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Of After Man, The New Dinosaurs and Greenworld: an interview with Dougal Dixon

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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In a scene from the future world of After Man, giant predatory rats harry a rabbuck. Image by Dougal Dixon, used with permission.

Some considerable years ago – February 2007, actually – I made the decision to write a short Tet Zoo article on speculative zoology. It was on the biology of Godzilla, and I published it with trepidation, my concern being that people would balk at the fact that I was covering an imaginary creature, not a real one. I needn’t have worried. It turns out that everybody loves speculative zoology, the topic being such a perennial favourite that I’ve since covered it repeatedly on Tet Zoo (a list of links is provided below).

Speculative zoology now has such a large presence in the online community that we can talk of a Speculative Zoology Movement that sometimes spills out into the mainstream and gets onto the TV or cinema screen. Even better, there are sometimes weird crossovers between speculative creatures and reality. Memo Kosemen’s 2013 book All Your Yesterdays features John Mezsaros’s hypothetical suspension-feeding anomalocarid Ceticaris. As some of you will know, this imaginary creature presaged the discovery of the genuine Early Cambrian anomalocarid Tamisiocaris, described in Nature in March 2014 by Vinther et al. (2014) and included within the newly recognised clade Cetiocaridae. The latter group was named specifically with reference to Mezsaros’s invention.

At left: the recently discovered Tamisiocaris. At right: the speculative Ceticaris.

One person above all others can be regarded as the ‘parent’ of the Speculative Zoology Movement, his several books and innumerable ideas inspiring virtually everything that’s appeared since. I refer of course to writer, artist, editor, consultant and visionary Dougal Dixon, author of a huge number of books and winner of an intimidating number of awards relating to educational journalism and authorship. Dougal has been the go-to person for speculative zoology ever since the 1981 publication of his famous, beautifully illustrated book After Man (Dixon 1981). This was followed by The New Dinosaurs (Dixon 1988), a book that told the story of a parallel Earth where the end-Cretaceous extinction event never occurred, and Man After Man (Dixon 1990), a fantastic and slightly disturbing look at a possible future for humankind. Dougal was also substantially involved in the TV series The Future Is Wild and wrote the accompanying book (Dixon & Adams 2004). And then there’s Greenworld (Dixon 2010), on which more below.

Montage featuring the better known of Dougal Dixon's volumes on speculative zoology. All are still available for purchase (links below).

Dougal was born in Scotland but lives here in southern England. We’ve met on numerous occasions and I’ve rarely failed to pester him with questions about After Man and his various other projects. And so it recently occurred to me that I really should take advantage of this privileged position. Back in August 2013, Dougal kindly agreed to be interviewed exclusively for Tet Zoo. As you’ll see below, we covered the back-story to After Man, discussed the inspirations behind certain of his creatures and the way the accompanying artwork came to be, and also spoke about projects that haven’t yet become that well known in Europe or the Americas.

Anyway, without further ado…

Darren: First of all, do you realise how important and inspiration, how loved and cherished, the ‘After’ trilogy has been?

Dougal: Certainly. I get emails from established, professional people in the world of biology and palaeontology who say that my work inspired them 30 years ago. Some of these people were amateurs or beginners when they read the books.

Darren: Do you follow the speculative zoology movement – are you aware of such things as SpecWorld (the Speculative Dinosaur Project) or the future creatures in Primeval?

Montage of images from The Speculative Dinosaur Project, a world-building fantasy exercise unashamedly inspired by Dougal Dixon's New Dinosaur project. Numerous authors and artists contributed to TSDP.

Dougal: I have of course seen Primeval.

Darren: I always thought the Future Predator was inspired by your flightless bats (especially by the Night stalker of After Man)….

Dougal: Oh yes, I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. I’ve been told that Tim Haines has a copy of After Man on his bookshelf.

Darren: Right. I asked him quite a few times about that (I worked at Impossible Pictures for a while a few years back) and he always cleverly evaded me. Moving on… can you remember (this is going back a long way!) what the original inspiration was for After Man?

Dougal: As a child I was always struck by The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells, in particular by the part at the end where he goes to the far future and everything has changed: there are the giant crabs and so on. I was always artistic as a kid. I remember at the age of 8 or 10 years old, drawing comic strips, and one of them was actually my own retelling of The Time Machine. I had fun creating my own future creatures that had evolved from those of the modern day, featured there in the background.

Darren: [incredulously] You came up with that stuff as a kid?

Giant flightless penguins of After Man: the mysticete-like Vortex, and dolphin-like Porpin. Image by Diz Wallis, from Dixon (1981).

Dougal: Well, yeah, not that there was any scientific point to it: it was just the background to the story. The next stage really – I was a teenager, so we’re in the 1960s now – would be when I was influenced by the conservationist movement that became important at the time. I remember in particular the ‘Save the tiger’ campaign. I was watching a TV programme about tiger conservation with my Dad, he turned to me and said “Why save the tiger? The tiger will become extinct. Everything becomes extinct, other things evolve”. And I thought – that’s a very unhelpful attitude, but it basically started me on a learning curve about evolution, and I essentially realised that he was right: everything does become extinct, other organisms develop to take their place. And I began to think to myself – just as idle musings – if things do become extinct, what evolves to take their place? Move on now to the late 1970s, I met a friend of mine I hadn’t seen from a long time and he was wearing a ‘Save the Whale’ badge. Well, that sparked off the whole idea again. I thought to myself: suppose the whale does become extinct, what might evolve to take its place? That, of course, is where the whole idea of the giant, whale-like penguins of After Man came from.

