East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Keep it safe, and keep on reading

The-Dinosaur-Project-9780921912460I’m currently reading Wayne Grady’s The Dinosaur Project, about the joint Canada-China dinosaur-digging expedition in the Gobi Desert, in 1985.
Great stuff, an excellent account of science, research and adventure.
Good science writing.

And the sort of book that rises a few eyebrows when somebody asks you “And what are you reading?”
The point being, why should anyone read such stuff.

I get off the hook easily – I’m a paleontologist, so it’s work-related.
But I was discussing last night with a friend about this thing – that anything out of the ordinary gets you weird looks. Continue reading


Just pitched a new story

protoceratopsAnd so I did it – I just pitched a story to a big, highly respected American publisher.
The pitch is for a pulp adventure story .

I will not disclose too much, but the proposed story features the Silk Road, a few (mostly dead) dinosaurs, raiders, madmen, and assorted historical weirdness.
And some (hopefully!) not-so-cliché characters.

Having spent years collecting historical facts and assorted informations about the Silk Road and the Silk Road countries, building the setting and the background should be easy – and fun.

Continue reading

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Nazis & Dinosaurs – Half Past Danger

cover39842-mediumHalf Past Danger is a comic series by Stephen Mooney, released by IDW Publishing.

In 1943, sergeant “Irish” Flynn is on a recon mission on a Pacific Island, when his squad hits on something big.
And dinosaurs.
The sole survivor of a confrontation with rampaging T rexes, Sargent Flynn comes back with a wild story and a few grainy photographs.
Nobody seems to believe him, until a special expedition on the mysterious island is put together.
Together with a supercilious British spy, a larger than life USMC captain and a Japanese martial artist, embittered Flynn will have to face his nightmares again.

STK612602Half Past Danger is a concentrated extract of pulp adventure – it has got everything, and then some.
There’s the war, the Nazis trying to develop a superweapon (but not what you think), yankee supersoldiers, ninjas, beautiful women, and dinosaurs.
In its approach to its subject matter, Half Past Danger fits perfectly the style of New Pulp – old fashioned themes with a modern sensibility.

It’s fast, fun without being comedic, it’s gritty and nostalgic, with lots of meat and excellent art.
The first series of six issues will be collected in a massive hardcover that will hit the shelves in February 2014.
In case you missed the single issues, it’s well worth looking out for.

And let’s hope there’s more coming.

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On my (old) radio – A Gun for Dinosaur

Time to relax and listen to the radio.

Here’s a little masterpiece – the X Minus One adaptation of Lyon Sprague de Camp’s classic A Gun for Dinosaur.
The show was recorded in 1956.
Time travel and big game hunting – now those are manly pursuits!



Some notes on dinosaur hunting – part 2

Bring ’em back alive!

We discussed hunting dinosaurs in the classic one shot-one kill style.
A gentleman’s pursuit.

But let’s say our interest is more scientific and we want to collect live specimens…
What should we do?

scf4327-082The obvious choice is stealing the eggs and then incubate them.
A brief moment of panic and a hectic run might save us a lot of trouble.
After all, it worked for Professor Challenger, right?

But ok, let’s say we want to collect a live dinosaur.
We must somehow knock the beasties down.

The best sleeping drugs for reptiles is Isoflorane, an alogenated ether which is administered by inhalation.
Yes, we can gas the dinos.

People interested in the old sleeping gun way, the dart in our gun can be loaded with any of the classics:

Most veterinarians swear by a cocktail of Ketamine (a dissociational drug) and either Diazepan or Medetomitine (a muscular relaxant).
The volume depends on the bulk of the animal – its total weight.
It works in ten minutes.
Or it should, anyway.
It’s better to be out of the way after thirty minutes after sedation.

Now we face two problems.
The first problem is mechanical – injecting the drug.
The best way should be to inject the drug cocktail between two scales – as perforating the scale is painful for the animal and ineffective as a way to sedate it.
In other words, we might end up with a an enraged, fully awake dinosaur.
If we are dealing with carnivores or saprophages, the best policy should be shooting the dino in the neck, and from behind, thus taking advantage of the scale orientation.

But the real problem is the second: estimating the dosage.
The cocktail described above is suggested in doses of 15 milligrams per kg of mass.
This means that, for big specimens, we should shoot or anyway inject them with many litres of drugs.
Better to look for youngs, and focus on smaller species.