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What the hell is going on? My jet-lagged two-year old is getting me out of bed at 2am and my short story is being considered for THE alternate history award? My name is on the same short list as Bruce Ovo-E-Budućnost STERLING? What IS this??

We’ll find out who wins the award in mid-August. Until then, may I suggest you:

Read a sample of “Treasure Fleet.”

Read the whole thing (as well as the Sidewise-nominated “Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon”) in the Tales from Alternate Earths anthology.

Check out some more background on the story’s process and world-building.

I’d like to thank Melissa Walshe for getting me digging in the Chinese discovery of America.

Also, whatever dark forces got me nominated. I owe you guys a black cockerel.

(for better formatting and working links, click here)

Those of you with long memories might remember that I was involved in the Speculative Dinosaur Project back when I was in high school. The project is moribund now, but it’s still getting attention. Nikolay Kilyachkov is one such attention-giver, and kindly asked me some questions about Specworld.

When did the Specworld project begin?

The Speculative Dinosaur Project began in 2001 with this thread on the Dinosaur Mailing List.

What idea lay in the beginning of Specworld project?

“What if the KT extinction didn’t happen?”

How Spec team gathered together? Did you look for them or did they come up themselves?
The original Spec collaborators were contributors to that DML thread, but after we started our own web page, other people found us. The primary collaborators to the original Speculative Dinosaur Project were me (Daniel Bensen doing webhosting and editing), David Marjanovic (science), Brian Choo (writing), and Tiina Aumala (art and web design), with a few other people contributing bits and pieces.

How was the work over the project organized?
We all contributed pictures and descriptions of species. I was the editor and had final veto power. David had the best grasp of science, so he also had a lot of veto power. Tiina ended up with final say over creature designs because she was the best artist of us. Brian gave the world a lot of its humor.

Where did you get the ideas for Spec?
Sometimes we tried to illustrate concepts in biology using fictional creatures (baleen-squids, for example). Other species were extensions of Mesozoic clades (like the draks). Some were jokes, like Brian’s “dire rhea.”

What Spec creature / idea / text did you like most?
My favorite organism is the paintree. I like how it tied together several species into a believable ecosystem.  (a close second is the rectal probe)

What Spec idea you really liked, did not finally appear on Spec site?
I was the editor. Everything I liked ended up on the site 🙂

It seems that Spec is devoid of creatures that could ever become sentient. No apes, no corvidae, no troodontids. Was it a deliberate decision?
Yes. We decided early on that Spec would be a playground for speculative BIOLOGY, not speculative ANTHROPOLOGY. So no sapient dinosaurs. But if we had any, they would probably have looked like this.

After all, what happened to Spec troodontids? 🙂
We kept them dumb. Sapients are bad for megafauna! 🙂

It appears that the first versions of Spec had more ankylosaurs, including some aquatic forms. Why were they dismissed afterwards?
I deleted the aquatic ankylosaurs to make the Australian nodosaurs more interesting.

Were there plans to do something from the project? A book, a film, a computer game? Why did they fail?
Yes, we did want to publish a book along the lines of After Man. The closest we got was in a magazine called the Prehistoric Times. I also tried to write a science fiction book set on Spec, hoping to get THAT published and leverage it into publication of a Spec field guide.

That ambition led me into fiction writing, which is my current passion. Petrolea and Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen owe a lot to the Speculative Dinosaur Project.

When and why did you depart from the project?
I left in 2004-2005 when I went to college. I no longer had time to keep up with my editing duties.

Why was the original Spec website abandoned?
I couldn’t find anybody else to replace me as webmaster and editor.

Do you follow the work on Spec world that has been done after the main website failed? If yes, what do you think of it?
I don’t keep up much. I hear that the new contributors have added back in a lot of clades that we made extinct (such as pterosaurs), which I think is a mistake. We got rid of pterosaurs, champsosaurs, and others because we wanted Spec to look different from the Cretaceous.

Have you been engaged in some other alternative evolution project?
Yes. Petrolea is based on the speculative biology question: “what if self-replicating robots evolved into an ecosystem”?

I also have two as-yet unpublished books with a lot of speculative biology:

New Frontiers is based on aliens with different reproductive strategies from humans.

Junction takes place on a world where different alien ecologies compete with each other.

