Sunday, January 27, 2013

Research, research, research...

Came across a question about research, posed in the blog of Medwayscott (follow the link and read his post before continuing, that might be best).

Anyway, he said some very nice things about Salvation's Reach, the most recent Gaunt book, and was very complimentary about the Navy action depicted in it. How much was researched, he wondered.

I do a LOT of research, for pretty much everything I write, which may sound faintly bonkers considering that what I write is Made Up Stuff. My contention, and I've stuck to it for over twenty years, is that SF and Fantasy work best when they feel authentic, when they seem grounded and real. So my basic approach is to consider each book as if it were a 'real world' or even historical novel. I find the closest thing in the real world to the fantastical thing I'm writing about, and research that, then convert laterally into the fantasy frame. So... writing about Kislevite Lancers (as I did in Riders of the Dead)? NO such thing in the real world, obviously, but how about 17th Century Polish Hussars?  Let's go! 40K air combat (Double Eagle)? Let's try the Battle of Britain and mix in a little Korean War and modern theatre jet warfare. TItans... and, indeed, Imperial Navy vessels and engagements (various, but especially Titanicus and Salvation's Reach)? Let's look at the British Navy, let's look at U boats and other submarine experiences. Let's visit Chatham Dockyard... ;)

Right now, I'm writing about court intrigue during the Horus Heresy, so I'm ransacking all the stuff I can find on the Tudor Court, the Vatican, Italian Principalities, Imperial Rome etc. etc.

But when the (goodness me!) half dozen Primarchs I'm handling here start duking it out through a city hand-to-hand, I don't know WHAT I'm going to start looking at. That may be when fiction starts looking at other fiction, and I start drawing on the thousands of superhero comics I've written over the last two decades...

10 comments:

Matthew Sylvester said...

That, and some martial arts techniques. I can help if you like :)

medwayscott said...

Thanks for the answers - Maybe it's because of what my day job is, but those sections of the book just really stood out (and I hadn't thought of the Titanicus connection before, but I can see the relevance in hindsight).

Really appreciate the response.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog Dan, your research has allways been impecable. Its funny you name Titanicus and ROTD because they are serious contenders for the best single BL books of all time IMO!

Bigg

Anonymous said...

"One Ping and one Ping only Mr Abnett" ;-)

Bigg

Anonymous said...

and I just finished reading Riders of the Dead (finished it last night), so I can follow every single example given in his blog.
... I'm such a fangirl

dickiesworkshop.com said...

"But when the (goodness me!) half dozen Primarchs I'm handling here start duking it out through a city hand-to-hand, I don't know WHAT I'm going to start looking at. That may be when fiction starts looking at other fiction, and I start drawing on the thousands of superhero comics I've written over the last two decades..."

when i read that paragraph it gave me goose pimples, i think you're on your own when it comes to a half dozen primarchs doing battle, i don't believe there has been anything in fiction that compare to that epic encounter although greek mythology may come close, all the best Dan can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

Riders of the dead - very good, Titanicus - just awesome (1 minor flaw - i really want to see a big battle at the end) Gaunt Ghosts - waiting for new books like a schoolboy, counting days;but Double eagle - is really the most brilliant book i have ever read

Greg451 said...

One of the main reasons why I enjoy your work so much is because of your attention to detail; no matter how "outlandish" the setting, everything just seems so human and real, I have no trouble connecting with the characters and story.
As busy as you are, how do you find the time and stay focused on a single project?
Is there some trick, or is it just sheer bloody-mindedness? lol

Jonathan Green said...

"That may be when fiction starts looking at other fiction, and I start drawing on the thousands of superhero comics I've written over the last two decades..."

If that had been written by anybody else, Dan, it would have taken it to be hyperbole. ;-)

Alberto Francesco Lemma said...

Titans vs. the Greek Pantheon, for some inspiration.

I think the best thing you can liken a primarch, in battle, is to a localised force of nature.

The hurricane
The thunderbolt
The tsunami
The earthquake
The meteor
The volcano
The eclipse
The rainstorm

etc.

You can fit each primarch to a different catastrophe...