Darren: The Vortex.

Dougal: Ah yes, you remember the name, I’m impressed. A couple of weeks later, I thought: I could use this. I could devise a popular-level book on evolution, but a book that did something quite different. Other popular-level books used evolution to tell the story of the past, but nobody had taken the whole process – the observable trends – and projected them into the future. I thought: I could do this. At this time, I was working in publishing – I was involved in encyclopedias – and I knew how to present a crazy idea to a publisher with a likelihood of being taken seriously. So I decided to create illustrated spreads, dummy text and so on… I took the idea to publishers the next time I was in London, and the rest is history.

Montage of creatures from After Man (Slobber, Giantala, Great raboon, Zarander, and Gigantelope); image by Darren Naish, colouring by Rebecca Groom.

Darren: So, obviously the concept of After Man was a great idea that you’d had for a long time, but they (= the publishers) got it straight away? They understand the concept of the book you were aiming to create?

Dougal: Yes, I was very excited about the project, and there were lots of ideas about how it could be tied in to broader efforts concerning publicity. I was told by the publisher that a science-based radio programme on Radio 4 would be interested in covering the story behind the book, and that it would be Barry Cox reviewing it [Prof. C. B. Cox, then of King’s College London]. Well, when the review happened, let’s just say that it was a total demolition job. Cox hated it. And I thought… well, that’s it, I gave it my best shot. However, as other reviews began to roll in, things changed – certainly, the review in New Scientist changed the very low opinion I had of myself. BBC Wildlife and the Smithsonian’s magazine, they also did much to enhance the book’s credibility, and I also had publicity tours both in the UK and the USA.

Darren: It must have been very exciting. So far as I know, this was your first ‘big thing’.

Montage of creatures from The New Dinosaurs by Darren Naish, coloured by Ethan Kocak.

Dougal: Yes. It made me think: there’s a future in this. That is, in popular-level books that use fictitious examples of factual processes: there’s definitely room for a few more. And that’s why I came up with the idea for The New Dinosaurs. Again, I wanted to do the same sort of thing but, this time, I was aiming to create a popular-level book on zoogeography, using fictitious examples to show what the dinosaurs might perhaps be like if they hadn’t become extinct.

Darren: That raises a question I have about that book. Were you coming up with the speculative animals first, or were you led by the zoogeography angle?

Dougal: It would have been a bit of both, I think (hard to remember all the details after all this time, of course). On balance, it was the pushing of the zoogeography – a fairly unfamiliar aspect to so many people – that was the main impetus here. I often wonder, however, with these books whether the people that look at them simply see them as picture books of funny animals.

Darren: I think that’s definitely true, to a degree, for some people… but not for the ones that matter! Quite a few people have said that some of the ideas that feature in The New Dinosaurs presaged modern discoveries. You’ve got small, tree-climbing theropods, fuzzy integument on dinosaurs, striding, terrestrial pterosaurs…

Robert Bakker's new, sleek, dynamic dinosaurs ushered in a new age of how these animals might be visualised. Illustrations like this one from the 1970s influenced the animals of Dougal's The New Dinosaurs. Image (c) Robert T. Bakker.

Dougal: I remember at the time thinking that – to make this work, I’m going to have to embrace the extreme left-wing of vertebrate palaeontology, so that’s when I started reading work by Bakker and people like that, even though I was very much a traditionalist (in terms of dinosaurs) when I needed to be.

Darren: So you were definitely inspired by the controversial ideas of the Dinosaur Revolution during this project?

Dougal: Oh yes, very much.

Darren: There have been a couple of recent articles that have drawn attention to this. There’s an online article by Brian Switek where he said that things considered pretty crazy in The New Dinosaurs now appear on the ball, or at least pretty reasonable, in view of recent discoveries [that article is here].

Dougal: Well, I’ve got pterosaurs running around like giraffes!

The Gourmand (Ganeosaurus tardus), a giant, scavenging tyrannosaur from The New Dinosaurs. Illustration by Steve Holden (but based precisely on a Dougal Dixon original concept).

Darren: Exactly, yes. So the animals of The New Dinosaurs weren’t coincidental inventions: they were extrapolations based on what Bakker and Paul had said. Having said that, there are creatures in The New Dinosaurs that don’t look modern in terms of their anatomy and/or behaviour. There’s a specialised scavenging tyrannosaur – the Gourmand – for example. That’s not a Bakkerian dinosaur, it’s a Beverly Halstead dinosaur: it’s a giant, sluggish, carrion-eating tyrannosaur.

Dougal: Remember that the whole of The New Dinosaurs was very much a cognitive exercise in the same vein as After Man. I was interested in patterns, and pushing the patterns to an extreme. So, in the lineage leading up to the Gourmand, the idea is that we’re seeing a pattern in which the forelimbs become smaller and smaller and smaller, eventually disappearing.

