Thursday, August 13, 2009

Research and Destroy

There's a good line in a Richard Powers interview somewhere-or-other in which he talks about how he threw everything he knew into his first novel, because he didn't know if he'd have a chance to write a second. I like that. A bit too much, perhaps.

I'm really susceptible to going off on wild tangents of reading up on a subject that interests me, on the sometimes-dubious grounds that I need to know more about it for the novel. Just as an example, some subjects that I've researched in writing the current book:

* mining in Colorado
* late 19th-century labor activism and violence
* irrigation
* weather patterns
* what happens if you blow up a dam (hello, Homeland Security!)
* Salton City and its decline
* states' rights
* utopian societies in the United States
* U.S. troops being sent into Russia toward the end of World War I
* UFOs
* other conspiracy theories, including one that there are secret tunnels under Denver International Airport
* the effects of cocaine and peyote (a lifetime without drug use has left me sadly deficient in some areas)
* the layout of San Diego

...and a bunch of other things that I'm just not thinking of right now.

The point being, when the writing isn't going well at all I look for ANY distractions, and researching something ostensibly for the book is one where I can keep the illusion up that I'm WORKING. And that's probably counterproductive. I gotta quit that.

2 comments:

lralle said...

The former and sometimes labor historian in me feels compelled to fuel the fire. Labor violence reading:

The Battle for Homestead, 1880-1892: Politics, Culture and Steel. By Paul Krause. Pittsburgh, PA, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992

Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America
James Green

Stuff on the Ludlow Massacre's early 20th century, but has the coal mining aspect too.

gsdgsd13 said...

I've wanted to read more about Ludlow for a long time now -- every time I head back to Colorado I plan to drive down there for a day, every time I flake out. At least two books on it came out in recent memory, one of which got some nice things said about it by a prominent Colorado historian, so maybe...