My next project, tentatively titled Fellow Tetrapod, features a Star-Trek-style federation of alternate Earths, each with sapient species that evolved from a different lineage.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on an alternate history noir novel called The Centuries Unlimited. It’s about 1/3 done. I’m also going to write a short story for the sequel to the Tales from Alternate Earths anthology.

What other alternative evolution projects you like most? Which of them, you think, are most important for the genre?
Of course I love After Man, which is also the single most important speculative biology work ever. I’m also a fan of Wayne Douglas Barlowe’s Expedition, Harald Stumpke’s Snouters, the planet Fuhara, and Memo Kosemen’s Snaiad.

How do you assess the impact of Specworld project on our world? 🙂
We created you guys! What would you be fans of if not us? 🙂

But seriously, I think we did some good educational work. A lot of Spec’s contributors and fans went on to become real paleontologists and biologists.

Are there plans to restore Specworld website?
Not that I know of. I hope some day I’ll figure out how to get paid for it, and then I’ll do the work myself. 🙂

Thank you very much for your interesting questions. If you or your followers have any questions, please send them to me. You can also contact me through my website, twitter, or tumblr.

Ruth Gallagher is getting ready for her family’s first Pre-union. It’s just a few months after time trains began visiting 1930s Chicago, and she has a lot to learn about the future.

Sign up to my mailing list (or wait for a month) to read “Family Pre-union”

Calling all Japanese-speakers!
Can you help me with a Japanese conversation in the book I’m writing?

The main character is a Japanese TV star named Daisuke Matsumori. In this introductory scene, Matsumori and his director Yoshida get a call from Takeda, their producer.

Are there any problems with the vocabulary and grammar in the dialogue below? What about the culture and psychology of the characters? Do they seem to be real people?

(scroll down for the English translation)

私が書いているSFの小説の日本語の会話を手伝ってくれるませえんか。 このJunctionという小説の主人公は、日本人のテレビスター、松森大輔です。 この初めのシーンでは、松森さんと吉田監督にプロデューサーの竹田さんから電話が掛かります。


吉田:もしもし? 誰 – ? お、かしこまりました! もちろん。 (松森に携帯を上げる)竹田さんです。



松森:必要ほどできます。 あの、ご存知じないかもしれませんが、撮影の途中でございますし。

竹田:締め切ろ! 荷造りして出発の準備しよ。


吉田:え? (携帯をつかむ)どうも、松森くん。


松森:何が起こっている? どうしたの?

吉田:(松森を追い払う)残念ですけど不可能でございます。 お金はもう。。。キャンセルされた?(顔が赤く変わる)でわ、お帰りになるとおっしゃるんですか。


松森:どういう意味? (携帯をつかむ)竹田さんは別の場所で撮影させようしますか? この撮影は最後にすると通知いらっしゃいました。 私は健康ではないですし。 そして、東京で、あの、重要な会議がありますし。




竹田:(上司に話す)はい。 そうでございます。 そういたします。 はい、只今彼らを通知いたします。


吉田:何とおっしゃいます? だれが何をどこまで飛ぶ?


語彙や文法に問題はありますか? 人物の心理はどうですか 。本当の人みたいですか。手伝ってくれてどうぞよろしく。

(Note: the translations are intentionally a little un-idiomatic. I want to let the Japanese show through)

(Yoshida’s cell phone rings)

Yoshida: Hello? Who-? Oh, yes, sir! Of course. (he holds the phone out to Matsumori) It’s Mr. Takeda.

Matsumori: Yes?

Takeda: You can speak English, right?

Matsumori: As well as is necessary. Um, you might not be aware of this, sir, but we are in the middle of a shoot…

Takeda: End it! Pack up and prepare for departure.

Matsumori: Departure?

Yoshida: Huh? (grabs the phone back) Thanks, Matsumori.

(Matsumori is irritated that Yoshida grabbed his cell phone. He’s worried that his career is declining and that Yoshida doesn’t respect him.)

Matsumori: What’s going on? What’s wrong?

Yoshida: (waving Matsumori away) Sir, I’m afraid that that is impossible. The money is already—canceled? (His face turns red) What you’re saying, sir, is that we should just go home?

Takeda: (giggles) You’re not going home at all.

Matsumori: What does that mean? (grabs the phone) Are you sending us to a shoot at another location? Sir, I humbly informed you that this shoot was the last. I’m not in good health. And in Tokyo there’s, um, an important meeting.

