Talifar Progress Update: April, 2016
I’ve got several very large projects I need to finish before I can really devote the largest portion of my energies to the final project I hope to spend the rest of my life on. That final project is Tales From Talifar; the fantasy world that I hope to develop into the next Star Wars or Marvel universe sized phenomenon. But I still need to finish my Cutscene Subversion Project video series which I’ve been working on and off for the past 6 years. However, there’s still stuff that I can hopefully start to build towards now. And a couple of those are starting, so that’s pretty exciting to me.
- Books coming soon! My mom has been very busy working on our first big hit, the Scarred King Trilogy. (Along with 7 or 8 other books) set in Talifar. Part of that process means finding a great editor. And that’s exactly what she did. Jeff Gerke has been fantastic at picking up the themes and making sure we push towards those. Finding the non-sequiturs. Pointing out little contradictions. Showing where things need to be established. That sort of thing. We’ve also been exploring book cover ideas. As I’ve pointed out above. There’s a lot of other projects I need to finish, so I was really worried that developing professional looking covers would either eat a lot of my time, or cost us a lot of money. But I recently came up with a way to do them that will stick to my strengths as an artist, and keep all the various books with the plethora of characters unified. As a bonus, the art for the covers will be easy to 3D print to make products to sell or give away as prizes. The idea is to do character portrait cameos for the covers. Like this:
The things I really like about this solution are that it’s efficient and well within my skillset to produce (I found out a while ago that rendering realistic materials and skin is a super deep, super complex skillset that I don’t really want to learn.) And it’s also diegetic. Meaning it can be ‘from the world’ of Talifar. Most books have a cover that represents some aspect of the story such as characters or genre, but aren’t meant to be an artifact FROM the world of the story. But these character portrait cameos COULD be historical artifacts that someone on the planet of Talifar actually created in the same way the the piece in that photograph was created by someone on Earth to memorialize Charles the fifth.
- Scientist feedback! Here’s an example of either providence or lateral development benefits.
So like I was saying, I’m trying to wrap up these other projects before I can put my full focus on Talifar. But one of the points of these side projects is to build a platform from which I can get Talifar the attention it needs to launch. And I’ve mentioned in another blog that I desperately need experts in almost every field to vet the ideas of Talifar since I’m trying to make the world scientifically plausible. So, one of projects I did to contribute to my platform was a 3D printing tutorial for a Super Adventure Box Beedog Lamp. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUtB6bks34s
One of the things I was showing on that video were a bunch of the dice that people have been printing. And through that, I ran across the bio of a guy named Ian Dwyer (You can find his work here: https://www.facebook.com/Nvenom8/ ) who makes those dice, and in that bio it mentioned that he’s getting his degree in oceanography. I thought to myself… This is the exactly the kind of guy I’m looking for. Clearly a smart guy who likes fantasy stuff and gaming, AND highly educated in a topic I need vetting for. So I tracked him down on facebook and asked him if he’d like to do that. Turns out his specialty is bioturbation. It’s so cool when I learn about an entire field of research that I only kind of knew existed! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioturbation I have 3 sentient species that live in the oceans of Talifar, that all engage in bioturbation. So I asked him if he’d like to weigh in on my creature document and he gave really, REALLY good feedback! Like: “Biomineralizing teeth with metal is great as a feeding adaptation. Shrews do it with iron on earth. So, you could have that adaptation preexisting as a feeding adaptation, and the methane bladder preexisting as a buoyancy adaptation for swimming. This makes the evolution of the complex mechanism far more plausible.”
This is exactly the kind of collaboration with smart creative people that I’m looking for and I’m super excited to have started doing it!
