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Notes for the Far-Seer Cover Artist
Copyright © 1991 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
Very few authors have control over the covers that appear on the
American editions of their books I certainly don't but when
Far-Seer sold, my friend and
fellow writer Garfield Reeves-Stevens suggested I prepare notes
for the cover artist and submit them to my editor at Ace, Peter Heck.
I did so, and Peter passed them on to the artist assigned to do the
Far-Seer cover, Hugo-nominee Tom Kidd.
The response was better than I could have possibly hoped for:
Tom, pleased to have such comprehensive material, phoned me from
Connecticut to discuss various details, faxed me several rough
sketches, and then sent me a photocopy of his final sketch, so
that I could make suggestions before he began painting. I liked
the finished product so much, I bought the original art from Tom;
it hangs in my living room.
Here are the notes I wrote up. If you haven't read
Far-Seer, please be advised that they give a lot of the
plot away. But if you have read the book, you'll find background
information here that appears nowhere else. Enjoy!
QUINTAGLIOS: The Main Characters
Although not explicit in the first book in this series, the
Quintaglios are descended from Earth's dinosaurs. It's common in
current Science Fiction to follow the suggestion of Dr. Dale
Russell of the Canadian Museum of Nature and suggest that
intelligent dinosaurs evolved from small, big-eyed, slender,
bipedal dinosaurs, such as Troodon (formerly known at
However, this is NOT the model I used for the
Quintaglios. Rather, the Quintaglios evolved from dwarf
tyrannosaurs. That is, their ancestors had the same basic body
plan as a miniature version of Tyrannosaurus rex: massive
heads; short, muscular necks; a stooped gait; stocky torsos;
relatively small forward-facing eyes; thick, powerful tails.
Unlike troodontids, which kill with their clawed feet, all
tyrannosaurs, including Quintaglios, kill with their powerful
Quintaglios vary from tyrannosaurs in several significant
ways, however. Tyrannosaurs have tiny arms, with only two clawed
fingers. All terrestrial vertebrates on Earth now have or
evolved from creatures with five digits on each hand or foot. In
the case of the Quintaglios, the development of the third,
fourth, and fifth fingers is no longer suppressed. They have
well-developed arms with dexterous five-fingered hands (four
fingers and an opposable digit). Unlike humans, though, most
Quintaglios are left-handed. The fingers terminate in
retractable curved claws, which extend reflexively when the
Quintaglio is threatened, but also are under individual voluntary
control (making it possible to extend or retract them in any
Quintaglio feet are much like tyrannosaur feet: somewhat
bird-like, with three splayed, clawed toes, and an additional
claw spur coming off the heel.
Quintaglio hide is much tougher than human skin. It is dry
and leathery. As humans have lost most body hair, so Quintaglios
have lost most scales and scutes (bony processes embedded in the
skin), but these may be present in individuals. Quintaglio skin
is almost entirely green, although it may be freckled, mottled,
or splotched with brown or yellow in some individuals, and with
black in old individuals. The skin tone is darker on the back
and upper surface of the tail than it is on the belly and lower
The Quintaglio head has a high cranial dome and a
drawn-out muzzle. The mouth is a simple lipless
slit running the length of the muzzle, and the nostrils are near
the tip of the muzzle. Teeth are replaced throughout life
and consist of only one type: curved, pointed, with fine
serrations on the trailing edge. Quintaglio eyes are oval
and solid black. Quintaglios have no external ear flaps, but
simply have a kidney-shaped earhole on either side of the
head. Quintaglios have a small salt-secretion gland beneath the
surface of the muzzle, but the aperture for it is simply a very
tiny hole almost a large pore halfway down the side of the
muzzle. Except in an extreme close-up view, it would be all but
Because the Quintaglio hide is so tough and because they
live exclusively in a warm, equatorial climate, Quintaglios do
not normally wear clothes or shoes for protection, except in
special circumstances. However, most do wear decorative
sashes, which cross over from one shoulder to the opposite
hip. At the hip, the sash may contain a carrying pouch. Priests
conducting services wear flowing robes instead of sashes; when
not conducting services, priests wear sashes marked with bands of
color. Members of the royal family, including Dybo and his
mother Len-Lends, wear blood-red sashes. Most priestly robes are
decorated in swirling patterns of brown, yellow, white, and
orange, representing the banded cloud patterns of a Jupiter-type
planet. Master mariner Var-Keenir wears a special gray sash,
about eight inches wide at his shoulder, narrowing to four at the
hip. Keenir and other members of the Dasheter crew also
sometimes wear red leather caps over the dome of their
Most sashes are made of leather, not cloth. Saleed's sash
is blue-green. Afsan's is yellow and brown. Imperial staff wear
Adult Quintaglios have a variety of dark purple or black
patterns tattooed into the side and top of their heads. Note
that Afsan, the main character of the first novel, is a juvenile
when the novel begins, and so doesn't have any tattoos at first.
