236. Research, Research, Research

I’m still working on that steampunk story.

In truth, I had opened up a blank document file in my excitement, typed out a sentence, and struggled to write a second one after that. And then I left it alone and kept the project away at the back of my mind.

And I wonder why I keep missing deadlines.

I think I’ve been writing too much fantasy. The thing about me is that I can keep pretty good consistent internal logic. I have trouble, however, conforming to preexisting patterns of thought.

For example, the Cameron Highlands story that I was writing? It had a black hole in it; and though I’ve handwaved the existence of a solid black hole through the use of fantasy storytelling, I knew I had to research into actual black holes to see how the story would unfold around it. To this day, 30,000 words into the story, I still have no idea what the black hole should do.

God I hate research.

If I wanted to do research, I’d be a journalist, not a fiction writer. I like to make things up, not figure out how things can come together in a useful way. I like shortcuts through logic. But research all too often comes up as a necessity for writing intelligent stories.

A part of me tells me that I can ignore the research and make shit up. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I can stomach being willfully wrong – to thumb my nose at the facts because they’re in the way of a good story. But I will not be able to live with myself if I wrote out of ignorance.

I don’t want to be ignorant, but I don’t want to do research either. Nnngghh.

So I’m 2,500 words into the steampunk story (it should come up to 10,000 words for the 1st draft), and I’ve already spent like 2 solid hours just on researching. The Victorian age accelerated, steam technology advanced, leaving electricity and the internal combustion engine in the dust. What kind of world do we end up with? What does their history sound like?

So far so good:

  • The British Empire never let go of their colonies, and has begun to clamp down on the punk movement with laws that have an Orweillian foretaste to them.
  • The rapid advance of industry meant that Nikola Tesla had a better fighting chance, and successfully marketed his weapon designs to the US military, causing The Manhattan Project to be about perfecting his teleforce design instead of building the atom bomb.
  • Einstein and Feynman remain core contributors to the project, but on a lesser scale, and are more scientists than celebrities.
  • Nazi Germany took the design for the internal combustion engine and perfected it for their tanks, and their subsequent defeat and demonization caused the world to shun the internal combustion engine as Nazi technology.
  • People are just as wary of electrical technology because of the destructive power of the teleforce.
  • Nuclear physics is almost unheard of, due to its late advancement after being pushed aside for Tesla’s electric-based superweapon.


All of that for 2,500 words of text, and that’s not even including what I had to research for a coffee delivery service that went around in a zeppelin, and the world of steampunk Britain-Malaysia. (Bangsar is still the Bunge-Grisar Estate, for exaple.)

And I still have 7,500 words to go. God knows how much more research I’ll have to do to shape this story into something believable.

But at least I’m not writing out of ignorance. I can at least sleep happy tonight.


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