About The Paleoneirologist’s Dreams

Dreams persist in the bones.

I’m proud that my story, The Paleoneirologist’s Dreams, was selected for publication in Tree and Stone’s inaugural issue. Tree and Stone is absolutely gorgeous and I hope it does well for its creator; as well as becoming a vibrant outlet for the fantasy and science fiction community.

I’ve been hooked on fossils ever since I was a child. That’s not particularly unusual, though I think most kids gravitate towards dinosaurs. And why not? Dinosaurs are awesome! The first fossil that I was enamored with, though? A trilobite! I can’t say for sure exactly how that happened, but I have some vague memory of a third grade teacher showing one to us in class.

Growing up in farmland Minnesota there wasn’t much to find in the way of fossils–we lived atop the detritus left after Ice Age glaciers retreated. I think the whole time I lived there I found one fossil. I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in Missouri, and just down the road from their house was a wide open rock cut. There I found a lot of fossils with my cousin, mostly crinoid rings, blastoids, and I think a snail. I still have a few of these stashed somewhere, I think–though I’ve lost track of the snail.

It wasn’t until I moved to North Alabama and bought property on the side of a Mississippian period limestone mountain (see the page header above!) that I finally found myself surrounded by fossils. All of them sea-dwelling creatures like horn corals, shells, and the ubiquitous crinoids. I also went on some field trips with friends and local organizations elsewhere in Alabama and collected leaf and bark prints, cephalopods, and more.

It was inevitable that a story would be written about fossils.

So how does one get from collecting fossils in my backyard to a story about an obsessed paleoneirologist?

Somewhere I learned that the study of dreams is called oneirology. And being very familiar with paleontology, it was a short step to slap paleo- onto oneirology and voilà! Paleoneirology, the scientific study of the Old Dreams.


The idea of acquiring traits or experiences from consuming that which possess them is hardly new. In this story the paleoneirologist literally consumes fossils to dream the life of that creature whose fossil survived to the present day. Not merely participating as a passive observer–documentary style–but viscerally experiencing the life of the creature. Being utterly immersed, becoming it; forgetting their own humanity and living the alien experience of a prehistoric creature.

It’s addicting. It becomes an obsession.

Rapacious, meat-lust hunger. Frenzied slaughter, predator and prey, the snapping of bones and the flood of blood gorges full in the throat. Insatiable.

Credit: Kathleen Jennings

The final locale, the “paleontological cathedral of dreams,” was inspired by this photo Australian author and illustrator Kathleen Jennings posted from the Oxford Natural History Museum in the UK. (How else would you describe this place? It has definitely earned a spot on my bucket list!)

What better setting and opportunity for a paleoneirologist to make their most audacious attempt at experiencing the ultimate Old Dreams?

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