Tagg West

Screenwriter, director, editor
Based in Phoenix, AZ
ig: @taggwest | email: tagg@taggwest.com

 

Under the Cold Sun

Format: Novel

Genre: Action/Adventure, Speculative Fiction

Status: Published

Government anthropologist Matt Moro jumps at the chance to research an enigmatic civilization living secretly on Gough Island, a remote, windswept island in the middle of the Atlantic. However, an international conspiracy rekindles an ancient civil war, and Moro must endure an ever-worsening crucible of ordeals to stop this secretive kingdom from destroying itself—and killing him in the process.

A Lost Civilization Hiding in Plain Sight

Under the Cold Sun had four main sources of inspiration:

  • A fascination with Gough Island, one of the most remote places on earth.
  • An interest in creating a fully-functional language completely from scratch.
  • A love of the old-fashioned “lost civilization” adventure novels I read when I was young.
  • A love for anthropology kindled by some university classes I took.

Great ideas often arise from the collision of otherwise unrelated concepts, and those were the ones that ran into each other in my brain to create the premise for Under the Cold Sun.

Living in a time when every corner of the globe has been carefully mapped and explored, the basic question I asked was, “What if there were still an undiscovered civilization hiding out there somewhere, waiting to be explored?” 

From that question came the idea of the Mesdu, a civilization founded on Gough Island as the descendants of two ancient seafaring peoples, one from Western Africa and the other from South America. 

The Language

It was highly implausible to have them all speak perfect English, and I didn’t want to just make up a bunch of gibberish, so I set about developing a full grammar and vocabulary for the Mesdu language. I ended up with a fairly complete language, meaning it could accommodate almost any sentiment I wanted to express.

Deuma du nua gulumau mon, dolosa didiuta nua śi.
“Nobody knows their deathplace, but all will find it.”

Meruma ke uda nualn
“The shark’s strength comes from the water.”

Nula oruav boboti. Kuma sanii dolosa śaiouos judou.
“Good friends are like butt cheeks. They stay together despite constant friction.”

Dannam foma um sounou lau, dolosa vera foma du daba sanii.
“A fish and bird can love each other but can’t build a home together.”

That said, because the Mesdu are an isolated people, there are plenty of modern concepts they don’t have words for. For example, they describe a helicopter as muela-lau-melai, or “big bird cart.”

It was fascinating to work through a language with such a narrow scope, knowing that each word had to be considered in its local cultural context. For example, because they were the only people on the island, they had never had anyone to go to war with, and therefore had no word for “war.” When the concept finally arises, they have to think of it in terms of a local team sport and wind up organizing their military ranks based on their sports team structures.

What's Next?

I’m looking at the possibility of adapting this novel into a feature-length film screenplay. The remote location could present challenges, but overall the story can be told on a relatively compact budget due to its sparse setting, so it has strong potential as a feature film.