Tuesday, May 24, 2011


So I've been working at a new job that's been testing my fragile sanity. I came home today determined to write something about being stupid, since lately that is how I feel and how I see the world and everything in it.


Too stupid to actually write anything, however, I just headed over to Creative Commons and did an image search for "stupid" hoping for whatever the opposite of inspiration is.

Most of the pictures were stupid. Except this random one of a badass toad, which is awesome.

He is barely tolerating you.
But there was one picture that caught my eye. Titled scary werewolf, it is of a fierce-looking, muscular werewolf strutting before an enormous moon under masses of stars. Ears back, eyes narrowed -- and is that steam rising from his nostrils? Wherever he's going, he's serious about it.

scary werewolf
The artist, Alexis Renee Mistrot, says of the work, "I think he came out pretty good exept for his back leg it's messed up. The stars were done with white out. Sorry, I was too lazy to go get the paint."

I don't know why scary werewolf showed up on my "stupid" search. It is not a stupid picture; it is vibrant and eye-catching. I was intrigued. Craptastic day forgotten, I searched for more information on this artist. My search led me to Mistrot's page on Elfwood, an online fantasy art community, and I browsed some of her collection -- 70 pictures!

What I found was an artist who finds joy in her work and her process. She describes herself as a self-taught artist who is "still learning and trying to get better," and who wants to use new techniques and ideas to the best of her ability. Her collection includes pictures that run the gamut from line drawings to full-color paintings to altered photographs, including Leopard with horns, Fly Rapunzel Fly!!!!, Elf Demon and he's a knight on the weekends, and A Unicorn!!.

Troll under a falling bridge

I love how Alexis talks about her work. Of Take my Hand, which depicts an elven woman in a purple dress turning back toward the watcher and offering a delicate hand, she says, "Just a cool idea I had one night. I like her hair!!!! That's a portal in front of her by the way!! Take her hand and see where it leads you!! :D" I'm like, "Yeah!! I like her hair, too!! Let's go!!!!!"

When was the last time you were so fearless or enthusiastic an artist? I've taken to sitting down to my work-in-progress with a labored sigh, eyeing it suspiciously as though it's actually brilliant but is holding out on me because it's a jerk.  But maybe it just needs to feel a few more exclamation points in my voice.

If you're interested in seeing more of Alexis's work, her collection can be found here: http://www.elfwood.com/~vivienrules

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Through the Eyes of a Child

Some of you may recognize the title of this post as a lyric from a song. If so, feel free to let me know what song it is since my internet research sessions always end up with me doing less "researching" and more "challenging Google Images to come up with increasingly outlandish results." (Note: According to Google, an image of "Fabio riding a unicorn" does not exist. I know in my heart this is a LIE.)

I know this lyric because it was the subject of one of my astronomy classes in college, taught by the unspeakably awesome Dr. Möbius, whose soothing German accent could turn utterly terrifying when he talked about DON'T PLAGIARIZE WE WILL FIND YOU. (He's now part of something called the Experimental Space Plasma Group. In comparison, I belong to the Dragon Age Alistair Fan Club.)

Not even an actual human being.
I loved astronomy and Dr. Möbius. But they totally messed with my head. For months afterwards, I became nervous walking outside at night because of the overwhelming feeling that I was looking out, not up. I made bargains with Gravity the way some people bargain with God -- "Please keep us all stuck to this crazy spinning space ball; I promise to be good and eat my beets and to remain in a state of constant velocity unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force!"

From our microbial perspective here on Earth, the universe is boundless. The prospect of floating unfettered into the black reaches of space is terrifying -- no rules, no geography, no limits. Also you would explode. We need limits. We need rules. We need terrain.

Sometimes, someone's imagination is described as "boundless" as well. It's an interesting word, meaning both "immense" and "unlimited," free of boundaries. I don't think anyone's imagination is truly boundless; we are all a product of our experiences and observations, and these inform how we think about the world as well as how we perceive it. But some people -- especially children -- seem to have fewer imaginative boundaries than the rest of us.

Thank God she doesn't have access to the Large Hadron Collider.
I often find myself fearing my stories in the same way I feared being propelled into the vastness of space. [Update: my father says you would probably explode if you were shot into space. Otherwise you would just "de-gas," your insides would "melt out of you," and your blood would bubble like it was boiling . . . blah blah "the bends" . . . blah blah (okay now I'm thinking about Radiohead) . . .]

