Kage Baker loved writing on a computer. She loved the Internet. She loved the availability of an endless supply of vast, easily-accessed databases, where she could graze at will and at random.
She was a careful researcher. She liked her fancies well-furnished with facts; even based on them, however distantly, if she could get enough together to build a good scaffold extension from Reality. She always tried to do her research before she started a project, but was ready to pursue whatever came up lacking in the course of the writing.
The pre-Internet days were dreadfully frustrating for Kage. Suddenly needing a fact or a reference while she was writing could stall her out completely. She’d try to keep writing around it – making a note to look it up later, when the words weren’t flowing so fast and hot, which is the approved technique – but was always afraid she’d miss a vital point that would affect the plot. So she’d yell out notes in dictation to me, or scribble them down on her endless pile of recycled note paper. On desperate subjects, she’d give me specific queries and subjects, and I’d lope off on an emergency library trip.
Then we got connected to the Internet; some tiny local server run out of Cal State SLO; I don’t even remember its absurdly cutesy name … but it was like a Bag of Holding, always full of treasure. It was the perfect servant, a genie who could fetch anything if you just asked it nicely enough. You could inquire of it, “What steps would you go through to amputate someone’s head? Not just whack it off, but if you wanted to use it afterwards?” and it wouldn’t swear at you and demand to be left alone to sleep another hour.
After that, Kage had her own portal to the multiverse. If a question came up as she wrote, she just had to go sign on and run through the Internet pulling titles off the shelves. She loved it with a fierce, possessive passion, recognizing in it the oracular office assistant she’d been promised by every fairy tale and science fiction story.
And every database and file and site came with its own built in bibliography. You could leap from one to the next ad infinitum, dancing across the points of starlight in a virtual galaxy, sipping from knowledge like a humming bird in a tropical paradise. It wasn’t long before the perfect research system became one of Kage’s chief recreations.
Interspersing writing with surfing became one of Kage’s most favourite amusements. Not surprising; most people discover surfing, and fall immediately into whatever maze of pleasures, trivia and personal hobby horses best entertains them. Conspiracy theories, 12th century silverware, Formula 8 cars (blue or green only, please), root vegetables, desert glass, dessert glass, deserted glassworks, whittling, whispering, whistling and all the permutations of porn. There really is something out there for everyone, and we’ve all gone looking for our personal interests and paraphilias.
I believe it’s good for you. Especially if you’re a writer. Out there, in the infinite spark-lit voids of the aether, are ALL the ideas and questions and wonders. They’re cooking in the furnaces of electronic memory banks, like rare elements in the wombs of stars. Never in the history of humankind have we been able to fly through such vineyards of sheer information, plucking grapes as we go. Or at least not in any well-known history, though you can find several lesser-known ones resolutely documented out there with the maps and cats and artwork … Reptiloids. Niphilim. Annunaki.
My point (I do have one) is that when you find yourself becalmed upon the Sea of Holes – when between the plot holes and the gaps in character development and the lacunae in your personal knowledge of supercritical carbon dioxide turbines you cannot find a way forward at all – take it as an opportunity. Cast yourself upon the waters, and see where you wash up. There’s probably another story waiting there.
For your further entertainment and edification, I offer something I found the other night while roaming the dubious shallows: the Express, out of London, UK. This delightful on-line journal is a step above the average tabloid, in that it appears to be properly spelled and punctuated; though that may just be because they are British. But their stories are hysterical, and have just the right amounts of dragon’s teeth and seeds of madness.
Here’s a link to a really unusual photo of a UFO. I’ve never seen one like it. It may be from a movie I’ve never seen, because it looks more like an actual interstellar vehicle than a pie plate.
Here is proof of time travel! It’s a mummy, wearing mummified Adidas on its mummy feet.
And here is an entire collection of alien skulls found on Mars, by the redoubtable Scott C. Waring, who seems to spend all his time identifying rocks as jelly doughnuts and heads
Have fun, Dear Readers. And remember that there are more shining plots out there in the aether than there are stars in the sky.
And some of them are the same lights.
Thanks for sharing those gems from the Express. “Real Flying Saucer Snapped by a Mum” is just so British. They should work the phrase “by a mum” into all their headlines, e.g., “Hitler Discovered Living in Basingstoke by a Mum.”
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