Authoring literature rooted in prehistory, even factual based fiction, raises the obvious dilemma for a writer. Recent paleontological discoveries, partnered by the advancement of new theories in behaviourism, paleoecology, physiology etc., can soon render the most up-to date research invalid, even obsolete.
When researching The Chosen One, I meticulously strived to maintain accurate representations of the dinosaurs depicted. In the intervening years since that novel was first published, non-avian feathered dinosaurs have become the accepted norm within the scientific community. Unsurprising, considering the widely held belief that birds evolved from saurian ancestors. The fossil evidence, particularly from China, is compelling.
So that raises the question, should works of dinosaur fiction be regularly updated to incorporate the latest findings?
In an ideal world, yes. In the cost conscious reality we live in, no. The expenditure in time alone required to rewrite a novel to avoid anachronisms is off-putting. True, Ogg and his nocturnal kin, Nightclaw, should be feathered to conform to the modern school of thought. But does their “nakedness” diminish the story? In my humble opinion, it does not. I freely admit in taking immense pride in my attention to detail in my novels and that The Chosen One characters were based on current paleobiology at the time of writing. But to edit the book every time new fossil evidence comes to light is impractical.
Take the Jurassic Park series of films. Discoveries that dromaeosaurs were fully feathered, made after the first film’s release, rendered the error of featherless Velociraptors an understandable oversight. However, that omission continued in the subsequent films, flaunting growing scientific opinion. (The one concession was the crest of ludicrously small quills adorning the heads of the male raptors in Jurassic Park III.) Even the latest instalment, Jurassic World, perpetuates the ongoing inaccuracy of raptors bereft of feathers. And Hollywood’s excuse? Aside from the plausible reasoning that the fictional dinosaurs are cloned representations of the originals and therefore not strict biological reproductions, the movie makers (rightly or wrongly) argue that the public’s perception is of scaly raptors, an image fostered by the original Jurassic Park. Much like Jaws portrayed great white sharks as mindless eating machines, when in actuality the animal is a complex apex predator which does not habitually prey on human beings.
I know what you are thinking. It is far easier to rewrite a book than reshoot a movie. But would you have asked the late, talented Peter Benchley to edit his landmark novel in order to produce a more scientifically accurate, yet perhaps an unappealingly sanitised version of a classic read?
I didn’t think so.