My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Michael Panush to talk about how the power of dinosaurs relates to Dinosaur Dust.
Hello there, my name is Michael Panush and my superpower — though this may seem odd — is dinosaurs. That doesn’t exactly make sense at first glance does it? Well, the great Jack Kirby created comic book lizard king Devil Dinosaur in 1978 and he’s been rampaging around the Marvel Universe ever since, so I’ll say that it counts. What exactly does my superpower entail? Well, I don’t have scales (or feathers), sharp teeth or hilariously tiny arms. What I do have is a deep and abiding love and fascination with dinosaurs, which led me to create the Jurassic Club series and its latest entry, Dinosaur Dust.
I’ve had this fascination with me since I was a little hatchling. Most kids are into dinos and I was no exception. I memorized their complicated names and looking back at home videos of my four-year-old self revealed me singing songs about triceratops to the camera. As I grew older, my love of dinosaurs waned, but never faded entirely. I took a class on basic paleontology in college, but the academic side of dinosaurs never really appealed to me. I’m not an expert in dinosaurs and I won’t pretend to be. Instead, I devoured dinos in popular culture, especially when they inhabited mysterious lost worlds. I started studying the Lost World genre, from the Pellucidar tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs to King Kong’s Skull Island and the first Lost World created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the novel of the same name. Naturally, this led to some interesting ideas.
What if a Lost World had actually been discovered in the Victorian Era, as is the case in these pulp stories? Most of them end with the heroes leaving the world in the Hollow Earth or the mysterious island and returning to civilization, but what if they stayed and settled? How would the civilized world of the past, with its imperialist ways, react to living dinosaurs? To answer that question, I created the Jurassic Club series. It’s an attempt to bring a modern perspective to these Lost World narratives and show how the racism, imperialism and cruelty of the past would affect a newly discovered prehistoric land.
That land is Acheron Island, a place with dinosaurs, mysterious ruins and pre-human natives called the Ape Men. The first novel, Dinosaur Jazz, explored the 1920s and told the story of Sir Edwin Crowe — a dinosaur hunter who must protect Acheron Island from a cruel warlord and a ruthless tycoon. Dinosaur Dust features the 1930s, the Great Depression and the rising conflict of WWII. Its hero is Norris Hall, a bank robber and Mob enforcer, who is dispatched on a mission: find a kidnapped movie star raptor stolen from Hollywood glamour by unknown thieves. Hall’s search of the dinosaur actor will send him to Los Angeles and then to Acheron Island itself, where he is pitted against Nazi agents for the future of the world.
The Jurassic Club gives me a chance to examine the world’s fascination with dinosaurs — and my own. I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think the fascination stems from the fact that these creatures have all the bizarre qualities of beasts out of fantasy — and yet they actually existed. Furthermore, dinosaurs have kooky appearances that no human mind could conjure up. Take a look at the therizinosaur, with its oversized claws, pot-belly and snaky neck, if you think I’m kidding. These beasts can inspire awe, fear and even laughter and that’s something I always try to reveal when they show up in my stories.
I do hope you give Dinosaur Dust a try. I’ve got big plans for the Jurassic Club and I look forward to putting my fascination with dinosaurs to use in several subsequent volumes that follow the history of Acheron Island down the decades. Check it out and enjoy the prehistoric thrills.
His books with Curiosity Quills include The Stein and Candle Detective Agency, Volume 1: American Nightmares, Volume 2: Cold Wars, and Volume 3: Red Reunion, all featuring a pair of occult detectives in the 1950s, Dinosaur Jazz– where The Great Gatsby meets Jurassic Park — a story about a Lost World battling against the forces of modernization; and El Mosaico, Volume 1: Scarred Souls and Volume 2: The Road to Hellfire, a Western about a bounty hunter whose body was assembled from the remains of dead Civil War soldiers and brought to life by mad science.