talifar is not being created as a backdrop for a story or two. It is being created to be the springboard for a thousand stories, songs, sculptures, games, and poetry. The creation of this world is not a means to an end. This work is my art. I don’t want to make a franchise with it; I want to build a company around it. Talifar will not be a book that was turned into a movie and a video game. It will not be a video game that was turned into a book and a movie. Talifar will be a genre-less creation. (Unless world-creation is a genre.) It will provide the backdrop and tools for hundreds of artists to work in, expanding it.
“Like Star Wars has its Expanded Universe set of books, comics, and games?”
Yes, like that. But unlike George Lucas, I will not be focused on only one story and medium in the universe to the exclusion of the others. Lucas completely ignores what the other artists have given to his universe. That bugs the snot out of me. Why license your stuff if you don’t keep things consistent? I don’t get it. Well, actually I do. It’s about pride. I don’t think Lucas can admit that there are better story tellers using his world. Well I don’t have that problem. I know I suck. I am a jack of all trades, master of none. That knowledge empowers me to put specific tasks in the hands of more capable people.
Anyway, the main reason most fiction universes get inconsistent is that many people in many companies have to make up a bunch of stuff to make their stories happen. Why do they have to make stuff up? Because the universe was based on one story or medium. And many things about the world just weren’t necessary for the telling of that story. But when someone else makes new characters or places within that universe, they usually have to fill holes. You have enough different people in different places at different times filling holes and you are sure to get inconsistency. It’s a top-down solution to creating a universe. I propose a bottom-up solution.
The Short-term Plan
Start the way God did it. Since creating a world is just like a baby imitating its father, I will look at the way God did things. Of course, I have it easy. He already made up the physics, chemistry, math, geology, and every other system that makes up our physical reality. So I will just look to those who understand those systems for feedback as I begin to form this universe.
As I began to put my various ideas together one thing became apparent very quickly. There is an enormous amount of interdependencies when it comes to making up a world. The first one to pop up was the problems of names. What do I call this world, its inhabitants, its land masses, and everything else? I can’t just make stuff up. That’s not how our world’s stuff got names. So I realized I need a proto-language. Something like whatever was spoken before Babel. I figure that with beings that live millions of years, (the Ancient Ones, a giant, deep-sea dwelling people.) there could actually be one, ancient language that most of the others have roots in. And that ancient language could be the base for naming many things such as the world, moons, oceans, continents, races, etc. So now I need a linguist. But what do I tell them? To make a convincing language, they need to know a lot about the culture that created it. That means I will need to provide a history of the planet going back to the dawn of civilization. Take into account that there are around a dozen sentient races and we have a lot to figure out. The environment shapes cultures in huge ways. So I need to figure out stuff about the environment they come from. Which leads us back to geological considerations. How many continents are there on this world. Where are the oceanic conveyer belts? How many tectonic plates? Which way are they sliding? How fast? How old is this planet anyway? What happens to the tides if there is more than one moon? That is where I am at now. The geological level.
So how do I get the information I need? I’m still figuring that out. I am currently studying geology so that I can make a good guess at an appropriate design. Once I have that, I will want to check it with scientists who can correct any mistakes and assumptions I have made due to my ignorance of the field. I have not had any luck in contacting the university professors that I have solicited in this matter yet.
That is simple consulting work. I think many would do that just for fun. But what about a linguist who has to put considerably more time and effort into creating a language? How do I compensate them fairly, when I have a current budget of $0.00? I can’t really promise them a share of the profits when I am a millionaire. For starters, I’m pretty sure I never will be one. For seconds, even if I did become successful with this idea, the sheer amount of individuals I will need to get to that point will probably be far too great to be sending profit percentages to. I can certainly trade art services to some. (I have offered one linguist a sort of Rosetta Stone carved with the language he creates for me in return.) But I doubt that will work with everyone. This matter has yet to be resolved. It is possible that I am overestimating the amount of individuals that I will need in order to get Talifar started.