Darren: If you were to do The New Dinosaurs today, would you do it any different?

Dougal: Yes I would. If you’re asking for specific examples – it’s difficult to know where to start…

The Cretaceous was a time of tremendous crocodyliform diversity - many of the lineages shown here inhabited Late Cretaceous South America (others are from Madagascar, Africa and Europe). How might Cenozoic history have been different if these groups persisted across the KPg boundary? Image by Darren Naish.

Darren: Absolutely. Obviously we have so many feathery theropods now they’ve even been described as mundane, plus now there are even filamentous structures on ornithischians. One of the things I like about the book is that it doesn’t just depict a ‘dinosaurs only’ world. There are mammals in there, there are big pterosaurs, some plesiosaurs. One of the things I think we’ve learnt about the Mesozoic that makes it more interesting is that it’s not just a ‘dinosaur theme park’: you’ve got these other groups, and since the book was published, since the 1990s, we’ve learnt that, for example, in Late Cretaceous South America we’ve got an enormous radiation of terrestrial or semi-terrestrial crocodyliforms living alongside theropods. Obviously crocs went on to have their own, rich Cenozoic history, but if you have more complex animal communities at the end of the Cretaceous, and then don’t have the end-Cretaceous event, you end up with a completely different Cenozoic and modern day biota, perhaps with these groups doing crazy things that we don’t see in our timeline.

Dougal: Indeed. Imagine then, that, with the formation of the South American landbridge, we’d see migration and diversification involving these animals as they moved north.

I first got to know (some of) the animals of The New Dinosaurs thanks both to David Lambert's Dinosaur Data Book (Lambert 1991), and a tiny one-paragraph 'review' published in BBC Wildlife (featuring Martin Knowelden's illustration of a Kloon).

Darren: Greg Paul did a review of The New Dinosaurs. It’s kind of critical, but it does basically say at the end “Well done, it takes balls to do something like this and I respect that”. It gives him an excuse to invent his own ‘modern’ non-bird dinosaurs, including weird new horned dinosaurs, cursorial tyrannosaurids…

Dougal: Yes, I’ve seen that illustration.

Dougal has made several large-scale models of theropods and other animals. This photo, taken in August 2013, shows Dougal talking with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls; Dougal's feathered oviraptorid model is at left. Photo by Darren Naish.

Darren: Going back to the subject of pitching these books to publishers in the first place, this would mean that it was your artwork, your illustrations, that led to these projects being a success. What I’m getting at here is that… thinking of, say, the future animals of After Man, we know that you invented these creatures as extrapolations based on extant animals. And I’ve seen your illustrations, the models you’ve made; I know you’re a very talented artist. So why, in these books, don’t we see your artwork, your illustrations? Instead we see depictions of these animals re-imagined by other artists (usually wildlife artists): people like Denys Ovenden, Philip Hood, those kind of people. Is the decision to use art by these people made by the publishers?

Photo - from the dustkjacket of After Man (Dixon 1981) - showing Dougal with his model of a Night stalker. Photo by Duncan McNicol.

Dougal: It is a publisher decision, yes. At the beginning of the production of After Man, I did produce detailed illustrations for the artists to follow… and the artists would ignore them, and draw any old science fiction-based creature. So I really did have to bring them to heel: I ended up producing draft line illustrations that were so detailed, they just needed to ink them in to produce the final products. It’s a shame. In reality, my stuff should have been in there, yes.

Darren: Where are all those illustrations of yours now? Do you still have them? Keeping in mind that the world of publishing is very different now thanks to self-publishing, ebooks and online pdfs and so on, I just wonder whether you’ve ever thought of getting them published?

Dougal: I do still have them. As for getting them published… I hadn’t thought of that, actually.

A never-before-seen Dougal Dixon original, showing a foraging gigantelope herd, and detailed profile drawing. Numerous such sketches exist, and remain unpublished. Image provided by Dougal Dixon, used with permission.

Dougal: So, we’ve spoken now about After Man, which is about future evolution, and The New Dinosaurs, which is about zoogeography. Then there’s Man After Man – a project I was never keen to be involved in, the title of which was originally being kept for a project of my own. And that project again involved fictitious examples of factual processes. I thought: right, let’s have the current world collapsing through overpopulation, famine and so on, and the idea that mankind needs to escape destruction. What does mankind do? Invents time travel and moves 50 million years into the future and sets up civilization then. Then what we’ll have is that all the man-made catastrophes, all the ecological disasters… they happen all over again. So I’ve got this world already created in After Man, and I’m now going to destroy it… this was going to be Man After Man. But, the name Man After Man was taken for that other disaster of a project.

Darren: So, Man After Man would originally have been near-future humanity’s impact on the far-future creatures of After Man?

My own personal copies of both volumes of Dougal Dixon's Greenworld, so far only available in Japanese.

