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Riding the Giganotosaur by Michael Swanwick

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“Riding the Giganotosaur” is a 1999 science fiction short story by Michael Swanwick. It is about a man who has his brain grafted onto a dinosaur’s, and then runs free and wild in the unspoiled Cretaceous period.


Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:
George is a wealthy retired businessman who blows his retirement account on the lifestyle he really wants – having his brain surgically implanted in a dinosaur! The story begins as George is recovering from the surgery and undergoing therapy as he learns how to move about in the Giganotosaur’s body. This all takes place at Old Patagonia Station – a research facility in the Cretaceous period. Once George is ready he is “released” into the wild where he is thoroughly enthralled with the freedom from humanity and the ability to act out his most base desires while hunting smaller animals. Sure, he has a few snags as he first tries to take on prey that is too big, but he quickly learns the ropes and comes to enjoy his new life. All is not supposed to be fun and games, however, and when the scientists remind him of his contract to help them with their research he suddenly changes his mind – something he will come to regret later on.

“I’m eager to begin therapy, Dr. Alvarez.”

“Good. Then let’s try standing up.”

This, however, was nowhere near so satisfactory. George lurched eagerly to his knees and promptly overbalanced. He leaned against the side of the barn, making the wood creak, to ease his descent to the straw-covered ground. “Damn!”

“Careful – you weigh over eight tons now. And your leg bones are hollow – like a bird’s. You could easily break one doing that.”

“I’ll remember.”

“Good. Now your problem is that you’re pushing it. It’s only your forebrain we’ve grafted atop the existing brain, remember, and it isn’t familiar with the body. However, the hindbrain knows what to do. All the motor skills are already fully functional. Don’t intellectualize. Just picture what you want. The original brain has no defenses against you; it accepts your thoughts as its own. What you have to do is learn to ride it.”

“I’ll try,” he said humbly.

My Two Cents:
Being a male, and a science fiction fan, how could I not love a story which involves time travel, brain surgery, blood lust and dino sex? My opinion may be a little bit colored here, since I am a huge Michael Swanwick fan, but still – this is a mind stretching read that is filled with lots of action and fun ideas!

• The good:

  • Kudos for a unique idea that I had never heard of before: human – dinosaur brain grafting. How fun would that be!
  • Another cool idea is explained when George tells the scientists how he got rich: lawsuit futures. (Shhh! Don’t tell any lawyers about this story!)

• The bad:

  • For all its cool ideas it still has a somewhat predictable plot: mean guy, something bad happens, he becomes a nice guy.
  • This is not a story for children – there is some strong language and detailed descriptions of tail-curling dinosaur sex!

Fact Sheet:
• Length: 20 pages

“Riding the Giganotosaur” garnered the following awards:

  • It placed 7th on the 2000 Asimov’s Reader Poll

Where you can find “Riding the Giganotosaur”:

  • This story first appeared in the October / November 1999 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
  • “Riding the Giganotosaur” is included in Michael Swanwick’s award winning short story collection Tales of Old Earth .
  • You can find an archived copy of this story at the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine.

Related Yet Still Interesting Links:

  • For an interesting interview, in which he discusses why he likes dinosaurs so much, check out SF Site’s Conversations with a Dark God: An Interview With Michael Swanwick.
  • To see an awesome picture of George the Giganotosaur while he is undergoing physical therapy check out artist Michael Dashow’s web site – be sure to scroll down to the very bottom. (This image is the one used as cover art for Tales of Old Earth.)

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you’ll probably like Scherzo with Tyrannosaur by Michael Swanwick – the Hugo award winning short story about the director of a dinosaur research center who holds a time-line-polluting fund raiser.