Fieldwork Prep

Well, it seems that the Internet only gets you so far in world-building research. Even when you’re making history up as you go along, like I am. Because writing an alternate timeline still requires some common ground with the timeline we inhabit, so readers can have some sort of frame of reference. My current steampunk project may be set in an 1859 that has differed wildly from our history ever since Jefferson failed to get full funding for the Louisiana Purchase, but everything is still colored and flavored by the history preceding that point of divergence. And without a certain degree of commonality even after that point, the reader has no sense of continuity, nothing to connect my alternate 1859 with a possible 2012 that is not completely unrecognizable. (It would be way cooler than our 2012, though, rest assured.)

So, I need to learn my history. And that, my friends, means research. And lots of it. Yay, Internet! But like I said, there’s only so much you can get online. I have chosen to set my story in a real place, and I am finding that it makes my job easier and harder at the same time. Arrow Rock is a real town in the Missouri River Valley, and it has a great deal of history to it. So much, in fact, that much of it has been restored to its frontier appearance, and it even served as a stand-in for the too-modern Hannibal, Missouri, in a musical version of Tom Sawyer. Finding the history of Arrow Rock in books and online is a cinch. But as I flesh out the details of the story, I find myself perplexed to discover that the facts I need are not recorded anywhere. Because I need to know really oddball things. How long does it take a woman in steampunk attire to walk the length of the boardwalk? Or from the post office to the tavern? And how much steam-powered equipment could Godsey fit in his Diggings? 

So, into the field I go! I will get but a few hours next month to explore the village, so I am furiously scribbling down all the bits of trivia I need to scavenge while I’m there. And I’m debating the wisdom of dressing in full steampunk attire while I wander about, pacing off distances and muttering to myself. Maybe I should go ahead and get that MWA membership card. I’m told it excuses (or at least explains) all sorts of odd behavior.

Film Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

I watched this quirky sf rom-com last night, and my sleep suffered for it. I cannot simply take it at face value as so many reviewers seem to be doing. Am I really the only viewer whose brain kept going around in circles, pondering the time travel concepts? Maybe that’s what I get for being married to an amateur theoretical physicist all those years. But I know from my own writing that there is a ton of stuff — research, back story, tangents, spin-offs, subplots, etc — that never makes it onto the page. Surely it’s the same with movies. How much of this story never made it onto the cutting-room floor, let alone the screen? There is so much going on there that is just hinted at in this movie that I have to suspect there is much, much more to this story than is readily apparent on the first viewing.

Yes, I am going to have to buy the DVD when it’s released and analyze the bejeebies out of this film. I have lots of pet theories, but I think I need to watch this at least once more before sharing any of them. But let me just ask this: Did the Kenneth in this film seem to have time-travelled before?

Setting aside the intricacies of the space-time continuum for a few moments, I have to say I adored this film. It was sweetly funny without being cloying or insipid, and its balance of geeky physics and human connections was perfect. All of the characters were interesting, each giving some unique insight into loss and regret. And if the writing was well done, the direction and performances were exceptional. This was the realest-feeling movie I’ve seen in a long time, and I mean that in the best sense.

I know this film has limited distribution, but please go see it if you have the opportunity. Then come here and discuss it with me. Tell me if I’m as crazy as Kenneth. Or crazier.

My New Desk

I have a new desk! And I am working towards having an entire office in my new home.

I know, it isn’t much, just a tiny corner in a room still filled with Chinese lamps Brian’s storage bins containing miscellaneous items tossed in more or less at random. And I’m not thrilled with the orange walls. But I feel much more productive now that I have a home for my laptops (well, two of them, anyway) and a way to keep a few important tools accessible.  Brian even cleaned out the wall cabinet, which I plan to use for storing ink and other such supplies.

Now I need to pull some of my bookshelves out of storage, find a nice music stand (preferably one with a place to store music as well as display it), and get a printer stand that will put the printer low enough that I can actually read the control pad. And then I can get started unpacking all those boxes I have stacked in the living room. And I think my bulletin board (also in storage at the moment) will fit on the wall underneath the window, which will expand my thinkspace and hide some of that orange!

I think I shall do before-and-after shots of this organizing project, sort of like what my cousin Shannon (a professional organizer) does for her clients. It won’t be a complete “before” picture, because I didn’t think to get a shot of the guest bed (with boxes and laundry piled on it) before Brian’s sister took it to make room for the desk. But since I am pretty much reorganizing the whole house, I will probably do a complete walk-through with a camera today. Don’t worry, though; I will spare you daily blog posts of my progress (or lack thereof).