Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Research -- Distraction and Fun

Several weeks ago, I handed out the first chapter of my new science fiction novel to Wyrdsmiths. It takes place in a future Cairo five months after the Aswan dams (both high and low) are over run by silt deposits and an unseasonable rainfall and they break. It's a fun setting in that while I'd like to be as accurate as possible about Cairo and its environs, I can destroy national monuments and otherwise completely rearrange the landscape.

However, one commenter -- it was Eleanor, I think -- rightly pointed that the story as I'd written it didn't have a lot of the "feel" of Cairo. She couldn't "see" it very well and she suggested I do more research.

I've been researching like crazy and I've learned a lot of cool (and readily science fictionalized) bits of information about Egypt in general and Cairo in particular. The biggest stumbling block for quick research has been that my Internet connection at home is slow -- actually glacial, it's dial-up. And, because Mason is off school for the month of August, I can't spend the entire day at the coffee shop like I'd like to. So, I had to do the old-fashioned method.

I went to the library.

Hey, in case you were wondering? Libraries are AWESOME. I checked out about six books on Egypt, and although my library tends to focus on books appropriate for teenagers doing school projects, that means they're just what I'm looking for -- books with LOTS of pictures.

So now I'm in research heaven. The only bummer is that my writing has slowed to a trickle. I wrote maybe a hundred words last night. So research? I'd say I have a love/hate relationship with it, heavy on the love (though my writing process hates the interruption.) My book and my readers, I hope, will love me for it, though.

Do you ever find yourselves caught up in research? And do you find, like I am, that sometimes magic is afoot? Like, just last night I was wondering how I was going to have a community of hackers living in destroyed Cairo and a book I was reading not only provided me with an awesome answer, but I discovered that there's an entire neighborhood that's basically named "engineers' alley." Magic, I'm tellin' ya.


Anonymous said...

I love synchronicity! :) I've also caught myself doing more research than writing over the last year. However, it's helped enrich both my story and my waking life, so that's a plus. :) I've also found myself ordering strange things off eBay...Such as back in the Spring I spent $10 on a 1940s post card of downtown Harlan, Kentucky, and last Friday I dropped $7 on a November 1965 L&N Rail Road time table booklet...So there's a small downside. LOL

Tim Susman said...

I love research and find it all too easy a distraction. And although I don't use our local library, I was amazed when I visited the Seattle Public Library in April to be reminded of how cool libraries are. They have a periodical called "Folk Tales" or something like that that goes back to the late 1800s and is devoted to reprinting folk tales from different cultures around the world. How cool is that? We could've spent an entire afternoon (... or a month of afternoons) just sitting and reading that periodical alone.

And I found once that the premise for a SF world I created actually existed here on Earth in the 1950's... and that a character I'd invented to be at a Civil War battle also actually existed. Weird, and strangely thrilling. When that happens, it really reminds you that if you can think of it, so can many other people, and someone will actually do it.