Saturday, September 8, 2012


Making good progress with the first draft of Tiamat's Nest. More of that another time, but this post is about research.

I haven't yet had to do much research for my writing. Nothing like, say, a novel in a historical setting where authors like Gary Corby or Christian Jacq are clearly steeped in the cultures they have set their works in.

The people in Ghosts of Innocence have never even heard of Earth, so nothing of our history or culture can have any factual bearing on the story. I had a blank slate on which to craft worlds of my own. The most I had to do was check some calculations on orbital periods, and review the span of space my story was set in against the overall layout of the galaxy, to make sure I wasn't making any blatant astronomical blunders.

Tiamat's Nest is different. It is set on Earth, later this century. A markedly changed Earth, to be sure, but there needs to be some recognizable bedrock to the imaginary places I am building.

Part of the story is set in an ice-free Greenland, where new communities have become established on the newly-habitable land.

So, I needed a map of Greenland.

I set off with naive optimism, thinking it would be easy to find a decent map charting the features buried under the ice.

Search after search soon showed that, to most people, Greenland is a thin ribbon of fjords surrounding a big blank white space. Printed atlases are no better. Most of them cover it at such a small scale they don't even mark the human settlements there today.

Today, I visited the local library, hoping they would have more useful references.

They had some impressive atlases. All of them added precisely nothing to the meager store of knowledge I already had. The librarian tried to help, but told me that they had not long ago disposed of their collection of maps because nobody ever referred to them. The largest nearby bookstore still had a map room, though.

So, off to the bookstore.

I found a section with maps. Nothing of Greenland. I asked at the counter, explaining what I was looking for.

The lady thought for a moment, and remembered that there was indeed a map of Greenland sitting in a back room waiting to be returned because they'd had it so long they decided they were never going to sell it.

Talk about "meant to be"!

So, now I have something to work on. It's still mostly blank in the center, but it is a map with a scale, with existing settlements and other features named. I am now overlaying this with a topographic view I found online showing the true ground level under the ice. I figure that I am safe adding made-up names to features (like the large inland sea which would appear if the ice melted) because the first settlers in this new land would likely have a free hand naming things anyway. Who's going to argue?


  1. With the dearth of information available on Greenland no one will have anything to check...not that they would...where IS my atlas?

  2. Sounds intriguing indeed. I don't know much about Greenland but I hope I shall discover soon from your book. Have you published the book with Shayla yet? It's Ghost of Innocence, if I am not wrong....Good luck with your research for the new project :).

  3. I am not a writer, apart from Blogging, but the one thing that would attract me is the thought of wasting an enjoyable year doing obscure research!
    Incidentally, I am sure you could write anything about Greenland and remain safely unchallenged.
    Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  4. Delores, my take on it is - if there's something out there that readers could easily check for themselves, then I'd better have got there first!

    Unikorna, you're right, Shayla's story is Ghosts of Innocence. I am working on finding an agent for that one in between drafting the new WIP.

    Bazza, the big danger is that the research (and detailed worldbuilding, in my case) takes over entirely and I'd never get any actual writing done. And I'm coming to much the same conclusion regarding knowledge. Time to invent some things to fill in the gaps :)

  5. Hi Ian,
    Ah yes, I can see how you might get too absorbed in studying up on Greenland. I was surprised to find out that folks actually live there. And when you fly over Greenland on the way to BC, it does make you wonder why it's called "Greenland".
    All the best and happy writing.

  6. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! Isn't research both frustrating and fun? Glad you were able to get what you needed.

  7. Oh wow, Ian, that sounds like so much fun! No, really, I *love* that kind of research. I'm very excited for you. Just reading your description of this new Greenland alone has set my imagination on fire -- and it's not even my story!

    Good luck, in this and all your current writing endeavors.

  8. Gary, I often wondered about the name, too. Supposedly, the viking Erik the Red called it that hoping to attract settlers. First documented case of spin?

    Ellie! Welcome back! Frustrating and fun pretty much covers it :)

    David, thanks. Actually having a real map in my hands has helped no end with visualizing what's going on in the story. I find that an essential part of my writing process.

  9. I think it's sad libraries are getting rid of resources like that... but I would wouldn't I?

  10. Of course you would say that, Danette, but it is true regardless. We are lucky that our little library is still well used. I hope they made use of the space for other newer resources.


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