What research is involved in writing science fiction? There can be quite a lot, actually. In my first science fiction novel, Relocated, my main character, Keth, becomes involved in ceramics and glass blowing. I had some knowledge of ceramics left over from a pot-throwing course at summer camp and another summer spent playing with copper enamel, but I knew nothing about blowing glass. So it was off to the internet to check things out and construct — mentally, anyway — my studio. It turned out to be quite large, with a separate room for storing the finished work, an area for throwing pots, and another with a couple of furnaces for the glass. Because my main character was sweet on the master craftsman’s daughter, I spent a fair amount of time getting the details nailed down to my satisfaction. My character spent quite a lot of time there, too.
In the next Aleyne novel, Broken Bonds, I shamelessly picked the brains of my middle son, who was in the army at the time, as my main character was a military officer who was called up on charges. I also researched the International Court, which had an equivalent — the Interstellar Court — in my novel. As well, I checked out procedures for criminal trials. My father was an attorney, my mother served on the Grand Jury, and I have been a juror several times, so I was more comfortable with trials and courtrooms than I was with military procedures. Still, I wanted to get the details right.
I also ended up researching stringed instruments. One of my major characters plays an imaginary stringed instrument, and I wanted to know what it looked and sounded like. I play the flute and the piccolo, but my knowledge of strings is limited, and so it was off to the internet to do some research. In the end, I decided it was made of wood and shaped something like an autoharp, and came in various sizes like violins, violas, cellos and basses do. Did most of this information end up in the text? Um, no, but I needed to know it.
As to badly researched material in books I read, yes, it bugs me. I can still recall a novel by a well-known author where the main character played the flute and composed. I play the flute and the piccolo, and have for many years. Flute players are a dime a dozen, which is one of the many reasons so many of them turn to composing. While the author did a fine job on this aspect, in my opinion she short-changed the flute playing. There were a couple of places in the text where a bit more detail. The character was writing a book on the difficulties of playing the instrument, and there should, I believe, have been more specific detail. It’s been years since I read this novel, and I still find it annoying.
And that is one of the many reasons why I look up glass blowing, the International Court, the military, and stringed instruments. I don’t my readers to have that reaction.
Do check out the posts by my fellow bloggers:
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/
Rachael Kosnski http://www.rachaelkosinki.weebly.com/
Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://helenafairfax.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Lynn Crain http://www.awriterinvienna.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/