Dougal: Yes. What I did with that concept, quite a few years previously, is create an alien biota for an Earth-type planet in a far solar system, but based on the same biochemical processes that created life today. It was actually done as a design exercise to show to the local science fiction group. I had the whole ecosystem worked out. I thought: I’m going to use the Man After Man scenario on that. I’m going to have colony ships going to this planet. This became a book, called Greenworld. The concept is that human colonists arrive in a pristine natural environment and immediately set about screwing it all up. The way it’s arranged is as a series of short stories that follow different generations of the same few families, thereby building up into a sort of dynastic epic, covering a thousand years of colonisation on this planet. The planet ends up as a smoking ruin, echoing the planet that was left behind at the start of the story. All of the illustrations are done by me, for a change (except for a couple of things that involved techniques that I’m unfamiliar with). The illustrations reflect the idea that the reader is basically eavesdropping on the lives of the characters of the book. We get to see excerpts from field guides, from herbals, and recipes, warning signs, bounty notices, advertisements, and all sorts of stuff like this – the idea being that, if you look at this combination of images, you build up an idea of what the biota is like.

We experience the flora and fauna of Greenworld through the literature, images and advertisements created by the people who now inhabit the same world. This poster - advertising an Artemis product - features a Strida... and I think a human as well. Image by Julius Csotonyi, from Dixon (2010).

Darren: This is great. And has this material been collated? I mean, are there plans to get it published?

Dougal: It has been published, as a book, but only in Japan. My stuff is extremely popular in Japan. In fact my name has a hell of a lot more clout in America and Japan than it does here in the UK.

Darren: I do recall seeing some of the images from Greenworld on TV. I remember in particular the Strida creatures.

Dougal: That’s right – this was before I put it together, so parts of the project appeared here and there. There was the BBC programme Natural History of an Alien

Darren: Yes. This featured the tripodal leaping thing and the giant conch thing?

Greenworld (Dixon 2010) is full of illustrations like this - posters, pages from field guides, adverts and so on. Stridas feature predominantly in several places.

Dougal: That’s right. How’s your Japanese?

Darren: [lame joke involving Kaiju names deleted]. Let’s talk about The Future is Wild. The book is co-authored with John Adams, is that right?

Dougal: Yes, Adams (now Joanna Adams) is a producer of television documentaries with a very good track record, who had always wanted to do a project based around the concept of evolution projected into the future. So, when this started crystallising in his mind about 15 years ago, he brought together a few consultants who might have ideas along these lines, like R. McNeill Alexander and Jack Cohen. And Jack said “Have you read After Man, by Dougal Dixon?”. So that’s where my name was mentioned, and hence I became part of the project. I was brought in as a consultant but, what with all these other consultants, my role evolved to become that of a designer, inventing the animals that had been suggested by this suite of consultants. I ended up designing all the animals to their briefs and passing along the designs to the animation studio. Since I’m an established writer, I also got to write the tie-in book. So I didn’t start any of this and was a mere hired hand in it.

Darren: Ah. My imagining was always that they’d seen After Man, thought “this would make a great TV series”, but then found that – due to copyright or some other reason – they were unable to use the original creatures and hence had to invent new ones, similar but slightly different.

Dougal: Well, there is a constraint of that sort. By that time, DreamWorks SKG had bought the rights to After Man and optioned it, so we could do nothing with the original animals meaning, indeed, that a whole new suite of beasts had to be invented.

Gannetwhales, from The Future Is Wild.

Darren: So we have giant flightless gannets instead of giant penguins…

Dougal: Exactly. They came up with giant penguins, but then the lawyers were — no no, you can’t!

Darren: Did anything ever come of the DreamWorks project?

Dougal: No. DreamWorks finally abandoned it and it was then picked up by Paramount. It’s still getting optioned; in fact the option’s up for renewal this month, I need to find out what’s going on there. [Banner below from The Future Is Wild website.]

Banner from The Future Is Wild website - definitely worth checking out if you're interested.

Darren: In the Earth of The Future is Wild, Amazonia is now a grassland, what’s currently the whole of Bangladesh is now flooded, forming the great Bengal Swamp…

Dougal: Yes, and this is completely a different tack from what I did in After Man. The geography had changed in After Man because of plate tectonics, but the various vegetation zones and biomes – I thought I’d keep them as close as possible to those of today, since the reader – being faced with all these new and terrible animals – will at least recognise the background.

Great blue windrunner, from (c) The Future Is Wild.

Darren: There are four-winged birds in The Future is Wild called windrunners, specialised for flight over the Himalayan Plateau.

Dougal: They were created by Phil Currie, the consultant providing ornithological expertise on the project. I was amazed: a palaeontologist coming up with speculative evolution, with something as radical as four-winged birds. I thought: let’s go for it, this is going to be spectacular.

We now know that four-winged feathered fliers existed in the past -- so could they exist in the future? This is a reconstruction of Microraptor, a Cretaceous dromaeosaurid from China. Image by Mick Ellison/AMNH.

Darren: I always wondered if it was a coincidence that the windrunner was invented at about the same time as Microraptor was announced.

Dougal: No, it [= the invention of the windrunner] was before that… unless Phil knew about Microraptor before that.

Darren: Well, my thinking was that windrunners were so weird, so revelatory – why would anyone create a four-winged bird? – that a coincidence here would be remarkable, but I’ve since remembered that there was this early 20th century concept of the Tetrapteryx. In other words, there were ideas about four-winged fliers long prior to the discovery of Microraptor.

