I've just been told that the e-book of my dinosaurs-and-time-travel novel, Bones of the Earth, goes on sale tomorrow, Saturday, June 4th, for only $1.99. This applies to the United States and Canada only.
So what, you may well ask, is Bones of the Earth about? Well, superficially there's a mystery as to the nature of time travel and who or what made it available--to paleontologists, of all people!--long, long before it could possibly have been invented. And a tale of survival and community among a group of researchers who find themselves marooned in time at the very end of the Maastrichtian Age. But what it's really about is the nature of scientific research.
I spent well over a year researching the novel, interviewing scientists, studying fossils, reading papers, and attending conferences. At the end of that time, I could sit in on any conversation between paleontologists and understand every word they said. I couldn't contribute to the conversation, mind you. But I could understand it.
In the process, I became fascinated by the paleontologists themselves and in the ways their lives were interwoven with their careers.They really are a fascinating batch of people.
Also, there are dinosaurs. Lots and lots of dinosaurs. As I finished each chapter, I gave it to dinosaur reconstruction artist Bob Walters, who would read it and then return it with an embarrassingly long list of corrections. After rewriting the chapter, I would send it to the late Ralph Chapman, paleontologist and structuralist, then working at the Smithsonian, and he would return it with an equally long and humiliating list of corrections. So that when I turned in the typescript to my publisher, it was as accurate a representation of dinosaurs as any ever written.
Of course, by the time Bones of the Earth was published, new discoveries had been made so that it was only almost perfectly accurate. And if I went through it today, I could doubtless create another list of inaccuracies. But I won't. Because that's not my job.
That's what other people are for.
Not only did I read this book when it came out, I spotted it in the backlog shelves and catalogued it myself. Which is how I know for sure that Bones of the Earth is in the Vertebrate Paleontology branch library of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries even as I type. But there's no harm in grabbing a Kindle copy for myself, too ...
Let's try this again:
You got something right in this book that I would have expected only a natural scientist to get right - we see it in the scene where the party marooned in the Cretaceous finally arrived back at the present. All of the rescued were exhausted, under-nourished, bug-bitten, sunburnt, filthy, and unable to top talking about what they'd seen and learned, to anyone who'd listen. You caught the exhilaration of fieldwork, and I've encountered few not involved in that sort of work who understand it. Kim Stanley Robinson, of course, and Gene Wolfe got it right in The Fifth Head of Cerberus when his scientist viewpoint character admits that becoming an academic really just provides a respectable and reasonable excuse for getting out in the field.
That scene has stuck with me since I read the book. It was good to see something that I've experienced, but so few seem to understand, depicted so well.
I honestly can't say which of these posts elates me more. I thank you both for them. You've made my day.
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