All My Yesterdays: An Evolutionary Snapshot of Dinosaur Doodles

So a while back I wrote a review on this pretty boss paleoart book. I raved about it, enjoying its refreshing stance and bold ideas concerning a long childhood obsession of mine. All Yesterdays brought a cunning and much needed twist to the newest trends in dinosaur restoration. It highlighted a kind of common sense mentality that seemingly goes missing with the world at large. Dinosaurs were animals.

How could I 'not' salivate at the mouth for this opportunity?!

How could I ‘not’ salivate at the mouth for this opportunity?!

I’ll grant you: Kind of an obvious statement, but I’d argue it’s a message that the majority of people tend to forget. All too often, dinosaurs are regulated to the children’s section of popular culture. And as hard as it is to accept, Mesozoic earth was almost certainly NOT like a page out of a 1950’s pulp magazine.

At its core, this is why I enjoyed the book. It isn’t often that you get such a level-headed and adult take on the subject of dinosaurs.

So why am I doing all of this fanboy harping all over again? Why did I think you guys needed the refresher course on how awesome this book is? Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this rant.

The rough draft version of my All Yesterday's contest entry. Note: I've always used notebook paper. It ain't a doodle without notebook paper.

The rough draft version of my All Yesterday’s contest entry. Note: I’ve always used notebook paper. It ain’t a doodle without notebook paper.

The good folks over at Irregular Books have just finished with their own art contest based on All Yesterdays concepts. 200+ entrants were tallied, and luckily, (thanks heavily to a 10 day extension window) I was able to submit my own piece. I gotta thank those guys for so much grace. Us writer types can be real “last minute” monkeys. At any rate: It took a few rough drafts and aborted attempts, but my precarious doodle and Corel Paint skills saw me through. Taking up the pencil was cool and all, but the most interesting facet emerged when I did a little research. I looked back over some very old “circa 1998” pictures I’d concocted, and was stunned to realize just how prescient I failed to be! I’d fallen into strict 90’s paleoart a trend… and I’d fallen hard.

One of the arguments All Yesterdays makes was that of shrink wrapping: Coating the reconstructed bones of dinosaurs with the thinnest semblance of muscle, skin, and integumentary bites-o-goodness. You didn’t want to speculate too hard, back on those olden days, lest you be labeled a quaking crank.

This “anorexiation” of dinosaurs came from a backlash when paleontologists started viewing dinosaurs as sleek, warm-blooded, speedsters… as opposed to the lumbering walnut-brains of past fame. This Dinosaur Renaissance was spearheaded by an old hero of mine, Robert Bakker; along with his disciple, Gregory S Paul.

Lookin' pretty skinny there, slick. This is my 90's interpretation of some ... ancestral... dromeosaurid? I suppose I figured all cool dinosaurs needed the sickle claw.

Lookin’ pretty skinny there, slick. This is my 90’s interpretation of some … ancestral… dromeosaurid? I suppose I figured all cool dinosaurs needed the sickle claw.

Ribcage sporting dinosaurs were all the rage through the early 1990’s and I was a born again convert.

Lets just say, you couldn’t get my nose out from one of Paul’s gorgeously illustrated books. It was a physical impossibility. Weeks could pass and parents could worry, but I wasn’t fucking letting go.

So I guess it wasn’t much of a surprise when an adult version of me came across one of these little gems.

Shrink wrapping happens, my friends. Witness it to your horror!

Anyways.. I thought that was kind of funny. And a little eye opening. Heed the wisdom of All Yesterday’s dogma. I’ve re-converted. Now my ornithopods have fuzz. It’s the circle of life.

Evolution in action.

Seriously though, if you haven’t read the book, you should check it out.

Now with color. I feel I've come a long way. I call this piece Beachcomber.

Now with color. I feel I’ve come a long way. I call this piece Beachcomber.

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Bow To Your New Overlords: Cats

It seems I’ve got felines on the brain lately, what with the recent passing of a lifelong pet that stretched away into the annals of my childhood. I’ve been coping pretty well, I’d wager; and was even faced with something you might call heartwarming very recently– But more on that later. For now it seems like I’ve got some more healing to do. What are blogs for but to be used as the tools for writer-ly expression? Or just plain venting.

