Authors and the Board

I’m thinking about writing a (longish) story. Now, the odds of it getting published are tiny, but if I DO decide to publish it, how would the world, other authors, and the board look upon research being done here, rather then through talking to experts (something I do not have the resources to do)?
NOTE: The board members would not effect the plot; just help with the FACTS.

There are lots of experts here, and you might as well ask them here as ask an expert at a cocktail party somewhere. I’ve asked things I’m going to use for my writing. I’m not the only one.

The thing is that when somebody responds, you aren’t ethically (or maybe even legally?) allowed to quote them verbatim in your story.

Actually, I have gotten a lot of help from experts in real life, too. Many people are happy to talk about the things they do for a living, and even get a kick out of being listed in the acknowledgments (which a short story won’t have, but I write novels). Nobody charged for their expertise, although I did get pretty heavily screened when I intervewed members of the local police hostage negotiation team (part of the SWAT team).

Do not “think about” writing a story. Just write the story.

I will just write the story. The thinking part is who I’ll share it with. :wink:

As for quoting them-I don’t mean that. But if I ask them, “what year did Columbus discover America?” and then use that information in my book-is that OK?

Facts are only as good as your sources. And as sources go, anonymous message boards, even one like this which has a fair number of experts, are not particularly good sources. You’ll have no guarantee any information provided is correct. If you get a lead, you’ll need to check it through an independent source.

If this is fiction, however, why would anybody care what your sources are? You’re not providing footnotes. You don’t need to disclose your sources at all.

It might help to explain just what kind of information and expertise you are looking for.

There’s no copyright on facts. But there often is on the expression of facts.

Say I’m writing a novel in which the protagonist’s 12-year-old nephew encounters a tapir while visiting Panama. Wanting to get my details right, I ask for the help of Colibri, a member (and moderator) here who happens to be a naturalist working in Panama. He supplies me with useful information on which species of tapir is found in Panama, and how one might reasonably be expected to behave when accosted by a 12-year-old boy. I use this information to create a believable scene. I am not legally bound to say anything about Colibri, though I would feel myself ethically bound (and also well advised from the POV of documenting accuracy) to acknowledge his help with chapter 12 in my Foreword.

However, in chapter 13 the kid tells his uncle about the encounter, and they look it up in a book Colibri referred me to, Smith’s Tapirs of Hispanic America (which is of course made up for this example). He reads the boy a passage out of Smith. I’m now honorbound, and legally required, to obtain the permission of the copyright holder (Smith, his estate or heirs, or his publisher, depending on who owns the rights) to use that quote. It’s not covered by fair use, because I expect to make something from selling the manuscript for publication. (In point of fact, ordinarily my publisher’s permissions department would make the arrangements to quote Smith, if I have a contract with a publisher – but the duty rests on me as author to do it or have it done.) The same would hold true if I quoted Colibri’s letter verbatim, writing him in as a minor character the uncle gets the information from – I’d need his permission to do so.

Alright, thanks. And I definetly WILL credit you guys in my foreword if I ever publish the book (unlikely…) Maybe not every individual poster, but the SDMB Posters in general, and name (with their permission) any who helped my multiple times.

I think this would be better suited to MPSIMS.

Alright, no problem. But the actual questions WOULD go in GQ, right?

What’s the subject of your story?

More likely you’d get “1492” as post 2 and then a 3 page discussion of how Columbus didn’t discover America he discovered El Salvador/No he didn’t the Indians were there and didn’t need discovering they knew where they are/What about Prince Madoc?/Oh please debunked to hell and back but Kennewick Man is a different story…/Go with the voyage where he was shipwrecked and used the eclipse to scare the Indians/I was in Columbus Ohio once and the barbecue was great does anybody know the place?". :wink:

My first bit of advice is to work on your grammar. In two posts, you’ve written


Mistakes like that will keep you unpublished.

We can help you with the grammar. Good barbecue in Columbus, you’re on your own.

