Boons and Battles of Research
Unless time consumption is considered a problem, pitfalls of research are few. I find problems with extensive research are few, if not nonexistent. There can never be too much knowledge obtained in regards to understanding a subject; it all depends on how the knowledge is handled during the writing process.
Research adds depth to character and solidity to the world that character experiences. For instance, an average bullet travels about 1,700 miles per hour (2,500 feet per second), but how would that be relevant in a story? Obviously that’s up to the writer, but knowing the fact might provide a character with more options, should the situation arise. Maybe a bullet’s speed surfaces in dialogue, or possibly the character is challenged to develop a realistic way to dodge a bullet. Knowing a bullet’s speed certainly helps the cause, and enriches the process.
If a story is going to be about monsters, then it’s likely beneficial to learn the lore and mythology of monsters. Breverton’s Phantasmagoria, A Compendium of Monsters, Myths and Legends by Terry Breverton, is a fun book on the subject. His compendium lives up to the title, proving to be an excellent addition to a collection. A writer will want to know the difference between the Eastern European werewolf and a Mesoamerican werewolf. Knowing this also opens doors to tie monsters together, realizing they’re all connected in some way.
In Screams The Machine, I was required to imagine what living in a self-aware universe would mean. Would a self-aware universe connect or disconnect humanity in more ways than anyone could imagine? Would humanity have any sort of untapped abilities, or atonement with the universe? Could a self-aware universe be corrupted? Can it be hacked somehow and utilized maliciously? Thus, researched! Even if the idea of a self-aware universe is or isn’t feasible, the subject is fascinating. The results blew my mind, making the world of Screams The Machine even more of a living, breathing animal.
What would happen if an artificial intelligence being had a nightmare? There are ways to speculate, but even better, there happens to be an AI-generated Nightmare Machine in real life. The imagery is disturbing to a degree, but it’s mostly interesting to see to horror created by AI. If you want to learn more about Nightmare Machine, go to nightmare.mit.edu and learn about Haunted Faces and Haunted Places. Artificial Intelligence can churn out some dark art, distorted art with a sense of beauty.
I was also required to learn how plasma and electromagnetic fields could be weaponized. Furthermore, and on a different scale, basic understandings of quantum physics and quantum computing was involved in Screams The Machine. I had to discover a way the story’s ideas could make sense, and studying quantum physics theories helped. Philosophy was also involved during research, from the classics like Plato’s Cave, to Nietzsche’s nihilism, and Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols. These studies were fruitful, not only for the writing, but in real life.
Alas, Screams The Machine didn’t turn out to be a text book—though, a text book version would be cool if possible. I think research should meld with a story enough to make its laws acceptable to the human mind. Knowledge helps make a fictional world appear alive, but the research shouldn’t always be candidly injected into a story.
‘Screams the Machine’ Synopsis:
Cash carries a disease; one that’s already killed a large majority of the population and something needs to be done. To stop the crisis from escalating, The Solution (a worldwide organization) is formed and rises to great power. They monitor people’s dreams and shape reality to fit their own wants and needs. In an effort to control existence itself, The Solution is searching for what they believe to be the ultimate tool; a person with the ability to master a deep connection with the mysterious, pervasive energy known only as The Ultimate Reality.
Watching her neighborhood decay, her friends and family perish, Elizabeth Reznik needs to find meaning in her life. She discovers her existence is more meaningful than she could ever have imagined. Operatives of The Solution seek her out, take her from her home and perform brutal experiments on her. Their conclusion? Elizabeth is the one they have been searching for; she is the key to gaining complete power.
The stratagem of The Solution is single minded – own the resources and you own the people. And the last resource available is free will. They will own your thoughts, they will orchestrate your dreams; they will dine on your fears. But there is always a cog in the machine… or in this case, a scream.
Sam Mortimer has worked the graveyard shift in law enforcement, attended film school, and has been writing strange stories since age eleven. He loves reading, music, and strives to meet the demands of his five cats.
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