I resisted a lot of things back in the 90s and one of them was the Internet. The other was cell phones. I didn’t want to complicate my life with stuff that I didn’t need. It made sense at the time. My life was complicated enough trying to provide for me and my dogs the stuff we needed. But it was a case of I didn’t get it…

I agreed to baby-sit Bonny, an Akita/Golden mix, for some friends who were going to Korea to teach. They wanted me to get the internet at home so we could email. I didn’t want to email. I didn’t have the internet at home. SO… I didn’t hear for them for the whole year. They didn’t send money for food, either, which was part of the deal. I ended up (it was no punishment; Bonny Honey was a wonderful dog) thinking they’d abandoned Bonny Honey. When they got back, I didn’t want to give back their dog. BUT a long tear-filled heart-to-heart revealed the hell that year had been for them.

I write historical fiction which means I do a lot of research. All four of my historical novels is almost a PhD dissertation in terms of research (but no citations needed 🙂 ). I did all the research for Martin of Gfenn the old-school way, in the library. Thank goodness I was at San Diego State at the time and had access to everything there as well as online sources I could access from the writing lab where I was working at the time. Even my tiny cell phone could give me access to the Catholic Encyclopedia. I could see it was a Brave New World.

Using (comparatively very fast) computers in the libraries of the schools in which I taught, and in my various offices, I’d learned everything necessary to teach my students all they needed to know about online research. It was fascinating to use search engines such as Alta Vista to do research. I did use them, and since I didn’t have the Internet at home, I printed out pages and pages of answers to questions I had about medieval life in Switzerland.

Still it was a while before I got the Internet at home. And when I did, it was dial-up.

A few years later, having made the transition to a more online life, I went online and found a Swiss Medievalist Historian who had written about the very place in which Martin of Gfenn is set. I emailed him. In 2005 we met up in Zürich and that led to one of the absolute best days of my whole life.

Connections made online can be as “real” as face-to-face connections. I have online friends I’ve known for more than a decade. It’s a different kind of communication in its way, as anyone reading this blog knows. However, I feel as a writer that something is lost in the manner of doing research this way.

Online research yields fast answers as well as access to data bases and sources all over the world. Writing three more novels after Martin of Gfenn, all also written about Switzerland, I have been able to use Switzerland’s amazing Swiss Lexicon to research for the novels I wrote after Martin of Gfenn. That was an immense boon. It’s published in all the Swiss languages so one way or another I have been able to find information I needed. Everything is there — even old maps! It’s magical and wonder-filled, but finding information is not the same as the ambulatory scavenger hunt of true old-school library research.

8 thoughts on “Linked…

  1. I grew up in the 90s. It was such a time of change. I never resisted computers, but cell phones…I still hate cell phones. I hate being connected all the time. Me and my friends did just fine with landlines only. We would plan a time to meet at the mall, then we’d meet at that time. It’s a lot more simple than people think :/

  2. Being born in the 2000s most of my research for school work and has consisted of involvement with the net but I’d like to rewind the time and try conducting a research without using internet. I might learn much more than what i just seek to research.
    Also, am i just imagining it or was this sentence, ‘I could see it was a Brave New World.’ a reference to the novel by Aldous Huxley?

    • Yes, I was referring to Huxley’s novel. I taught it for years and one thing I got from it every time I taught it was that the brave new worlds are a mixed bag, the contents of which are largely unknown except that they will lead to another brave new world about which we can only make vague and erroneous conjectures.

      I don’t know if you’d learn more in the old-school way, but it’s certainly different. I think both ways are pretty amazing.

  3. The internet I embraced. It was the cell phone I resisted and still don’t particularly like. It is like wearing a leash. It became mandatory in the eyes of people who think your time and availability ought to be at their disposal.

    • I ended up liking the cell phone because you could actually reach people to talk to them. I don’t use the phone much to make calls either, now that we can text.

  4. My only problem with online research is making sure it is accurate. Often when you try to find the source of information, you wind up discovering the same article is the source of itself. Once, I found I was the source, though I’d gotten the information from IMDB online and they’d gotten from who knows where. It can turn into loops.

  5. I remember the old way – before the internet and before computers. I had 3×5 cards and a steno pad. I must have read dozens of books and spent hours in the “stacks” trying to find and take notes on scholarly articles from obscure journals! (I was poor so I couldn’t afford to xerox the articles.) I like the internet research better but it has its pitfalls. So many click bait sites and the endless ads… Still it is faster.

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