Normally I proofread. I had no time for that last night. (Or right now, for that matter).

So, first question (And one that I will post a new thread for later): What is the latest time period in which a large, unknown landmass (about 250,000 square miles) could logically be discovered near the equator between the United States and Japan?

He didn’t take alot of time proofreading. :wink:

The answer to that is going to depend on who might have done the discovering. The Polynesians had covered enough of the Pacific by about 1,000 AD that they would have noticed such a large landmass – particularly because they used wind and weather patterns to navigate, and a large island like that would have affected the weather around it. However, 500 years later, Europeans hadn’t really started exploring the Pacific, so they might have been ignorant of such a place in 1500 AD. For example, the first European found New Zealand in 1642, many hundreds of years after the Maori had settled there; the first European found Hawaii in 1778, again long after the Hawaiians had settled them.

So if you mean Europeans, I’d say the latest realistic date would be in the 18th century.

They might, if they were of limited number and were fairly focused. I’d prefer not to see either dozens of threads in GQ from one poster; or a thread with a variety of questions that wanders all over the place indefinitely. If you want to ask a variety of questions about a single storyline, then either here (as you’ve done) or perhaps Cafe Society would probably be best.

General Questions Moderator

I’d agree. Essentially every island of any size in the tropical Pacific had been discovered by the Polynesians before Europeans arrived (although not all were settled permanently). The equatorial zone was not favored by European ships crossing the Pacific since it is occupied by an area of calm winds (the doldrums). Palmyra Atoll, near the equator, was not discovered by Europeans until 1798; however, it is small and low. A larger island would be much easier to detect from a distance. You might plausibly go to the mid 1700s, I would say.

Your point is very well made, and taken in the same vein. However, I’m thinking about a couple of things: the explorations of Vitus Bering; “The Deadliest Catch” and other depictions of the storminess of the Bering Sea; and the tactics used by the Japanese fleet en route to Pearl Harbor (and later en route to Midway). My impression is that almost nobody penetrated the Northern Pacific, north of Hawaii, save perhaps shore-hugging Itelmen, Aleuts, and such. While the open ocean south of the Bering Sea is probably not as dangerous, it is no doubt still fairly stormy. So well into the 1800s before anyone did a thorough job of exploring the area might well be accurate.

Of course, geotectonically the Pacific Plate does not have continental land on it (including California, which was thrown up by plate collision, not continental land borne on the plate).

So, a date in the late 1700s or early 1800s would make sense if the characters are from Europe, or even America, but there would almost certainly be myths, rumors, and stories told by the Polynesians?

Thanks for the help guys. I’m sorry my responses are so short and have so many problems; I am doing this in my (limited) free time during my normal everyday routine.

Google Lemuria and see what it says about alleged sightings and sitings and origins of the stories.

Also, William Adams- the first European samurai and the inspiration for John Blackthorne in Shōgun- sailed to Japan using a stolen (or purchased through bribery) rudder; he arrived after a two year voyage and a typhoon in 1600. It’s known that his rudder was WAY OFF- whether deliberately or because that’s the best info the person who transcribed it had is unknown. In any case, you may want to take a look at some of the digital archives of his records.

So as late as the 1900s, people believed in sunken continents… But they knew no extra continents existed in modern times, right? So, the 1880s is too late of a time to set a story with an unknown continent? The 1840s?

I doubt those dates are early enough, but… The oceans weren’t extremely well charted even then, were they? It seems like there is an “unknown” area not too far south of the Equator, between the United States and Australia…

Meanwhile, the story could use the extra science from the mid-1800s, but not the sciences of earlier times. If 1840s and on are not realistic, then the early 1700s are just fine.

Sorry for any grammar or spelling mistakes I missed-I have no time to proofread.
EDIT: Asking for clarification on an earlier post:

Could you make this a bit clearer? Is the area you are referring to the entire Mid-Pacific, North of Hawaii?