Specifically, during the hunt scene, he has no tattoos at all.
During the first part of the ocean voyage aboard the sailing ship
Dasheter, he has a hunt tattoo. After the ship
actually comes to rest beneath the Face of God, he gets a
pilgrimage tattoo. During all later scenes including
the battle with the sea-serpent, Kal-ta-goot, he should have both
of these tattoos.
The tattoo of the hunt, as described in the first novel,
goes above the left earhole. The pilgrimage tattoo also goes on
the left side of the head, although its exact position is never
specified in that novel.
Like modern crocodiles, Quintaglios continue to grow
throughout their lives. There is no one "adult" or "mature"
size. Rather, Quintaglios simply get bigger and bigger until
they die. A young adult Quintaglio, such as Afsan, might be
five-and-a-half feet tall. An old Quintaglio adult, such as
Var-Keenir (captain of the sailing ship Dasheter) or
Tak-Saleed (the master astrologer), might be close to eight feet
tall. (Note: Keenir and Saleed are creche-mates, meaning they
are the same age, and, therefore, about the same size.)
In a relaxed "at-ease" posture, Quintaglios lean back on
their thick, muscular tails. In a walking posture, the back
slopes forward at an angle of almost 45 degrees. When running,
the back becomes horizontal, parallel to the ground, and the tail
flies up behind, lifted completely off the ground.
Afsan: about 5'5'' tall, thin but in no way frail.
Dybo: just slightly shorter than Afsan, but quite rolly-polly.
Saleed: close to 8' tall, old and wrinkled, somewhat frail. His
skin is mottled with yellow and black age spots.
Keenir: also 8' tall, but much burlier. Most of his tail is gone
early in the novel, although it grows back during the course of
the action. The regenerating tail growth is yellow, and Keenir
must use a cane or otherwise support himself. He has a ragged
yellow scar running from the tip of his muzzle to his left
OTHER ANIMALS: Dinosaurs
Most animals on the Quintaglio world evolved from and still
strongly resemble dinosaurs or other animals from Earth's
- shovelmouths are hadrosaurs (duckbilled dinosaurs);
- thunderbeasts are sauropods (brontosaurs);
- Kal-ta-goot is a long-necked plesiosaur;
- wingfingers are pterosaurs (flying reptiles, such as Pteranodon);
- hornfaces are ceratopsians such as Triceratops;
- spikefrills are also ceratopsians, but modeled after Styracosaurus;
- armorbacks are ankylosaurs.
THE FACE OF GOD
The Face of God is a Jupiter-like
planet, striped vertically (from
the perspective of people on the deck of
the sailing ship Dasheter) with bands of beige, yellow,
orange, and white cloud. It covers one-quarter of the sky (that
is, its widest part extends over 45 degrees of the sky), but goes
through phases (from top to bottom). The Face does
not have a ring around it.
OTHER OBJECTS IN THE SKY
Also visible in the sky are other moons of this
Jupiter-like planet, which will show visible disks or phases in
the sky and cast round shadows in a band up the centre of the
Face of God. The Quintaglio sun is Vega, a very bright
white (not yellow) star. The Quintaglio world is much farther
away from it than Earth is from its sun, so Vega appears as not
much bigger than an incredibly bright point. The Quintaglio
sky is pale violet, not blue.
THE DASHETER: A Sailing Ship
Much of the novels action takes place aboard a large sailing
ship, the Dasheter. The ship consists of two
diamond-shaped hulls, joined by a short connecting piece. The
hulls are each four decks high. The Dasheter has four
masts, two on the port side of the fore-hull, two on the
starboard side of the aft-hull. Each mast supports one giant red
sail. One depicts Larsk's cartouche, an Egyptian style symbol;
another shows his name in hieroglyphics; the third shows Larsk's
head silhouetted against the swirling Face of God; and the fourth
shows the crest of the Pilgrimage Guild.
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