Takeda: Your wife’s pack of lawyers can wait, little Matsumori. The helicopter won’t.

Matsumori: (allowing his anger to show) What damn helicopter?

(A door slams. Voices can be heard in the background. Takeda is talking to someone else.)

Takeda: (talking to his boss) Yes. That is right, sir. I will do so, sir. Yes, I am humbly informing them now, sir.

Takeda: (talking to Matsumori) Just be ready to fly immediately. If you don’t, you will be fired and maybe dead and condemned forever as traitors to Japan and the whole human race!

Yoshida: Sir, what are you saying? Who’s flying what to where?

(a helicopter appears in the sky.)

Thank you very much for your help.

Junction needs more work, and I need your help

Well nuts. The first-round publishers have all rejected Junction. The feedback from them consistently faults characterization. The characters just don’t click with them.

There are more publishers out there, but before I start submitting again, I have to revise. I have to fix those characters. Here’s my plan so far, and I’d appreciate your advice on all of it:

1) work through exercises on characterization do you guys know any good ones?

2) draw the characters (which helped in previous books. Plus, it’s therapeutic :) if you’ve read Junction, how do YOU picture the characters?

3) read through the whole book again (I have to do that on my own)

4) and of course, get help from beta-readers…gamma-readers? Are you interested in reading a book about exploring a series of hostile alien environments? Also political intrigue and murder?

If so, send me a message and I’ll send you Junction in your preferred format. With your help, the world can come to know the wonder of the Dire Shmoo.

I am very pleased to announce that Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen, my time-travel romance with dinosaurs, is now available on Audible as an audiobook.

Eric Stachura does a great job of giving Trals and Andrea the voices they deserve. Stay tuned for upcoming promotions and giveaways.

Drafield Zho and his trusty snatcher have lead many hunting expeditions into the dinosaur-haunted wilderness outside the walls of Seneria, but none have included an incognito king on its guest list, and never before has he attempted to hunt the mighty bataar.

That’s “Bataar,” a short story set in the same universe as Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen. It’s available along with many other great stories in the Domesticated Velociraptors anthology. Here’s their blurb:

What would the world be like if you could hire Velociraptor rides for your daughter’s birthday, race them through jungles, or buy them at the local pet store? Fourteen authors from around the world delve into the prospect of domesticated Velociraptors in these stories full of adventure, wonder, and possibilities. Come explore realities where Velociraptors protect the land, take over kingdoms, and get tamed by grandmothers in the second anthology from the Midnight Writers.

This short story is an old one from back in my OPUS: Dinosaur days. It was actually the inspiration behind Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen. Hope you like it.

My diesel-punk dragon novella Petrolea is available from Alban Lake Publishing in both paper and ebook form. This is a big step: the first paid book-shaped thing that was all mine and no-one else’s. I’m over the (murky, mechanoid-infested) moon (of Saturn)! Here’s the back-of-the-book

Victor Toledo went to Titan for its oil reserves. Doctor Feroza Merchant has made it her mission to stop him. The wild robots of the petroleum jungle want to strip the flesh from their bones.

Stranded in the mechanical jungle, the engineer and the biologist must cooperate not only to survive, but to understand the alien ecosystem around them. Where did these self-replicating robots come from? Who created their ancestors, and why? What they discover could open space to humanity, or it could destroy our civilization.

For more about Petrolea (like pictures by none other than Simon Roy) check out its webpage.

The Lords of the World” is a detective story in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle, set in a world of H.G. Wells’ Martian Invasion. It is available here from Alternate History Fiction magazine.

"When a damsel in distress turns out to be more dangerous, and in more distress, than she first appeared Percival Q. Sing, moon-born professor of law and ethics, and his esteemed colleague Mu-Rau the Martian imam must dive into the nest of terror and oppression that is the England a century after the Martian Invasion."

Read it here!
Read more background here!

Then sign up for my mailing list ;)

It’s coming out on the 1st, complete with news, highlights from the month, and the first lines from THE CENTURIES UNLIMITED, my diesel-punk noir family saga with time travel and gangsters. 

Date: 5.3.16

Length: 97700 words. 22 chapters.

Listening to:…

Next steps: I have to go back and fix some problems, and there are a bunch of scenes whose Point Of View I need to shift one way or the other.

