January 15th

How vital is research?

Having never visited the US some may view it as the move of a putz to embark on a cycle of stories set exclusively in that country.


Writers constantly write about places they’ve never been. Hence the term, fiction writer.

But this week made me really appreciate how vital (yes, the title isn’t really a question at all) research really is.

My good friend Megan Lewis was taking an initial look at the story I have set in Minnesota. It’s an alien invasion story with a non-traditional structure (in that it ends a place where you think ‘What, is that it? But, what… grrrr, lazy writer’). In researching the story I had spent much time on google earth scrolling up and down roads and suburbs south of Minneapolis, for that is where the setting is. On her first read through Megan picked me up on some line-of-sights descriptions being unworkable, and a route taken by characters making no sense to a resident of the area. She also picked up some rogue Britishisms and a few incorrectly used Americanisms.

So what? Well, for me, it is where factual and fictional intersect. I’m more than happy for this process to be undertaken. I want my tales to have reliable and identifiable roots, even where other events are ridiculous and fantastical. And taking the time to do my own research, and then having someone local to the area check that research, helps me to do that.

Other things from the week include a great opening class with Cat Rambo, and it was nice to (virtually) meet fellow classmates Frances, Elizabeth, and Mark. The next five weeks look to be fun, and challenging.

Yesterday WorldWeaverPress held #SFFLunch on twitter. Editors from the various imprints of WWP made themselves available and some interesting lines of chat sparked of. I admit my main interest was in picking up hints for another submission to Bascomb James Far Orbit: Apogee anthology. While declining my first submission he was very kind in advising me that it was ‘sooo close‘.

Over at Spark: A Creative Anthology I am slowly getting to grips with my role as a Senior First Reader, and the whole first reading team is working hard to reduce the submission backlog. Brian’s determination to provide feedback for every submitter is one of the things that drew me to volunteering as a first reader in the first place, and now that I am more heavily involved in the process I remain convinced that his vision for the submitters is worth the enormous effort. We can always use more first readers. Why not come and do a bit?