There are rules in fiction -- boundaries -- and we need to understand why these rules are in place; they don't just materialize out of the ether. Continually switching tense, for instance, makes your story difficult to read. Giving two or more of your characters the same name might be confusing. Of course, for every rule there is someone famous who has broken it and a hundred undergrads who feel this gives them permission to break it, too.

"Punctuation isn't real, man."
But I know sometimes I subconsciously invent rules where none exist, or I adhere to rules that should, in a certain instance, be broken. I have boundaries in my head.

When I was in middle school, I wrote a story about the President of the United States locking himself in the bathroom and refusing to come out, and the government trying desperately to cover it up and finally resorting to installing a lookalike in the Oval Office to prevent the collapse of the nation. Would I write this story now? Maybe not. There are loads of flaws. Loads. Starting with my decision to spend three paragraphs describing the First Lady, who is fat and annoying, slowly being engulfed by a bean bag chair while the Head of the CIA looks on, refusing to help because she's so fat and annoying. I don't know if I would give myself permission to write this story now.

But when I was eleven? HELL YEAH, MORE BEAN BAG CHAIR!

This picture of Terry Pratchett was honestly one of the top results
for my Creative Commons search, "Bean Bag Chair."
What does it mean??
And what that says to me is that I am less of a writer now than when I was eleven. I think the best writers write the bean bag chair scene first and think about it later. Maybe it won't work, maybe none of the story will work, but let it exist. This is a lesson we can take from kids. Most kid writers (fewer nowadays, in my opinion, but that's another rant post) feel unfettered by rules.

My junior high students, unfettered by rules about not going through my purse.
Pictured: a bus ticket, toothpaste, and my driver's license.
This was brought home to me one summer when I was finishing the script to a musical called Shoes (a sequel to the story of Cinderella). My writing partner (he's a composer) and I ran a summer theater camp for about ten years, and each summer we'd write an original musical. Sometimes it would be more like an original most-of-a-musical when camp started.

I was having a problem with the ending of Shoes. The plot centers on a Royal Shoemaking Contest sponsored by Queen Cinderella (shoes are a big deal in her kingdom), and what I wanted to happen was for crazy old Mr. Twinkle and his living frog shoes to initially win the contest, but for him to be unable to fulfill his duties, thus making our heroine, who had gotten second place, the ultimate winner.

But how was I to get Mr. Twinkle out of the picture? I couldn't come up with a satisfactory solution. So I brought the issue before the cast, ages 7-16.

This was a non-issue to them. "He gets eaten by a dragon."

They had no boundaries. Never mind the fact that this would happen at the ball, or that there had previously been no mention of a dragon, or that how the heck are we going to stage that without scarring small children? It was simple, tidy, and apparently self-evident to anyone unencumbered by practicality or logic.

It was absolutely right.

The dragon now has a prominent role in the show, and one of the characters even sings a lullaby to him:

. . . No more knights to fight today,
No more maidens fair,
No pestilence and rank decay
To spread everywhere.
Dragon bedtime,
Calm your claws,
Lower your great head,
Later you may 
Maim again.
But now it's time for bed.

So my writing mission is to get rid of as many boundaries as I can. Sanity can come later, but I'm not going to let it onto my laptop at the expense of what is right.

Sometimes, a ravenous dragon is the answer.

You're welcome, literature.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The End (Happily Ever After vs. They All Died)

(Warning: This is a post about the endings of books.)

Recently, my brilliant and good-looking critique partners told me I had to kill off one of my main characters. But I want him to liiiiiiiiive! No, they said. That would not be a satisfying ending.

They are probably right, as they are about most things. But it's a tricky phrase, satisfying ending. It doesn't imply contentment or justice, only natural resolution. Surprising yet inevitable, as someone once said. (Probably John Gardiner. He said a lot of things in that book I didn't read because I thought Grendel was pretentious.)

So I've been mulling over this concept of "satisfying ending." Is an ending satisfying if you are bawling for an hour afterwards? Is it satisfying if it's ambiguous? If everything works out the way you want? If the good end happily and the bad unhappily, for that is what fiction means?

A satisfying ending has to be believable, we have to be invested in the characters, and there should be some kind of resolution of tension. And, just like in music, the greater the tension, the greater the payoff.

