Research: The Best of Writing

“What’s a Qivittoq?” Dee was getting unbearably cold now, the chill entering her body like it would never leave. “What’s that?” (Extract from Anori)

Choosing the most effective word can be painfully tedious. Is she really unbearably cold? What about terribly cold? Desperately cold? What word translates the feeling for how cold she is? One word works and the other. It goes back and forth in the edit, until the word works as it should. Whatever that means.

A much more immediately satisfying part of writing is the research. Anori is speculative novel set in Greenland and so futuristic elements as well as aspects of Greenlandic culture are needed to develop the setting.

Aeriel view of icebergs outside of Ilulissat, Greenland

A Qivittoq is a mythological, often evil creature – akin to the Ojibway’s Wendigo – is derived from the custom of banished a person who violates the sacred codes of society.

Thule Air Base also came up in my research, a United States military camp where a B-52G Stratofortress loaded with nuclear weapons crashed in 1968. This led me to think that nuclear weapons might have created a Qivittoq or two.

Disko Island glacier

Other research for Anori included Earth-out-of-view Syndrome (a psychological disorder when one can no longer see Earth), O’Neil Cylinder (mining asteroids in space), Cave Swallows (birds in the Yucatan), dry dock (lifting boats out of the water for repairs) and cantilevers.

The cantilevered architecture of Jenny Polak’s Offshore (Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, New York)

The trick of effective research is not allowing it to completing distract the work at hand… unless a book on the trivia of research is to be launched. (Is there a market for that?)

The Pyschological Issues of Interstellar Travel

Tired of the same-old Planet Earth problems? Perhaps you think it’s time to give another planet a go? But do you have what it takes for this distant quest? Nick Kanas’ Humans in Space, The Psychological Hurdles details the psychological and social issues of interstellar travel in the final chapter. The Pyschological Issues of Interstellar TravelBeyond the obvious loneliness and isolation of deep space, there are a few other things to consider:

Earth-out-of-view Syndrome. What would it be like to not just see Earth as a distant planet, but not see it all?

Monotony. How would you occupy your leisure time? There are no events to see, no relatives to visit, no sports nor Instagram feeds to follow. There’s nothing but the people and data on board. Does reading make a big comeback?The Pyschological Issues of Interstellar Travel

Physical Effects of Near-Relativistic Speed. What are the side effects of constantly travelling at a such a fantastic speed? Might we grow taller? Might the blood thin? The eyes cloud? And what of sleep?

Intolerance of Diversity. Most agree that some kind of group think is needed for such a journey to be a success. And so what of those that were outside the mindset? What about people who want to do things differently or maintain a belief outside of the norm? What would happen to them?

Justice. How would criminals and sociopaths be handled in such a small social network? How tolerant would it be possible to be of violent crimes? Is it one strike and you’re out?

Sex. How would people interact on a sexual level? Would birth control be required? Would monogamy be discouraged?The Pyschological Issues of Interstellar Travel

Mission Goals. How long would it take for the focus to sway from the original mission goal? What if a discovery were made of another possible planet on another course? Who would make these decisions? What authority would be needed?

Myths and Folklore of Earth: Earth will eventually become a memory. The second generation will only know it through stories and Disney movies. What effect will that have on how the society evolves?

Earth-Out-of-View Phenomenon

At the outset of space exploration in the 1950’s, scientists were concerned about the psychological effects of leaving Earth on astronauts. Initially concerned with various psychoses and anxieties, they have been exceedingly begrudging in allowing the astronaut any sort of autonomy. spacedoutThe initial diagnosis for the state of mind of an astronaut’s realization of being in space was called the deadly rapture of space and space euphoria. While out on space walks, astronauts tended to ignore earth-bound commands. int-preqNow with plans for a journey to Mars in its early stages, concern for something new is being raised – called the Breakaway Effect or Earth-out-of-View Phenomenon. This theory postulates that, once free of any physical sense of this planet – most notably sight – humans might lose their connection to those left behind. earth_risingIn other words, the further away they get, the less likely they might care about the place they left behind. A future Martian? Or a Citizen of the Universe?

(*Information derived from Mary Roach’s “Packing for Mars”)