The Long Term Goal
My goal is to be Creative Director at Talifar Headquarters in Seattle, Washington. I will oversee -on the high level- the production of every product associated with the Talifar universe. I, along a small team, will ensure that a common vision is carried out through each story, game, toy, etc. Companies will contract with mine to create products based on Talifar. I will have a team of experts to consult at these companies, to make sure every aspect of their story fits into the world. One of these people will be the Official Talifar Historian. They will be the main continuity specialist. The skeleton of the history of Talifar will be available for fleshing out by anyone deemed worthy to do so. As these details are made and approved, the Official Talifar Historian will add them to a growing database that can be accessed by all the Talifar contributing artists. They will be able to cross check facts with their own ideas.
How to get there
Uuuh… Um. Hmm. Well, I’ll need a business-savvy, trustworthy individual to partner with eventually. I’ll need a business plan. I assume the best rout to building a brand is to start with the cheaper products, such as comics, books, music, animation shorts, and maybe toys. (As opposed to making a movie or television series.) Though there are still considerable amounts of work and money involved in getting these kinds of things rolling as well.
Personally, I will need experience organizing and leading a group of creative individuals. I have some experience, but probably not enough. Fortunately, I have enough artistic skill to do most of the early conceptual work, so I can lay a lot of ground work before I need to involve anyone else.
At some point I will need to find enthusiastic contributors who are willing to work hard for a possible pay off in the future.
A tall, thin, winged race. They are very fast and dangerous with a defense mechanism that fires poison hair in all directions, they bring pain and devastation when they attack. They are also very flimsy creatures; with hollow bones and a skeletal appearance. Thin, translucent membranes are all that holds their innards in.
Due to the amount of energy required to stay airborne, they are very limited when it comes to clothing, armor, and weapons. They can carry up to 200 lbs. for very short distances, and then must rest for hours to recover.
Their social structure varies radically from group to group. Some seek peace with other species, but many prefer battle and domination. Most are migratory nomadic, building temporary structures out of woven wood and branches. Being cold-blooded, they travel towards the equator in the winter, mainly to deserts. In the summer they tend to live around the tree line in mountainous areas.
There are a few permanent Driddyon buildings and monuments around Talifar. These are built by the more civilized factions. There is minimal trade between Driddyon and other races for two reasons. Firstly, most races are terrified of them, their language is very difficult to understand, and the males who are the ones who do the traveling are very stupid. And secondly, Driddyon don’t have many needs that they can’t fulfill themselves. Some of the more civilized colonies have taken to wearing decorative sashes, cords, and ribbon. But these are seen as luxuries.
Like Koala bears, there is one particular food source that they all need to live. It is a cactus-like plant that produces a very thick sap. This sap works perfectly with their metabolism, powering them like no other food source. So those that wish to expand their territory must plant groves of this plant at least a year or two before they can move into the new area.
Another unpleasant fact is that their reproduction cycle requires a live animal which they attach a parasitic egg that fuses with the host body, sapping its life to grow. They usually find small creatures like sheep, but some of the nastier tribes are known to grab sentient species, including human children and Spitters.
Generally the females are the political and religious leaders. They are more intelligent and live longer than the males for a variety of reasons. (Mainly the men-only military campaigns, and less flying stresses on the part of the females.)
Driddyon were brought to Talifar on the A.I. Ark from a system threatened by a supernova.
|Weight||50 lbs.||600 lbs.|
|Speed||3 (ground) 9 (air)||3 (ground) 9 (air)|
|Dexterity||3 (ground) 7 (air)||3|
|Vision||9(light) 5(dark)||9(light) 5(dark)|
|Reproduction||NA||Up to 2 per year(F) 1/day (M)|
|Diet||Plant matter, sap, meat||Plant matter, sap, meat|
|Regions||Temperate Mountainous, and Desert||Temperate Mountainous, and Desert|
|Politics||Matriarchy, Communism||Matriarchy, Communism|
|Religions||Shamanism, Pantheism, Monotheism||Shamanism, Pantheism, Monotheism|
|Special Abilities||Flight, poison to the touch, long scythe-like appendages, very fast.||Size, long scythe-like appendages, spear like toes.|
The swarm is made up of billions of individual insects, with a few Queens who operate within their designated boundaries. The Swarm insects have the ability to form a hive mind when enough of them congregate. Individuals can only follow instructions given to them just before they break off from a hive mind. A complex chemical data storage tank in their brain allows them to act out what the hive mind decides, while instinct takes care of every other process necessary for survival.
