BEST of MIDAMERICON 2–Part 1
MidAmeriCon 2 was an all-round terrific World Con for me this year. Rather than ramble about this and that, I’m doing a series of retrospectives on some personal highlights, in no particular order. One was connecting up with writer buddies Cath Schaff-Stump and Christopher Cornell, whom I met at Paradise Lost. They’ve been putting out a podcast, Unreliable Narrators, that’s ridiculously good. For example, they’ve brought on some very talented SF writers like Ann Leckie and Charlie Finlay, who now edits F & SF.
So I was thrilled when Christopher squeezed my MidAmeriCon 2 dinosaur panel into his hectic schedule and mentioned our panel on the podcast. The ebullient Frank Wu led the panelists in a discussion of cool new developments in paleontology plus our conjectures as to courtship and mating strategies for enormous critters that have a row of spikes running down their tails. That’s a subject I’ve tackled in Dino Mate, an Analog story that’s been reprinted by Digital Science Fiction.
DINO MATE IS BACK IN PRINT
For everyone who can’t get enough of my dinosaur stories, I’m pleased to announce that the terrific folks at Digital Science Fiction have reprinted my stand-alone story Dino Mate. It features Marty and Julianna, the intrepid time travelers of “Not with a Bang” and “Diamond Jim and the Dinosaurs.” But the real stars are the Jurassic kentrosauruses, those fantastical creatures sporting spikes along their tails and the plates of a stegosaurus. They’re a little-known African dinosaur discovered over a hundred years ago in what was then German East Africa.
I hope you’ll give it a read.
A while back I was chatting with a fellow writer of dinosaur tales. I asked if he worried that advances in paleontology would render some of the details in his stories obsolete. He said certain aspects of his major work had become out of date even before publication.
Ugh! How does a writer deal with this? For some time, I consoled myself with the fact that I loved as much as ever the classic dinosaur stories I’d grown up reading. So what if they did have a “brontosaurus” or two instead of an “apatosaurus?” And then, just this year, it looks as though the nomenclature may be swinging back in favor of “brontosaurus.”
Now, another surprising thing has happened, something that is the very opposite of what I had feared. A recent article in the journal PLOS One suggests that differences in the big bony plates running along the spine of one species of stegosaurus (Stegosaurus mjosi) may be the product of sexual dimorphism. In other words, males and females had differently shaped dermal plates. One sex possessed wide, oval plates 45% larger in surface area than the tall, narrow plates of the other sex. Intermediate shapes were not found. Given that a number of individuals were found together, the variation cannot be ascribed to different species. Nor is it due to changes as the creatures grew from infants to adulthood. Nor do the plates come from different positions on the back of one individual.
I’m excited by this development because my story, “Dino Mate,” published in the December 2014 issue of Analog contains speculation about the spikes on the kentrosaurus, which is a related dinosaur found in East Africa instead of Western North America. Without spoiling the story, I can say that I’m gratified to read of new scientific discoveries, which provide rich fodder for science fiction writers like me.
Raise your hand if you can name two dinosaurs from the once-reknown Tendaguru fossil beds of Tanzania. . . . Didn’t think so. After lending their considerable support to the theory of continental drift, these truly remarkable Jurassic beasts seem to have gone out of fashion. Maybe that’s because the excavations in what was once German East Africa took place over a hundred years ago. Or perhaps it’s because the fossils ended up on display in Germany, not in the U.S. More’s the pity.
Here’s a brief sample of what was uncovered:
- The largest complete Brachiosaurus skeleton in the world.
- Bad-ass bi-pedal theropods like Elaphrosaurus, Allosaurus, and the horned-nose Ceratosaurus. Carnivores like T. rex and Velociraptor have got nothing on these top-of-the-food-chain predators.
- Kentrosaurus, which is a stegosaur that sports foot-long spikes down its spine and tail, in addition to the familiar bony plates between its shoulder blades.
I liked that Kentrosaurus so much that I made it the star of my latest Analog story, Dino Mate. Check out the December 2014 issue of the magazine, which just came out.
Wooing that special creature who makes one’s heart beat faster can’t be easy, considering that row of two-foot long spikes running down one’s back and tail. Or if your plan to go time-jumping with the woman of your dreams ends up as a threesome. My latest story—Dino Mate—is a lighthearted look at love in the Jurassic Era. Check out the December 2014 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact for a sequel to my previous story, Not With a Bang.
NEXT ANALOG DINOSAUR STORY
I’m happy to announce that the December issue of Analog will include a story of mine, which features some characters you may have seen before (in Not with a Bang) as they contend with some of my favorite Jurassic dinosaurs, including the Kentrosaurus.
A DINOSAUR DESIGNED BY COMMITTEE?
One of my favorite dinosaurs is the Kentrosaurus. What’s that you say, you’ve never heard of it? Well, think of a Stegasaurus whose designers couldn’t agree as to whether it should have plates or spikes poking out along its spine from stem to stern. So, in best consensus-building tradition, the committee members ordered up some of both. Here ’tis:
Though it may look fierce, this creature was a plant-eater living in East Africa during the Late Jurassic, 156-150 million years ago. I like it so well that it’s going to star in my next short story to see print. More about that later. As they say, watch this space.