- A second author contributing! My cousin Aletha has been self publishing books for a couple years now. She made a commercial for her books, and asked me to jazz it up with some special effects. So I did. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTM-YfKaDUE In return I asked her to write a short story in Talifar. One of the central ideas of my plan for TfT is having every work that takes place in the world be canon. In other words; unlike Star Wars and Marvel, no book or movie can contradict another book or movie in Talifar. That’s going to require some AMAZING, unprecedented production processes to pull off. And in order to build that production pipeline I need to start identifying the problems that are going to arise once multiple people are making multiple stories from multiple perspectives. We’ve dealt with this a bit already simply from the fact that my mom has written so many books, and I’ve contributed parts to them. We’ve found there’s problems with the fluid nature of developing a world. (But that was no surprise) Things like changing the names of the sentient species and characters and places means we have to go through every book by hand and do find/replaces constantly. But that was a “known unknown” problem. I know that there are many more “unknown unknowns” waiting on the horizon. And so having a second author enter the process means we’ll discover some of those sooner. And the nice thing about having Aletha be the first is that we already have a relationship with her, and being related we have similar personalities. That’s really helpful for communication issues at this point. It makes it a gentler learning curve. Eventually I hope to have contributors from all over the world working on Talifar, and that will bring with it a vast array of communication problems to solve. So it’s nice to have started with my mom, then expand to a cousin, and maybe next will be a friend, etc. Another cool thing about having Aletha be the second contributor is that she writes in a related, but different genre. She does comedic whimsical fantasy with modern game tropes and cats. So again: the close, but just-a-bit-removed nature of her writing means it’s good mid-level experiment to see how different personalities and proclivities can mesh (or not) with the high-level aesthetic of TfT.
- Anatomy consultation from a pro! My friend Katy was attending Emerald City Comic Con as an artist, and also had tickets to a two-day art training thing put on by Schoolism there at the con. She couldn’t go, and let me have the pass. Well, when I heard that a particular teacher was going to be there I practically begged her for it. The classes were mostly about visual development for film and games (which was great) but the one I was mostly interested in was Terryl Whitlatch. She’s done a bunch of creature design for many films including some Star Wars. She has the perfect mix of knowledge of animal anatomy and illustration skills. She knows every muscle in every animal and what it does. I have all of her books, and enrolled in her online program. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SGKbYNUqeY I’d been trying to figure out how to make a scientifically plausible centaur-type creature. There’s a big difference between chimera-type creature design and discrete-type. Chimeras are standards in myth and high-fantasy. It basically means you stick together various animals like Frankenstein's monster. Head of an eagle, body of a horse. Body of a dragon, head of a lion, second head of a goat, tail with a snake head on it. These kinds of creatures have no plausible evolutionary or reproductive means of existence. They are clearly magical. Those are NOT the kind of creatures I want for Talifar. I want the discrete kind. And that’s Terryl’s specialty. So I had been trying to create a discrete-centaur-like polar bear kind of species and kept running into dead ends, specifically around musculoskeletal system in the part of the torso that needs to stand erect. The ‘look’ of a classic centaur is simply mechanically impossible, so I knew I couldn’t have that human-looking torso stapled on a quadruped. But I still wanted to capture SOMETHING of that. I spilled a lot of graphite sketching out various ideas for how to get it to work, but I don’t know enough about musculoskeletal stuff to know if what I was sketching even made sense.
I took her online course, but having so many other things going on I didn’t get to the point where I felt like I could articulate my problem well enough to bother her with it, and this sub-sub-sub-project fell by the wayside. But with this new opportunity I dusted off my sketches and hoped to have enough time with her to get a solid direction for the kruliss. I found she was at an artist booth on the first day, and waited in line patiently while she signed books (putting custom art in each one!), then when I got my moment with her I asked if she’d help me. She agreed to actually sketch in my notebook to help me figure the problem out! With that sketch in hand, I spent the evening blocking out the skeleton of the spine, rib cages, and the front four limbs in clay. I baked that, and the next day spent the first class laying the muscle groups over the skeleton based on her sketch. Then, after her class I showed her my progress and she gave me a couple tips, but overall said it was the best solution to my problem. It involves a modified set of serratus and oblique muscles anchoring the upper torso to the delts of the middle shoulder. I think. She said a lot of words. Like, EVERY muscle and sub muscle name. I was only partially able to follow her, but I got enough of it to be happy enough to settle the design in at this stage and start working on the more surface aesthetic stuff.
So yeah. That’s my Talifar update. Exciting stuff! Also… if YOU are an expert in a field you think might be helpful to developing a scientifically plausible fantasy world, let me know. I’d love to talk to you. And if you just like fantasy and reading, we are always on the lookout for beta readers!