But I wrote the last words, damn it! Now who’s ready to read a slightly more polished version of “Lewis and Clarke meet Agatha Christie on an alien planet”?…

Junction: a wilderness survival story with love, intrigue, and hungry aliens. 

A wormhole in the New Guinea highlands leads to Junction, a patchwork planet of competing alien ecosystems. In the midst of rising international tension, TV personality and professional wilderness survivor Daisuke Matsumori joins an exploration party led by biologist Anne Houlihan. When their plane crashes, Anne and Daisuke must guide their party back to the Earth wormhole, bushwhacking through deadly wilderness and deadlier politics.

Or, if you prefer, “Lewis and Clarke meet Agatha Christie on an alien planet.”

What I have ready for you is the beta version, pretty rough, but with at least the most egregious plot-holes filled. I'm sure there are more lurking in there, though, so be brutal! Tear into this manuscript with your acid-spewing mandibles and rip it apart with your flailing tentacles. Scream your criticism to the cold, unfeeling stars! Skreee!

Ahem. Also, if you know know someone who knows something about Japan, Indonesia, Australia, or biology, and might want to read a scifi manuscript, please put them in touch with me. I'd love some help making sure I got the details right. :)

Anyone interested in beta-reading this beast? Let me know in the comments. You can find out more about Junction here.

I’m thinking about The Renaissance Express. Like, a lot a lot. And one of the things that bears some thought it the future of the English language.

What will English look like five hundred years hence?

If we compare the future evolution of English to the past, people in the 26th century will speak something about as different from people in the 21st as Early Modern English is to us. That is, a time-traveler from five centuries in the future would be more or less understandable, but would speak with a very strange accent. But strange in what way, exactly?

A lot depends on the history of the future. What countries are most influential and powerful? What populations add themselves into the Anglophone community? How does technology change the way we use our language?  The following are several possibilities:

(0) Nobody will speak English

What if the Chinese invade? Or the Arabs? Nahuatl in the 15th century was a great language of trade and culture, after all, and how many people speak it now? Maybe in 500 years we’ll all be speaking some other language, and English will either be the language of a few local underclasses or entirely extinct.

I guess it’s possible, but I doubt it. In the absences of an apocalyptic event that blasts us all back to the stone-age, the winners of the next five hundred years of history will be the people who make the most inventions. The people who make the most inventions will be the people who have the most educated people trying to solve problems. English is the global language of education and invention, and its hard to imagine what other language might replace it. Yes, China and India are very populous, and might well deliver enormous waves of educated inventors, but Chinese and Indian inventors speak English to each other. Of course, they might not speak English in any way familiar to a 21st-century American…

(1) Universal Globish

As many as 100 million people speak English as a foreign language, compared to about 300 million native speakers. It’s easy to imagine that the number of non-native speakers continues to grow until, while most people in the world speak English, few of them speak it as a mother tongue. The language they speak is simpler, more universal, stripped of regional differences, a somewhat artificial language intended only to conduct business and education. English-speakers must learn this new “Globish” in order to communicate with colleagues abroad, but it isn’t that hard.

The problem I have with this scenario is that while there certainly can be (and in fact there is) a pidgin trade-language based on English, it isn’t really universal (speakers of European pidgin English have a hard time understanding speakers of Indian or Chinese pidgins). People could make an effort to create an international standard pidgin, but that language wouldn’t be comprehensible to English speakers. Languages don’t usually form unless the people who speak them have some sense of common identity. People who learn English as a foreign language have no such emotional attachment to the language, and are happy to accept corrections from native English speakers.

So I don’t think the non-native speakers will go off and create a new language. They will probably all converge on a standard dialect. But what will that dialect be?

(2) “The internet will still be dominated by English speakers, but they’ll have an Indian accent.” Charles Stross said that, and it’s hard to disagree. Once India’s huge population achieves educated middle-class status, their way of speaking English with dominate the global Anglosphere. People in the US or UK might speak local dialects to each other, but the standard dialects of education, wealth, and influence will sound Indian.

My problem with this scenario is that although many people in India speak English, very very few (0.022%) speak it as a mother tongue. When India becomes a world power (and I don’t doubt that it will), we might very well see an international rise in the popularity of Hindi, but Indian English might not have any more influence than other English dialects than Anglo-Norman had on other dialects of French.