The Queens act like cartel bosses, working behind the scenes to control the destiny of Talifar. The main method they utilize is controlling the information flow of the world. Due to their size and intelligence, the Swarm is used by most races and kingdoms as communication devices. Small enough to fly past almost any security, but large enough to carry tiny written messages, they have created a proto-world-wide-web. With their ability to manipulate that information in subtle, but profound ways, the Hive are working to take over the world. The only way they are able to do this is by keeping the Queens a secret. No one outside of the Hive has any idea there is an organization behind the communication network. Any who start poking around disappear quickly.
The Swarm are native to Talifar
|Height||1 – 3”||4’|
|Weight||1 oz.||40 lbs.|
|Speed||1 (ground) 4 (air)||0|
|Dexterity||5 (ground) 7 (air)||1|
|Vision||3(light) 1(dark)||4(light) 1(dark)|
|Reproduction||NA||Up to 2 million per year|
|Regions||All except underwater and the Poles||All except underwater and the Poles|
|Special Abilities||Can carry coded information, stealth, intelligence grows as the group does.||Secrecy, cunning, access to much information and ability to manipulate it.|
Barely qualifying as sentient, the Siij are a blight on all they come in contact with. The Siij straddle the line between animal and plant. Though they are free thinking and mobile, they grow from a rooted, tree-like queen. They are birthed from pods that grow on her limbs, dropping to the ground when they are ready to hatch.
Their society is run completely on instincts that override any free thoughts that might interfere with the program. Their life cycle is based on a tribal-wide occurrence that happens every year or so. A new Mother will split and once fully grown, (within a month) will begin to walk. During this mobile stage the Mother never communicates. On the birth of a new mother, the tribe sets apart the bravest and strongest members for the Journey. When the new Mother starts to travel, her entourage follows and protects her. They never know where she is going or how far it will be before she settles down and morphs into her next life-stage. Once she does, her legs turn to roots, and her arms to limbs. At that point the new tribe begins scouring the surrounding area for meat to feed her. They also strip bark and leaves, devastating the environment. As they destroy the area around the Mother they are forced to send out envoys further and further to sustain their tribe and its replenishment. As they are in constant conflict with any civilization they come near, they are very competent warriors.
One very unique feature of the Siij is their huge variance in physical appearance. Deformities are common and accepted. Every individual finds some niche in the tribe to fill. Being omnivores, every size of Siij can hunt something, even if it’s just worms. If a Siij is born with no legs, he could get lookout duty, or grooming duty. Many are born with four legs and no arms. They are useful for dragging back large prey and carrying weapons or rations.
Their language is rudimentary, mostly composed of clicking and rasping sounds. It could be described as dried palm leaves scraping together.
Individual jobs are bestowed based on ability, need, and the intelligence of the nutrients affecting their growth. For example, a tree that is fed enough humans will start producing Skilled Hands, Siij that can craft rudimentary tools, skins, baskets, etc. All tribes have Chanters, which tend to be the smartest and act as coordinators and battle chiefs. They have powers similar to the Mother Tree, to emit hormones and scents that manipulate the Siij under their command.
Siij originate on Talifar from a meteor that bore a Mother Seed. Siij are an artifact of an unknown alien intelligence and serve an unknown function, though ecological warfare seems likely.
|Weight||10 – 300 lbs.||2 tons|
|Speed||0 – 8||0 (planted) 1 (roaming)|
|Intelligence||1 – 3||1|
|Dexterity||0 – 5||0 (planted) 1 (roaming)|
|Toughness||1 – 4||7|
|Vision||5(light) 5(dark)||0 (planted) 2(roaming)|
|Reproduction||NA||Up to 500 per year|
|Population||100 million||100 million|
|Diet||Plant matter, meat||Plant matter, meat, soil minerals|
|Regions||Temperate and Tropical||Temperate and Tropical|
|Special Abilities||Fearlessness, viciousness, roll attack, ability to hear through vibrations.||Produce mass quantities of offspring.|
Gray or blue skinned sea-snake-like people with sleek, seahorse-like features, alligator jaws, and large serpentine bodies. Several sets of fins adorn their head and back. They are able to breathe both water and air (with less efficiency). They are able to live on dry land as long as they can wet their skin a couple of times a day, and have plenty to drink. There are freshwater and saltwater races within the Varon.
