Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Research trip coming up

Didn't write a word last night.  It's not that I lazed around and did nothing, though; I had research to do.  It's actually fun, as I've mentioned before, to do research, and last night I really dug into it. 

The issue currently at hand is that a significant portion of the story takes place in the forge of Hephaestus.  Now, I've been in a couple of different forges before.  Problem was, when I was there it was either a social visit or a tour, and unfortunately in neither case did I pay as much attention as I should have. 

Socially, I visited a couple of forges back when I was in the Society for Creative Anachronisms.  It's an interesting group of people, many of whom enjoy doing such olde-style crafts as writing an e at the end of everye worde that will beare it, weaving clothe (OK, I'll stop now) from bobbins, embroidering with "period" (i.e., breakable) needles, and yes, beating on hot metal with big hammers.  Oh, and hitting each other with big sticks, which I guess isn't technically a craft so much as an (enormously silly) activity.  I didn't particularly share a fondness for any of those crafts, or the sticking either, though I'll admit that the brewing got me hooked.  That said, it was a social activity for me, a chance to hang out with some pretty cool people.  Consequently I can recall details about some of the conversations we had in the forge far more vividly than the actual forging process.  I do, however, remember an awful lot of propane blowtorches...and somehow the idea of propane blowtorches being used by the god of smiths in his volcanic forge just doesn't jive in my mental imagery. 

More recently I toured Colonial Williamsburg, and I remember going through the forge there.  It was dark, and it was noisy.  That's about the extent of what I remember.  Keep in mind that the idea of banging big hammers against white-hot metal doesn't do anything for me.  No offense to the smiths there, but the merchants, the post office, and the other craftsmen held my attention far longer than the ironworkers were able to.  I even got pictures...ferinstance, there's one of my wife, standing on front of something that might be interesting to be able to see now.  There's another of my brother, in front of something else I kinda wish I could describe.  Now I'm kind of kicking myself over what I didn't learn, of course, but at the time...well, who knew?

So last night I went online.  I found several how-to guides on forging and on smelting, and that was interesting.  I even found a great site with videos on the smelting process, which is good because I don't recall whether there was a smelting area in the smithy at Williamsburg.  Thanks to that site, I think I have an idea of what happens when iron is smelted. 

It's really important that I get it down...as I've said before, nothing ruins a fiction experience like running over a passage and knowing that things aren't done thataway.  There are, of course, plenty of places I can read about the processes of smelting and forging.  The problem is with the translational aspect of language.  When I read what someone else has written about what, say, smelting looks like, I'm really getting that writer's interpretation of what smelting looks like.  Ever tried playing the description game?  You take a picture of a room, or a horse, or pretty much anything else, and then describe the room or the horse or the anything else to a friend.  Based on that description, that friend describes it to another friend, assuming he has more than one friend.  Let it go as long as you'd like, and you'll be surprised how far separated the description becomes from the reality, and pretty quickly in the chain. 

That's what I'm looking to avoid.  By going and seeing it myself, what I can then offer my own readers is my interpretation of forging and smithing, rather than my interpretation of someone else's interpretation of it. 

All that is boiling down, of course, to a need for another road trip sometime soon.  Colonial Williamsburg is only an hour's drive from here, and our daughter hasn't gotten to see it yet.  Sounds like a good (and, incidentally, tax-deductible, now that I'm in the business of writing a book...hmm) trip to take one weekend.  I'll let the ladies run off to all the other sights in town, and I'll stand in the forge and pretend to like it. 

But those are the fine details.  I got enough last night to continue pushing through the prose, so tonight, onward it shall be. 

Word Count: 50,124

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy your visit! Glad you are that close :D