I’d like to do a little compare-and-contrast between the Dinotopia books and my Dinosaur Wars stories.
Dinotopia, as you may know, is the brainchild of James Gurney, a fine storyteller and superlative illustrator. James’ stories have appeared in more than a dozen books and in a made-for-TV movie, so he’s a bit ahead of me. But he deserves his renown because Dinotopia is a compelling place, and a delightful concept, too: dinosaurs, still surviving in our present world, having escaped extinction 65 million years ago and now cohabiting with humans on a lost, legendary, South Pacific Island. That sort of concept isn’t new. It reads like King Kong or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s South American Lost World. But Gurney’s take is charming: these dinos don’t want to gore you with sharp horns or chomp you down in one bite — they want to have a chat!
In contrast, the dinosaurs of my Dinosaur Wars stories not only will gladly gore you or stomp you or crunch you like granola, but there are some among them with the ways and means to blast you with laser weapons first and eat you later. In a world where we are constantly reminded of the human capacity for conflict, you’ve gotta wonder which of these two takes on the big beasts of the past is the most realistic.
Now, I’m not knocking Dinotopia one iota. It’s a fabulous place filled with wondrous creatures and marvelous happenings sprung from a highly gifted mind. But it’s also reasonable to ask if there’s another way of looking at these remarkable creatures that offers a refreshing new take on an old subject. F’rinstance:
One look at a Dinotopia book impresses you that dinosaurs sure dress up well. They’ve got gold ornaments and jewelry and lovely tapestried saddle blankets, and people to hug and love them until you want to burst with joy that they weren’t all obliterated by that asteroid 65 million years ago. On the other hand, the Kra, the human-sized, intelligent dinosaurs of Dinosaur Wars, indulge a little adornment too, only in this case it’s laser-deflecting battle armor like we saw in Star Wars, fancy feathered ceremonial headdresses that are, unfortunately, not designed to amuse the crowds at parades as in Dinotopia, but to grace the blood-soaked altar of sacrifice in the Temple of Death. That’s a contrast.
Another one I’ve got to hand it to James Gurney for, is the notion that dinosaurs have developed a language, an alphabet, a system of government, and a set of rules and regulations that determine how dinos live their lives. I guess you could say I didn’t go so far. Yes, my Kra gab on and on sometimes in their language, Kranaga, and they of course have an alphabet as well, and on top of that a number system based on sixes rather than tens, to match their total of six horrifically clawed digits. But this numbering system outdoes that of Dinotopia by its demonstrated ability to do rocket science. How else could the Kra have escaped extinction 65 million years ago by hiding out on the moon? So then, despite in all the commonality, some sinister differences lurk. While the Dinotopian dinosaurs want to make friends and be nicey nice, my Kra are unfortunately as much interested in conquest as are we, their human opponents. And they’re quite capable of making the threat a reality, which tends to generate a little excitement from time to time.
Another similarity is that Dinotopia has a mind-bogglingly beautiful civilization, with grand stone buildings, high pavilions, towers, turrets, colonnaded public forums, and architecture beyond comprehension, while Dinosaur Wars’ Kra have: a mind-bogglingly beautiful civilization, with grand stone buildings, high pavilions, towers, turrets, colonnaded public forums, and architecture beyond comprehension, all buried under a mountain of sandstone in Montana. Never fear, the Kra are quickly excavating their city, Arran Kra, which was buried under tidal-wave-washed sand on the day of impact and thereby frozen in time for 65 million years. So, give the Kra a little more time and we’ll really be able to compare and contrast civilizations. Won’t that be fun?
Lastly, James Gurney and his utopian dinosaurs are known throughout the world and have a zillion fans. My Dinosaur Wars stories and I are not so famous. But I’m working hard on this last bit and I could use your help. So, give me a hand by telling a friend about Dinosaur Wars.