EP141: The Color of a Brontosaurus

By Paul E. Martens.
Read by Stephen Eley.
Closing Music: “Better” by Jonathan Coulton.
First appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Issue #29.

There was no doubt that the femur was that of a modern human. Not a proto-human, or some previously unknown dinosaur. Joel and Renee had arrived at the same answer. It was demonstrable, provable. When they finally did release news of the discovery, people might argue about it, but they’d be unable to refute it.

But how did they answer the next question? How did the bone come to be embedded in solid rock millions and millions of years before such a bone could have existed?

It had to be a time traveler. There was no other answer. Or was that just what he wanted to believe?

Rated PG. Contains some profanity and scientific politics.

Comments (29)

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  1. ComputerKing says:

    Interesting, another scientist named Stu. Doing things his bosses don’t want him to. Maube guys named Stu should avoid science, for the good of Humanity…

    And the ending was sweet, and cyclical. All in all it was enjoyable.

  2. Another good EP. This one has a classic scifi feel, with a scientist as the protagonist. I appreciate any story where you can see the ending coming, but it still has punch.

  3. epilonious says:

    I really enjoyed this story. I think the best part had to be all the strong minds and the varying reactions that occurred to explain a previously un-explainable occurrence.

    I also enjoyed the subtle themes of love and patience. It gave me warm fuzzies because it was more of an undercurrent that avoided being saccharine or smarmy.

  4. Samuel Tinianow says:

    I think this story really exemplifies everything that SF has gained–realistic human emotions and behaviors, and a little more literary subtlety–and, at the same time, everything it has kept–a basis in ideas that make us think about things in a different, albeit still rational, way. It makes me imagine the entire SF genre clicking its heels and exclaiming, “Still got it!”

  5. Lisa says:

    Really liked this one. I enjoyed the second listen even better–hearing all the red herrings that ended up being true. The dialog was excellent and the love story was refreshingly healthy and positive.

    Would have liked to have a little more physical description and more process to the other scientists judgments–the cultural short hand in having the woman go from a purple haired be-studded punkish type to a mousy brown haired creationist was a bit too pat given the high quality of the rest of the writing. Both she and the annoyo-boy felt they were just there to prove a point and be flung into the path of Stu–like the writer didn’t like being inside their heads enough to make them fully fleshed out and that’s a shame. I think would have made the story richer.

  6. wongman says:

    Very, VERY good !!
    I;m always a sucker of time trave + love stories; like “now+n, now-1”, “impossible dreams”…etc…

    Good work guys

  7. R.E.U. says:

    There is no such thing as a Brontosaurus anymore… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brontosaurus

    “Brontosaurus (pronounced /Àåbr…ínt…ôÀàs…îr…ôs/), meaning “thunder lizard” (from the Greek brontƒì/Œ≤œÅŒøŒΩœÑŒ∑ meaning ‘thunder’ and sauros/œÉŒ±œÖœÅŒøœÇ meaning ‘lizard’), is a deprecated genus of sauropod dinosaurs…. though it was recognized as a species of a previously-named genus, Apatosaurus, in 1903.”

    So if he went back he wouldn’t see one.

    I agree, yet another Stu as a scientist… but I haven’t seen many Stus as scientists…

    There is also 26:44-27:04 there is a sound of a plane or something in the background.

    Other than that I like this story, it’s well done.

  8. Tony Frazier says:

    As a fan of Robert Bakker, though (who still uses the term “brontosaurus” and argues against the classification change that eliminated it), Stu would refer to brontosaurs as exactly that.

    I liked the story, though I saw the general shape of the ending coming. Not the final twist, though. A nice little tweak right at the end.

  9. Jon Hook says:

    Really good story. I’m a huge fan of time travel stories, and this one didn’t disappoint.

    It was great to experience the original broadcast of this story; I will now return to November 19, 2023.

  10. Diogenes says:

    Cute story. I liked it. I liked the subtle way of dealing with people’s response to evidence that conflicts with their “closely held beliefs.” I have to wonder what scientists / people nowadays would do if confronted by that kind of evidence. Change their belief structure? Suppress it and live a lie? Or commit the rest of their lives to looking for the answer?

    Looking at the debate with an open / critical mind, BOTH sides seem to spew forth more dogma than open minded science. And few are brave enough to open their minds and honestly explore the thinking of the other side. (Which is what true science is about – looking at both sides.)

    The mantra is, “But the Great Politically Correct Ones say that man in the center of the universe. If you voice disagreement, you must be lying.” True now and in Galileo’s time.

    Perhaps the truth of origin is something completely different. Like Douglass Adams suggested – the universe is something accidentally sneezed out of the nose of an intelligent being.

    The sound at 26:44 was that of a Brontosaurus (a rose by any other name is still a rose) stepping on a human or a time machine whizzing by.

  11. Morrow says:

    I like this one!
    Time Travel as a sub-genre of SciFi has all ways been my favorite.

    The whole dinosaur/paleontologist tie in added something I’ve not seen before in a time travel story. And of course the idea that a time traveler falling in love with a paleontologist in the very
    era that she has come to study that was a good plot device to add.

    What makes me go “Hum?”
    She knew already that her son would be the one to make the time travel device. That seems a bit on the paradoxical side, if not a self fulfilling prophecy.

  12. R.E.U. says:

    “As a fan of Robert Bakker, though (who still uses the term ‚Äúbrontosaurus‚Äù and argues against the classification change that eliminated it), Stu would refer to brontosaurs as exactly that.”

