Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The joys of research

[Inner Cat: Waah. Do I hafta write a blog post? The new Megan Whalen Turner just came out.

Adult: And the rest of life did not conveniently go away. You also have to write the next scene, do something with the shrimp in the fridge, and pick up your books before the cleaners get here.

Inner Cat: But I haven't done anything interesting!

Adult: So? You've been reading some interesting stuff for background. Write about that. And if you're good, you may review Thick as Thieves on Friday. I know you'll have read it by then.]

What, your various identities never argue with each other? How boring.

So. Research for a science fiction book: it's not just about science. The three books in the picture are just a part of what I've been reading for INSURGENTS.

Starts off with guerrilla war in the mountains. Not exactly my area of expertise; fortunately the First Reader has half a dozen books on World War II in Greece. I started out with Ill Met by Moonlight, the story of how Patrick Leigh Fermor kidnapped a German general, and also read several other, less entertaining books. Quit when I decided I couldn't bear to read one word more about the rival resistance groups and how they undercut one another. That wasn't what I was looking for... but somehow it's worked its way into the story.

Part of the backstory of INSURGENTS is that on a world with just two continents, the green and inviting one has been settled. As its government grew more and more totalitarian, it began dumping political dissidents onto the other continent. Yes, I was thinking about the beginnings of Australia. And Robert Hughes' The Fatal Shore - that's the second book in the stack, the one whose title you can't read - gave me lots of ideas about how the first deportees might have managed in that bleak environment. None of that made it directly into INSURGENTS, but I needed to know how the society developed before I could describe it. And... there's a lot of stuff currently stored in the back of my head that may recall a book of its own some day, about those early deportees. But not right away! I'm tired of backing up. It's confusing enough to have written AWAKENING first and then to realize I needed a book about events a generation earlier.

Now I'm getting to the part where the rebels, having (sort-of) won, have to create a government overnight to replace the colonial rule. Our own history is a grand source for that. But just to keep it interesting, I'm also feeding the subconscious huge dollops of the life of Ataturk (bottom book) who faced a similar problem after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. And again I'm getting more than I bargained for: in the story of the negotiations there's a beautiful example of lying by omission which I hope to steal for my own book.

More about that tomorrow. Gotta go talk to the shrimp now.


  1. You don't need to write that book..just keep writing your blog. I find it very entertaining! HA Plus, I don't have to worry about it 'ending'! At least I hope not!

  2. Thanks!

    But the thing about books: not writing one once it's formed in your head is kinda like deciding not to have a baby when you're already nine months pregnant.


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