A couple of the titles I’ve recently added to my shelf are chapbooks produced by the Society for Creative Anachronism, as part of their Compleat Anachronist series. The latest one I acquired is “Handgonnes in the Middle Ages” by Don Justinian Syke of Rakovec. This is a nifty little volume with a fine focus on the history and handling of firearms of the period. It’s especially useful for the fiction writer because it not only discusses the history, but gives a practical guide to how the weapons were operated, by a guy who has done it, not merely read about it.
I know that, in medieval scholarly circles, the SCA is denigrated as being a land of make-believe, not that far different from oh, say, fantasy novels. However, these books are thoroughly researched and vetted by a peer-review process, just like any scholarly or technical work. They, like the SCA itself, are the result of individuals who become fascinated enough with the time period to do the research and frame their knowledge in practical terms. And I owe a debt to the authors of these chapbooks for pouring their specialized knowledge into such useful works.
Not unlike the internet itself. Anything you want, you can find it online. In particular, anything you want to know about, likely somebody’s posting about it. You can start with a wikipedia article, that takes you to a bibliography with a specialized website that leads you to someone thesis, from their to their source material–back to the library! Where my reference librarian will track down for me some resource so obscure it’s not even on the web.
When I do a lot of my research, I am following a chain of other people’s obsessions. Somebody gets so interested in something that he writes an article. He refers to a website by a woman who used to teach on that subject, who has select links to people who share the obsession, or who have even more detailed specialties. Sometimes, someone like me–a researcher with a broader interest–has trouble locating just the right resources, and starts assembling the references, the obscure, antique titles, the distant journal articles and thesis papers–into a work of extraordinary focus that adds to the body of knowledge. Or decides to do the hands-on research, the archaeology, the re-creation, the science to understand that little void in the canon.
And so, I am here to offer my humble thanks for those of you who not only delve into your obsessions with enthusiasm, but then compile the knowledge you derive and present it for the rest of us to share.