    Still stands that they had the wrong head for the animal…

    “To add insult to injury, the poor Brontosaurus not only got a name change, but it was discovered that he had the wrong head, too. One item that was not found in the excavation with Marsh’s Yale skeleton was a skull. Marsh mounted a head found at a different location to complete the exhibit. For many years scientists suspected that Marsh had gotten the wrong skull, but it wasn’t until 1970 that two scientists, John McIntosh from Wesleyan University and David Berman of the Carnegie Museum, proved it. The head that Marsh had mounted was from another sauropod named Camarasaurus. The proper Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus skull actually had a slightly longer snout and looked a lot like the skull of another sauropod called Diplodocus.”

  13. Robert says:

    It amazes me how much time can be lost trying to go back in it.

    Good story thought, I’m glad it ended the way it did.

  14. Tim White says:

    w00t. More like this, please. 😀

  15. Nanun says:

    Basically, this story is amazing.
    The characters are amazing.
    The “plot” is amazing.
    The reading was amazing.

    Let me put it this way, when the story ended, I did a “happy dance” because I loved it so much. 😀

  16. Nanun says:

    In response to Lisa’s comment,

    I think the character’s reaction to the discovery was very much so a side issue to the rider. I think the character who goes changes into the biblical scientist would be a difficult character to analyze, and would take the story off into an unneeded tangent.
    She changed into a conservative and the other guy went nuts because of the femur. Stu became obsessed with time travel.
    The story was about Stu, the other two characters were like light decorative border around a wedding invitation. Nice, complementary, bring out the purpose of the invitation not the art.

    I don’t know, it just seems like this story is a elegant woman. She shows just enough skin.

  17. Nanun says:

    Pretend I made no spelling or grammatical errors in my last post.
    I should not have written any of this at 1:35 am.

  18. Josh says:

    I liked the story, but I sort of groaned when it was revealed the wife was a time traveller. I thought the story was really about Stu’s obsession about finding a time traveller – for him to do so seemed a bit like wish fulfillment. But in the end, it worked because, despite the revelation, his obsession continued and was never fulfilled. If he had ended up going back in time, it would’ve just seemed hacky.

    I also found the transformation of the female paleontologist to be a weak point of the story. Considering the overall lack of physical description, her piercing and purple hair stood out like a sore thumb, existing only so they could be changed to signal not-so-subtle character transformation.

  19. I thought this was a fun story, even if I figured out the source of the femur about five minutes into it, although how it got there was not what I expected.

    I did feel that the “guess what, I’m really a time traveler!” thing is a bit hackeneyed, but it also lent to the feeling that this story was truly classic. In any case it was excusable due to the overall quality of the tale.

    I generally prefer my sci-fi a bit darker and a bit funnier, but I still really enjoyed this one.

  20. Chainring says:

    I second Void’s sentiment that the major plot elements of the source of the femur and the wife of the time traveler were predictable and overdone. However, my biggest beef was with the fact that, for being scientists, they all were awfully quick to jump to (and unwilling to be swayed from) their initial assumptions regarding the origin of the femur. One says “time traveler!”, the next says “creationism!”, the third says “neither!”; but none of the three reconsider their positions for a moment. Aren’t scientists supposed to be more rational than latching on to the first idea that pops into their heads?

  21. Samuel Tinianow says:

    Chainring: “Aren’t scientists supposed to be more rational than latching on to the first idea that pops into their heads?”

    Yes, but a lot of people are supposed to be a lot of things, and momentous events–especially ones that are seemingly impossible–have ways of reaching into the psyche much deeper than a Ph.D does. That’s not to say that they make everyone leap out of their skin and abandon their previous modes of thought altogether; it’s just that being a scientist isn’t a vaccine against human irrationality.

  22. kory says:

    I kept expecting him to go back in time and meat Seth, canes brother Not Harwood chasing dinos

  23. Peter says:

    I enjoyed this story, however I found it extremely predictable. It wasn’t too long before I figured out that his wife was the time traveller. The bone being his was obvious from the start.

    The same idea was used in Michael Crichton’s “Timeline” where the characters dig up a sarcophagus type thing from the middle ages of a man missing an ear. Of course this later turns out to be the remalns of the guy who dug it up.

    I guess if there’s one thing about the time/space continium, it isn’t without it’s sense of irony.

  24. Tazo says:

    My main problem with the story was the very ending. Once I got past the initial premise of scientists with outlandish, unreasonable theories, it was quite enjoyable. But the behavior of the son didn’t sit very well with me.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s my own slightly dysfunctional upbringing, but it really kind of bothered me that Stu’s son apparently spent all of his life obsessive trying to fulfill his father dreams. I mean, to me it doesn’t sound like a very healthy relationship if his driving force in life is “fulfill my father’s (kind of crazy sounding) dreams and wishes”.

  25. Shoshannah says:

    Josh- please get out of my head!
    You wrote above:
    “I liked the story, but I sort of groaned when it was revealed the wife was a time traveller. I thought the story was really about Stu‚Äôs obsession about finding a time traveller – for him to do so seemed a bit like wish fulfillment. But in the end, it worked because, despite the revelation, his obsession continued and was never fulfilled. If he had ended up going back in time, it would‚Äôve just seemed hacky.”

    My thoughts exactly!

  26. Motti says:

    Most of what I wanted to say has been pre-said (that’s what happens when you come late to the party I guess).

    I enjoyed this story a lot, although I too figured the wife as the time traveler early on, the origins of the femur was a nice twist. I kept thinking “he’s trying to fool me into thinking the femur is Stu’s but it can’t be” and then it all clicked.

    As time travel stories go this is no “All you zombies” but most of it works and it’s lots of fun, thanks.

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  28. scatterbrain says:

    Just that little cliched.

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