East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Getting friendly with dinosaurs


I can’t waste time any longer – in five days I’ll start writing the first draft of my new novel, an adventure yarn that is called House of the Gods and comes with a nice nice nice contract attached, which I have already signed1.
The story is fully outlined, the basic research is done, I have a folder full of clippings, links, and Wikipedia pages.
And pictures.
I’ll start working on it next monday, and I’m planning 5000 words per day, for ten days.
It won’t be so smooth – I’ll pick up speed as the story proceeds.
But I’m seeing it happen in my brain, like a movie I’ve watched too many times.
Now I’ve only to put to paper (or file) the plot of the movie, like I’d tell to my brother, or to a friend.
Nice and smooth.

Frazetta tyrannosaurus

So, in these final few days before I dive in, it’s time to get in the mood.
And because House of the Gods will feature dinosaurs2, I’m going back again to Robert Bakker’s The Dinosaur Heresies.
If it was good enough for Michael Crichton, it’s good enough for me.

200px-HeresI bought my copy in London, in 19923 – I was a geology student that had enrolled in university for his love of dinosaurs and volcanoes, only to learn that the Turin department of Geology did have neither a Volcanology course, nor a Vertebrate Paleontology course.
I had been stuck forever in class studying feldspars in thin section and fossil molluscs. But in 1992 I was in London, I was studying at Birkbeck College and I felt like an escaped prisoner.
I was in the UK, there were fossil dinosaurs in the British Museum, and I went and bought myself a copy of Bakker’s book, Penguin edition.

Robert Bakker’s The Dinosaur Heresies was the first major revisionist book about dinosauria to hit the general public.
In it, the author collected a wealth of alternative theories about the biology, ecology and evolution of the dinosaurs – alternative theories that are today mostly accepted as solid, or that were the spark that ignited a change in the views we hold about life in the Mesozoic.

51B6fYSXMALIt is a good book, well written, filled with details and data, and if you need to get yourself a solid image, not necessarily accurate or up to date but coherent and believable, this is probably your best choice as a first stop.
It was certainly one of the main references for Michael Crichton’s original Jurassic Park, and Baker was hired as consultant by Steven Spielberg for the filming of the eponymous movie.

By the side, I’m keeping a copy of Phillip Manning’s Grave Secrets of the Dinosaurs – a much more recent book, and one that goes in depth about all that we can extract from the fossil record in terms of information about dinosaur biology.

This is going to be fun.
Everything’s better with dinosaurs.

  1. Huzzah! 
  2. Yeah! Dinosaurs! 
  3. I keep going back to those years – maybe I’m getting old, what? 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Getting friendly with dinosaurs

  1. Congrats on the contract and hats off to you if you can crank out 5k a day for 10 days. That’s a mighty tempo of operations. Good for you, man.


  2. Always liked Bakker. A mountain man paleontologist.


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