Storm dragon

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Storm dragons (or storm wyrms) are dragonkin native to Skywall. Harnessing the elemental powers of the storm, these majestic beasts crackle like lightning and roar like thunder.

The mighty storm dragons are mysterious creatures that inhabit Skywall, the portion of the Elemental Plane that serves as the domain of air elementals. Their origin is unknown, as before the Shattering no one had seen them (or lived long enough to tell the story). Their draconic appearance however may not indicate their true nature. It appears they are quite tightly connected to the element of air, and serve Al'Akir, mostly found in Vortex Pinnacle. They also seem to be non-sentinent beings, as none of them so far can be seen using any kind of language, neither draconic nor kalimag, not even Auran. This may mean that they are in fact elementals similar to the phoenixes from the Firelands.

Brann Bronzebeard recently uncovered evidence, corroborated by reports from adventurers in Deepholm, that proto-dragons and dragons may have origins in these — and other — elemental drakes. The inhabitants of Deepholm, the Skywall, the Firelands, and the Abyssal Maw are less than talkative on these matters, however, and most of them were not around when the elemental prisons were created.

De-extinction: If we can save the white rhino, can we bring back the T-rex?

News that scientists have created hybrid white rhino embryos has given new hope to those who feared the northern white rhino was doomed to extinction.

But could scientists bring back other, longer-extinct species — and if so, should they?

The work to save the northern white rhino uses IVF technology, but that method is unlikely to work on an animal that has been extinct for thousands of years.

Swedish science journalist Torill Kornfeldt travelled the world researching "de-extinction" science for her book The Re-Origin Of Species.

She says Jurassic Park showed what the process is supposed to look like: scientists find an ancient mosquito trapped in amber, draw dinosaur blood from the perfectly preserved specimen, then use that DNA to clone the extinct reptile.

Except researchers have tried this and it doesn't work.

"They don't find any dinosaur DNA, they don't find any mosquito DNA either," says Kornfeldt, explaining that even well-preserved DNA degrades over time.

A mammoth task

So dinosaurs are probably out (as are Jurassic-era mosquitos) but what about something that died out a little more recently, like the woolly mammoth?

"The woolly mammoth is tricky," Kornfeldt says, predicting we could see a live mammoth in "either 15 years, or never".

"That research is still depending on a few scientific breakthroughs that haven't happened yet — but still might."

Even if those breakthroughs happen, the creature the scientists create won't be a cloned mammoth.

Cloning is only possible where there are tissue samples from a live animal, or "very recently dead" one.

Woolly mammoths have been extinct for thousands of years, so while there's still DNA in them, "it's really degraded".

Scientists can piece that DNA together in a computer by comparing it to a living relative, such as the Asian elephant.

"Kind of like looking at the lid when you do a jigsaw puzzle, you look at all the pieces and see where they're supposed to go," Kornfeldt says.

The next step is to identify the genetic differences between the elephant and the mammoth — genes that govern the animal's fur, for example — and then tweak the elephant's genes to make it more like a mammoth.
"You're basically mammothifying an elephant," Kornfeldt says.

Home sweet home

Once you have a herd of woolly mammoths, the next problem is where to put them.

Kornfeldt travelled to Siberia, where researchers are attempting to recreate a woolly-mammoth era habitat.

"This was a very rich ecosystem — in some ways it was comparable to the African savanna," she says.

"There were loads of animals on this grassland, and then when the Ice Age ended — and when humans came in — this ecosystem changed.

"A lot of animals, including the mammoth, disappeared ... and the grassland was replaced by forest," Kornfeldt says.

Without access to a live woolly mammoth, the researchers have wheeled in an unlikely substitute.
"They have this old, Soviet-era tank that they drive around and knock down trees with," Kornfeldt says.
"One of the functions of a mammoth, same as elephants, is to knock down trees so the grass has somewhere to go."

A genetic moonshot

Even if creating a woolly-mammoth-like creature were a possibility, why would we bother?

