Rivers’ World

According to Sir Reginald Rivers, the co-owner of Rivers and Aiyar Time Safaris, hunting dinosaurs wasn’t too dangerous. “Especially if you made all your moves smoothly and correctly, and didn’t commit foolish mistakes like catching a twig in the mechanism of your gun, or stepping on the tail of a sleeping carnosaur or climbing a small tree that a dinosaur could pluck you out of.” 

It wasn’t dinosaurs and other animals that caused problems during time travel safaris. It was the human beings. Said L. Sprague de Camp, the author of Rivers of Time: “Tyrannosaurus rex was a mere inconvenience compared to the assortment of Homo sapiens traipsing through the Mesozoic era.”  

To prove his point, de Camp sat down and wrote nine time travel adventures featuring dinosaurs and an assortment of idiots, including big-game hunters, animal-rights activists, millionaires, bankrupt millionaires, playboys, playgirls, scientists, college professors, journalists, artists, taxidermists, chefs, religious leaders and survivalists. 

Possibly the biggest idiot was Willow Lamar, an animal-rights activist affiliated with S.T.L.O. (Suffer the Little Ones). She joined the safari to protect dinosaurs from trophy hunters. Rivers had to remind her: “The beasts my clients hunt are all long extinct. Your efforts wouldn’t bring any dinosaurs or mastodons back to life.” She didn’t see it that way of course. “Killing for fun is a crime against the universe!” she snapped.

Another dumbass was Clifton Standish, a guy who wanted to return to the “caveman era” to hunt dinosaurs the way his ancestors did. The first day of the safari he showed up wearing nothing but a jock strap made of fur. 

A psychic once told Standish that he was a barbarian in an earlier life—and he fucking believed it. “I’m a barbarian at heart!” he said. “I’ve always wanted to roam the earth as a true barbarian should!” During the hunt he could be heard yelling “Yield thee, civilized degenerate weakling!”

First of all, cavemen and dinosaurs didn’t exist at the same time. Despite stories from comic books and movies, the two species lived in two separate prehistoric periods—they never crossed paths.

And secondly, the mystic-for-hire totally mislead Standish. “Maybe I ought to get in touch with that psychic who told Standish he’d been a barbarian in an earlier life,” mused Rivers. “Of course, if you believe in reincarnation, 50-odd centuries ago everybody was a barbarian, so that’s what you’d have had to be.”

The most compelling story in Rivers of Time is “The Big Splash.” On this particular safari, Reginald Rivers takes a bunch of scientists 65-million years into the past to the edge of the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction event (otherwise known as the K-T Event).

De Camp does a good job describing what it was like just before the earth was struck by a 10-km asteroid. The adventure ends in a flash, and the time travelers have to hustle to escape the oncoming big bang.  

But in a twist (there’s always a twist isn’t there?), a Stenonychosaurus leaps into the time machine at the very last moment. The “Steno,” being smarter than most reptiles, figured out a way to avoid the extinction event. And that, dear readers, was how the Steno eventually evolved into a dinosauroid, the reptilian equivalent of man. 

[Rivers of Time / By L. Sprague de Camp / First Printing: January 1993 / ISBN: 9780671721954]