31 May 2005

Back to the Cretaceous with Sam Magruder

The manuscript for this barely 100-page novella was found among the papers of the late paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984) some years after his death by his daughter Joan Simpson Burns, who had the fortunate insight to have it published (The Dechronization of Sam Magruder, St. Martin’s Press, 1996).

Sam Magruder is a 22nd century chronologist who, during an experimental mishap, gets transferred to the Cretaceous, where he arrives buck naked and hungry. Nevertheless, not only does Magruder end up surviving to a ripe old age among the dinosaurs, he even manages, in a rather clever way, to send messages back to the future.

Simpson, who made significant contributions to the evolutionary theory during his lifetime, further enlightens his story by occasional tid bits of evolutionary wisdom. One funny thing I noticed though, is that our hero, a scientist from 2162, still uses feet and miles as units of length. But then again, who knows what units they will actually be using 157 years from now.

There is also a witty introduction by Arthur C. Clarke, who picks the title “A Crusoe of the Cretaceous” for the story, and a long, but unmemorable afterword by the late Stephen J. Gould.

I recommend that you get a copy to read on your next long plane trip to......the Cretaceous (and why not?).

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