Research and Fantasy

I initially saw this over on Tor earlier this summer. It was something that resonated with, something I wanted to talk about, but had difficulty at the time putting my finger on what exactly struck me when I read the piece. Almost four months on, and a lot of subconcious brewing on the subject, and I think I’m ready to go.

Research. Something I’ve despised since high school – when the research projects were all about meeting certain criteria or fitting models in an academic sense. Rather, my issue was more with the  nature of “research this thing I’m telling you about, because I said so” instead of “research something you think is cool and awesome.” Looking into the “cool” stuff is easy, but as soon as the “research” label comes out the brain gets twitchy and walls start falling. That’s a difference that has taken me years (ahem, almost decades) to retweak in my head, and is still a work in progress.

But research for worldbuilding is, to some degree, a mixed bag of fun and headaches. I’m a process person, and there’s a part of me that likes the micro-aspects of worldbuilding (call it a holdover from my gaming days, and the desire to want to build full, realistic effects into the scenarios), but always thinking like that is a headache waiting to happen – especially when focusing on that stuff instead of actually writing.

While I would enjoy the opportunity to fiddle and tweak with things – again, I’m a process person, so I like tinkering and don’t mind getting dirty to learn something I’m intersted in – I don’t really have the luxery (or budget) to do that at the moment.

What struck memost in the article was the discussion of research methods, and while the writer’s adage of “figure out what works for you” may seem cliche, it is also extremely applicable with regards to research. Take the comments in the linked article (go ahead, I’ll wait).

Right, as you saw, there’s the “in-depth, hands on” approach, or the “get the basics, fake it and find an expert” – or some variation of blending the two. At Viable Paradise, Scott Lynch gave a discussion on world-building (as mentioned here). Maybe it was because I had already been contemplating the concept for a couple of months (thanks to the linked article above), but I think I have finally started figuring out what works for me (fake it then find an expert – unless I find something that I think is really cool).

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