The Bones of Old Monsters


Soon, if your pick your way past the threshing equipment, the stuffed downland wildlife and the mountain of Thomas Hardy exhibits in Dorset’s county museum, you’ll find a fitting neighbour for the Ooser.  You may have heard on the news about the gargantuan sea monster that’s been newly discovered off the coast down there.  Already palaeontologists are speculating that it’s the biggest ocean predator to have ever swum in our planet’s waters. 

I am a self-confessed monster addict.  Normally I prefer the smaller and subtler kinds, but this one found in my home soil got me thoroughly excited.  Palaeontology is not a bad metaphor for the writing process: you find a lump of something, a mere hint of something, then you dig and brush away for a long, long time in the hope of uncovering skeletons that are larger and more meaningful.  I think that’s a part of why I like these kinds of discoveries so much, although I also like the way they remind us what tiny blips our lives are in the grand old march of time.  It is a relief when the bones of old monsters are unearthed, a much-needed reminder that existence is ancient and complicated and capable of surprising us time and time again.

I know, I know, maybe this is taking it all a bit too far.  It’s just a giant submarine crocodile from the dawn of time, and all that.  But another similarity writing has to palaeontology is the way it gets you covered in the dirt of your excavations.  You have to get heavily involved in the symbolism and imagery of your work to maintain your belief in it, and I’m still deep down in my own particular fossil pits, trying to get the next draft unearthed.  Apologies if I sound a bit unhinged while I’m down there.

If you missed the discovery, the Telegraph have a little video on their site where you can see the jawbones of the beast. 

Mr. Pliosaur, what big teeth you have…

Comments 1

  1. Eugenia wrote:

    Wonderful, and quite an apt metaphor, especially the “heavily involved” part. One hopes your fossil pit will undergo the brushing and uncovering process in due time.

    Posted 29 Oct 2009 at 1:28 pm