Secrets in the Wheel of Omagua: The Making of “The Last Extinction”
When I first conceived the storyline for my book, “The Last Extinction,” I knew a credible, believe-able back-story was essential to grabbing the reader right from the start. One of my goals for the book was to trace the dislocation of man from Nature through time. I’ve always been fascinated by our split from the natural world: when, where, and why humans began interpreting the world on our own terms. I was presented with a challenge: how to present a historical record of man and nature’s interactions over time?
This is where the Wheel of Omagua was born.
In my story, the Omaguans are a fictional rainforest tribe that I ascribe the gift of communication with the animals of the forest. For thousands of years, they held council with the animals. Omaguan elders would journey to a sacred location high in the Andes and sit with the animals. Before being exterminated by logging interests in the 1930s, the Omaguans had never been contacted by anyone outside the forest. Their secrets were lost.
Recording these important meetings, an Omaguan scribe carved intricate symbols into the Wheel of Omagua. The carvings are the sole documentation of these sacred gatherings and hold the key to understanding the mayhem that increases around the planet each year. Although the Wheel of Omagua and the Omaguans themselves are fictional, the catastrophic events and animal extinctions depicted within the Wheel are real.
As the story opens, we find Sam Avery on the phone with Dean Christiansen, a professional photographer for National Geographic. Dean explains to Sam that he was needed on location in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon. Sam’s expertise in ancient languages and symbols were critical to translating a big find: the Wheel of Omagua. He’s able to distinguish five animals carved into the ancient piece, as well as what appeared to be natural disasters: floods, famine, disease, and more.
The implied connection between animal extinctions and catastrophic events that cause great reductions of humanity is central to the storyline of “The Last Extinction.” I researched the convergence of the extinction of species and terrible events that have occurred throughout man’s history and drew connections for maximum dramatic impact.
PDF: Extinctions and Disasters: A History of Cause and Effect
Art Director, Steve Buccellato, did a fantastic job of translating my vision of exactly what the Wheel should look like. Steve oversaw a team of artists from around the world who worked on this and the 25 other pieces of art that are a part of the world we created.
Important symbols within the Wheel of Omagua included what the production team termed ‘Nature’s Trump card,’ this graphic blend of the biological hazard symbol and the skull of a bull.