And we can wait. Sure we can. Frodo still hasn't thrown that damn ring into the volcano? Take your time. It's going to take 800 pages to kill Voldemort? No problem. Heck, in his opera Tristan und Isolde, Wagner makes us wait four hours to hear a freaking harmonic resolution, and we only get it when (SPOILER ALERT!) Isolde dies.

But once we get there, we've got to feel it. The ending is one of the most frustrating places to overly feel the writer's hand pushing the characters -- or our emotions -- around against their wills. We know when something is not right.

The End.
All of those elements -- believability, investment, natural resolution -- can be accomplished with vastly different types of endings. Since all of life's important lessons can be learned from Wayne's World, I thought I'd examine that film's three different endings as examples of popular conventions. Which team are you on?

For those of you who need a refresher, lovable teenagers(?) Wayne and Garth do a quirky, popular public access show out of Wayne's mom's basement. But sleazy TV exec Rob Lowe gets the rights and wants to exploit them! Also Wayne is in love with this super hot girl who's in a band named Crucial Taunt, and she starts making eyes at Rob Lowe.

Decisions, decisions.
Wayne and Garth and their friends hatch a plot to have Crucial Taunt perform and to bounce the signal directly into the limo of a passing record producer, Mr. Big, who will then presumably offer the band a sweet deal. And screw Rob Lowe! Somehow.

Luckily for our study, Wayne's World offers up three different endings.


The record exec sees the performance, but doesn't offer the band a contract. Super hot girl leaves Wayne for Rob Lowe, Wayne's psycho ex-girlfriend reveals she is pregnant, and somehow Wayne's house burns down. The movie ends with Wayne carrying Garth's charred body from the wreckage and shouting, "Why, God? Why??"

Sad endings work for me when I take away something from the story that is greater than just sadness. The cases that don't work for me aren't necessarily poorly written -- some of them are brilliant -- and I don't necessarily take away only sadness from them. But the sadness overshadows everything else, and for that reason, I don't think they help me grow. Think Charlotte's Web (sad, lovely, poignant, I'm never eating bacon again, okay I'm eating bacon again, life is hard but it's worth it, friends are important) versus Old Yeller (OMG HE JUST SHOT OLD YELLER).

I also think tragedy can be an easy substitute for depth.

"Jeez, all the leper orphans died? GIVE THIS AUTHOR A NEWBERY!"


(Known in Wayne's World as the Mega-Happy Ending.) Mr. Big offers Crucial Taunt a record deal, Rob Lowe gets a body cavity search and realizes there's more to life than being evil, and his henchman discovers that platonic love can exist between two grown men. The movie ends with Wayne asking, "Isn't it great to know we're all better people?" before everyone makes fish faces.

Happy endings work for me when I reeeeeeeally want them. I think the happy ending can be the most dangerous -- it has the potential to make a story forgettable because nothing lingers to bother us afterwards. I think the way to avoid this is to really make us work for our happy ending. For example, Jane Eyre grudgingly gives us our -- mostly -- happy ending only after terrible sorrow and drudgery and loss, and by the time we get there, it's just what we need.



Okay, in Wayne's World, the Scooby Doo ending is the ending where they rip off Rob Lowe's face to reveal Old Man Withers who runs the amusement park, "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for --" well, you know. It's absurd and insane.

In modern parlance, this might be known as the WTF Ending (not to be confused with the It Was All A Dream Ending, which should never, ever be employed under any circumstances unless you are Lewis Carroll. And even then, f@*k you, Lewis Carroll).

You heard me.
A good Scooby Doo ending -- that which appears to come out of left field -- remains surprising yet inevitable, with the reader completely wrapped up in the surprising part to the point where its inevitability can be completely obscured. What was your reaction the first time you read Salinger's "A Perfect Day For Bananafish"? Mine was this face: o.O

When I finished reading M. T. Anderson's Thirsty, I threw it across the room. It took me three days to figure out I didn't hate it; I loved it. Yet Thirsty contains possibly one of the least satisfying endings in YA lit, at least on first glance. But it holds up. Is it inevitable? Certainly. Is it surprising? At first. It's surprising the book ends when and how it does, although in retrospect, there is no other way for it to end. Quick, what's the last line of Thirsty? If you've read it, you just said that line out loud. That's an ending.

