Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Research And Destroy

I’ve been thinking a little (okay, a lot) lately about the end of my service in about half a year and what I’ll do back in, in all probability, the US of A. Looming on the horizon are things like where to spend the much-diminished remainder of our vacation, negotiating how to get home with all our accumulated crap of over two years of living, finding work or going back to school or, in all probability, doing both. Lots of stuff to think on with great potential to overwhelm. Joy!

Writing is, of course, a given, and probably the one thing I have to look forward to (apart from, you know, always having 1st world amenities like running water) that will get vastly easier with our return. Not that I’ll have more time for it, but that researching my topics of interest won’t cost me the equivalent of a day’s pay and a year’s patience.

I have the offline version of Wikipedia, which has been a godsend, but it’s almost impossible to load a website on the local connections that has any graphics worth mentioning. I can’t watch videos or download large files. Getting an e-book is usually a prospect of hours, but I’m grateful I can get them at all. Still, it makes me long for high speed internet.

I take my research pretty seriously. I’m the child of a historian, and we couldn’t travel anywhere of consequence in my youth without my dad pointing out historical landmarks and battle sites and monuments. Every vacation included a museum. I didn’t savor it then, but clearly his influence has a presence in me, because if I don’t know the details of a place or thing I’m reluctant to write about it. Some writers just go with the flow and don’t worry about synchronizing details because the characters are more important to them. Some writers write about places they know intimately and therefore don’t have to research. Others write pure fantasy that allows them to make up whatever they want on the spot and go with it.

I do some of all of those things, but I’m also riddled with the niggling need to check and double check my facts. The thought of rambling into a historical setting laissez-faire style and plopping my characters down on, I don’t know, wrought iron benches in Bronze Age Mesopotamia makes me want to beat my head in with my computer. This reluctance of mine to sally forth into the great unknown for the sake of grandeur has killed a few really promising stories in their infancy over here, and I hope to be able to ameliorate that problem when I get back. Is this a common problem? I’ve no idea.

In the meantime I’ll write more for Pandora, which has the wonderful quality of being almost entirely the product of my own mind and therefore subject only to my rules and the generally accepted rules of the genre of space opera.

And I'm a sucker for puns, dammit.  Forgive the title.



  1. Well, this one particular girl doesn't think that there's anything wrong with being an obsessive researcher. Personally, as a reader I find it fairly annoying when I see glaring discrepancies between the fact and is in the story. I mean, if authors state in the very beginning that they took liberties with their description of places, events and persons (especially historical) then it's one thing. However, if they try to create an authentic setting, but don't bother to do some basic homework, that is entirely different matter.
    On the lighter note,I really liked chapter 10. Way to build up the anticipation! I also find watching Garett's journey of admitting some things about himself fascinating. Sorry for not commenting after the chapter itself. Aforementioned school and work do not leave a lot of time for leisure reading.

  2. Hi Irina

    Glad you appreciate the finer moments in page-trawling, book-browsing homework doing:) I agree, it's just jarring otherwise. And I'm glad you liked chapter 10! Chapter 11 will be out soon. Thanks for following it.

  3. Access to research materials (digital or not) is something that so many people in America take for granted. Until you mentioned it, I never realized how tough it must be to live in a place where you can't jump on Wikipedia, or make a dash to the public library if need be. I'm not a writer but I've become accustomed to being able to look up information instantaneously when I'm curious about one thing or another. It's truly a luxury to have information so easily at hand here in the states.

    I agree with Irina, there is nothing wrong with obsessive research. A story will reflect the amount of care and attention the author has put into it. If the author fails to put in the time and energy to research their time period and setting, the story will suffer. Your work reflects the care you put into and that's why you're one of my favs!

  4. Aww, Tiffany. Thanks!
    It is frustrating to be denied things like digital maps. The offline version of Wiki has no pictures or images. Sigh. Anyway. I hope you aren't buried in snow. Someone told me it was really snowy in parts of the US, like record levels, but I don't know where.

  5. I'm one of the lucky ones when it comes to the snow. In parts of New York and Pennsylvania they have already had double the annual snowfall (80+ inches). Lots of buildings have suffered roof collapses in the Northeast. Parts of Texas have been under a layer of ice for days. Even Dallas, where they will host the Superbowl in a matter of days, is like an ice skating rink. It will get down to 7 degrees in Austin, TX tonight and that is colder than the low in Anchorage, Alaska. Go figure. :-) We've been having the craziest weather here in the US. Many people will be happy to forget this winter. Its freezing cold where I live but THANK GOD no more snow for now.

    By the way, if you believe in this sort of thing, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog did not see his shadow on Groundhog's Day. Supposedly this means we'll have an early spring. I won't hold my breath though. :-)