22 January 2007

I'm Almost A Branch Library

Or: How much research material is enough?

Last count I had 5 seven foot tall bookcases filled... and most of it was non-fiction. I was cleaning and straightening yesterday (to avoid cleaning and straightening other areas of the house) and discovered books I don't even remember obtaining. At one point I must have decided I needed to study up on the Jesuits, Mysticism of the Eastern Churches, and Buddhism, but I have no idea what story I intended to write. Since religion figures in all my stories, it hasn't been a waste. I have several books on physics, astronomy, fuzzy logic, and time. As soon as I got out of school, I discovered I loved physics, and quantum mechanics - what I understand of them so far.

The Roman Empire, Byzantium, Greece, Egypt, and Persia. Mythology, both Eastern and Western. Enough art books to open my own classroom. Psychology and education, but I have an excuse for those, they were part of my abortive attempt to finish my PhD. More philosophy books than I ever needed when I was in school, but hey, teaching it, you never know what you'll need. Dungeons and Dragons, Battletech, Star Wars, Star Trek and Gurps handbooks. Knitting, weaving, sewing, felting and leatherworking. (SCA related, I swear)

Books on how to write. Books on writing techniques. Books on techniques about how to write. Style books and source books, dictionaries and how to's. Books on writing poetry. Books by poets, many of which are distressingly thin, but I guess that's so they leave you wanting more, kind of like those dinner plates at snobby restaurants, artfully arranged and skimpy.

Books with pictures. No, not Dr. Seuss, but National Geographic tomes, and a day in the life of whatever country, and William Wegman, photo books of national parks and photo books of places I wish I could go to. Cookbooks, military history, and computer programming. Anthropology, sociology and ancient architecture.

Engineering, including my manuals from the military. How can such an interesting subject be rendered dry as toast? Oh, yeah, the military, where toast has its own manual.

Fiction is scattered throughout the house, in case I am in need of a quick read while cooking or herding cats. My signed books are enshrined alongside my poetry collections, except for Kris', which is now making the rounds of the local junior high school. (Six kids have read it so far, and more want it. I'd say it's a hit, Kris) I have a Rubbermaid tub full of romance books someone gave me and lots of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. Not much in the way of commercial fiction, although when younger I had a thing for James Mitchner doorstops. A few Steven King – something I share with my oldest. Fiction on Vietnam and WWII.

Even when I go to the library I check a lot of non-fiction books out. Is it fear of influence while I'm writing my own stuff? Or is something else going on here? I've decided it's larger than that. I confess, I suffer from incurable NTK. Need To Know. There's so much out there that I find interesting, there's no way I could specialize and narrow my scope. Probably why I'm not still in school collecting another degree. You know what they say:

"Every man gets a narrower and narrower field of knowledge in which he must be an expert in order to compete with other people. The specialist knows more and more about less and less and finally knows everything about nothing." -- Konrad Lorenz

I don't want to be a specialist. Specialization is for insects, and academics. So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. What's yours?

Next time – I talk about my weird and eclectic collection of DVD's...


Gabriele C. said...

Ok, I finally found a worse book packrat than I am. :)

I don't have any books about physics, astronomy, maths and such, though quite a few about biology, genetcis and chemistry.

Constance said...

Gabriele, it's more like you found a kindred spirit. Takes one to know one. *g*
I think everyone has a science section in their personal library, just in different subjects. :) The only biology I have is the science experiment my kids have in the refrigerator - which used to be someone's dinner...

Scott Oden said...

*Raises hand* No science. No science, here -- unless you count archaeology as a science (I group it in with history). I've got a huge collection of Egyptian, Greek, and Persian books, more than our community library, actually, and now a growing section of books on Islam, the Crusades, and Middle Eastern history (most recent purchase: the Travels of Ibn Jubayr). My fiction shelves are grouped by genre: several fantasy shelves, a shelf of REH, another of HP Lovecraft, a couple of shelves of historical mystery (Steven Saylor rocks). RPG related material is kept on another bookshelf . . .

When I die, maybe the town library will create a special 'Scott Oden' collection?

Constance said...

I have to put archeology in science. The methodology is scientific, even if the results are more towards the sociological. Just the way my divisive little mind works.

I think we may need to compare notes on books, I'm having difficulty finding the resources I need for the Phoenician engineer story. Of course, I probably DO have the materials I need on the shelf, and I'm just looking for an excuse to buy more books. *g*

I forgot about Steven Saylor! How could I? I need more of his books… *Makes note* I also visited his website and learned the disturbing news that a film is being made called Memoirs of Hadrian - and Antonio Banderas is going to play Hadrian. I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around that one. I may be disturbed all day….

Have you read Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa? I find the flora, fauna, and architecture descriptions fascinating, but I'm weird that way.

The Soctt Oden Collection? You realize you just gave me ammunition for the rumored revenge, don't you? *evil grin*

Scott Oden said...

Well thank goodness I'm not 'Soctt Oden', then :) Does the poor guy know you're sending your horde of gnome-driven battlemechs after him?

I've not picked up Ibn Battuta, yet. Mainly because I've not reached his time period yet (I'm anal that way -- I like to pick up books in order . . . Ibn Jubayr is 50-60 years after Lion of Cairo, during the Mamluk period [did you know Baibars II, called the Panther, was like a real-life Conan? Barbaric Turk who rose through the ranks of the slave-soldiers to become Sultan. I see a book in there, somewhere ((scratch that; Baibars and Kothric the Orc could be cousins)).].) I almost parentheticaled myself off my chair . . .

I have Memoirs of Hadrian. Supposedly a classic, but I'm spoiled by the exceptional writing of Steven Saylor (listen close and you'll hear the collective gasp of offended Roman-o-philes).

Back to the prose mines!

Constance said...

Scott, guess I can't blame my dyslexia on Blogger - this time.:)You skate by on your green skin. But I'm still plotting...

My Persian/Greek interest is relatively new, so I have a lot of reading to do. Especially on engineers. What, you think warriors won all those battles single-handedly?

Carla said...

Kindred spirit, indeed.
I didn't know it was Lorenz who said that. He was dead right.

Constance said...

Carla, I found the lorenz quote in a collection online. It was attributed to him. Doresn't mean it's true. Or not true. I still like the Heinlein one best.

Gabriele C. said...

characters that have features in common aren't a bad idea for a writer. The readers like variations of their favourite dishes. :)

You could use that Baibars guy for a series of shorter stories, fe. I think there are some descendants of pulp magazines around.