In selling the USA's original 1969 moonshot to the public, John F Kennedy famously talked up the benefits of taking on a massive challenge:
"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills."
Kornfeldt says cloning the woolly mammoth could have similar benefits to the Apollo program.
"We didn't go to the Moon to collect gold or something, we did it just to go through the process — and in the same way, going through the process of figuring something like this out has a great value in itself," she says.

"It makes the researchers a lot more aware of how different genes work and what their functions are, what kind of genes you can change and what genes you can't change, and how it all sort of fits together."


Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Star Wars meets Jurassic Park as dinosaurs return to earth from space. Action-packed adventure for all age groups.

"Solid science and pacing that never quits." --Kay Kenyon, Philip K. Dick Award nominated author of Maximum Ice

"Fills the void since Jurassic Park. And, Hopp's book may be better." --Steve Brusatte, DinoLand Review

It's taken me a while to write this review. After I read the book, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I then read the other reviews and found that I agreed completely with both the low and the high star reviews.

Yes, the plot is whacky, the science is at least half fantasy, as is the military reaction, and the characters' activities--not to mention the intelligent dinos waging war on humankind. But the book was a blast to read, fast paced with accessible, if somewhat one-dimensional characters.

I think what got me, besides the whole Jurassic Park meets War of the Worlds plot, is the way the author managed to weave a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor into his non-stop, dino action. For instance, when the paleontologist, one of the main characters in the book, is rounded up with some millitary men to be the intelligent dino's dinner, he thinks to himself, as the dinosaurs he's spent his whole life studying lean over him with their jaws ready to take a bite: "So this is what they mean when they say you're consumed by your work." How can you not like puns and dinosaurs in the same book???

And there are moments of real pathos, terror, anger...the author manages to get the reader to feel the whole spectrum. Yes, including, eyerolling "you've got to be kidding me" moments. There are a lot of those, it has to be admitted. And I thought the ending was the biggest eyeroller of them all, especially how the lone For Peace dino never has a moment of angst over the humans blowing away his home base where his beloved, pregnant wife was nesting. He's STILL bent on making peace with these tasty, so-called intelligent humans.

I do think that you will enjoy this book, as I did, if you park your modern outlook and knowledge of real science, and instead let yourself channel the days of Edgar Rice Burroughs and scienece fiction adventures from the pulp fiction days of yesteryear.

Dinosaurs on the Battlefield

Friday, May 18, 2018

Victor Milán’s new novel in The Dinosaur Lords series, set in a primordial world with every species of dinosaur, large and small. The books are bloodsoaked—the basic elevator pitch is “Jurassic Park meets Game of Thrones”—specifically because the saurians aren’t around to be pets, attractions, or build a Dinotopia.

Milán employs them as scaly war engines which brings up a question pondered by generations of kids as they’ve assembled plastic dinosaur toys in their sandboxes—which are the best dinosaurs to wage war?

An enormous, excessively-fanged theropod would be the obvious choice. We’ve all daydreamed about clambering atop a Tyrannosaurus to vanquish our enemies. (Right?) But there are two problems with this plan. The first is that the carnivore might be just as likely to eat you as your enemy. A morsel is a morsel to a hungry carnivore. That, among other reasons, is probably why there haven’t been war tigers or battle wolves outside the annals of fantasy. And despite the psychological terror an armored, snarling tyrannosaur might inspire on the battlefield, it’d actually be terrible in an all-out fight. Tyrannosaurs, like all giant carnivorous dinosaurs, were bipeds. Break one of their legs, and they topple over useless and defeated.

Milán gets it. In his fantasy world, most of the war dinosaurs are herbivores that stomp around on all fours—crested hadrosaurs, horned dinosaurs, and the armored ankylosaurs. They seem like suitable stand-ins for dragons. Many had the spikes, horns, and crests to make them look intimidating enough. Despite their appearances, though, most of these dinosaurs wouldn’t have been as useful as you might expect.



