Cast of Wonders is thrilled to announce the theme for Dinovember 2020: Intelligent Dinosaurs! This event is guest edited by our very own Andrew K. Hoe!
Due to a celestial accident in our planet’s ancient history, dinosaurs were tragically displaced as the dominant species on Earth. But what if that fateful meteorite hadn’t struck? What if dinosaurs continued to evolve, and humans never arose? Or, if humans arose, they did so alongside Saurians? Would one species be dominant over the other?
For this call, gone is that clichéd image of the dino as a gargantuan, slow-moving, instinctually driven beast that roars futilely at the escape helicopter fleeing into the horizon.
For this call, the descendants of T-Rexes and velociraptors—of ankylosaurs, triceratops, and so on—become tool-users, and their grasp of technology only deepens over the millennia. Instead of roaring futilely at escaping helicopters, these intelligent dinos operate mag-lift-transports to continue the chase.
What cities would such sentient Saurians build? What far-reaching colonies—do these intelligent dinos dare travel into space? What wars would they fight (and please don’t take this as a call for only intelligent dino war stories), what adventures, what ideals would they passionately defend? What philosophies and art would they create? What society and social problems would our Saurians face?
More succinctly put, this is a call for speculative fiction that features intelligent dinosaurs. As in, they craft their own civilizations and might possibly wield ray guns. They speak, not necessarily roar—but it would be cool if they did both! This is not a call for stories where dinosaurs are simply rough proxies for humans, and there must be a strong speculative element besides the fact that dinosaurs are featured. For example, stories where the dino MC screeches “Romeosaur, Romeosaur, wherefore art thou”, or the dino-characters are attending dino-engineering school and are facing a huge dino-final and are totally GRRRAAAAR! because their dino-prof is a real… dinosaur… won’t cut it. The intelligent dinosaurs in our call are sentient—but they’re not human. If a human balks at a cut hand, how would a dinosaur react to a sliced manus? If a human turns to greed when presented with a pile of gold, what might a Saurian do with that same gold pile? Also, please don’t feel your intelligent dinosaurs must be bloodthirsty and vengeful—of course, if you can tell an awesome story with vengeful intelligent dinos, go for it—but consider that sentience also implies nobility, sense of honor, even kindness (or what dinos would consider kindness). If your intelligent dinosaurs are evil… cool—what’s evil for a dino?
We want an actual, nuanced visualization of Saurian characters in a lively speculative fiction story. Consider the Reptites in the classic Chrono Trigger game. Consider Planet of the Apes, but where the apes are the survivors of a long-ago human war, our dinos thrived. Here’s an example of a story that would do well: Ann Leckie’s “The Endangered Camp”.
We envision this call as being more geared for science fiction than fantasy, though if you think you can pull off the intelligent dinosaur theme through a magical lens, you’re more than welcome to try! We encourage creativity, thoughtful worldbuilding, high stakes tension, emotional feels, twists we never saw coming but totally make sense, and nuanced characterization. In terms of genre, yes, steampunk, yes, environmental, yes parallel/alternative history (duh!)—be as creative as need be. These mentioned genres aren’t intended to be restrictive, but exemplary of the types of stories you might go for. We want creativity above all! Dream big! Dream like a DINOSAUR! As mentioned above, if you envision your intelligent dinosaur story involving humans as a separate species, fine. Remember, in such stories, the focus needs to be on the dinos. Dinosaurs having evolved into other forms like the aforementioned reptites is fine, the way humans are descended from apes, but no using humans as lenses to view intelligent dinos, and no human-dino hybrids, please.
Our budget must unfortunately influence our decisions, and Dinovember only lasts a month. This will be a highly competitive venue with only three stories being selected, maybe a fourth depending on how we can stretch it. We CANNOT go beyond COW’s standard 6,000 word limit—please don’t query for longer original stories for this sub window. Original stories in the 3,500-4,000 word range will have an advantage where our budget is concerned. Reprints are definitely welcome, so long as they fit our theme. If you have a reprint that goes over 6,000 words that you think fits well with our theme—let’s talk!
So, let loose your inner dinosaur, get writing, and send us your Dinovember stories via Moksha between the 15th-31st March!