Research & Why

The background research for the Henchmen series was based on experience. I had already worked with things like the locks in Radula and Mosler safes. The fight scenes were based on years of training in Kenpo, Kenjutsu, & Okinawan Karate. Some of the later stuff, especially the spin-offs in the Saxton series and a couple of the stories in The Clock Man required looking a few things up, but again, it was all stuff I was relatively aware of. In other words, I didn’t have to do a lot of original research to get those books off the ground.

In some ways, I guess this is to be expected. They say the first novel is always somewhat autobiographical. Not that I’ve fought gods and monsters, mind you, just that a lot of the background details were already firmly in place.

mosler
What a Mosler may look like

I’m working on a new book, a follow-on to the events of The Clock Man novella, that explores the world of Aluna further. It’s moving along nicely. Thank you very much for asking. Greetings From Sunny Aluna takes a look at the fallout from the events The Clock Man and, more importantly, asks the question of “Why”?

Greetings is my first true fantasy novel in that it takes place on a planet that doesn’t exist and makes use of magic. At least, that seems to be the functional definition of fantasy. Aluna is a world populated by people from Earth at some point in the past. Magic there is a fundamental force; someone with enough skill or training can handle it, but most people use it to turn on their lights.

The magic part is neither here nor there. You can research magic until the cows come home and never get to the bottom of it because there’s no scientifically valid research to do on it. Seriously, even the Time Life Mysteries of the Unknown series doesn’t do a very good job with magic. This leaves me with non-standard research sources.

zatanna
My Zatanna comics didn’t help much, either.

In the end, I decided the magic part was best handled delicately and in small doses. And no, Zatanna doesn’t make an appearance.

Other research I wound up doing – stuff that is a bit more grounded in the real world – pertained to the cultures that would spring up when people were transplanted and forced to deal with an alien world. Certain things, like mammals, would be forgotten after a few generations on a planet that doesn’t have those things. A simple thing like a dog would be incredible. Other things – food, for instance – would adapt to the available buffet. In a world with no mammals, steak simply wouldn’t exist. Fortunately, I can look to extant cultures and extrapolate what the food would look like. Probably fried tarantulas and extremely large bird barbecue.

Those are the fun things about building a new world and, I have to admit, I’m having a lot of fun integrating a culture with heavy Chinese influence into a world where magic and dragons are very real. Speaking of Chinese, integrating the language into text has been, at best, problematic. I would like to take a public moment here to thank Google translate. Without that, I’d be dead in the water.

But the best part about writing fantasy is realizing that no matter where you go and who you talk to, people are still people. Organized crime will still exist. Drugs will still be peddled. And, most importantly, the quest for power will still be there. All good fantasy should focus on the characters; the world and all the accouterments that come along with it are window dressing.

In case you’re wondering, yes, Greetings From Sunny Aluna spends a lot of time in the gutters of Aluna. Consider it fantasy crime noir with a touch of wuxia.

powah
Power is always a good motivator.

Which leads to the “why”.

I studied LEAN Six Sigma some time back because my job decided we all needed to be Six Sigma certified. For those unfamiliar, Six Sigma is a process for examining (among other things) efficiency and defects in manufacturing. We were shoehorning it into a programming environment to mixed results. One of the things I did pick up on was the Six Sigma concept of root cause analysis. That’s the idea that for a given problem there might be dozens of symptoms, but when you dig down far enough, you’ll find a single cause that explains the myriad of problems. I took that one to heart in development.

Root cause analysis can also be useful in writing. We already know we need conflict and fun characters and all kinds of wacky adventures, but the root problem isn’t always easy to ferret out. Why did the Clock Man go off the rails like he did? What precipitating event kicked off the events of that story and lead Felix Crow down the path he wound up on? In the story, I hinted at those things, but they were guesses from Crow’s point of view. Greetings From Sunny Aluna is told from a lot of different points of view and when each character realizes they have a part of the solution, the whole reason is laid bare.

Trust me on this, it’s a doozy. To find out what it is, you’ll just have to read the book when it’s done. In the interim, have a fried tarantula and revel in the fact that you live in a world where you can get a steak.

51184810_fried-tarantula-spider_1x1
Supposedly they’re pretty tasty.
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