Darren Naish Profile picture
Jul 9, 2018 35 tweets 28 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
At the 2014 #TetZooCon - that's the first one ever - I spoke about Speculative Zoology, or Speculative Evolution, or whatever. And here I'm going to tweet some of what I said... The cover slide shows awesome #Squamozoic art by @alaskanime plus a Night stalker and a .. a.. well..
Evolution is real and animals have a past; therefore they also have a future, something we can take seriously. And many authors have... #TetZooCon
There's already a whole genre of 'alternative history' fiction, variously called AH, allohistory or Uchronia. Ideas about alternative or parallel timelines. And the idea is in mainstream fiction... #TetZooCon
Bringing this to the attention of scientists who study fossils and #evolution: Stephen Jay Gould's 1989 Wonderful Life has long sections on events in the history of life being contingent, not determined... #TetZooCon
The entire area of school devoted to speculations about 'future animals', 'alternative timeline animals', and theoretical and predicted animals too can be called Speculative Zoology. Does it have any 'function'? We'll come back to that.
Because this is zoology, it doesn't include aliens - since they aren't, technically, animals (Animalia is a clade, not a concept). Of course many sci-fi aliens really do look and behave like animals though. #TetZooCon
More later. I have to get back to work...
So... #SpecZoo really kicks off with HG Wells in 1895, then we have the many projects of ER Burroughs 1912-1960s - tons of stuff that's still being used today. #TetZooCon
Honourable mention of 'Harald Stumpke's' The Snouters of 1957, originally published in German. A great classic of #SpecZoo, though its creatures are meant to be modern, not Spec in the strict sense. Many crossovers with arcane zoology literature in this work...
Peter Dickinson's Flight of Dragons (1979) also worthy of mention as fictional creatures - #dragons - are given an evolutionary history and a complex, hypothetical biology. Some of you will know the animated movie based on the book :) #TetZooCon #SpecZoo
#SpecZoo goes mainstream in 1981 with Dougal Dixon's #AfterMan, an ambitious project that Dougal devises based on inspiration from Wells, ideas about conservation, extinction and evolution. He invents a whole world of future creatures -- total game-changing stuff!
The backstory to #AfterMan is made more incredible by the fact that Dougal produced scores of illustrations for this project (only some of which appear in the final work!). See the #TetZoo interview here: blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoolo…
And #AfterMan is timely, since a new edition has JUST been published. See @susieoftraken's article: theguardian.com/science/2018/m… And @asher_elbein's piece here: earther.com/a-trippy-80s-b… #SpecZoo
Moving on, the early 80s were weirdly productive for #SpecZoo. They also saw Russell's dinosauroid, an alt-timeline big-brained theropod dinosaur. Heavily criticised by many, and then mostly disowned by its creator. Covered several times on #TetZoo: blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoolo…
The dinosauroid spawned a whole lineage of big-brained, alt-timeline #dinosaurs, most of which have been erect-bodied theropods. But then there's the bird-like, feathery, horizontal-bodied versions created by @cmkosemen & @simonroyart...
If you're enjoying this thread, it's linked to the sort of stuff that gets presented at #TetZooCon, this year happening on 6th and 7th October at The Venue, #London. More info and ticket sales here: tetzoo.com/convention/
So, back to it. Following the success of #AfterMan, Dougal Dixon produced 1988's The New Dinosaurs. Many authors over the years asked what the world might be like if the KPg Event hadn't happened: lots of ideas on 'smart dinosaurs', and would the rise of mammals have been halted?
The New Dinosaurs isn't so much about that, but instead about evolutionary processes, using fictional examples. It has hits and misses, but several of the ideas are no longer weird or absurd in view of what we currently think...
I will refrain from discussing the next Dixonian project, since it has issues and its author is not happy about it. Moving on -- the popularity of #AfterMan meant that there have long been plans to make a movie or TV series. This happened in Japan - there's even a cartoon.
A planned #AfterMan movie never worked (2013's Overbrook/Columbia movie After Earth is not related) -- the 2004 series The Future is Wild is also an independent project, though did involve Dougal and have some similar ideas...
2007-2011 saw the @impossible_pics series #Primeval, all seasons of which involved parallel timelines and future and alt-timeline animals. I worked at Impossible Pictures at the time and some of my ideas made it into season 2 :)
I'm nowhere near finished on this thread but I have to stop there. The rest is coming at another time (maybe tomorrow, workload permitting). #SpecZoo #TetZoo #TetZooCon Please consider supporting me and what I do: patreon.com/TetZoo
Ok, here we go again - more on my #TetZooCon 2014 talk on #SpecZoo. #Primeval (2007-2011) bought SpecZoo - alt-time and future animals - to an audience drawn in by the drama and sci-fi of this @impossible_pics TV series.
The most memorable #SpecZoo creature of the series was the Future Predator, a giant flightless bat from the future. It was not based on the Night Stalker of #AfterMan, but 'evolved' in parallel, the idea being that future mammals would either be descendants of rodents or bats.
A few other relevant projects hit the small and big screen at about this time. The 2011 20th C Fox series Terra Nova features alt-timeline #dinosaurs, the 2013 movie After Earth has a bunch of future animals that inhabit a human-free Earth...
And then we have the 2012/13 Discovery Mermaid shows. Masquerading as 'real' documentaries, these were terrible, divisive, mis-educational bits of TV. But they're relevant because they feature a fictional alt-timeline scenario that even worked in the AAH (Aquatic Ape Hypothesis).
Moving away from TV and cinema, the internet has allowed world-building #SpecZoo projects similar in scope and theme to Dixon's #AfterMan. And several exist: the Xenopermian, the Speculative Dinosaur Project, @simonroyart's creatures...
I've so far described #SpecZoo as a modern endeavour. But an argument can be made that modern creature-building is merely the current version of an ancient tradition: we humans have been creating imaginary animals as long as we've been around. Ancient rock art demonstrates this.
There are also scores of fictional creatures invented to fulfil allegorical roles, appear on maps, banners and so on. Many dragons, sea monsters, griffons and giants were never meant to be 'real' - they're simply human-made, imaginary creatures...
.... but given that these creatures were _not_ invented with a biological or evolutionary backstory, they don't belong to #SpecZoo in the strict sense.
BUT there is a large group of creatures - generally (but not universally!) regarded as imaginary - that have been given evolutionary backstories and overlap in some respect with the creatures of #SpecZoo. I refer to the cryptids of the cryptozoology literature...
Cryptids are supposed to be 'identikit' creatures, pieced together via accumulation of eyewitness data. That's partly true. BUT some cryptids have been proposed with a specific identity and evolutionary history in mind: they've been created much like classic #SpecZoo creatures.
Very specific ideas about the biology, appearance and evolution of the #LochNessMonster, for example, are more to do with the proposed identity of the creature than with data from eyewitness accounts...
There are loads of other examples of this beyond Nessie: @thejohnconway @cmkosemen and I wrote a whole book on this, The Cryptozoologicon (available here: amazon.com/Cryptozoologic…). #SpecZoo #cryptozoology
Then there's the next topic: 'missing links'. I have to stop here but I'll get back to this over the next few days. Be sure to check out #TetZooCon, happening this year on 6th and 7th October in London.

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