Research is a challenge for me. Not the actual tracking down of weird and obscure information: I enjoy that, and do pretty well at it. No, for me the challenge is avoiding the rabbit hole of related interesting tidbits. Of which there are an abundance.
One of the fun aspects of the current work in progress is that I’m working two distinct strands. There’s the founding Teutonic Knights who were abducted by aliens in 1272, and their many-times-over descendants who have shown up in Earth orbit in our near-future. The 1272 part brings in action much sooner as well as providing a lot of worldbuilding – mostly from the perspective of a fifty-something knight who is well-educated by the standards of his era, but knows absolutely nothing about advanced technology or science.
Which leads to the research fun: concepts that weren’t around in the late 1200s don’t appear (or at least I hope they don’t) in their modern forms. Instead, my knight uses concepts he knows to describe things. Leading to (among other things) some interesting automated translator issues where the translator software lacks the context for something and goes for the closest equivalent. Like “fornicator” for “replicator” (which has the added advantage of dropping some much-needed light relief into a rather tense situation).
As part of writing this strand, I’m constantly searching for the etymology of words. If it doesn’t have a first known use around 1300 or less in Northern Europe, I don’t use it. There’s a lot that’s ruled out by this – words like technology, humanity, logistics… actually, just go with most of the big overarching conceptual things and you’re pretty much there. For a man who’s spent most of his life as a knight and a leader, not having the word ‘logistics’ forces him to think of the concept as the proper ordering of men and supplies – which is more or less the way it was considered in that era.
Then, me being me, I have to fight the urge to follow the rabbit trail of documented logistics of the 1200s (there isn’t much, and what there is largely relates to supplying castles), the makeup of supply trains (it varied. A lot), and how much a militant Order of Knight-Monks, all of them sworn to celibacy (as were their men-at-arms, generally known as Half-Brothers because they weren’t full members of the Order) would vary from the documented examples.
Then there’s the question of whether it’s feasible my knight would arrive at the same or a similar word by virtue of his education. Since he’s a younger son of nobility who’s grown up in the Order (as many of the Teutonic Knights did), he’s fluent in Latin and Old High German, has picked up a smattering of Old Prussian from the native Prussians over the past 30 years or so, and speaks the local Vulgate and Germanic dialects. So if there’s something equivalent to the modern term that he’s likely to come up with on his own, I’ll do that.
The end result is the Prussians in the modern timeline don’t use the same terminology we do. Their scientific language originated with two of their member species and has no human basis, so the translations given are close equivalents to what we’d use without being the same. Instead of scientists, they have technologists.
And the author winds up off on even more odd research tangents looking for different ways to say things that feel like they belong in the piece and the culture without being obnoxiously different. Not that this is anything unusual.
Trust me on this: you haven’t lived until you’ve found black supremacist theology via trying to find out how a northern European culture in the 1100s or thereabouts would view someone with albinism. I think my eyeballs tried to crawl through my optic nerves to get away from it.
Research is dangerous. Choose your search terms carefully and try not to get distracted.