For the past couple of weeks I have carried on with research, trying to determine exactly what catastrophe will have hit the earth of my post-apocolyptic novel, and what exactly the impact on Earth of that catastrophe would be. I want my disaster to be a solar or astral event or a combination of these. I’m not sure why, it’s just a gut feeling I have of what would best suit my ideas for the book.
I have read three very interesting texts on the subject: two were explorations of the theory that the human race has been decimated by a solar event in the past, the other one simply detailed the myriad of ways that the universe could devastate the Earth.
Aside from the readings, I have emailed one of the authors with questions (no response to date), and spent a lot of time on the internet. I’m so stuffed full of newly acquired astronomical knowledge that, just like the supernovas I’ve been reading about, my head could explode at any moment.
I still don’t have the answers I wanted. What I’d really like to know is how could a person survive a super solar flare, a gamma ray burst or a galactic superwave? And, what would life be like for those survivors in the aftermath? Not only have I not found the answers, but I haven’t found any clues that could lead me to them.
Where does that leave me? I figure there are two logical conclusions.
The first is that I haven’t researched enough and I need to keep looking … but where?
The second conclusion is that there is no answer. I should move on.
I had a similar dilemma in my first book. In that story a race of aliens need to abandon their soon-to-be-destroyed planet so they send a scout (meet my antagonist) to Earth to check out its suitability. Being me, I wanted my story scenario to be plausible (yes, I wanted my novel about how a boy accidentally implants an alien into his grandma’s body to be plausible! That sounds daft even to me!) A quick bit of research taught me that it takes an awful long time (as in many lifetimes) to travel from a planet outside our solar system to Earth, even at the speed of light. So I agonised, and researched, before I had my alien race develop the technology to create traversable wormholes across space (and it is theoretically possible – I know because I spent too many hours on internet sites reading, and watching videos, about wormholes.)
What I forgot somewhere along the way is that I am creating fiction. I have watched Star Trek and seen the Starship Enterprise travel from one side of the universe to the other. How do the writers of Star Trek get around the time problem of space travel across gigantic distances? Why doesn’t the Starship Enterprise arrive at its destination with only skeletons on board? Answer: Warp drive. And what is warp drive? Fiction, that’s what it is. Because half of science fiction, is fiction.
So I think it’s time for me to move on. Ninety-nine percent of my potential readers are going to buy into whatever Earth setting I describe as the outcome of my catastrophic solar event.
Has anyone else got themselves so bogged down in research and concern with plausibility that they forgot they were writing fiction? How much research is enough?