I get this question more often than I used to, which is fair considering that I’ve just written a collection of novellas and short stories all set in a steampunk American West filled with Cretaceous Era dinosaurs.
Of course, my cheeky response is, ‘Why not?’
But in all honesty it’s pretty obvious from my other novels, novellas, and short stories that I don’t actually look at every story with an eye for cramming a t-rex into it.
The fact is that I didn’t plan on including dinosaurs when I first considered writing The Long Past & Other Stories. Initially, I was quite focused on the plot and representation of queer characters and People of Color in an alternate history.
However, as I researched the 1800’s dinosaurs kept popping up: they’d be news items, in illustrations from adventure stories and in scientific papers, they were even scattered throughout the literature of the time.
At first I found it strange. I’d be looking into the history of western states, and there would be the Bone Wars—a ruthless rivalry between paleontologists that even involved hired-guns and touched upon the Oglala Lakota’s Chief Red Cloud’s struggle to safeguard the rights of his people and their lands. Another day I’d be searching for information about Victorian social gatherings only to come across illustrations of dinosaur themed dinner parties with a feast spread over tables fashioned to resemble megalosauruses. Looking through descriptions of fairs I’d find listings dinosaurs exhibits. And of course plaster replicas of dinosaurs could be purchased for the home or educational purposes.
In retrospect, I realize, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The term dinosaur was coined in 1841 and their fossils were being uncovered in record numbers all across the world. Megalosaurus led the way, but iguanodon, hylaeosaurus, hadrosaurus, ichthyosaurus, pterodactylus, and plesiosaurus all ignited imaginations. In the American west, where much of my book takes place paleontologists were uncovering a treasury of new fossils and the discoveries sparked huge debates about evolution, extinction and the validity of biblical history. At the same time thousands of people visited the life-size reproductions of dinosaurs that filled the grounds of the Crystal Palace. Dinosaur bones toured cities like star attractions. Even the old Loch Ness Monster received a new plesiosaur-like make-over.
Dinosaurs appeared in fiction as well, of course. Both Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World featured secret realms where dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
But it was when I realized that even Charles Dickens had evoked the image of an encounter with a dinosaur while penning Bleak House that it became obvious to me that dinosaurs really belonged to the Nineteenth Century. They had superseded mere fact and become powerful symbols—aspects of the era’s psyche. It seemed to me that many people of the Nineteenth Century were searching for their dinosaurs—some longing to defeat them others wishing simply to stand in marvel at them. They were racing into an age of industry and uncertainty all while daydreaming of an ancient and utterly alien past.
So, I decided that if I could fill my alternative Nineteenth Century world with alchemical stones, spell forges and airships, I could also reintroduce dinosaurs. And that’s how the dinosaurs came to be part of The Long Past & Other Stories. What becomes of them and the people they encounter? Well, to learn that, you’ll just have to read the book.
Title: The Long Past & Other Stories
Author: Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Page Count: 317
1858 –Warring mages open up a vast inland sea that splits the United States in two. With the floodwaters come creatures from a long distant past. What seems like the End Times forges a new era of heroes and heroines who challenge tradition, law, and even death as they transform the old west into a new world.
–In the heart of dinosaur country a laconic trapper and a veteran mage risk treason to undertake a secret mission.
–A brilliant magician and her beautiful assistant light up stages with the latest automaton, but the secrets both of them are hiding test their trust in each other and pit them against one of the most powerful men in the world.
–At the wild edge of the Inland Sea, amidst crocodiles and triceratops, an impoverished young man and a Pinkerton Detective must join forces to outmaneuver a corrupt judge and his gunmen.
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Award-winning author Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and their ancient, evil cat. She spends the rainy days admiring local fungi. The stormy nights, she spends writing science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring LGBT protagonists. (Attempts to convince the cat to be less evil have been largely abandoned.)