(3) English in the 26th century might look like like Latin in the 10th century and likeArabic in the 21st. There is an international standard English based on some classic works (like the Kage Baker’s “Cinema Standard“), but different groups of people will be speaking increasingly incomprehensible dialects in local and informal situations.

The problem with this prediction is it actually bucks a trend we’ve been seeing since the invention of the radio, which is a decline in differences between regional dialects. There are some exceptions, but generally people are now in better communication than ever before, and their dialects are merging. This is true even for the two most influential English dialects (British Received Pronunciation and General American), which are actually growing together, not apart.

(4) Universal translators make everything irrelevant.

One interesting new wrinkle technology will introduce is machine translation. Even if we never get any better at machine translation than we are now, people will easily be able to “re-tune” materials in a foreign dialect into their own. We already do something similar with British books published in the US (a simple word search that replaces “lift” with “elevator” and “dustbin” with “garbage can”).

If everyone uses technology to filter out foreign dialects, we could see a  combination of all the scenarios above, where speakers of increasingly divergent “home languages” speak to each other in a simple, machine-assisted international standard based on the norms of Indian programmers.

Or something completely different. What do you think will happen to English in the next five hundred years?

After four years of work, Tyrannosaur Queen is finally published. You can find it here on Amazon (… ) and until the 6th, it's free.
The idea is to let lots of people read the final, illustrated version of the book. That way, hopefully, a few people will write some reviews. How about it?

Here's the back-of-the-book-blurb:

Former soldier Andrea Herrera isn’t happy with where her life’s taken her. Specifically, Hell Creek, Montana, 65 million years before the present.  As far as careers go, making sure the dinosaurs don’t eat her paleontologist clients comes in a pretty dismal second choice to serving her country. But when their time machine malfunctions, Andrea and her team are trapped in a timeline that shouldn’t exist with something a hell of a lot more dangerous than terrible lizards: other humans.

Kidnapped by the stone-age descendants of a lost time colony, Andrea finds herself stripped of her technological advantages and forced into a war against the implacable armies of the Slaver Empire. Even worse, the Slavers have captured the time machine and the mission’s one surviving paleontologist, using his futuristic weapons for their own ends.

Andrea’s only hope lies with the ferociously intelligent and violently insane tribal war-leader, Trals Scarback. Armed with his mystic sword, his trained velociraptor, and his herd of war-triceratops, this former slave has the resources and motivation to take on the empire. But can Andrea persuade him to see her as a partner rather than a tool for his ambitions? Only if she beats the barbarian at his own game and becomes the Tyrannosaur Queen.

You can now preorder Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen right now (and get it on January 1st)

Want to see the cover for Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen? Simon Roy ( povorot  ) drew it and it's amazing. To get a first look at it, sign up  for my mailing list and get ready for the reveal on the 1st of December.

Sign up before this Saturday and get a free advance copy of Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen!

Like, the whole book! Here's the link again

It has a guy punching a shark!

The scene goes out to the mailing list on the 14th, so you still have time to subscribe. 

Also, next week I'll be sending out Advance Reader Copies of Tyrannosaur Queen (electronic books, edited, but without pictures) to everyone on the mailing list. So subscribe if you want THAT! 

The team-building coordinator’s species evolved from some kind of free-swimming sea-slug, but I wouldn’t know that if it hadn’t told me.

Its body is supported by three arching legs covered in feather-like gills.  A third appendage, more like the trunk of an elephant, protrudes from where the legs meet. When the door closes, this trunk vomits up clutch of eyeballs embedded in a lacy froth of digestive tissue and whistles.

 “All right, everyone!” says the cheery chatbot in my ear. “It’s time for the icebreaker exercise. Please form groups with your closest evolutionary relatives.”

I scan the crowd dubiously. My colleagues scan me back with eyes and other, more cryptic organs. We’re all new to the Multiverse Council, and unused to talking to beings from other timelines. I suppose that’s exactly the problem this week of team-building is supposed to remedy.

Read on

Hey everyone!

I'm preparing to self-publish my time-travel-romance-with-dinosaurs novel in January, and I am looking for some people I can commission to do pen-and-ink drawings of Hell Creek dinosaurs for the interior illustrations, If you can draw people, I'd also love to commission drawings of the characters. There's also going to be a map.

The deadline is soon (Christmas), but I am willing to pay a reduced commission for illustrations that get to me after the deadline. Payment will be via paypal.

If you're interested, please send me a private message with some samples of your work.