Okay, if you’re a fantasy writer, doing anything remotely inspired by medieval history, you should be getting on a plane to Kalamazoo, Michigan–right now! At the very least, you should know *why* I would urge you to Kalamazoo. Sadly, the flights are probably sold out. . . maybe you can drive?
Kzoo, as it is affectionately known, plays host to a number of events throughout the year, but the one that fantasy writers must know is the International Congress on Medieval Studies, held every May. Yes, it usually conflicts with Mother’s Day. My mom usually forgives me. Right, Mom? . . . Mom?
Nevermind about that. The thing is, Kzoo is a gathering of thousands of medieval scholars, coming to share their research with one another, and with the writers in search of plots, characters, historical details you’re not going to find in other places. I come home with pages of notes (yeah, I know–paper notebooks are practically medieval these days) and ideas to spark my books. Basically, what you get is hundreds of sessions where these folks present their papers, as well as a dealer’s room full of incredible books, software and other stuff(at a discount for attendees), societies dedicated to peculiar and fascinating studies, and a chance to talk with people who have devoted themselves to this material.
My work in progress, The Dark Apostle series, is set in Europe around 1347, featuring magic and medicine appropriate to the time. There is a society dedicated to the study of historical magic (Societas Magica) and one for medicine as well! These people have literally written the books on the stuff that underlies my fictional world.
Sure, we have the web. And we can rarely be sure what to trust when we find it. We have shelves of research books, local friends, maybe even a degree in a related area. And none of that compares to the energy of 3000 people actively pursuing new research and sharing it with one another. Alas, I can’t be there this year–too many other commitments. But even just recalling the conversations I’ve had there in the past makes me want to hustle down to the airport. This conference is an amazing resource. Seriously. If you are writing historical settings or pseudo-medieval epics, you need to know about Kalamazoo. I’ll hope to meet you there next year!