I am sure Alice found Wonderland down one of these. I sometimes find rabbit droppings, or, more occasionally, rabbits.  Fortunately, not here on Flinders Island, as we don’t have rabbits… but I daresay if went down enough holes here you might encounter a wombat’s bottom… (they have a very tough thick skin pad on their derrieres  – which they use block their holes to unwelcome visitors, like dingoes, or possibly Alice.) They also produce very odd rectangular droppings, so while you’re down there you could investigate the shaping of these. It must require an odd orifice!

Maybe the wombat’s world domination plan was to convert vegetation into small building bricks?

Ok, so that is a ‘rabbit-hole’ illustrated. A side-track in the course of (possibly needed) research, often in a direction which has nothing to do with what you were researching, the book you’re working on, or even the saner parts of the universe.  The internet has made it possible to spend weeks down these ‘wonderlands’ – even if some are full of nothing much but… oddly rectangular objects. Marsupial Lego.

I’m a regular at it. I keep telling myself it is vital research, in the hope I’ll believe it eventually.

Seriously, it’s very much a part of my ‘process’ although I admit I really do let it get way out of hand. Part of what any worthwhile writer does is to link up disparate pieces of information and to incorporate these like bright strands into the ribbon of the story. You can’t do that unless you HAVE the bright strands. Even the stuff you ‘make up’ — if it is worth reading and entertaining is ‘made-up’ from the materials of your research and your experience. I laughed a lot at one of the literati – the dahlings of the modern literary establishment, telling us you didn’t have to understand any science to write sf.  Well, bless your heart, dearie. Of course you don’t, if all your audience are equally ignorant and dim (or possibly more, although that stretches my imagination).  Otherwise, yes, it goes with the territory.

But like all things it is more complicated, and thing of balance.  You can spend your life moving from one link to the next… and not writing. Do I have to explain that this probably not a good thing? Ok, there are exceptions, but most of those ‘writers’ invest more time on politics and attacking other writers, than rabbit holes or writing.

And then of course there is outcome, translating rabbit-holes into the bright threads in that story ribbon. This is where most of us (me too) go wrong. There are so MANY bright threads. We gotta use them ALL.

Trust me – you don’t. You end up frustrating and irritating a lot of your readers, who want the ribbon of story, not a tangle of bright threads competing for their attention.

But the opposite holds true too. Writers (Simak and DWJ spring to mind) who just let those bright threads be sparks, brief and never catching more than a few seconds of light – and the reader keeps feeling that 1) the author tossed out brilliant ideas, each a story in itself, by the hundred in one story ribbon. And none of them were really allowed to run. I can remember getting to the end of several of these, enjoyed the story enough, probably read another by the author, but… I wish they’d expanded those threads, and bound them back into the story. It would have made it so much richer. It would also have made (Simak) 50 novels 250k novels.

Which may simply not have been a paying proposition. But sometimes I want to re-write them, weaving those threads in, I must admit.

Anyway, I have a rabbit-hole to follow, and many links to go before I sleep…

Image by pen_ash from Pixabay


  1. But. But. But. But….
    I might have once realized that two pages of “themes to explore” is a bit much for one story.
    But I keep forgetting.

  2. Yeah, that’s my problem with my current mess. Hobby, so no deadline, and nobody pushing me to trim things down hard to get /something/ out the door, so I continue attempting to find a way to make it work with the things that excite me. There’s a good chance that any progress is fooling myself, and everything I’ve done past a certain point is spinning wheels. I definitely try to include too much.

  3. If you don’t need to know about science to read science-fiction, does that mean I don’t need to know any history to write historical fiction? If so, I can finally write my magnum opus about how Abraham Lincoln defeated the Mongols at Thermopylae.

    1. “…how Abraham Lincoln defeated the Mongols at Thermopylae.”

      Um…. I kinda want to read this. Especially if you can pull it off without time travel, cross-universe portals, or wormholes.

      1. That’s easy. In the distant post-Singularity future, humans are bored. So they recreate historical personages and mash them up for their amusement.

          1. The classic Trek episode “The Savage Curtain” also features Lincoln and Genghis Khan on opposing teams.

            1. At least one of the books I’m thinking of was the anthology “Time Gate” created by Robert Silverberg.

      2. Reziac, you didn’t specify no necromancy, or similar.

        There’s this Japanese media property called Fate… I’ll grant that Grand Order fits your disqualifying criteria, but most of the time it is a battle royale with super powered ghosts.

    2. “…how Abraham Lincoln defeated the Mongols at Thermopylae.”

      He could never have managed it without the help of Robert E Lee and Hannibal.

    3. Dang it, I can’t remember the exact name of the History Channel show now. It pitted the “greatest” generals of history against each other in a simulation.

      A “sequel” to the one that pitted the “greatest” warriors against each other in a simulation. Probably died because it didn’t have as much good violent action as the original concept.

      I also vaguely remember a short novel (by Murray Leinster?) where the time lines were scrambled and the same thing happened, except with the actual war-fighting technologies on each side.

  4. I was fussed at in grad school for not specializing enough. There’s just so much fascinating information, and so many stories, that locking myself into, oh, the place of women in 13th century Chinese rural society during the Yuan-Ming transition just doesn’t work.

    At least with writing fiction I’ve learned to pick a few things, focus on them, and not spend quite so much time going after . . . ooh. That looks fascinating. . . Hmm, I wonder if there’s a monograph on that?

    1. If only I had *time* to read all the fascinating books on Shiny Knowledge I collected!

    2. Just what is the correct hairdo for a fine lady taking a road trip in the early Edo Period in Japan? That rabbit hole consumed half a day to get me maybe a line of prose.

  5. Sigh. I combine the most bizarre things. Satanic metal and apparitions of the Virgin Mary, for instance. Why? I don’t know. I went down a rabbit hole on the second, while Dan watched a movie on the first.
    I don’t know if scientific progress goes Sproing, but my brain does, sometimes.

    1. When you hand a moon rock to a werewolf…

      Satanic metals vs. the Virgin Mary sounds pretty rad, tell me more. (!! like, right away !!) Does the metal melt, burst into flames, or pick up and run away crying “wee wee wee!” all the way home?

      I have a Mary in my current WIP, but she’s not That Mary. She’s Gruesome Mary. Got a bit of an attitude on her, as one might well imagine.

  6. Dave said: “I laughed a lot at one of the literati – the dahlings of the modern literary establishment, telling us you didn’t have to understand any science to write sf.”

    To be fair, that does seem to be true. There are plenty of people getting SF book deals and writing SF movie scripts out there who clearly have no fricking clue. To the point where it is sometimes difficult for me to watch “SF” TV shows or movies because I do understand some science.

    Energy weapons that have a ballistic rise and fall in Star Wars. I groaned out loud and held my head. I fear the words “are you f-ing kidding me?!” may have passed my lips when ladies were present in the theater.

    Babylon 5 seems to have been the one and only television franchise to understand that space ships do not fly like airplanes. Also one of the very few that were not a re-run of Frankenstein.

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