Varon have a lot of different social configurations. Everything from roving nomadic barbarians of the sea, to highly civilized kingdoms built at river deltas. Often called River Men, the freshwater variety are smaller and tend to be more civilized. One thing they have in common is being very useful to other races. Serving as the interface between land and water, they are the gatekeepers to a great many mysteries. Such as the Ancient Ones, fishing information, and water vessel travel.
Varon females have the unique ability to extrude a wide, opalescent sheet of material from a special spinnerets located under a V shaped pectoral flap. They build most of their structures from this substance called Pearlescence, using it by itself, or as a kind of mortar, holding blocks of stone together. It comes out soft, but solidifies into an almost indestructible substance. Diet and other factors affect its properties, so those who produce it are well taken care of. (e.g. Eating silver compounds produces anti-macrobial Pearlescence so algea and barnicals won’t grow on it.) While it is malleable, Varon form all kinds of armor, weapons, and decorations out of it. Pearlescence is highly prized for its beauty, strength and flexibility. It can also be folded over other materials to create composites, but only during its fresh, malliable state. When it hardens it is practically indestructable and fire resistant. It can not be re-forged once set. Forge fire will blacken and weaken it, but won’t melt it.
With all they have to offer, Varon can strike lucrative trade agreements with the land people. What they seek most is worked stone for buildings, and gemstones. As swinging a hammer is not as easy underwater as it is in air, they don’t do much carving, mining or metallurgy.
They are resistant to compression sickness, and are able to dive to around 5,000 feet. Though they do not stay down that deep for very long. They tend to build their kingdoms on continental shelves, preferring the natural light. Many palaces even soar above the surface for status and trading purposes. There is however, a substantial portion of Varon who live deeper and further from land. They are generally nomadic tribes of barbarians who are almost always at war with each other, mariners, and the Shlak.
The Varon were deposited by an Ark ship 1,287 Before (Human) Crash
|Saltwater Male||Saltwater Female||Freshwater Male||Freshwater Female|
|Weight||280 lbs.||220 lbs.||180 lbs.||140 lbs.|
|Vision||5(light) 4(dark)||5(light) 4(dark)||5(light) 4(dark)||5(light) 4(dark)|
|Reproduction||NA||Up to 2 / year||NA||Up to 2 / year|
|Population||100 million||100 million||20 million||20 million|
|Diet||Seafood||Seafood||Fish, plants||Fish, plants|
|Regions||Oceans and Seas to a depth of 5,000 ft.||Oceans and Seas to a depth of 5,000 ft.||Lakes, rivers, swamps||Lakes, rivers, swamps|
|Politics||Monarchies, Feudalism, Republics, Despotism, Tribalism||Monarchies, Feudalism, Republics, Despotism, Tribalism||Monarchy, Republics, Communism||Monarchy, Republics, Communism|
|Religions||Monotheism, Pantheism, Shamanism||Monotheism, Pantheism, Shamanism||Monotheism, Pantheism||Monotheism, Pantheism|
|Special Abilities||Swimming, diving, jumping, biting||Swimming, diving, jumping, biting, extruding Pearlescence||Swimming, diving, jumping, biting||Swimming, diving, jumping, biting
Like giant sea-turtles, mixed with king crabs, these boney people inhabit the deep seas. They are very different looking depending on the depth in which they live. Those that inhabit the disphotic zone are tall, spindly and brightly colored, while those down in the deepest trenches are squat and pale.