I would lump the Ambiguous Ending in with the Scooby Doo Ending -- it's kind of its chilled out older brother. I think the Twist Ending, however, is more of a subcategory.

Do you have a penchant for certain types of endings? Do you love crying for Wuthering Heights, skipping around the apartment for Sense and Sensibility, or pondering I Capture the Castle?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nissan 370z: Not Even In Rainbowland

I'm not a car fanatic, but I appreciate a Lotus or a Ferrari when I see one.

One car I'm particularly fond of is the Nissan 370z. I don't care that Nissan doesn't have a Formula 1 team, or that its cars aren't hand made by someone's Lederhosen-wearing grandfather. The 370z is very snazzy.  And hey, the boys at Top Gear even called it a "performance car bargain."

You know you love it.
My dad, however, is all about Porsche. For him, life comes in two categories: Porsche and Not Porsche.

We saw a 370z on the road the other day.
My Dad: Yeah, it's a cute little car. And the good thing is, they lose their value really quickly, so you could probably afford a second-hand one in a few years.
Me: How do you figure that? I can't even finance a gumball.
MD: Well, everything's possible in Happy Candy Cane Rainbowland.

This is what my father thinks the inside of my head looks like.
Me: Wait a minute . . . assuming I'll be living in Happy Candy Cane Rainbowland, why couldn't I afford a new 370z?
MD: You don't make enough. But maybe you can ride around with your unicorn friends. They can afford new cars.
Me: Why do my unicorn friends have money? Where do they work? They don't even have thumbs!
MD: They inherited their money.

And there you have it. No new Nissan for me. Unless I marry into a wealthy unicorn family.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Novels Are Hard

I wouldn't call myself a "novelist." For one thing, it's one of those words of which I have an irrational dislike. I picture novelists sitting around in damask lounges where I'm not allowed, smoking tiny cigarettes, wobbling their big brains at each other and speaking about Humanity without separating their teeth.

Probably a novelist.
But in the last few years, I've transitioned from writing plays to writing novels, and I have written 2 3/4 novels so far, which is about 2 1/4 more than most people, and considerably fewer than Terry Pratchett.

Unless you are Stephen Hawking, this man is smarter than both of us put together.
(Haha, I just pictured Stephen Hawking reading my blog.)
He would love it.
Anyway, the way you write a novel is you think of a character and then you have your character do something, usually while whining about it, for about two hundred pages. If you want to write a young adult novel, which is what I do, you do the same thing, except . . . well, you just kind of do the same thing. I don't know.

The thing is, what many critically-acclaimed novels have in common is that they "make sense." This is where I'm having trouble with my 3/4 novel right now. Oh, it was off to a great start. It was humming along. And then I reached the 3/4 mark, and something was wrong. Let me explain it using word puzzles.

I enjoy word puzzles. I get those variety packs with all the different kinds. Here's one I did this week, called "Simon Says." The idea is you write the phrase they tell you to, and then there are step by step instructions on how to change it a little at a time, and at the end, surprise! There's a different phrase there!

Here's the beginning:

So far, so good. Looks like we're on our way to turning "Spring Training" into "All Star Game," which is what happened about halfway through. But "All Star Game" was just a little divertissement in the middle. The real finale was to be "World Series," revealed at Step 18.

Only something went horribly, horribly wrong.

Here is my Step 18:

That's right. "LDORDWSURIFJ." This is not a case of "BORLD SERIES." This is a major issue. Something effed up went down somewhere, and I have no idea what it was. It could be one rogue letter, or an entire step missing, or I could have read one of the directions wrong. Anything. And from that moment, little things began to fall subtly out of place until the snowball effect reached its terrible pinnacle at Step 18.

That's what happens with novels sometimes. They say if your ending is wrong, it's not really your ending that's wrong, and that's probably true. But the gentle musing over whether a different angle or lighting might make your denoument more effective is completely different from the sickening feeling that arises from getting to the top of your dramatic arc to realize your story is running naked through the woods like a lunatic. At that point, there's nothing to do but go back and pick everything apart to find the rogue letter that will set it all right again.

As I sit here quietly weeping over my 3/4 novel, my only solace is that, probably, other writers have faced this kind of thing before. And maybe they didn't even have blogs. Maybe they just had to write whiny little notes on their parchment or whatever: Novels are hard.

