Everything You Never Knew About Haphez

I've mentioned a number of times that I used to write solely for my own enjoyment and never had any intentions whatsoever of publishing. As such, when I first wrote Dakiti (and even Nexus), I didn't bother including a lot of world-building information. Sure, I kept all of that written down in a separate encyclopedia-style document for my own benefit, but if all of that information was already in my head, why bother including it in the story if nobody else was ever going to read it, right? 

That was actually one of the biggest challenges when I decided to publish. Obviously readers don't live inside my head and thus can't know things unless I tell them, so I had to figure out how to incorporate at least some of that old information without resorting to huge info dumps. Only a small portion (maybe a third of it) actually ended up making into the story; the rest, while interesting, simply wasn't relevant at any point during the plot and therefore would have felt forced or out of place. While I do feel like I did a decent job of avoiding those info dumps, there are some places where I still think I was too vague. Of course that can't really be helped now, and it has all been part of the learning experience, but it irritates me all the same.

Over the past couple of years, I have occasionally gotten questions from readers about the world of Haphez or aspects of the Haphezian culture, which is great! Feel free to ask any time! But I've also been informed that there was interest in some sort of post that revealed some of that old world-building information that never made it into the story. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite facts, some of which shed some light on things readers actually learn in the story, some of which could probably have at least been deduced from reading the story, and some of which have never been shared before.

Haphez is a relatively small planet, only about the size of Mars.

The planet has five moons (hence why some of the characters swear "by the five moons"). Na is the largest and the only one capable of sustaining life (whether they terraformed it or whether it already had its own atmosphere, I don't know). Et and Lo are briefly mentioned in Ronan, and then there are Hu and De. Not too long ago, I was actually reading back through the original document and realized there'd been a sixth moon called Zi, but by then I'd already started using "by the five moons" and couldn't change it. It's probably just as well considering I already have two characters whose names start with Z-i. I've always imagined that these simple words are letters in the Haphezian alphabet.

The Haphezian language is kind of based on German. I picture it sounding kind of guttural and rough (just like these hardcore, combative near-humans who speak it 😉). Whenever I need to make up a new word, I plug it into Google Translate, convert it to German, and then base my new word on whatever the translation is. Any linguistically-inclined readers might have been able to pick up on that already; perhaps the most obvious comparison is sheyss vs. Sheiße. If I'm not inspired by the German translation, Dutch and Polish are my next choices. I've even used a little Italian. Gesh punti is actually a combination of the German Gesichtpunkten and the Italian puntini viso, both of which were the results of trying to translate several variances of "face dots" (the literal Haphezian translation of the phrase).

The area in which the characters live (i.e. all the cities situated along the Tranyi River) is kind of a temperate zone that covers the area about 30 degrees latitude north and south of the planet's equator. The higher the latitude (or the closer you get to either pole), the rockier the landscape becomes. Much of the terrain is so cold and mountainous that it's basically unlivable. Technically people could live up there (and some criminals or pirates probably do in order to hide) but there are so few resources that it would be difficult and inconvenient at the least.

The massive amounts of runoff from those mountains create tributaries that all flow down to feed the Tranyi River, which I shamelessly based on the Columbia River after spending a lot of time in the Gorge growing up. The Tranyi is much bigger though, about 5 miles across at its narrowest point.

The Tranyi River follows the planet's equator and flows into the Sea of Haphez, which was mentioned briefly in both Nexus and Ronan. It's the planet's only ocean but it covers about 20% of the surface area. Its coasts are rocky and jagged, and any beaches consist more of rocks and driftwood than they do of sand (also based on Oregon's coasts). 

It's been mentioned that HSP has a number of regional offices. There are seven, to be exact, one for each of the planet's seven Regions. Think of these regions almost like counties or states. Each has a capital, a city of the same name. They are: Haphor, Noro, Seran, Mairo, Cual, Mangan, and Salamos. Haphor is, as we know, the capital of the entire planet and the location of all the government facilities. Noro is of course the home of HSP's main headquarters, though each of those major cities has an HSP facility of its own. Lines of longitude form the borders between each region, which are all relatively equal in size. So technically, each region stretches from pole to pole, though the majority of the cities and activity are located along the equator.

One of a few exceptions is Argall, which we know is located at a much higher latitude than the rest of the Haphezian cities, though it's still on the edges of the temperate zone (I picture it being somewhere up in the Seran Region, a good distance away from where the rest of the story takes place). All the mountains and rocks do make for good mining, and as it's told in Nexus, the basin the town is situated in is actually the remains of an old volcano. It's basically a larger-scale version of Crater Lake without the water

In the books, it's been pretty well established that the Haphezians have a very militaristic culture. They take great pride in their armies, fleets, and police force. However, the majority of people who aren't in the military or police (and even those people probably were at some point) are farmers. A large percentage of Haphez's economy comes from the export of produce. There's been a lot of talk about govino pods throughout the series. The seeds within are used to create both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and the pods are often dried, crushed, and smoked (both recreationally and for medical purposes, kind of like marijuana). The flat areas along the Tranyi River are prime farmland, so they're able to produce a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, many of which are considered delicacies on other nearby Fringe worlds. Therefore they end up making a handsome profit. There was a species of piranha-like fish mentioned briefly in Dakiti, and I decided at some point that they have colorful, iridescent scales that are often used for decoration. The eggs of these fish are also collected, frozen, and eaten like candy. So in short, Haphez has many resources that they consider simple and mundane but that are in high demand from neighboring civilizations. 