Dougal: I should finish here by saying that Jo Adams and team were all fired up to work on a big screen version of The Future is Wild with Warner Bros (I think) and had raised the funding for the television series The Future is Wild 2. However, on the big screen side, Avatar had raised the bar so high that Warner Bros (I think) pulled out. And on the small screen side, Discovery Channel announced that they were going to stop doing documentaries; instead, they were going over to dancing chefs and celebrity idiots and so the funding for that collapsed. Not a good year!

Dixonian creatures as drawn by the fans. Clockwise from left: Lank by Babbletrish; grassland future human from Man After Man by Ethan Kocak; Nightstalker skeleton by anonymous artist (I found it online but haven't been able to identify the source); Lank and Kloon (with real-world pterosaurs) by Darren Naish.

Darren: Any future ideas? What’s next? You’ve spoken about Greenworld.

Dougal: Yes, an English language edition of that needs to appear.

Night stalker, one of the awesome creatures of the After Man pantheon. Image by Diz Wallis, from Dixon (1981).

Darren: After Man has been repackaged a few times – there are several different designs with different covers. I saw one recently with a Night stalker on the cover. Oh – any thoughts on the 2013 movie After Earth?

Dougal: I haven’t even seen it, but I’m told by people who have seen it that it has no connection whatsoever with After Man. In any case, it more or less sank without a trace.

So there we have it. I hope you enjoyed this transcribed interview, and I hope that it provided interesting – and new – background to Dougal’s several projects, all of which have been a major inspiration to so many of us. This interview wouldn’t have happened without Dougal’s co-operation, and I sincerely thank him for his patience, kindness, time and assistance.

Refs – -

Dixon, D. 1981. After Man: A Zoology of the Future. Granada, London.

- . 1988. The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution. Salem House, Topsfield (MA).

- . 1990. Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future. Blandford, London.

- . 2010. Greenworld (two volumes). Diamond, Tokyo.

- . & Adams, J. 2004. The Future Is Wild: A Natural History of the Future. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Lambert, D. 1991. Dinosaur Data Book. Facts on File, New York.

Vinther, J., Stein, M. Longrich, N. R. & Harper, D. A. T. 2014. A suspension-feeding anomalocarid from the Early Cambrian. Nature 507, 496-500.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Finback 8:18 am 04/4/2014

    In the hopes that Dougal reads this, I (and my age 9 and up self) would like to thank him so very much; his books were a treasure of my childhood, and I have derived great enjoyment over the years from them. I’ve lucked into several copies of After Man through doing charity work, and been able to pass them on to other people to share that same wonder.

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  2. 2. Finback 8:20 am 04/4/2014

    addendum: WOW, his own art is magnificent.
    (PhilipJFryShutUpAndTakeMyMoney.jpg would go here)
    I’d love to see a Kickstarter or similar to fund it!

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  3. 3. 9:13 am 04/4/2014

    “Darren: …You’ve spoken about Greenworld.”

    “Dougal: Yes, an English language edition of that needs to appear.”

    And I need to buy it!

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  4. 4. Jerzy v. 3.0. 9:56 am 04/4/2014

    Pity that Greenworld book is not in English.

    BTW, there are many sci-fi stories with some sort of speculative zoology. I remember some old story about time travel and ants…

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  5. 5. Jerzy v. 3.0. 10:05 am 04/4/2014

    BTW, such things can go to the big screen only when, besides great setting, have the other parts of a story: action and characters. So that is why Primeval and Gravity were ‘enriched’ with human conflicts into overall rather weak action movies.

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  6. 6. DavidMarjanovic 10:13 am 04/4/2014

    The system had logged me out. The good news: I logged in again without problems. The bad news: the computer didn’t remember me. Has the page changed again?

    As some of you will know, this imaginary creature presaged the discovery of the genuine Early Cambrian anomalocarid Tamisiocaris, described in Nature in March 2014 by Vinther et al. (2014) and included within the newly recognised clade Cetiocaridae. The latter group was named specifically with reference to Mezsaros’s invention.

    …Uh. Is this “Cetiocaridae” supposed to be a family? Because you can’t have a family with a fictitious type genus (let alone one that had an extra o inserted). I can’t access the paper right now, is having server errors.

    Numerous authors and artists contributed to TSDP.

    Don’t talk about Spec in the past tense! :-) The mailing list is active. Only uploading new stuff is constrained by the fact that some of us have too little time.

    It is a publisher decision, yes.

    Why do so many publishers keep making such mind-blowingly boneheaded decisions!?!

    The Gourmand (Ganeosaurus tardus), a giant, scavenging tyrannosaur from The New Dinosaurs.

    …I think it’s literally dislocating its jaws. Ouchie.

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  7. 7. Gigantala 11:10 am 04/4/2014

    Pity The Future Is Wild movie is canned. I’d love to see new concepts with the criticisms in mind. But then again the canadian animated tv series was atrocious, so…

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  8. 8. Talcott 11:43 am 04/4/2014

    I wanted to add my own thanks to Dougal as well. I remember checking “The New Dinosaurs” out from my elementary school library and devouring it. It (along with SimEarth) is how I learned about biomes, and how animals related to their environments. For years, knowing it was out of print, every used bookstore trip began with a search for “The New Dinosaurs.” I never did find it, but wound up receiving it as a completely unexpected (and amazingly thoughtful wedding present).

