Thursday, January 15, 2015

Well-Researched Fiction

As a librarian, I appreciate a good bout of research. Research is awesome. It's basically what my job revolves around. (People think it's the books, but really it's all about the research.)

So I get really excited when I discover that someone did a ton of research in order to write a novel, which is fiction. It gives the fiction a little more real-world weight, like it's more likely to actually happen, or it's more likely that it really did happen that way or could have happened that way.

Jean M. Auel is known for the crazy amounts of research that goes into her Earth's Children series. She studies the details of everything we could possibly know or guess about early humans. Food, hunting, social systems, medicine, hygiene, sexual habits, art, story-telling, travel patterns, sleep habits, furniture and tools... absolutely every detail that goes into her books, she researched until she found an answer or could make the best possible guess.

Any good author of fiction or non-fiction does research. If I were writing a novel set today, about a topic I know plenty about, but it took place in Mexico, I would need to do research, because I've never been to Mexico. Historical fiction requires knowing about the context of the time and place you're setting the story in. Science fiction, if you want it to be realistic at all, needs to be informed by current research.


Which brings me to the tie-in to this week's book. Daniel Wilson, author of Robopocalypse and Robogenesis, has a PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University and a Masters in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. In other words, he clearly decided to write what he knew. If you want a more immersive experience with these books, finish reading them and then go look into the current research on AI and robotics. You will run back home and start lining the walls with foil and ordering giant electromagnets on Amazon in hopes that you can fight the robots with them at some point. In other words, the events of these books may seem far-fetched... until you realize that they aren't.

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