Plays are hard, too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

You Have Enough Mustard

Naming the World

Earlier this spring, I was supposed to spend the weekend singing Bach's St. John Passion and hanging out with awesome writer friends. Instead, I decided to fall down the front steps of my house and spend the next two weeks in bed with a large, purple foot. In order to make this state of affairs seem more quaint and whimsical and less horrible, I named my condition Ballooneyfoot.

You don't want to see Ballooneyfoot.
Here's a picture of one time when I painted my toenails blue.
Suddenly, instead of an incapacitating injury, I had a quirky friend whose hijinks interrupted all my plans! I felt just like Bertie Wooster.

I think names are a good thing. One time there was a spider living under our couch. It was gray and hairy and had big, black eyes that it used for staring into your soul.

My parents' house, and now my apartment, are No Kill Zones, so there was never a question of squishing. The usual procedure is to Put It Out, but for some reason, this wasn't an option with this particular spider. Maybe we couldn't catch it. Maybe it was using mind-control. Maybe it was just too hard to slide the paper under the overturned glass while screaming uncontrollably. So you know what we did?

We named it.

We named it Wolfgang.

Problem solved. Who's afraid of Wolfgang? He's our fuzzy little friend! All of a sudden, it was no longer the Death of the World living under the couch. It was Wolfgang!

My family has a history of naming the world. Cars, farm implements, wild animals, tumors, humans with names already. A snowmobile from the 1970s that has a tendency to leave bits of itself on the trail at regular intervals might earn the name "Old Shed." Grandpa's large abscess might be called "Squish." I myself have been given several secondary names, including "The Load" (due to my financial contributions to the household) and "Adi Baba" (due to the fact that I steal food from my parents' refrigerator in the dead of night).

I think there's something insightful to be said about writing fiction here, but I used all my brainpower searching the internet for a picture of a spider that looks like Wolfgang while having no idea what kind of spider Wolfgang was. (Dear Google Images: He was NOT Spiderman, Evil Spiderman, Fanart Spiderman, a sports car, a cartoon, the Spiderman musical, a middle aged woman in a tiny spider outfit, a festering wound, Barack Obama, a bee, a goat, or this:

But thanks for the encouragement. I'll name you Google Friend.)

* * * Update * * *

So I remembered this anecdote, and I think it brings this post one step closer to saying something insightful about fiction:

One time my parents were at a dinner party, and one of the guests was late because he had hit a deer on the way over. He was okay. A child at the party asked him if the deer was okay. The deer was not okay. It was dead. The child asked what the deer's name had been, to which the man replied, "Um . . . Joe," while smirking. The child then went over to the family dog and said, very solemnly, "Joe is dead." Nobody was smirking after that.

Names matter.

Historical Fiction

"Writing fiction" is acceptable society talk for "making stuff up." Fiction writers are accountable to no man or god; they dictate all reality for their own made-up worlds, no justification necessary. It's awesome. Your protagonist is a ten year old Welsh boy with one leg? Great! Who raises a rare species of purple passenger pigeon in his basement? Cool! And his best friend is a girl with a photographic memory who believes she has the soul of Genghis Khan? Neato! And they frequently solve crimes that baffle the local police department? Tell me more! And it's the 1920s?



You're writing historical fiction.

Don't worry, it can happen to any of us. I accidentally wrote historical fiction for my creative thesis at grad school. (They were cool about it, though.) The thing is, once you get caught in the web of historical fiction, there are questions. It's like trying to explain to grandma that you're gay, or an atheist, or that you enjoy Casper Van Dien. Why? Why? WHY?

Why is your novel set in the 1920s? What's so special about the 1920s? Are the 1920s a fully-formed character? Could this novel possibly be set in some other time period? Why do you love the 1920s so much?? Are you too good for us here in the present??? WHAT DO THE 1920s HAVE THAT I DON'T?

You see, all the other stuff is okay. Stuff you're no more personally qualified to write about than the 1920s -- Wales, one leg, purple pigeons, solving crimes, being male. Heck, you could set this thing on Mars if you wanted. We trust you! Except about that historical fiction part. Once you go there, you better have a damn good reason.

(Oh, the future? That's okay. WOOT FLYING CARS!)

So there it is. You better hope you were born into a pretty kickass time period, because your characters are going to have a lot of explaining to do if they want to escape.