    I didn’t discover “After Man” until I was a bit older, but the *ordinariness* of it stood out and had a big impact on my art. The creatures were fascinating, and some were more out-there (especially the primates and bats), but most of them looked like something you would half expect to find on any walk through the woods. So much speculation (and, to be fair, so much actual nature) is flamboyant and dramatic, so it was eye-opening to see how powerful speculative creatures can be when they’re at their most believable.

    And while “Man After Man” didn’t have as dramatic of an impact on me creatively, it was one of the books I showed my wife on our first date. The fact that she was as fascinated by it as I was, was a pretty good sign for our future.

    I had never heard about “Greenworld” until today, but I hope there is an English translation soon. I would also happily chip in to any crowd-funded campaign for a book of original “After Man” art (if that’s something you’d want to pursue).

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  9. 9. Halbred 12:20 pm 04/4/2014

    I owe Dixon a massive debt; “The New Dinosaurs” was probably my favorite book for years and years. I also liked “After Man,” but, you know, stinkin’ mammals. I didn’t discover “Man After Man” until I was in my 20′s, and I found it fairly disturbing, but also wildly creative. I love all three books for different reasons.

    I’m truly flabbergasted that the “After Man” publisher vetoed his art–those Gigantelope pictures are SO MUCH BETTER than what ended up in the book. I really hope his illustrations are published.

    Anyone know anything about Wayne Douglas Barlowe’s allegations that Dixon lifted several of his illustrations for “Man After Man?”

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  10. 10. irenedelse 12:52 pm 04/4/2014

    I’ll add my own warm thanks to Dougal Dixon, and to Darren for the interview. I stumbled upon After Man at age twelve, in the local public library, and it was just mindblowing. I didn’t have access to a copy machine, so I spent days hand-tracing the maps and phylogenetic trees and some of the illustrations… I must still have them somewhere. *blush*

    It left me with the ambition of becoming both a biologist and a writer. The first didn’t happen, sadly, but I did make use of speculative zoology as a background of my own science fiction stories.

    Count me as one more person interested in an English language education of Gteenworld and willing to chip in!

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  11. 11. irenedelse 12:53 pm 04/4/2014

    Ack! “Greenworld”, of course.

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  12. 12. 2:52 pm 04/4/2014

    My memory is that the photo of him touching up a Nightstalker model is from the New Dinosaurs jacket, not the After Man jacket. I remember this because I got New Dinosaurs first and I had no idea what that was.

    (Not at home to check, unfortunately.)

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  13. 13. 5:11 pm 04/4/2014

    Those original gigantelope drawings are really good — a real pity they didn’t have him illustrate it.

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  14. 14. GrantHarding 6:27 pm 04/4/2014

    Great interview! I’d been eagerly awaiting this.

    If Man After Man wasn’t what Dixon wanted it to be, I wonder how it became the strange thing it is.

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  15. 15. naishd 5:55 am 04/5/2014

    Thanks for comments, I’m pleased the interview has been appreciated (I have lots more info from Dougal, but couldn’t feature all of it here). I don’t know why the decision was made to get other artists to illustrate Dougal’s animals.. I’ve been wondering if it’s something to do with publishers using in-house artists. Oh, the photo of Dougal with the model Night stalker appears on inside flap of the jacket of both After Man and The New Dinosaurs.

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  16. 16. irenedelse 7:31 am 04/5/2014

    Among the many authors who drew inspiration from Dixon’s books, I must mention science fiction writer Mary Doria Russell: in her 1996 novel The Sparrow, a fascinating story of first contact between humans and intelligent aliens, the two extraterrestrial species involved are based on the Coneater and Jinx from The New Dinosaurs, as Russell herself acknowledges in the postface to her novel.

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  17. 17. Torvosuchus 1:47 pm 04/5/2014

    After Man was my first exposure to the ultimate mortality of our own species, back when I was 12. It was a major epiphany, and one I struggled with for years after, but it was a vital influence on my personal development.

    And I’m, well, delighted to hear that The New Dinosaurs was primarily about zoogeography, because (after reading it as a kid) it did fire a deep and persistent interest in biogeography in me. I suspect all of my later world-building projects owe something to TND.

    Ever since Natural History of an Alien (or Anatomy of an Alien, here in the States), I tried to hunt for the source material. The show only aired twice that I remember, and by the time I got internet access – years later – I couldn’t recall the book it was based on. I finally found that it was only in Japanese and I was immensely disappointed. It does sound rather more depressing than I had initially hoped, although no less significant an achievement for that. Either way, even the brief exposure from the TV version was a big foundational influence in my appreciation for speculative xenobiology, second only to Barlowe’s Expedition.

    Speaking of which, I second the desire to know more about Barlowe’s implication of plagiarism from his own “Future Man” project. Also interesting to see that Dixon himself considers Man After Man “a disaster.”

    . . . Man, I wish Dixon’s original sketches had been used . . . the gigantelope sketch has so much more vitality than the final illustration.

