Friday, June 07, 2013

Will curiosity be a national security offense?

Muddy Puddle, photo by aston5man, used w/attribution, cc license
(trust me, it is relevant to the post)

Over the past nine years, I have researched information on such topics as:

  • using chemicals to set fires
  • poisons that simulate death
  • how to garrote someone
  • hand to hand knife fighting
  • assessing the time of death from the condition of a corpse
  • the difference in damage a straight gunshot does vs a ricochet bullet
  • how to hack into computer networks
  • brainwashing techniques 

I have also done quite a bit of reading on the role of women in middle eastern cultures, genetic engineering, conspiracy theorists, inner city gangs, and drug cartels.

I haven't yet had the occasion to look into explosives or sabotage,  but given my curiosity and the range of the novels I like to write, it's probably only a matter of time.

My work is firmly in the range of SPECULATIVE fiction. It lives in the land of 'what if'. But because I care deeply about maintaining the suspension of disbelief and not breaking the spell for a reader, I do a lot of research to ensure the details are based in fact. I only hope that when the NSA or some other agency comes calling, they'll let me show them the novels I've written before carting me off somewhere.

Given that my internet searches will alternate discovering the correct dose of arsenic to cause death from the phone number for the self-service dog wash in my town, I'm obviously a dangerous sociopath who wants clean dogs.

What's the strangest or most outlandish thing you've researched?
What do you think that says about you?


  1. Whether or not melting the sand along a stretch of beach early in the afternoon would still be hot enough to stop an invading army of bronze-age soldiers several hours later, and what the effects of said hot demi-glass would be. (Yes, and Ow.)

    I hope all those poor agents stuck researching peoples' internet history have a special file for writers ("Author--crime fiction--ignore further search history" "Author--fantasy--ignore further search history" "Author--favorite--investigate when search includes 'synopsis format'"). Otherwise, they probably know more about the publishing biz than we do...

  2. "Author--favorite--investigate when search includes 'synopsis format'"

    ROFL. I can only hope!

  3. "dangerous sociopath who wants clean dogs" made me laugh out loud...

  4. I'll admit that I'm a bit paranoid about the research thing. Especially, when for the last project I did research on the local FBI office, in addition to torture techniques and the gang task force in the area, while looking it all up at my local library. Luckily my current project is all historical stuff, so if the FBI comes knocking and asks about Victorian medicine and the etiquette of attending a ball, I'm all set to defend myself in court.

    Yes, but if you were a real sociopath, you'd be okay with messy canines!

    1. I don't know--ball etiquette could get really cut-throat. . .

  5. Lately I've been researching a lot of WWII stuff, so I don't think they'd find any red flags at the moment. However, I've researched how to hang someone without killing them before. And how quickly certain materials burn and the extent of damage that can do to a person.

    We writers are really weird.

    1. "We writers are really weird."

      ANd thank goodness for that!

  6. Yeah, I worried about that, too...I had to crash a plane for one story, and since my father is a pilot, I thought I'd run some scenarios with him and find out what the standard procedure is and what would actually cause a plane to go down. Halfway through the email exchange, one of us wrote, "Uh, if anyone's reading this, they would REALLY get the wrong idea, if they came in mid-stream on the conversation..." So yeah, it's occurred to me that all of this snooping will uncover a lot of potentially dangerous-seeming fiction writers. Sigh.

    1. Yeah--I had a long email exchange with the spouse of a friend who is a 'white hat' hacker about writing a hacking scene in a novel. It definitely was one of those exchanges that, out of context, would give an observer pause. Sigh is right.