Friday, May 6, 2011


My dad drove me to the Big City yesterday to hear the concert I was singing in, for which I could only wear one shoe, but that's another story. In the car, I finally broke the news that Hollywood is going to be releasing Cowboys vs. Aliens. This made him pensive. What was to become of our incomplete masterpiece, Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs? I suggested he read my inspiring blog post about Brahms, and he said, "Oh, I looked at that. Something about wattles." (It's okay.  He said the same thing about Ulysses.)

But we were not to be deterred by Hollywood. This is the actual ensuing conversation that I wrote down immediately after it happened, on the back of a hotel room key envelope:

My Dad:  No, it should be dinosaurs versus . . . those little things in Madagascar.
Me:  Lemurs?
MD:  Yeah.  Dinosaurs versus Lemurs.
Me:  That would be a pretty short movie.
MD: . . . Or just lemurs.
Me: . . .
MD:  Lemurs versus everything.


At this point, as you can see, I became distracted by imagining Lemurs vs. Everything, and also by wondering why I had a hotel room key envelope in my backpack since I haven't stayed in a hotel in recent memory.  But my dad was still going on, and I did catch the words "mastodon" and "Formula One."

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I am repeatedly struck by the beauty and depth of Brahms's music; his A German Requiem is possibly my favorite work of all time. I was thinking about him yesterday during a great conversation with some writer friends about the fear that what you have to say has been said before. We've all had that fear, right? You've had an amazing novel about a cat with laser vision on the back burner for years, and this summer's blockbuster turns out to be Laser Dog, starring Dwayne Johnson and an adorable Shih Tzu. Or you're totally inspired to write a second person epic poem, and then everybody's writing them. We have all been there.

But imagine writing music -- specifically, symphonies -- after Beethoven. By the time Brahms came around, Beethoven had changed music forever. Some people even wondered if our entire tonal system had been played out to its fullest extent, and if the only way to move forward was to scrap it and start over.

How difficult that must have been for Brahms, trying to create art in Beethoven's infinitely dark and infinitely long shadow. And he was not about to write a symphony unless it did justice to the legacy Beethoven had left.

But he did it. It took him more than 20 years to write his first symphony, but he did it. Turns out, he did have something to say.

Yes. That's a mantra we can all get behind.

Incidentally, during my painstaking research for this post on Goodsearch Images, I learned that OMG YOUNG BRAHMS WAS A TOTAL FOX.

Holy crap. And all this time, I thought Liszt was supposed to have been the hottest composer ever. Wow. It just goes to show --

Oh. Oh, right.

Sorry, Brahms. You're still a genius and everything.

Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs

My dad and I were ALL ABOUT making this stop-action movie called Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs. And it would have been TOTALLY AWESOME. We bring complementary skills to the table, after all -- I made a stop-action film one time with my writing partner (Barbies in a convertible repeatedly running over . . . a bunny? Rainbow Brite? I don't remember), and my dad worked for 30 years on nuclear submarines and can speak Ancient Egyptian. We were Good to Go.

But production screeched to a halt when, after enough trips to the Dollar Store to enable us to re-shoot Ben-Hur entirely with dinosaurs (NOTE:  IDEA FOR A SCREENPLAY), we realized that one half of our equation was still missing.

Nobody sells plastic cowboys anymore.

I know what you're thinking. Can't you just make outfits for the 8,000 He-Man figures in that box in the garage? No. How are we going to make the hats? Do you have any idea how to make a 2-inch cowboy hat? Are there, like, patterns on the internet somewhere for people who want to outfit their own tiny cowboy army? (NOTE:  IDEA FOR A SHORT STORY)

And now, with Hollywood coming out with Cowboys vs. Aliens, it seems like the universe just isn't ready for the epic awesomeness that would have been our stop-action Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs. Aliens? Really? Are they going to fight in space? Because if you send cowboys into space, guess what? They become astronauts. Astronauts vs. Aliens. YAWN. (But if you send dinosaurs into space, they become Astronaut Dinosaurs. NOTE:  IDEA FOR A NOVEL)

So it seems that, as of right now, this awesome Photoshop poster art I made may be as much daylight as Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs will ever see. 200 years from now, our cockroach overlords humanity will look at this one, small image -- much like the tiny statuette that is the only remaining image of Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid -- and wonder what might have been.

UPDATE: Cowboys vs. Aliens was awesome.