Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Research--that thing I do

Some people may think I'm obsessive. Or Obsessive/Compulsive, to put a clinical moniker on it. I'm not, not diagnosed anyway. But I totally, completely, and thoroughly LOVE researching. Not that icky Biology, Chemistry, science-y stuff, but the live in the library, get a pile of books, find a quiet place, read until you are blind and then dig into the Internet and read some more type of research. I LIVE to do that.  I could probably spend the rest of my life happily living in a dark set of book stacks in a library if I had to. If the world ended, I would be like that guy in the old Twilight Zone episode (1959): "Time Enough At Last" where Burgess Meredith finds himself alone with his books after a nuclear war (but I would avoid the ending--if you have not seen this one, go get the NetFlix and just watch it, it's good). I love books, reading, and especially research.

I love microfilm, microfiche, vertical files, archives, and everything else connected with the science of research. I find it relaxing. No kidding.

So, here's what I spent my Memorial Day, four-day weekend doing. Working on my novel. I found myself deep in the one place I never expected to find information on the stuff I'm working on. Ancestry.com. Yeah, the genealogical site. Turns out that you can research a town, find a block you want to put a story, you can find the neighbors (if it's before 1930) and you can get names for characters. Oh yeah. Fun reads. And, when you find something you want to read up on, hit the search engines (and not just Google, hit the more minor ones, you find all sorts of stuff stuck in corners that the Google people put way down on the bottom of the million+ hits they put up by the "sponsors". Hit the libraries on the college campuses from your computer and get book information. Sometimes, if the book is old enough or new enough, you can find it online in it's total glory. Yes, you CAN read books online for free. Project Gutenberg is one of those places. A lot of universities are also scanning books in the public domain and in their archive sections. It rocks for researching things.

Newspapers are another thing to go look for. Most libraries have periodical sections. Do you need to know what types of cars were out in the era you're working on? Go look at magazines. What do you need for a steampunk? You need to find things that will be changeable into a Victorian era story. Go look through the newspapers for ideas of crime in London, Paris, or Rome. Or New York. Find those items they sell in the newspapers on sale days and figure out how to "punk them" into something else. Go look at Popular Mechanics, which started publication in 1902. Popular Science was founded in 1872. You can get the librarian to find old magazines for you and she can help you dig them up.

How do you organize all this wonderful research you're digging up? What do you do with the great stuff you are finding?

THAT is a blog for another time.

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