Ian S. Bott on Researching the Unknown

Hi all! Today I have the pleasure of hosting one of my very talented Crit Partners, Ian S. Bott, as part of his blog tour.

Having read Tiamat’s Nest as a critique partner, I can tell you now that those who buy the book are in for a wild ride. One of the best things about the story is the feeling that, although we’re dealing with events and technology that is still beyond our reality, they were written in a what that makes them feel real.

And today, Ian’s going to tell us about researching for Speculative Fiction.

Before we start, though, I just want to mention that Shell Flower interviewed me on her blog today.

Okay, Ian, take it from here.

Researching the Unknown
When you write fiction set in the real world, the need for research is obvious. You’re writing about places and things that a lot of your readers already know about, and you need to be credible enough to keep those readers along for the ride.
One of the great joys of speculative fiction is that you get to make things up. Nobody can argue that you can’t possibly see the mountains of Mordor from Minas Tirith, because nobody’s been there!
So, when your whole world is invented, where is the need for research?
Well, no matter how far out your speculative ideas, readers need your world to have some foundations they can relate to. Even the most fantastical of worlds inevitably has considerable overlap with our familiar world.
If you’re writing medieval fantasy, for example, you can bet many of your readers will know their pikes from their halberds, so you’d better know too! That means research.
OK, maybe you’re into far-future sci-fi instead, with biology and technology that has no earthly counterparts. Surely that’s safe? Well, what about the (eminently fashionable indicators of a non-Earth setting) twin moons you’ve placed in the sky which always seem to rise and set together in defiance of orbital periods? You may not be aware of the gaffe, but your target audience may not be forgiving.
One of the challenges of speculative fiction is knowing what you don’t know. When you write a real-world setting you are usually aware of your boundaries. Never been to New York, or worked in a hospital, or erected a circus big top? Well, you know what you have to read up about. But assembling a world from scratch with credible seasons and ecology? Most likely you’re going to write what you’ve decided you need for the story without much thought to what laws of nature you’ve trampled along the way.
The strangest thing about sci-fi is that people happily accept blatant present-day impossibilities, like FTL travel or artificial gravity fields, without so much as a blink of an eye, but they get picky about smaller things. It’s relatively easy to get away with big bold lies, but the closer you get to some version of recognizable reality the more demanding people get.
Like trying to plan the perfect murder, it’s the little details that’ll trip you up.

For my latest novel, Tiamat’s Nest, I’ve researched things like the topography of Greenland under all that ice, the temperature of magma and melting point of aluminum, driving snowmobiles across open water, and how far you have to run to survive a small nuclear explosion.

What cool things have you researched for your work?

Tiamat’s Nest

The virtual world comes alive and reaches out into the real world with deadly results. University professor and devout technophobe, Charles Hawthorne, confronts technology full on to end the hidden threat to humanity.

Available on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.

Find out more about the author on his website: www.iansbott.com

Update Day

Hey all! Today’s Update Day for my Big Dreams (or any one of a million things you want to call it) bloghop. Basically, if you have big dreams or hugely important goals for your writing, this is the place for you. Go here, if you still want to sign up. Or even if you want to see how the rest of us lunatics are doing.

Okay. So… January wasn’t my most productive month. I only wrote about 6000 words.

I did, however finish a short story I’m going to send to the Untethered Realms anthology. And I’m pretty dang close to finishing edits to Birds vs Bastards. So close, that I’m probably going to start querying before the end of February.

Of course, as the year develops, so do my writing goals.

My timeline now looks like this:

With my editor gone, The Heir’s Choice (War of Six Crowns Book 2) is in limbo while I wait for the publishing house to find a replacement. Which means that Book 3 also has to wait. Honestly, this is breaking my heart. I’m dying to get back into that story.

In the meantime, I need to get some of my other projects done. That way I can focus on the Wo6C series once I have an editor again. I also need to keep busy while I query BvB.

That’s why I moved up one of the rewrites and why I’ll be drafting as well in February.

Also, researching the Afrikaans story is turning into a pain in my ass. (As any research would if all you get is “They were glorious.” and crap like that. Oh and if my local library employees give me empty stares when I say I need something for research. Want me to find it myself? THEN MAKE SENSE IN YOUR SHELVING!!! Stick up markers so we know what goes where. ANYTHING!!! Sigh. I hate useless people.) Ahem. Point is I basically lost a whole month out of my already short schedule trying to get the books I need for research. Which means that I don’t know if I’ll manage to write the story by September (never mind edits). Not giving up on it, but it’s now lowest priority and stuck on “research/conception” until such a time that it’s actually realistic for me to even consider writing the damn thing. I’m going to stop here, but expect a post on this in the near future. But let me just say I now know why NO ONE seems to write about this time period anymore. (One book in the past ten years.)


This month I want to:

1) Add words to at least one of my running rough drafts.
2) Rewrite my western romance.
3) Research my Afrikaans story.
4) Put together an agent list for Birds vs Bastards.
5) Finish edits to Birds vs Bastards.
6) Query some agents.

Tell me you’re getting along better with your goals than I am. Please.