Week 1: Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly

SFFaudio Review

SFFaudio celebrates its 7th anniversary this month! What better way to celebrate than with more posts? I’m going to listen to one short story every weekday through the month of March, and tell you all about it here. Here’s the first!

Science Fiction Audiobook - Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick KellyThink Like a Dinosaur
By James Patrick Kelly; Read by James Patrick Kelly
Publisher: James Patrick Kelly
Published: 2007
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Physical Laws / Morality / Teleportation /

Before the rest of us knew what this podcasting stuff was all about, James Patrick Kelly was busy reading his stories into a microphone and publishing them over in the “Free Reads” section of jimkelly.net. Many stories have reached his Free Reads listeners, including his Hugo-winning novella Burn. And he’s still at it; his current Nebula nominee, “Going Deep” can be found over there too, free for the downloading.

“Think Like a Dinosaur” was part of another fine audio delivery innovation. In partnership with Audible.com, Jim published 4 sets of stories, called StoryPods, as podcasts-for-purchase delivered through Audible. You can still buy the StoryPods or the individual stories at Audible.

But the story – this is one of those stories that keeps you thinking long afterwards. Like Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” (JPK explains in the afterword exactly how that story influenced this one), the main character is presented with a moral dilemma of the highest order. Things are not exactly the same as in “The Cold Equations”, though, because it’s not clear if the concept of “harmony” is something invented by the aliens in the story, or is an actual, unbreakable physical law.

On thing is for certain, though. “Think Like a Dinosaur” has become as much a part of science fiction’s Great Conversation as Godwin’s story. Required reading!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Scott D.

Reviews Editor, SFFaudio

2 thoughts to “Week 1: Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly”

  1. ** SPOILERS **

    In the comments, I’m not going to be concerned about spoilers.

    In “The Cold Equations”, the girl who went out the airlock went out for justifiable reasons – the ship she was on would not be able to save many people because her mass was throwing the rescue vessel of course. And it was non-correctable.

    In this story, the girl is shoved out the airlock because the dinos said she needed to be killed in order to “restore harmony”. The main character finally does so because humanity would be cut off from space travel if he didn’t, and perhaps she’d be killed anyway. Tough call, but I don’t know that I would have done that in the same circumstances.

    The first one is a “many outweighs few” problem, but the second is not.

  2. I know both “Think Like a Dinosaur,” and “The Cold Equations” were adapted for TV on — I believe, I’ll have to double-check — the 2nd iteration of The Twilight Zone. They were pretty well done.

    And the conundrum of whether a person is still the same person, or a “photocopy”/simulacrum/recreation — after being disassembled, transported, then reassembled, a la Star Trek’s transporter, was the subject of James Blish’s early Star Trek novel, “Spock Must Die!” Dr. McCoy was discussing this with Kirk and Spock, saying if there is a human soul, it would be destroyed. In the novel Spock gets divided. (Of course Kirk later had to deal with this in, “The Enemy Within.”)

    If Jesse1 was reassembled elsewhere, now Jesse2 — although Jesse2 had all of Jesse1’s memories, and felt the same — would he still in fact BE the ORIGINAL Jesse1…?

    And a story by a friend of a friend, which was published in the 90’s, (I think in Analog), dealt with a Stradivarius violin going through this process, and it was questioned whether the reassembled instrument still had the same “authenticity,” ”historicity,” as the original. I recall PKD’s Man In the High Castle considered objects with this quality.

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