Today we welcome David Walton, whose science fiction thriller Living Memory was just released on October 18th (here’s my review). This is the seventh novel of David’s we’ve reviewed and in the past he’s been gracious enough to sit down with us (so to speak) to answer some questions about his books and his writing in general.

This time, we’re not doing any of the talking. Instead, David has gifted us with an essay about how Living Memory, at least in part, grew out of how his early love of dinosaurs clashed with his Creationist upbringing. Given that I’m surrounded as I write this by more than a few realistic models of of those magnificent creatures, it should come as no surprise that David had me at “dinosaurs.” But “intelligent dinosaurs?” Shut the door, unplug the electronics, and tell me a story!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Living Memory.

Every kid loves dinosaurs. What’s not to love about a tyrannosaur with jaws your dad could sit inside, titanosaurs that make elephants look like chihuahuas, or a mosasaur that could swallow a hippo for an evening snack? They’re bigger than life, true fantasy monsters that used to stomp their way through your backyard.

Eventually, though, you grow old enough to recognize the tragedy. Because no matter how many times you rewatch Jurassic Park, you know that you’ll never see a stegosaurus at the zoo. Those magnificent creatures are gone forever.

In my own childhood, the sense of tragedy hit young. I was the sort of kid who learned a hundred dinosaur names from books I borrowed from the library and went about regaling my parents’ friends with statistics about their size or whether they’d lived in the Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous periods. That is, until my mom took me aside and explained that those eras had never existed. The dinosaurs, if they were real at all, had lived side by side with humans, rode on Noah’s Ark, and gone extinct sometime in the thousands of years since.

My young dinosaur-loving heart was crushed, as was my trust in the reliability of scientists and the power of curiosity. It wasn’t until much later, when I actually read On The Origin of Species for myself and realized most of the creationists around me didn’t understand what evolution was, never mind have a plausible alternate theory, that I dove into the library’s collection of books again and came out convinced. Like the dinosaurs of Crichton’s novels, my enthusiasm for all things Mesozoic exploded into life again.

Living MemoryLiving Memory, in many ways, comes out of that experience. Samira is a paleontologist who grew up as an Ethiopian orphan adopted by white missionary parents. She doesn’t really fit in anywhere or have a place that really feels like home. Despite that, she’s carved out a place for herself, excelled in her profession, and is stubborn enough not to let others push her around instead of doing the right thing.

The idea for her story was based just a tiny bit on paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, whose creationist upbringing was blown away when she audited a college class by Jack Horner and realized that the evidence revealed by rigorous, hard science didn’t match her faith in a God who is not a deceiver. Unlike Mary, Samira is an atheist, but her family are Christians, which at least initially makes for some uncomfortable family dynamics.

For me, though, the book is all about the dinosaurs. Samira and her team make the discovery of the age: a species of intelligent dinosaurs that buried their dead, knew the asteroid was coming, and tried to survive it. Little evidence of these dinosaurs remain, but through flashbacks sprinkled through the book, you experience the completely different path their biology prompted their technology to take (chemistry and genetics instead of iron and bronze) and the tragic, Pompeii-like experience of their final weeks on Earth.

You also discover the implications of that technology in our modern day and the lengths to which the governments of the world will go to obtain it. As the trilogy progresses, you’ll see that it’s not only the dinosaurs who face the threat of imminent extinction. We might need to learn a few things from the dinosaurs if humanity is to survive.

(One final note for the fastidious among you: Yes, I do realize that a mosasaur is not a dinosaur. To both my six-year-old and forty-six-year-old sense of excitement, however, the mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and pterosaurs all belong in the same glorious category with the dinosaurs: Mesozoic monsters that really lived!)

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Living Memory.

Learn more about David at his website: The Science Fiction of David Walton.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.