It’s time to focus on a new series that I pulled out of thin air. In Overlords, we’ll focus our speculative powers on what species might take the mantle of world dominators from us. When we pass the buck, who will be there to scoop up the pieces? It’s all tongue-in-cheek, but I’m sure that’s just a defense mechanism for all the hypothetical drivel I purvey.

“On your knees!” Complements: akreon

First up we have domestic cats, in all their aloof, love-em-or-hate-em glory.

When they inevitably usurp us, what would become of those conniving fuzzballs? Evolution would unquestionably have its way. Ah, evolution: the speculator’s whore. You could branch off into a million-trillion directions. Or you could if you were a mental case like me.  But what does popular culture have to offer on the subject?

Humanoid cats in spec fiction and fantasy are a literal dime a dozen. They clog books and video games so much, you’d think everyone would get sick of the hair-balls. I even covered a game that chronicles an adventure across a whole planet of ‘em, and Outwardbounder is still causing birthing pangs! But as per our mission statement, what might future cats evolve into? We’re talking felis catus here.

The undeniable authority on the subject #Tongue-To-Cheek Alert# can be found in the British television series, Red Dwarf. One of the characters is actually a super evolved descendent of the protagonist’s pet. When Dave Lister is accidentally left in suspended animation for millions of years, his pregnant cat Frankenstein gives birth to a whole race of (suspiciously) humanoid catpeople.

The Cat. Pinnacle of interstellar feline evolution.

An entire culture and religion is sprung up around Lister and his pie-in-the-sky plans to retire to Fiji. The show really tears society a new one and is a marvel to behold. As for Cat, (capital c) he becomes the recipient of all of humanity’s stereotypes about felines. Fashionable, uncaring, cool… he’s got it all. The Cat has maintained the most elaborate, funny, and original origin story for any comedy series that I’ve ever seen. Hell, I might go as far as “any sci fi series, period.”

But now we’re getting ahead of ourselves. How would it all start? What would go down in the first place? Some might argue that they’d need thumbs. Others have presented scenarios where humans personally uplift animals through diabolical technology.

In the bloody and beautiful comic We3, a group of fluffy animals have been engineered into competent killing machines. Things take a turn for the heartfelt when the robotic creatures break free and are hunted down by the military. Naturally, throughout the story, characters remark at how viciously proficient the cat appears to be.

There’s something hauntingly plausible about humanity falling because of its own hubris. Evolution made cats into perfect killing machines. Might humanity push the scale even further? Or would we just end up with this?

I could see something like this eradicating all mankind…

How might our Overlords view us? Would they stamp us out completely with no remorse, or perhaps; would they see something of themselves in us? Strangely enough, this might not be completely speculative. In 1999, scientists at the University of California studied how neurons fired inside cat’s brains. They managed to project the data picked up by their retinas onto screens; effectively revealing what the cats were seeing.

As amazingly cool as eye-cameras and dream recorders would be, the study did manage to pick up a snippet of delicious spec fodder on the side. When it viewed a human face, the cat seemed to interpret it in its own felid-centric way. Check this amazing video and judge for yourself.

And there you have it. Cat Overlords, though maybe not completely terrifying, present a particularly wide array of possibilities to ponder. Be it your typical Man Vs. Kzin laser weaponry genocide-fest, or your slow and calculating tabby on a windowsill, you never can tell just how they’ll pounce and steal the stage from under us. Somehow, you wouldn’t put it past them. It’s something about that cold and distant stare. The purr is just to lull you into a false sense of security.

As George Carlin once put it, you can’t really relate to cats like you can with dogs. Cats don’t have eyebrows. Cats have a bunch of shit sticking out of their head.

Losing Faith

Earlier today, my cat died. She was an ancient thing, outlasting ice ages and dynasties gone by. I knew she wouldn’t make it through the winter, but that didn’t make it any easier. I wasn’t ready to see her go.

Faith was a close friend. The fuzzball saw me through some very tough roads. I’ll be feeling this loss for some time to come.