Category: Advice

Ask A Triceratops! – TTFN!


“Hi Susan.

This is Bob from Fungus Town. Are you coming back soon? A giant bird ate Simon. Also Triceracopter doesn’t seem to be around? Have you seen them anywhere? It is weird that you are both away at the same time? Hoping you might have bumped into them on your travels.
All the Best,
PS Cheryl says ‘Hi!'”

Hi Bob,
I’m just helping out a friend. I’ll be back soon. If I see Triceracopter I’ll tell them about Simon and the giant bird.

[2018 Folks: I’m heading off for the time being. Keep those questions coming in!]


Ask A Triceratops! – All Aboard For Fungus Town!


“What is it like living in fungus town? Are the fungus people aggressive? Is it true that they are all zombies?”
G. Romero

“Hi Susan, I hope I’m not being too nosy, but I was curious about your ‘copter. Is it a harness you can take off? or is it a cyborg enhancement? or were you born with it?”

Fungus town is a great place to live and the fungus people are really quite lovely. There is a deep seated biological imperative deep within the fungus genome that makes them want to infect anything with a functioning nervous system with spores but there are ways of bypassing this strange aggressive compulsion.

Fungus people are alive and well and so not ‘zombies’ in the modern sense. Also they lead independent lives and have their own thoughts, wants and aspirations.

Unfortunately, if you turned up in Fungus Town without taking the proper precautions they would turn on you, forced by the fungoid-compulsion to tear you apart and turn you in to the surreal base of a giant fungoid fruiting body.

Robotic nervous systems do not turn fungus people into rage monsters and you will find many robot people living happy lives in Fungus Town. Cybernetic nervous systems are a way of biological animals living safely in Fungus Town and, without going into too many details, that’s why I have a some, shall we say ‘mechanical’ parts to me.

Ask A Triceratops! – Inter-species Dinosaur Culture


Ed asks me a question about my recent column:

“Why is this one “Ask a Dinosaur”? Do triceratops speak for ALL dinosaurs??”

I felt the question for that column was about the wider distributed culture of dinosaurs. As you may be aware from such drama-documentaries as ‘The Land Before Time’ or Disney’s ‘Dinosaur’, Cretaceous dinosaurs formed a wider meta-society via common inter-species language. Some things equivalent to scientific knowledge were part of a common cross-species culture, as in this case regarding social attitudes formed by dinosaur palaeontology. 

Questions about literary forms I treat as comparing triceratops culture with human culture because triceratops literature is quite distinct from, say, iguanodon literature. As you probably know, iguanodon literature is primarily theatrical in origin and is focused on slapstick. It is technically comedy and they take it very seriously. As a non-iguanodon, I really don’t get it and I can’t really talk about it much. Yet, if I was to ask an iguanodon “What fossilised creature from the late Permian period can you name?” then odds are they would probably say something like “leg-leg-watchouts” or “oopsie-downers”. That stuff was common meta-cultural stuff across dino-society.

The “Ask A Dinosaur” column was about a bit of shared cultural experience. OK – modern dinosaurs (aka ‘birds’) wouldn’t know what I was talking about but that is because of the passage of time and changing culture.

Ask A Triceratops! – We Make Good Pets


“What is the best pet for a writer to own?”
Brian Wilson

Sound question Brian!

Some popular choices include:

  • Micro-raptor – like owning a small flightless bird but beware! Do not own more than three as they can take down a much larger dinosaur when they hunt in teams.
  • Pterodactyl – don’t let those big wings put you off! They will happily roost on your roof and keep the local mammal vermin in check. Very low maintenance if you have a sufficiently large mammal population (which these days is most places!)
  • T-rex – OK you’ll need acreage and they are notoriously heavy drinkers but if you can afford the meat bill, they are a great muse for the aspiring writer. Best to have a tree on your property.
  • Aquatic reptile – if you have a lake or a Scottish loch, a plesiosaur will feed itself AND attract visitors. Open up a Bed & Breakfast as a side business for all the tourists eager to catch a sight of the mysterious ‘monster of the loch’. As a writer be sure to mine lots of material from your visitors’ anecdotes.
  • Protobadgers – sort of like a carnivorous wombat with badger colouring. Great as a guard dog and if you get bored of them, you can feed them to your pterodactyl.
  • Cat– no don’t, just don’t.