    Anyway, kudos all around.

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  18. 18. Stevo Darkly 9:30 pm 04/5/2014

    I also greatly enjoyed reading _After Man_ many years ago. I especially liked the evolved carnivorous rats …

    And count me among those who wish Dixon’s own illustrations had been used. I think many of the images used in the book look weirdly over-stylized or static. I understand that, in part, the illustrators were deliberately trying to mimic the styles of Audubon and other classic wildlife illustrators. However, I still prefer Dixon’s style. Perhaps Dixon’s creatures simply could not appear as lifelike and real in the mind’s eye of any other illustrator as they did in the mind of their creator, Dixon.

    Finally, I also hope that Dixon’s seriously considers publishing his original illustrations … perhaps in a work titled _The Beginnings of ‘After Man’_? Or possibly _The Origins of ‘After Man’_? Or even _Before ‘After Man’_? (I hereby grant him permission to use any of those. :)

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  19. 19. Stevo Darkly 9:40 pm 04/5/2014

    As for the Wayne Barlowe controversy … I don’t have it handy, but I own the book in which Barlowe claims that some of his sketches of future evolved humans were stolen by another party (unnamed, but the rumors fly), and used for another book, pre-empting Barlowe’s plans to do the same.

    I would be very curious to know what happened there. I find it hard to believe that a person with Dixon’s imagination and background would ever even feel the temptation to appropriate someone else’s imaginings of future evolved life. Perhaps there was some great misunderstanding? Perhaps any resemblances were coincidence? (Convergent speculations on evolution?) Maybe a publisher goofed up and thought they had the rights to Barlowe’s concepts, and pushed Dixon to incorporate them? Maybe Barlowe wasn’t even speaking of Dixon? (Rumors can be wrong.)

    Whatever the truth is, it is likely to be embarrassing to someone, and even if Dixon knows what the truth is, he may not be at liberty to say. I find it intriguing but inconclusive that Dixon seems to indicate that he was not very happy with the way the _Man After Man_ book came about, and that it was not according to his original plans.

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  20. 20. Jerzy v. 3.0. 8:06 am 04/6/2014

    OK, one simply cannot ignore it further. Darren simply must start a project called “All your tomorrows” which published Mr Dixon’s original concept drawings together with the visions of future fauna and flora imagined by his readers.

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  21. 21. Jerzy v. 3.0. 8:07 am 04/6/2014


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  22. 22. naishd 12:18 pm 04/6/2014

    Dougal and I did discuss the background to Man After Man at length. All I will say is that my suspicions about what happened were accurate.

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  23. 23. irenedelse 3:33 pm 04/6/2014

    Jerzy #20:
    That’s a GREAT idea. And in addition to showcasing Dixon’s art and its influence, it could be a way to explore further the world of After Man… And variations on the same theme. Alternate futures?
    What with this All Our Tomorrows and an English language version of Greenworld, this is turning into a pile of projects.

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  24. 24. WarrenJB 6:18 pm 04/6/2014

    Chalk another one influenced by Dougal Dixon, but without ever having read one of his books. I still remember when Man After Man (and After Man?) was featured on whatever Saturday-morning show ITV did in the early ’90′s, and the illustration of the yeti-like human attacked by the smaller, carnivorous guy. Weird, unsettling, and yet stuck a burgeoning interest in speczoo and creature design in my head.
    (Saw some of The New Dinosaurs in a magazine a few years later, and I’ve seen bits ad pieces online, but still don’t have a copy of any of the three books!)

    Also, chalk another one who wants to see those original illustrations! The lineart gigantelopes look more animated and realistic than the full-colour one that made it into the book.

    #20 Dibs on the giant croc-convergent merganser.

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  25. 25. Jerzy v. 3.0. 6:23 am 04/7/2014

    I think strength of these books is teaching laws of evolution on a fictional example – how ecological niches are conserved, how developmental constraints work, eg. limbs are adapted to new uses, but the body plan is conserved etc.

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  26. 26. DavidMarjanovic 6:55 am 04/7/2014

    how ecological niches are conserved

    They’re not really. But when something can evolve into an empty niche, it does, because there’s no competition there.

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  27. 27. Stevo Darkly 9:14 am 04/7/2014

    I shouldn’t SPECULATE any further about the _Man After Man_ situation, especially since no one can confirm anything, but I can’t help doing it one more time. Possibly:

    1) In the beginning, Dixon was perhaps working with a publisher in pursuit of his original vision for _Man After Man_.

    2) The publisher somehow got possession of Barlowe’s sketches of future humans, and at least believed that this possession was rightful.

    3) Possibly the publisher then asked Dixon to undertake a change of direction, and incorporate Barlowe’s concepts in the book … or else no book, with all of Dixon’s effort up to that point going to waste. Basically, not too different from the dumb publisher’s decision that affected _After Man_, in which the publisher used Dixon’s writing but forced him to incorporate other artists’ illustrations. In this case the publisher might have decided to use Barlowe’s concepts, but have Dixon do the writing.

    IF this is what may have happened, it also seems that Barlowe’s assent to this course of action, and the use of his sketches, was not clearly obtained. And Dixon, naturally, was not made aware that Barlowe had not clearly agreed to the use of his concepts (until, perhaps, after the book had been published and it was too late.)

