Research and E-books (23/2/10)

Posted in News

It’s a Tuesday so it must be time to witter about something. There’s not much book-news to get excited about at the moment. Am rewriting the last quarter of the Order of the Scales after finally figuring out what was bothering me about it (yes, something is getting cut). Am waiting impatiently for Thief-Taker to come back from my editor (impatiently because I have free evenings coming out of my ears at the moment and there’s only so much Bioshock a man can play. Well, actually there isn’t, but there probably ought to be).

Still: Last night was the annual Orion bash, and a couple of comments still ring in my ears. Amid the Amazon vs. Macmillan malarkey, iPads and other shenanigans and the poorly advertised possibly-not-actually-a-fact that the e-book version of The Adamantine Palace will have something pushing 60,000 words of extra material in it, I’d somehow gained the impression that e-books were, somehow, well, y’know, important? Apparently not. According to Peter Roche, chief executive of the Orion Publishing Group, there is the possibility that e-books will expand greatly in 2010, possibly up to a whopping great 2% of total sales. Woo-hoo. Yes, the trend will doubtless continue and yes, it will vary from genre to genre (cookery e-book? Better be sauce-proof). But still. Woo-hoo. I’ll do the bonus material but I’ll not be rushing out to acquire a system developers tool-kit for iPad apps just yet.

This was a statement made during the annual Orion state-of-the-union address. The second most thought-provoking comment came from Adam Roberts, which went something along the lines of ‘What? You’re just going as a tourist? You’re not even doing research?’ This in response to me being off on a little trip in a couple of months. I didn’t have an answer to that, and it’s taken me a full day to realise why. So in lieu of being on the panel about fantasy research at Eastercon, here’s my ha’penny on researching for epic fantasy. It’s simple, really. Everything is research. I’m never a tourist. I was doing research last night in the Royal Opera House, listening to the acoustics and looking at the shape of the ceiling. I will be doing research in the Andes, on the look and feel of mountains. Not all that long ago I did some research on what it’s like to stand on the open top of a tall tower (very windy). Right now I’m researching how to share your lap between a laptop and a cat (tricky and prone to typos). Research for fantasy is endless. Go visit every terrain the world will offer you. Master geography. Understand how every culture works and why. Learn how science and technology developed. Get your head around the sum of human history. Slide into the heads of other people and figure out what make them tick. Do all of that and you’ll have everything you need to build worlds that are effortlessly real. “You’re not even doing research?” Doesn’t have an answer because the question doesn’t compute.