Ask A Triceratops! – Technology!


“If we lived in the future and we had teleporters and I wrote a story which had teleporters in it, would it still be science fiction?”
B.M. Upscotty

Maybe. Imagine you wrote your story as a 1960s story about teleporters. If you did it would still be like a science fiction story from that time and so it would still be a science fiction story in general.

It is not whether the technology exists or not that matters but whether you treat the technology as fictional.

Think about it. Dinosaurs existed but if you wrote a story about a dinosaur like me trying to make her way in the popular song writing industry of 1960s New York, your story would be science fictional EVEN THOUGH I REALLY DID THAT! Do you see?

OK, an easier one. Aliens visit Earth in secret – science fiction right? But what if it turns out aliens really have visited Earth in secret? Does any SF book dealing with that issue just become contemporary fiction?

Fiction isn’t fiction because it is false but because it does not HAVE to be true.

Ask A Triceratops! – A Villain With Class


Dear Susan: Is it okay if I make the T. Rex my villain? I don’t want to run afoul of the T-Rex agenda.

Also, do dinosaurs have class issues? If so, what are they?


Hello again Delagar!

Nice to hear from you again!

Dinosaurs are wonderfully open minded and have ZERO class prejudices. I personally am very open minded. Having said that, and without wanting to over generalise too much, theropods are awful (I’ll make an exception for birds out of dino-solidarity) and tyrannosaurids are the worst.

Traditionally T-rex is the antagonist in triceratopian literature but usually in a comedic role of drunken incompetence. This is because all T-rexes are stupid and drink too much.

But as I said, personally I have no prejudices and some of my former friends were theropods. I mean who doesn’t love a genial therizinosaurus with their goofy antics and natural sense of humour!

Ask A Dinosaur! – The Past of the Past


If we consider Dinosaur fossils the coolest and hottest, what do (did?) dinosaurs like you consider to be the “Cool” fossils visible in your time?

Paul Weimer

Hi Paul!

The answer, if you think about it, is…DINOSAURS! For somebody like me living in the age of wonders that was what you call the Cretaceous, the equivalent time period for us that was roughly as long ago as the Cretaceous is too you now was the Jurassic! Of course, our perspective on dinosaur bones we would find in exposed rock was different – we were seeing ancient and modified forms of creatures whose analogs were still around. Consequently it was much easier for us to come up with a theory of evolution.

Our evolutionary theory was a theological one. We thought species were moulded by the soul-river (the metaphysical principle common to a lot of dinosaurid practical spirituality) into changing forms over time – like the banks of a river.

The big extinction event that we would have looked back to was the Permian-Triassic extinction. That to dinosaur geologists was what the dinosaur extinction is to you people. I don’t want to give you TOO much of a hint about the next great extinction event other than to point to this part of the Wikipedia page:

“It has been suggested that the Permian–Triassic boundary is associated with a sharp increase in the abundance of marine and terrestrial fungi, caused by the sharp increase in the amount of dead plants and animals fed upon by the fungi.[28] For a while this “fungal spike” was used by some paleontologists to identify the Permian–Triassic boundary in rocks that are unsuitable for radiometric dating or lack suitable index fossils, but even the proposers of the fungal spike hypothesis pointed out that “fungal spikes” may have been a repeating phenomenon created by the post-extinction ecosystem in the earliest Triassic.”–Triassic_extinction_event

If you had a backbone then getting through the Permian-Triassic extinction wasn’t so bad. But the invertebrates? OUCH! Those guys took a WALLOPING!

Cool Permian fossils of creatures that made us dinos go “WTF?” Hmmm, the problem is I don’t have technical modern names for them. They were all one kind of huge bug monster or another – preserved in sediments as petrified exoskeletons.

These are English translations of our names for them:

  • Oopsie-downers – flippin’ hilarious  caterpillar things with legs on top and bottom. A stage in something else’s lifecycle?
  • Leg-leg-watchouts – way too many legs and each leg had another leg on it.
  • Big-big-eight-wings – like a dragonfly but it has eight wings. Some say that these are fossils of just two massive dragonflies that have got smooshed together. Stuff of nightmares anyway.
  • Too Many Eyes Beetle – a huge beetle with too many eyes.

Fossils of permian vertebrates were curiosities but they weren’t that weird or freaky. They didn’t catch our imaginations in the way dinosaurs catch the human imagination.