Their general propensity towards keeping to themselves is facilitated by their body structure. Shlak are able to fold themselves up into a hard, spiny lump. They can also squirt a choking cloud of chemicals towards enemies. If a conflict can be solved in that way, that is what they will always do. If necessary however, they have powerful claws and mandibles and are worthy opponents.
Shlak grow gardens on their shells and their regional differences keeps their coats uniques. They also garden larger plants which they take great care in arranging in specific aesthetic styles which varies by region.
In general, the deeper they live the more pronounced their bioluminescent antena are.
Most Shlak don’t travel much, preferring a simple, quiet life. The lower they live the more they are like this. Those above 4000 feet have to deal with barbaric Varon and other large predators. The ‘deep ones’ keep inviting them to come deeper and shake their heads in confusion when refused. The ‘tall ones’ think the ‘deep ones’ are insufferable bores, and seldom visit. However, they have always been cordial towards one another and there are no records of interspecies warfare.
For homes they generally dig holes into soft rock and cover them with slabs of stone. Some communities have above-ground structures that are reminiscent of Stonehenge. Where the current is slow, they may stack many slabs together like a house of cards, filling in the gaps with seaweed. Many live on and around the mid ocean mountain chains near black smokers.
As they are the closest to the Ancient Ones, the Shlak are the filters through which information travels to them. The Shlak are the only ones who can communicate directly with the Ancient Ones, though on a limited level. Generally news will come through civilized Varon, to Shlak, then finally to the Ancient Ones. From their perspective, the Ancient Ones find the Shlak amusing little people; always buzzing around, talking quickly, and never stopping to think. When, in fact, the Shlak move and speak about 10 times slower than humans.
Shlak culture, especially among the ‘deep ones’, is heavily influenced by the Ancient Ones. The Shlak see them as great teachers and prophets. Though they never ask for anything but wisdom from the Ancient Ones, they often bring gifts of whale carcasses to them as signs of appreciation.
Shlak were deposited by an AI Ark.
|Height||10’ – 30’||10’ – 30’|
|Weight||200 – 800 lbs.||200 – 800 lbs.|
|Strength||7 – 8||7 – 8|
|Vision||5-6(light) 7-8(dark)||5-6(light) 7-8(dark)|
|Reproduction||NA||2 per decade|
|Population||2 million||2 million|
|Diet||Plant matter, Carcasses, fish, barnacles||Plant matterCarcasses, fish, barnacles|
|Regions||Deep ocean||Deep ocean|
|Politics||Theocracies, Communism||Theocracies, Communism|
|Special Abilities||Protective shell, ink, huge claws.||Protective shell, ink huge claws.|
Spitters (AKA The People, Tzdlstick, Dung Suckers)
They are short, stout, black leathery beings that can curl up into a lump. They can extrude webbing from their hands and can defend themselves by spitting noxious venom or swelling up like a needle blowfish. The have sharp little teeth and they eat poop.
Calling themselves “The People”, these little guys have closed off almost all relationships with outside races. They see all other species except for the giants as lower animals. Generally pursuing knowledge, they build their societies around gathering information. Working secretly to build libraries of data as well as ‘herding’ various species around with a grand, thousand-year-plan. Most other races don’t realize or care about their intelligence or pursuits, they just like that their waste is disposed of. So there is a tenuous relationship with most cultures.
On their home planet, spitters were originally parasites on the Giants, but when the Giants advanced technologically enough the Spitters were genetically modified to be servants to them. After settling on Talifar they grew in numbers and as the Giants left their farming and spread around the planet, many Spitter colonies emerged independent. But they are still genetically attracted to the Giants with a kind of familial bond, so they generally consider it an honor to serve as a Giant groomer
|Weight||30 lbs.||30 lbs.|
|Vision||5(light) 7(dark)||5(light) 7(dark)|
|Reproduction||NA||Up to 2 per year|
|Population||20 million||20 million|
|Diet||Fecal matter||Fecal matter|
|Regions||All except underwater and the Poles||All except underwater and the Poles|
|Politics||Republics, Communism||Republics, Communism|
|Religions||Monotheism, Humanism||Monotheism, Humanism|
|Special Abilities||Webbing, much knowledge, stealth||Webbing, much knowledge, stealth|