    END SPECULATION. I’ll shut up about this now.

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  28. 28. DavidMarjanovic 11:15 am 04/7/2014

    I finally got the paper on Tamisiocaris. Turns out what I needed wasn’t the paper, but the supplementary information, which says on its first page:

    I. Taxonomy
    Dinocarida Collins 1996
    Radiodonta Collins 1996
    Anomalocarida new taxon
    Anomalocarididae Raymond 1935 |Cetiocaridae new taxon
    | Hurdiidae new taxon| Amplectobeluidae new taxon

    The taxonomy advocated here uses a phylogenetic taxonomy (De Queiroz & Gauthier 1992) rather than a Linnean hierarchy, i.e. names are defined by reference to nodes and branches on a phylogeny, which are then identified with specifier taxa (De Queiroz & Gauthier 1990). This construction results in a taxonomy that is robust with respect to changes in phylogenetic hypotheses, i.e. despite changes in tree topology the clades defined in this manner will remain valid. For the four families, four specifier taxa are used for each definition. This means that there will always be four families regardless of any changes in our hypotheses of the relationships of these four species. The phylogenetic nomenclature used here can be accommodated into a traditional, ranked (i.e. Linnean) hierarchy, but there is no requirement to do so. Diagnoses are not provided (or necessary) using this scheme; instead membership is determined by placement on the phylogeny.”

    Well, no, none of these names exist as far as the ICZN is concerned. Calling the clades these names denote “families” is therefore plain wrong, and I have to call the paper with its supplementary information a failure of peer review.

    Except for Cetiocaridae, the new names are hidden in the supplementary information, so they’re not even validly published. Cetiocaridae is mentioned in the paper but not given a type genus or a diagnosis (and it probably doesn’t help that it’s not explicitly called a family there either), so it’s a complete and utter nomen nudum.

    Second page:

    “The family Anomalocarididae is defined as the stem-based taxon including all taxa closer to Anomalocaris canadensis than to Amplectobelua symbrachiata,
    Tamisiocaris borealis, or Hurdia victoria.
    The family Hurdiidae is defined as the stem-based taxon including all taxa closer to Hurdia victoria than to Anomalocaris canadensis, Amplectobelua symbrachiata, or Tamisiocaris borealis.
    The family Cetiocaridae (etymology: Latin cetus, whale + caris, shrimp )is defined as the stem-based taxon including all taxa closer to Tamisiocaris borealis than to Anomalocaris canadensis, Amplectobelua symbrachiata, or Hurdia victoria. The name is inspired from the hypothetical clade of filter feeding anomalocarids envisaged by the palaeoartist John Meszaros.
    The family Amplectobeluidae is defined as the stem-based taxon including all taxa closer to Amplectobelua symbrachiata than to Anomalocaris canadensis, Tamisiocaris borealis, or Hurdia victoria.”

    Even phylogenetic nomenclature isn’t quite happy with this. Names, not taxa, are defined – taxa exist and are discovered, and then we name them. “Stem-based” was updated to “branch-based” years ago and is now becoming “maximum”… why don’t they cite anything more recent than 1992…

    Nowhere is there a type genus or a diagnosis. Even if the supp. inf. were validly published, which it’s not, all claims to compatibility with the ICZN would therefore still be void.

    I’m happy that the phylogenetic analysis used ordered characters. :-)

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  29. 29. DavidMarjanovic 11:17 am 04/7/2014

    Technically, Vinther et al. don’t claim compatibility with the ICZN. But there’s not going to be “a traditional, ranked (i.e. Linnean) hierarchy” in animal taxonomy that doesn’t at least try to follow the ICZN.

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  30. 30. DavidMarjanovic 11:22 am 04/7/2014

    “This means that there will always be four families regardless of any changes in our hypotheses of the relationships of these four species.”

    Newly discovered species of anomalocaridans, however, may not belong to any of these families. There’s no way to partition a tree (as opposed to phylogenetic grass) into four mutually exclusive taxa whose names have branch-based definitions.

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  31. 31. irenedelse 1:54 pm 04/7/2014

    Part of series The Future is Wild is on YouTube, FYI. Though how legal that is, I wonder. It’s definitely a fascinating show, with great production values, but a word of warning for people with insects or spiders phobia! A lot of the speculation involves arthropod species…

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  32. 32. Finback 7:44 am 04/8/2014

    Jerzy, I would be surprised if Darren did an “All Your Tomorrows”, as it might be a little close to Memo Kosemen’s already existing “All Tomorrows”, on speculative human evolutions..

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  33. 33. Stevo Darkly 9:07 pm 04/8/2014

    Maybe the new variation could be published as “Other Tomorrows.”

    Although, yeah, it does seem like it might overlap too much with Memo’s work.

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  34. 34. Troodon 8:38 pm 07/22/2014

    When I first saw Dougal Dixon’s amazing speculative zoology books, I instantly became a fan of them. The creatures are as fantastic as they can possibly be, whilst remaining within the realm of biological plausibility. My favorite creatures are the Night Stalker, the Raboon, and the Predator Rats.

    Link to this

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