One fact I’ve observed while looking up the prehistoric fiction genre is that surprisingly very little of it seems to feature any dinosaurs.
Of course, the fantasy of prehistoric humans (or “cavemen”) coexisting with non-avian dinosaurs has appeared in numerous movies, cartoons, and comic books. But if you look at prose literature with prehistoric human characters, dinosaurs and other Mesozoic fauna appear to be absent altogether. Instead the majority of prehistoric fiction novels, such as Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear or Steven Barnes’s Great Sky Woman, try to represent the prehistoric human experience more or less realistically. Literary equivalents to One Million Years BC or When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth are few and far between.
(There are the ape-like hominins in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, of course, but that doesn’t really count as “prehistoric fiction” since it’s really an isolated lost world surviving into the late Victorian era.)
Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with realistic prehistoric fiction. I actually enjoyed the portrayal of prehistoric African foragers and their world in Great Sky Woman quite a lot. However, I’m also a longtime dinosaur fan, and I see a lot of potential in the cavemen-and-dinosaurs brand of prehistoric fantasy that I think more authors should exploit. Instead they seem to have left it for the filmmakers and comic book artists. What’s up with that?