Inherit The Earth - FVD visitors interview Talin

What DID happen to the humans?
The human race was killed off by a airborne biological weapon, a scenario which was inspired by the Alistair MacLean novel "The Satan Bug". It is presumed that after the humans died off, the virus did too, so humans, if they existed, could survive on the earth at the time of the story.

One of our backstory ideas was that there are still a few humans living in some sort of lunar base, which have reverted to a kind of techno-tribalism. One of the possible sequel ideas involves having a probe from the moon sent down to the earth and discovered by the Morph.

Now that we know the humans perished due to an airborne virus, this scene from the intro makes a lot more sense. I always thought that shape looked like a bacteria.. now it's been confirmed.

What kind of things would you like to see in a sequel, if it is ever to be made?
I think there are a lot of important stories to tell in the ITE universe. Having a group of primitive animal tribes which are just rediscovering technology gives an ideal venue for "morality plays" about our own relationship with technology. That is, all of the details of modern life are stripped away, leaving the charming and simpler personalities of a "tribal" or "medieval" age. But at the same time, these simple folk are rapidly re-acquring the powers and complexities of an industrial age. So in a sense, this allows us to explore our own relationships with the products of science, with a lot of the obscuring noise removed. And because they are rediscovering old technology at a fairly rapid rate, the impacts on their society are much greater, and therefore highlighted much more clearly.

A similar approach is seen in Anne McCaffrey's "Pern" novels - Anne has always maintained that her work is "science fiction - not fantasy", and as David Brin pointed out, one of the differences between Pern and other medieval societies portrayed in novels is that the Pernese are desperately trying to become non-medieval.

One of the basic "morals" of ITE was the idea that personal discovery and exploration is superior to knowledge handed down from authority. In a sense, Rif's final speech in the game hints at something very important - the scientific method. He isn't quite there yet, but his statement about observation and keeping records is edging up on it.

At the same time, these things have to be done very slowly and with delicacy and care. I would not want to see the Morph advance too quickly, as it would spoil the opportunity for a lot of great stories about more primitive technologies. For example, there's no evidence in ITE of any sort of "beasts of burden" in the Morph society, so I don't suppose inventing the horse collar is going to do them much good (although I'd be happy to be contradicted on this point if the contradiction was clever or dramatic).

I would not want to get to things like electricity too soon, although I have fantasies about a tough old muskrat, wearing a revolver, captaining a smoke-spewing steamboat up and down the river :-)

The Morph themselves have natural, biological capabilities inherited from their animal progenitors that sometimes make up for their lack of tools. Oh, I should also mention that a few Morph are weakly psychic, that is "second sight" and such actually work. But there are no overtly magical powers, no fireballs, nothing that's really macroscopically measurable except perhaps statistically. (Of course, there are exceptions - good drama wins over story bible any day.)

I would also want to avoid a lot of the usual cliches about primitives faced with advanced technology. The morph may be unsophisticated, but they are smart and clever, and can figure things out, given a clue or two. A European from the Renaissance era may not have understood how a camera worked, but they would quickly grasp the concept of what it was for, and probably be delighted by it. There would be none of this nonsense about photographs "stealing your soul."

One possible sequel idea involved an encounter with other kinds of genetically-enhanced lifeforms left over from the time of the humans, possibly with minor mutations since that time. For example, an underground hive mind of some sort (The NetherMorph), a race of giant insects (non-intelligent - in this world only mammals have the capacity for true individual sentience.), giant reptiles, etc.

There may also be a few functioning computers left. Did I mention, by the way, that the Orb of Storms is only a terminal, that the real intelligence of the Orb is underground, connected to an array of orbiting weather satellites? That with the right command sequences, any orb could control the weather? The orbs are in fact "information appliances" (to use the modern term), specialized for a particular application domain, but possessing a broader capability.

There are a few other orbs still around. The Orb of Arts has access to a database of human artforms, including dance, music, etc.

I estimate that the humans have been dead for approximately 500-1000 years. That is, it needs to be long enough so that the Morph society would have descended into a primitive state and then re-emerged into a tribal structure, but it can't be too long or else the human artifacts would have decayed to nothing (in fact, 500 years is a bit long, any elastomers such as the airtight seals on the lab would be mostly dust by then.)

I also presume that the humans did not have any sort of "magic" technologies, such as antigravity, faster than light drive, etc. In general, I think that the number of science-fictional premises should be kept to a minimum in a story like this. I almost cut out the part about "second sight", but I felt that it would be a useful means to facilitate foreshadowing and other dramatic effects. Anyway, we know that the humans did genetic fiddling, so perhaps we can explain it away as part of the experiment.

Of course, to be a true successor to ITE, it should also contain a good deal of humor. Humor which is in context (that is, fits in with the milieu) is best, although occasional humorous references from today are OK as long as they are subtle. The "who's on first" parody in ITE was about as far as I'd be willing to go in that direction. A little bit of satire is welcome as well, as long as it doesn't cross the line into bitterness. (I thought about having three monkeys, of the "see no evil, hear no evil, etc." variety, but morph monkeys are too close to real monkeys, and besides Planet of the Apes did that joke already.)

Another idea I liked was to have the wildcat child (the one that was sick), now grown up to late teens, who goes on a vision quest to find Rif (the one who cured her), and shows up at his doorstep and offers her services as a hunter and stealth/tracker. Who knows where that would lead?

The Orb of Storms - This small ball is what starts the whole drama to begin with. Now, at the conclusion of the ITE story, it's all washed up and poses a potentially new threat to the furry population..

(This page created by FVD webmaster, 16/4/2000)