Carnosaurs are large apex predators that have terrorized the darkness of the primordial jungles since the dawn of this world's existence. Considered by many as the ultimate jungle hunter, with some growing nearly two stories tall, these massive reptilian beasts are powerfully built and highly aggressive creatures, with long, muscular hind limbs and a heavy tail that is used to balance its enlarged and powerful skull. Only the Dread Saurian are above even these mighty predators. Upon scenting prey, or catching sight of even the slightest amount of movement, the Carnosaur propels itself with enormous strides, moving with a surprising speed for such a large beast.

Bastiladon, sometimes known as Living Bastions, are a mighty and hulking species of armored reptiles whose heavily armoured shell is perhaps one of the strongest within the continent of Lustria. It is a walking fortress, a living bastion covered in a rock-hard bony skin, and then further protected by massive iron-like plates — a natural armour so dense that it can, sometimes, thwart the bite of the mighty Carnosaur. Even those blows that crack the outermost armour plates cannot penetrate deeply into the beast due to the Bastiladon’s alternating layers of thick leathery skin and additional scales.

Stegadons are mighty horned reptilian beasts that have dwelt within the primeval jungles of Lustria since long before the coming of the Old Ones. They are bulky creatures whose heads are covered by armoured crests, out of which project massive horns. With bony scales and spikes shielding their bodies, there are few predators that dare challenge them. Territorial and highly aggressive, Stegadons will charge any creature that intrudes upon their habitat. Other creatures stay well clear of these herds, for fear of being trampled or gored.

Seraphon Army

Older than memory, existing for aeons unrecorded, the seraphon have ever waged an unending, savage war against Chaos. Summoned by the incredible power of the Slann Starmasters, they materialise from the energy of the stars themselves - nimble skinks, predatory saurus and hulking kroxigor, each intent on destroying the forces that have corrupted and darkened the realms almost beyond repair.


Book[s] The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán

A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden—and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus, and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.

Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán’s splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics…except the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engage in battle. During the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac-and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world…

Chapter One

The Empire of Nuevaropa, Alemania, County Augenfelsen

They appeared across the river like a range of shadow mountains, resolving to terrible solidity through a gauze of early-morning mist and rain. Great horned heads swung side to side. Strapped to their backs behind shieldlike neck-frills swayed wicker fighting-castles filled with archers.

“That tears it!” Rob Korrigan had to shout to be heard, though his companion stood at arm’s length on high ground behind the Hassling’s south bank. Battle raged east along the river for a full kilometer. “Voyvod Karyl’s brought his pet Triceratops to dance with our master the Count.”

Despite the chill rain that streamed down his face and tickled in his short beard, his heart soared. No dinosaur master could help being stirred by sight of these beasts, unique in the Empire of Nuevaropa: the fifty living fortresses of Karyl Bogomirskiy’s notorious White River Legion.

Even if they fought for the enemy.

“Impressive,” the Princes’ Party axeman who stood beside Rob yelled back. Like Rob he worked for the local Count Augenfelsen—“Eye Cliffs” in a decent tongue—who commanded the army’s right wing. “And so what? Our dinosaur knights will put paid to ’em quick enough.”

“Are you out of your tiny mind ?” Rob said.

He knew his Alemán was beastly, worse even than his Spañol, the Empire’s common speech. As if he cared. He’d had this job but a handful of months, and suspected it wouldn’t last much longer.

“The Princes’ Party had the war all its own way until the Emperor hired in these Slavos and their trikes,” he said. “Three times the Princes have fought Karyl. Three times they’ve lost. Nobody’s defeated the White River Legion. Ever.”

The air was as thick with the screams of men and monsters, and a clangor like the biggest smithy on the world called Paradise, as it was with rain and the stench of spilled blood and bowels. Rob’s own guts still roiled and his nape prickled from the side effects of a distant terremoto: the warhadrosaurs’ terrible, inaudible battle cry, pitched too low for the human ear to hear, but potentially as damaging as a body blow from a battering ram.