Govino pods are basically banana-shaped pomegranates.

Haphezian architecture is similar to the "modern" style of architecture we see here on Earth today, with lots of flat surfaces, sharp angles, and windows. Domes, arches, etc. are extremely rare.

All weapon and vehicle manufacturing is done internally. The Haphezians are fanatical enough about their military that they wouldn't dare outsource anything. There are development centers, factories, and shipyards that make up a good portion of the base on Na.

Guhr hounds have been mentioned briefly a couple of times throughout the series. I've thought of them as being kind of like coyotes, scavenging on the outskirts of farms and cities but maybe being bolder in the forest and pack hunting like wolves. There was also a big, one-eyed cat-like creature called a mirax in that document that was basically a cyclops saber-toothed tiger. Don't know if it still exists in the story or not -- the characters have never and probably will never encounter one, and I can't imagine they'd want to. Nasty things.

Speaking of the characters, I've gotten some questions before about the aforementioned gesh punti ("face dots") tattoos and the colored streaks in their hair. The hair streaks are naturally-occurring and are always the same color as the person's eyes (except in the case of genetic defects, which we'll get to in a minute). Genetics work such that the color is always passed down from the person's father. For example, we know Ziva's color is a deep red. That means her father, Kalim Payvan, had the same color, but her mother is actually kind of a grayish purple (which was never actually mentioned in the story). Aroska, Soren, and Maston would have all had the same gold/amber color because they're brothers and shared the same father, and Maston's kids would have also had that amber color.

They receive the gesh punti when they turn a year old, and the designs represent family lineage. There are always two designs: one from the mother and one from the father. The design from the mother is the one she got from her mother, while the design from the father is the one he got from his father, and so on. There would also be some sort of common design for illegitimate children and/or orphans who didn't know who one or both parents were, kind of like how the last name "Snow" is used in Game of Thrones/ASOIAF. The two designs are in most -- but not all -- cases on two different sides of the face. If you look at Zinni's designs, they're so close together that they almost look like a single pattern, when in reality the two large dots nearest to her right eye are one design and the single large dot with the two smaller ones are the other. 

Here's a brief look at how the colors and gesh punti work in Ziva's family.

Also of note: all Haphezians have the same variety of hair colors as normal humans, though for one reason or another, black is most common. About 40% of the population has black hair. It also turns gray or white with old age just like in humans, though the streaks maintain their original color. 

As we know from Nexus, it's possible for there to be defects when it comes to eye color and hair streak color. It's a rare defect, but it's caused when the child receives extra genetic information from the mother. In Kat Reilly's case, she had the same blue eyes as her brother (which they would have gotten from their father), but her hair streaks were silvery white (which would have come from their mother). The severity of the defect can also vary; for example, it was mentioned in Nexus that Bosco had one blue eye, one green eye, and no hair streaks at all. Even though these people (Defectives) are still perfectly capable of functioning, they're considered "impure" by Haphezian society, which has a reputation for being kind of egotistical when it comes to maintaining intragalactic appearances. They have a set of standards, and anyone who doesn't meet those standards gets deported. As we've seen in the story, there's a special facility at the Haphezian embassy on Chaiavis that takes in Defective babies and raises them until they come of age, then those people are dismissed to fend for themselves for the rest of their lives. 

While virtually identical anatomically to humans and other near-human races, Haphezians are only capable of actually reproducing with other Haphezians. Ergo there can't be any (naturally-occurring) Haphezian hybrids. This is a detail I honestly wish I would have included at some point in the story, because it would have explained the Sardons' motivations in Dakiti a little better. 

It's been made fairly clear that Haphezians are, on average, taller than humans. I usually subtract five inches from their height in order to get the human/Earth equivalent. For example, Ziva is supposed to be about 6'5", so she's viewed in Haphezian society the same way we would view someone who is 6'0" -- so she's tall for a woman, but it's certainly not unheard of, and there are still women out there taller than her. Similarly, Zinni is described as being short in their culture, when in reality she's about 5'9". 

In the story, Haphezian characters are often able to smell each other. This is because each individual has a unique smell, almost like a fingerprint, and their noses are so sensitive that they're able to differentiate between all of those smells (unless it's a super crowded area or someplace with another really powerful odor or something).

There's not a definite average lifespan for Haphezians because so many of them are in such dangerous -- or physically demanding, at the least -- lines of work that they're either killed or die from health complications much earlier than they would if they'd spent their entire lives living under ideal conditions. Technological advancements in the medical field do help to an extent, but sometimes the issues are beyond the physical. Royalty, politicians, and some civilians have been known to live around 120 years. At one point in the beginning of Ronan, Ziva quips that HSP and the military both start recruiting people at young ages because so many of the agents and soldiers are either dead or ready to retire before they're 40 years old.   

That's about all I've got, at least everything that's not totally nonsensical or wasn't already covered at some point in the books. If anyone ever has any further questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them. Your questions are actually really helpful because it helps me learn what kinds of information I need to include in future stories so readers aren't totally lost. I hope you enjoyed this little inside look!


Find the Ziva Payvan series on Amazon: