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Gastroliths as McGuffins, and Cabeza de Sauropod recipes.

Hey, all!

I can't tell you how grateful I am for the responses I've been getting to my questions so far. They've given me a lot of meat to work with.

I do feel that based on a number of comments I've been getting that I should clarify some of the plot elements I'm working with. There's a story concept that Alfred Hitchcock called a McGuffin -- it's an item or concept that is of value to a number of different characters, and it forms a focus for action in the course of the story. Ever see the Woody Allen movie What's Up Tiger Lily? In that film, the action centers around a recipe for egg salad. A map leading to a treasure chest or a lost mine? The crown jewels? A vial of medicine? The keys to the vault? They're all McGuffins, and what they are isn't as important as the fact that people will do things to get them.

In my script, the McGuffin is some sort of valuable mineral that's present in the gastroliths in at least one herd of seismosaurs. Until I find out about something that makes more sense, I'm using emeralds. (Any suggestions or ideas here are plenty welcome.)

The story is set in a version of the Morrison environment that is being used as a dumping ground for undesireables, the way that North America and Australia used to be used by the British Empire. Up the time stream, maybe fifty or seventy-five years from now, there is a market for gastroliths comparable to the market for quartz crystals that is associated with the New Age community. In other words, they aren't valuable for what they are; they're valuable for what people think about them. One minor plot detail involves the idea that when gastroliths are harvested, the harvest has to be filmed in order to verify their provenance. Film, not video -- video is too easy to fake. Undeveloped virgin film is regarded (perhaps wrongly) as verification. While it may be possible to find piles of disgorged gastroliths littering the landscape, they aren't given the same value. And it's not like the people who buy the gastroliths in order to partake of the energies of the sacred behemoths connect the little verification sticker with an animal being slaughtered and gutted...

Anyway, when my lead characters are harvesting from a Seismosaur, they find that it's been ingesting, as I said, emeralds. Or whatever more convincing alternative I'm presented with.

The assumption here is that the animals will tend to ingest particular gastroliths from particular locations in a habitual fashion -- that if one Seismosaur has been gulping down emeralds, that others in the herd will have done the same, and that they will tend to return to the source of the emeralds in order to get more. I'm also assuming that this will be part of their seasonal migration.

Since this is kind of a significant element of the plot, I'd appreciate any help you could give me in rationalizing the situation as well as telling me why it ain't feasible... but any thoughts on this will be more than welcome.

A minor joke that will probably only be appreciated by y'all is that in my scenario, sauropod heads are plenty tasty. (PETA ain't gonna be giving me any funding any time soon, I guess.) Think of the way the buffalo hunters would kill an animal and eat nothing but the tongue... I'm thinking that the way to cook a sauropod head would be to braise or barbecue it. Any thoughts on what kind of Morrison wood would be suitable for barbecue? Nobody's bragging about their ceder-smoked brisket. How would you cook a sauropod noggin? (Okay, now I'm getting silly. But still, cabeza de Seismosaur tacos with guacamole. Mmmm.... Make the new guy eat the eyes. Tell him it's a compliment; they're the best part.)

Also, I'm at the point where I have a rough treatment of the story. I'll have a more finished version by Wednesday, and a full treatment by next Wednesday. If anybody's interested, I'd be happy to send it to you.

Thanks again,

Sean Craven