ZOMG! Look! My novelette, “Diamond Jim and the Dinosaurs,” is a finalist for the AnLab Readers’ Award! It was published in the April/May issue of Analog, the one featuring this gorgeous Bob Eggleton cover. For a short period of time, you can read it for free here. And who wouldn’t want to read about Antarctic dinosaurs?
I want to extend my gratitude to all those Analog readers who thought my story was worthy. I am deeply honored to be among such talented writers including my pal C. Stuart Hardwick, who made the finals with his Analog debut novelette, “Dreams of the Rocket Men” and Effie Seiberg with her Analog debut, “Rocket Surgery.” Also, my thanks go out to astute editor, Trevor Quachri for doing vital behind-the-scenes work to improve stories way more than many readers ever suspect.
“The dinosaur lowered its head and charged straight at Marty.”
Er … um … so what happens next in the story? I’m fond of my protagonist, so he better raise a big gun and act fast, but what exactly should he do? How long does it take to slip off the safety? Does he aim for the eyeball? How about that mouth filled with razor-sharp fangs? Are either of those actions feasible? How much is the beast’s head bobbing around? For that matter, if the dinosaur’s brain is the size of a walnut, might it be better to try for the heart? Or perhaps the kneecap? How much ground would the dinosaur cover after a bullet pierced its heart? What caliber projectile would be needed to pierce that tough hide, or bony outer layer?
So much is conjecture. Yet, all too often, I read or hear about authors making rookie mistakes when they write about firing weapons. That’s one reason why I took the opportunity, today, to visit a local shooting range with one of the world’s leading firearms experts, who is also a wilderness survival trainer. For the first time in my life, I fired several weapons, including a 22 revolver and a light hunting rifle. I found out just how loud the discharge is (while wearing ear-protection), as well as what the recoil feels like. Equally important was the chance to get a sense of the distances to various targets, as well as learning how to hold the weapon, aim, and pull the trigger.
What’s more, we discussed hypothetical encounters with dinosaurs in the Mesozoic, how my characters might arm themselves, how they might stay out of trouble, and survival strategies when trouble comes head on. One possibility is bear spray (strong pepper spray), although its effectiveness against a dinosaur of any size is also unknown.
As much as I dislike the grim idea of firing at any beasts of the Cretacean wilderness, I’m not going to drop my characters in a prehistoric jungle without giving them the means to return alive.
Some years ago, when my Mom was still alive, she provided the inspiration for my first published dinosaur story. I was attending Clarion SF Writers’ Workshop and wanted to write a time travel story. I thought she might make an interesting protagonist, but there was one problem. She was afraid to fly. You should know that she seemed to have a knack for winning contests. So my question was, if she won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Cretaceous, would she climb into a time machine and go?
My “research” consisted of calling her up and asking her that question. “Oh yes,” she said without hesitation. “It’s some place I’ve never been!”
That was the moment I knew I had to send her. The story is called, “Mom and the Ankylosaur,” published in 2004 in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination.
Even better than seeing the story in print was being able to use this story for the first author’s reading I ever gave. My Mom was in the audience. Today, on Mother’s Day, I’d like to dedicate this story to all mothers whose children are writers.
While pterosaurs aren’t actually dinosaurs, they are, of course, some of the more remarkable creatures of the Mesozoic. Usually, we picture huge pterosaurs gliding overhead.
So how did they get around when they weren’t in the air? This question has been a controversial one for some time, as there are several possibilities ranging from belly-dragging lizard-like locomotion to walking on their hind limbs with their spines horizontal like a bipedal dinosaur, to a more erect bipedal stance. However, in recent years, there’s been some evidence that at least some of them may have been quadrupedal.
It’s been suggested that being quadrupedal may have helped them generate the oomph to leap into flight – no small matter for the largest species of pterosaurs that weighed upwards of 150 pounds.
Here are a couple of articles, with illustrations.
I’m back, faithful blog readers. No I haven’t forsaken you, and I have news. My short story, “Not with a Bang,” made the Tangent Online List of Recommended Stories for 2013. Not only that, but it was a starred story. If you missed it, the story is available in the July/August 2013 issue of Analog Magazine.
You can find Tangent’s complete list here: http://www.tangentonline.com/news-mainmenu-158/2318-tangent-online-2013-recommended-reading-list. I’ve been relying on Tangent’s annual lists for some time now, as I love reading shorter works of science fiction or fantasy. However, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by the number of print and on-line publications these days. That isn’t a complaint, but rather an abundance of riches. So, Tangent is a great way to see what my favorite authors wrote that I missed, and to find intriguing fiction by new writers.
Now back to what I really wanted to tell everyone. I’ve been writing several more dinosaur stories using the same characters in the same modern-day and Mesozoic settings as in “Not with a Bang.” Jaws are snapping, claws are catching, and feathers are flying. The intrepid paleontologists are in for some more surprises, and not just from the dinosaurs.
From Newcastle, Wyoming comes fascinating news about the discovery of the remains of three triceratops dating to 67 million years ago, which is the Late Cretaceous. Although much work and analysis needs to be done, the preliminary word is that three individuals were found together, which is not particularly common. What’s more, two of them may be juveniles. If so, this find may shed more light on their social organization, as well as their growth and development.
Even better, it seems that the skeletons may be unusually complete. The presence of many small bones is terrific, given that smaller bones are not nearly as prevalent in the fossil record as larger and thicker bones. The small bones can get washed away more readily, or deteriorate before they can be fossilized. Also, small bones may be consumed by predators.
So hats off to Dr. Pete Larson, paleontologist and president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research and to Dr. Anne Schulp of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
Yes, this is a reminder that now is the time to read my story, Not with a Bang, in the July/Aug. Analog. It’s about sauropods, triceratops, hadrosaurs, and everyone’s favorite — T. rex. And it also gives me a chance to talk about reviews. Both SF Revu and Tangent Online had good things to say about the story. Believe me, my pulse was racing when I knew they’d covered my story, but before I’d actually read those reviews. What’s a writer to do? Two things:
1. Develop the hide of an armor-plated stegosaur. In this endeavor, it might help to dip into Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections, edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard. There, you can read the myopic, nasty, and wrongheaded claptrap written about Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Sylvia Plath, Flannery O’Connor, and so many others. You’ll almost certainly find some of your favorite authors skewered. But admittedly, I don’t have the stegosaurus thing going on. Or at least not yet. That leads to my second suggestion.
2. Give the task of reading EVERY review to a spouse, close relative or trusted friend. That person must be instructed, in no uncertain terms, to share only the positive reviews with the writer. Does this amount to little more than a vain attempt to look at the writer’s portion of the world through rose-colored glasses? Well, so what if it does? The morning after I read the reviews in Tangent and SF Revu, I cranked out 2000 words of a novel. That would never have happened if the reviews had been crummy.