Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dinosaurs Save the World!

We have many reasons to be grateful for dinosaurs. Few other creatures have been responsible for firing off the imagination of so many writers, filmmakers, artists and fans. Dinosaurs are cool. Dinosaurs are awesome.

Dinosaurs are also responsible for saving the world on at least on occasion.  We find this out in "One Prehistoric Night," a short story by Philip Barshofsky published in the November 1934 issue of Wonder Stories.

Here we learn that, eons ago, Mars was already a dying planet with its ecology wrecked by countless wars. In order to survive, the Martians need to relocate. It's possible that the next planet closer tot he sun might be inhabitable. An expedition is sent to investigate.

The Martians land. To keep their ship safe, they build an electric fence. Individual Martians are armed with heat rays, while a giant electron gun is set up to provide heavy firepower if needed.

And, boy, is it ever needed. The story shifts to the scene outside the Martian camp, where we learn that whenever a large dinosaur is killed, just about every creature in the area charges to the corpse for a feeding frenzy.

A wandering brontosaurus approaches the ship. Heat rays only get it mad and it manages to damage the electric fence before its finished off by the electron gun. In this case, the fence burns up the bronto's carcass, so no feeding frenzy ensues.

But when an allosaurus and another large sauropod get into a titanic battle just outside the fence--a crowd of large dinosaurs start to gather in anticipation of dinner. A panicking stegosaurus damages the fence again. The two combatant dinosaurs crash completely through it, where the allosaurus decides the ship might also be edible. More dinosaurs swarm in. The electron gun accounts for a lot of them, but soon the camp is overwhelmed. And, well....

Let's just say we owe the dinosaurs a debt of gratitude. Without them, we'd all be speaking Martian today.

The prose here is a little stilted in the way a lot of non-classic pulp stories sometimes are, but the pacing, the continuous action and the Rule of Cool make it a very entertaining tale. Though primarily an action tale, it also manages a sincere element of melancholy. The Martians aren't evil. They're just trying to survive. Because of the events recounted here, they don't.

I've always loved dinosaurs. When one tires of dinosaurs, in fact, one tires of life itself. Now I'm more appreciative of them then ever. They saved us from the Martians.

"One Prehistoric Night" is available to read online HERE.

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