All Your Yesterdays

Posted on 24 September 2013

Back in January I bought a pretty fascinating book about dinosaurs, titled All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals. The book, by John Conway, C.M. Kosemen and Darren Naish, tackles the flesh and guts and biological possibilities of dinosaurs and extinct animals by boldly speculating beyond the strictly conservative ideas adhered to by the paleoart of old, which did not expound much beyond the skeletons dug out of the ground. Those skeletons once belonged to a dazzling array of animals. With each exciting discovery of feathered theropod dinosaurs in China and in new discoveries throughout the world, we now have to face the bracing reality that dinosaurs were much weirder than we previously imagined them to be. What was especially brilliant was how Conway, Kosemen and Naish presented the second half of the book. In this section, the authors "reconstructed" modern animals using only their skeletal diagrams. They took the stance of speculative observers looking at these bones without any information about lifestyles, color or soft tissues. The result is disturbing and funny, and solidifies their underlying challenge to our current notions of how prehistoric animals looked and behaved. I highly recommend it, not only for the beauty of the artwork within and the insights explored, but as a reminder that we all need to keep our eyes open to the amazing possibilities of life on Earth and its neverending ability to surprise us.

A sequel to All Yesterdays has just been published in ebook format. All Your Yesterdays: Extraordinary Visions of Extinct Life by a New Generation of Paleoartists is based on a compilation of entries the Irregular Books received when they held a contest for the first book asking people all over the world to illustrate speculative but plausible ideas about extinct animals. I'm just bummed I didn't submit to the contest. You can find both books here. - Matt

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