10 February 2012

Research - Apocalyptica by the Sea

Attempting to write apocalyptica (not post-apocalyptica - this is a [partial] apocalypse in process rather than one of those 100 years later jobs) set in the near-now is something which it helps to fact-check - or you'll have a percentage of your readers falling out of your story because they immediately spot an impossibility in your setting.

The first setting in And All the Stars, St James Station, was a fairly easy thing to research, since it's the station I use going home from work.  Even then I've blithely swapped the location of the toilets for the sake of dramatic convenience ( :) ), a change I'll probably have to include an author's note about.  Now that the unfortunate Madeleine is departing its dusty confines (with a brief side-trip to Circular Quay), I took a lunch hour last week for Actual Research on the next setting in the book, Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo.

It's about a twenty minute walk from where I work, much of it through the grassy The Domain, and was a very useful trip for getting a good visual grip on the location for the next three or four chapters.  [Not to mention a chance to get a pie with peas from Harry's Cafe de Wheels, which sadly will not be open during the apocalypse.]

Finger Wharf is an odd place, sitting between two peninsulas, with a spectacular view of the Sydney skyline (and, ah, strange alien spires).  It's right next to a botanic garden/park on one side, and a naval base on the other, and is the home of very very rich people.  [I gather Russell Crow lives there, among others.]  And there I am, feeling immensely out of place wandering along past the row of incredibly expensive restaurants, and trying not to be too obvious peering at all the apartments and working out how one gets inside them.  I am by no means the kind of person with the chutzpah to try and talk my way inside for an inspection, though I did handily find some interior apartment shots thanks to my friend Google.

The trip did bring to my attention all the massive boats lined up outside.  They made me want to put a water chase scene in the book - I mean, Sydney Harbour, it cries out for water chases!  But there's the pesky issue of keys...

Anyway, And All the Stars proceeds apace.  I'm not a quick writer of first drafts, but progress is being made.


  1. you've more or less hit on why I dislike writing contemporary or novels set on Earth--I like making stuff up instead and blithely tossing something like the Thames going through a vista of rolling hills :D

  2. Precisely the reason I'm setting this in Sydney. I know what it looks like!

  3. re: Pesky facts

    For his novel _The Fountains of Paradise_, Sir Arthur Clarke moved the island of Sri Lanka 800 miles south.

    Won Nebula and Hugo.

    Moral: If the story is good, most readers will forgive factual errors.

  4. Thanks for your work. I love your books.

  5. How wonderful that you're going to actual places to research! Most of my settings are far away from where I live, so I end up using the Internet. I'm so thankful for the Internet with its wealth of background information, photos, videos, audio from all over the world - makes writing so much easier and more accurate than in the past when writers couldn't actually observe the settings for their stories. Sounds like you're enjoying your real-world research!

  6. It's fun to go have a look. Though Google Earth certainly helps with the places I can't practically get to!


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