It should be no surprise to anyone that I am a fan of dinosaurs. Everything from Cybersaurus to the Round 10 Core Rulebook, hell, even the Kory Stories logo itself, is related to the prehistoric tyrants of the earth. While this is a fascination that has remained with me since I first learned to speak (my parents will attest that, when I was only four or five, I would insist that I wanted to become a "paleontologist", though I'm certain my pronunciation was less than amazing), I have never really taken the time to examine what it is about dinosaurs that I, and millions of others, find so spell-binding.
That is what this post will explore, and hopefully provide some insight not only to how I view these creatures, but also what it means for my writing and my stories in the coming years.
Throughout the Years
I mentioned that my fascination with dinosaurs began at a very young age. I remember growing up practically glued to the television, watching dinosaur cartoons and documentaries. Everything from Denver the Last Dinosaur to National Geographic or Discovery Channel specials featuring Jack Horner. I remember learning that the megalosaurus was the first dinosaur ever uncovered, that there was the famous race of new fossil finds between Othneil Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. I remember learning that theories made by some of the early paleontologists were just as wrong as they were correct, and that many believed dinosaurs to be closer to birds than reptiles. Dinosaurs permeated my entire childhood, existing in many parts of my daily life. Toys, movies, television shows, clothing, books, bedding, you name it. If it had a dinosaur on it, I probably had it.
Yet they were always something that was kept separate from the other aspects of my life. That's not to say that I hid my fascination for dinosaurs, but rather, my brain never connected dinosaurs to any of my other, growing interests. When I began collecting Legos (of mainly pirate, medieval, and spaceship themes), I never thought to implement dinosaurs into the equation. They existed 65 million years ago, after all. Why would they be on a pirate ship? Or in space?
It wasn't until I discovered the book series Dinotopia, authored and illustrated by the wonderfully talented James Gurney, that my mind was opened to the idea of dinosaurs existing alongside people. And once the film version of Jurassic Park hit theaters, I was totally encapsulated by the notion of dinosaurs and man existing together in almost any environment. It was what I wanted more than anything, but Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg taught me that it was also what I feared more than anything. These beasts weren't just the lumbering lizards of my imagination. They could be swift, powerful, and terrifying. But that notion didn't turn me away from the animals. Instead, it only fanned the flames of my inspiration.
My Creative Development
Mixing dinosaurs and humans wasn't a new concept, not by a long shot. Baby, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Lost World, King Kong, The Land that Time Forgot, and plenty of other films, shows and franchises had done so plenty of times before. But none of them influenced me in the same way that Jurassic Park did. After seeing the film in 1993, I purchased and read the novel, being the first 'adult' book I ever experienced, and only in the second grade. A lot of the science was over my head, but that only made the entire concept more believable.
It could happen.
By the time my creative mind was really growing and developing, into middle school and high school, my love of dinosaurs had been pushed aside for other interests. Things like social standing, girls, video games, and occasionally school work, while never a concern before, had been brought to the forefront. Dinosaurs had become less of a driving force and more of a box of silent memories, one I would open and rifle through any time an interesting news article or promising show on the SciFi channel (now called SyFy) showed up.
I graduated in 2006, which meant that I did most of my growing up in the 90's and early 00's, and to this day my visions of the future are dominated by those that were available to me during that time period. Films like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the Alien series, Total Recall, and other science-fiction and action films, while existing before I ever saw them, were brought to my attention during this time. They helped shape my idea of what the term 'science-fiction' meant. A term that, since Jurassic Park, dinosaurs could now fit. I loved the idea of a clunky, industrial engine that was churning and powering the sleek, slim and digital future, yet even as that grew within me, the love of dinosaurs never really left. And when I graduated high school, I had foolishly convinced myself that I had 'out grown' science fiction, dinosaurs, fantasy, and all notions so 'childish'. I focused on family-oriented drama, wrote Elephants in the Living Room, and tried to move forward from there.
And so dinosaurs and 90's science-fiction came to occupy the same space in my mind, a back shelf in the closet of my interests. Something that always appealed to me, even though between the years of 2005 and 2009 I barely gave them any thought.
The Role of Dinosaurs
As I have matured, I have come to realize that the notion of 'out-growing' an interest is ludicrous. You don't out-grow interests. Those that you find truly interesting will grow with you, and those that you do not will simply be left by the wayside as you pursue other things. As I entered my mid-twenties, I came to realize that I hadn't outgrown dinosaurs. They were always there, and I simply hadn't given them any attention. Yet why were they still so prevalent in my mind? Why was I so fascinated by them?
While I don't know exactly, I can say that I have some ideas as to why. As I have come to learn who I am, I can see what aspects about these animals greatly interest me. One is that I have a love and respect for the physically large and powerful. Animals like the elephant, rhinoceros, great white shark, crocodile, and monitor lizard have always been ones that I've been creatively attracted to. While I can find plenty of interest in the small, it is in these great beasts that my wonder is truly ignited. And there are none bigger than dinosaurs.
Yet it is more than that. They represent something, in my eyes. Dinosaurs indicate that the world is greater than we can ever fathom. They represent a time when everything about our planet was radically different, to the point where it probably felt like an entirely new planet. They came from a world without civilization, a world without man, when the landmasses, the climate, and the very ecosystem of earth belonged to that time. We can never fully understand what the world was like in their time. They are the very definition of a mystery, as the only thing we have to prove their existence is, quite literally, their physical remains. A dinosaur, in the eyes of humanity, is at once earthly and alien, natural and unnatural. They have captured my imagination for almost the last three decades. It should be no wonder that they have become such a large part of my creative process.
Combine that with my love for the science-fiction stories of the 90's and early 00's, and it is easy to see why the first serial I wrote was Cybersaurus. It is, quite literally, the combination of two of my favorite things. That story symbolizes a very important time in my life, when I decided that I was going to write the story that I always wanted to read, the story that had been inside me since I was young.
And trust me when I say that I am not finished writing about dinosaurs, and that they will charge their way into other stories as well, outside of the Cybersaurus serial.